on 1 November 2013
When Dennis drowned at Marina Del Rey that day in December 1983, we really didn't know what we'd lost. I certainly didn't since I never really had the chance to listen to Pacific Ocean Blue before now due to its unavailability in the UK. Now that I have I can say that this is the best solo album by a Wilson, period, and declares without any ambiguity at all just what an accomplished songwriter Dennis had become. Forever had hinted at his talent but nothing really prepares you for this. He could plumb the depths of emotion; he could rock and roll; that great gravelly voice. Has there ever been a lovelier ballad than Only With You (a different version than is on Holland - but still with that gorgeous piano break). The production masterpiece that is Thoughts of You. Time, Rainbows, End of the Show... the list goes on.
As I write, I'm listening to It's Not Too Late from Bambu (also included here). What a track, and Carl's amazing backing vocal. Another Wilson so sadly missed.
Just one question - where's Baby Blue?
on 16 June 2008
'Pacific Ocean Blue' is a cult classic which lives up to its reputation. It's lush, heartfelt, emotionally stirring and unique. This superb re-release does justice to an extraordinarily good album which has been commercially unavailable for a surprisingly long time.
The packaging is lavish - a fold-out digipak style slipcase which reproduces all the original artwork including inner pictures and lyric sheet. To this is added a substantial booklet including a great deal of information and many rare photographs. If that's not enough for you, there's a pdf file on one of the discs with more.
'Pacific Ocean Blue' comprises the first 12 tracks on the first disc - for my money it's up there with 'Astral Weeks' by Van Morrison as amongst the top 10 indispensable albums. A previous reviewer criticised the sound quality of this release: I don't believe such criticism is justified. An A-B comparison with the original (long deleted) CD release, whose quality was perfectly acceptable, reveals a very similar tonality. In places the new release is somewhat clearer and certainly offers greater dynamics - but overall the original feel has been respected and reproduced. As ever, those migrating from vinyl might take a few listens to readjust.
What of the 21 'bonus' tracks? I have always had the impression that the legendary 'lost' second solo album 'Bambu' was lost somewhere within Dennis Wilson rather than in the sense of a lost tape. There's nothing here to change my mind on that score. There are at most half a dozen tracks which hold a candle to Pacific Ocean Blue, of which about three are really magnificent. The remainder either deserve their status as out-takes, or are promising tracks so unfinished as to even, in several cases, lack all vocals.
Other reviewers have mentioned the lack of the single releases "Lady" and "Sound of Free". I can see how they might have been welcomed, but they originated many years before the first solo album, so I feel there's a rationale for omitting them. Neither do I hold these rare tracks in the high regard others seem to...
If I were to have a gripe it's that the extra tracks on disc one break the mood at the end of the original album. I'd have sacrificed an instrumental or two to keep that disc to the original running order. That said, whilst I generally have very little sympathy for record companies, on this occasion I feel Sony deserve the applause to overwhelm the criticism (however constructive it may be). They have released this album into the wild again, and the team who put the release together evidently did it with care and with love.
on 6 October 2009
Dennis Wilson was the hidden heart of the Beach Boys. Sure, brother Brian was correctly acclaimed as a pop genius and brother Carl was gifted with a voice beamed straight out of heaven, but behind that dumb good-time-boy public personna their brother Dennis was quietly & modestly nurturing a musical talent of such proportion that it remains a matter of wonder and mystery to the increasing number of admirers whose lives have been touched by his work. In the beginning, of course, he was the kid who laid down the beat for the band who would now & again take a turn as lead singer on the occasional song. What is seldom remarked, however, is that something happened to Dennis during the unfortunate Smile sessions that saw Brian's production methods unravel before his very eyes. Dennis was as moved by what was happening to his brother as anyone else, perhaps even more than most, but he is on record as having being deeply affected by the music created for the most famous lost album in rock history and it's as if in tracks like 'Surf's Up' & 'Cabinessence' he heard hints of his own way forward.
The first manifestations of his development arrived with two exceptional contributions ('Be Still' & the ever popular 'Little Bird') to the Beach Boys' Friends album in 1968. He then added his mark to the subsequent 20/20 & Sunflower albums and issued an impressive solo single that suggested the launch of a solo career. This activity was followed by a worrying silence. When Surf's Up was issued in 1971 Dennis was conspicuous by his absence and I have no doubt that this great album would have been elevated to classic status had it included work by Dennis. It's not that he wasn't making music- evidence of what he was fashioning in the studio at that time eventually surfaced on the band's Good Vibrations box set in the form of 'San Miguel', featuring Carl taking the lead vocal on a track written and fashioned by Dennis, & it's so gorgeous that it beggars belief that a production of such sumptuous quality could have been deliberately omitted from an album of which it would have been an obvious highlight. It was probably intended for a solo Dennis Wilson project that failed to take off, but there was even better to come. Dennis was back in the creative fold for both Carl & The Passions and Holland, and by now it was clear that he was proving to be the band's most consistent creative force. Those of us looking forward to hear more from him were nevertheless disappointed by his alarmingly low profile on 15 Big Ones & Beach Boys Love You, but it turned out that his absence was attributed to a re-engagement with a solo project. This time around, he delivered Pacific Ocean Blue- a masterpiece which hit the shops during the high summer of punk in 1977.
This album provides ample evidence that Dennis Wilson was possessed of more than an occasional talent. Here was a musician/composer with a genuine vision, genius even, who specialised in creating soundscapes of dramatically epic scope but delivered with sublime finesse & impeccable musical taste. Pacific Ocean Blue was & still is a thing apart from standard Beach Boys fare & yet it still stands tall as the greatest single artistic achievement of any member of that band in the aftermath of Smile. Here were great wide-screen vistas of sound which you could explore in the company of a creator who introduced you to passages of breathtaking beauty amidst others invested with an undertow of turbulence that was indeed evocative of the ocean- as exemplified by the rhythmically scored backing vocals on the album's opening River Song. No one but no one else (including Brian Wilson) was making music of such heartfelt, haunting grandeur in the mid 1970s and this lovingly remastered re-issue is as warmly welcomed as recovered treasure. It might still be regarded as an 'acquired' taste but if that's so its a forever kind of taste- which goes some way to appreciating the value of its status as arguably the most revered cult album of the rock era. It also demonstrates that this music is timeless. This record envelopes me as effectively today as it did on first hearing, but the enhanced sound quality enables me to enjoy even more detail than before, filling me with renewed awe.
Like Pet Sounds, Pacific Ocean Blue was bound to be a tough one to follow, as Dennis was soon to discover. Included here on the second disc are the remnants of its intended successor Bambu, which turned out to be the artist's very own personal Smile in that it was abandoned when its architect lost sight of the overall design. Like its predecessor, this record was endowed with some half dozen stunning performances but on this occasion the gap between the very best and the rest was far greater. The makings of another terrific album are here in the likes of 'All Alone', 'Love Surround Me', 'Wild Situation' & 'Love Remember Me', with strong hints of Dennis telling the story of a love affair (he & Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac were an item at this time). Unfortunately for us he left behind rather too many tracks that had yet to be moulded into coherent shapes, thus denying us much more than a blurred snapshot of what might have been. Among those unfinished items was an incredible backing track for a song titled 'Holy Man', for which Dennis had yet to supply either full lyrics or a lead vocal. The biggest surprise of this reissue is the inducing of Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters to take on the daunting task of not only 'finishing' the lyric but providing a lead vocal which complements the tone, timbre and delivery of Dennis' own voice so effectively that it emerges as a triumph in its own right. In fact, it's utterly magnificent & my personal favourite 'new' track of the year by a very long stretch indeed. On the strength of this performance, Taylor Hawkins should be encouraged to make an album of his own as soon as possible (perhaps it's happening as I write, I don't know but can only hope so).
I have no way of ending this review other than to admit that for me this record is one of the crowning glories of rock music. Enough.
on 19 March 2010
I can only assume that the reviewer before me was sent the wrong version, or that Amazon are indeed false advertising here? The Legacy edition of this album contains the 3 bonus tracks including the brilliant Taylor Hawkins version of 'Holy Man' - almost impossible to tell the difference in his voice but not contrived in it's attempt in the slightest.
In simple terms, this album is brilliant. I think with regards to the reviewer below, and indeed perhaps many of you, if you purchase this album expecting another Beach Boys record, you will be solely disappointed. It's much more developed and mature in it's sound in many ways - think Nick Drake, if he'd discovered gospel choirs and written mainly on piano.
Simply heartbreaking in some places, and beautiful at the same time. Dennis was in a particularly bad place for much of his life, much in the same way that Brian was. Or any teenage kid who finds fame too young inevitably goes through. What sets Dennis apart from Brian, or indeed any of the other Beach Boys efforts, is that he perfectly documented his heartbreak and mental-state on this record.
I too watched the BBC documentary on him and found it very moving. Did you know that the Beach Boys record company owned the boat in which Dennis wrote many of his songs and spent a great deal of his time? When their company went bust later on, they were forced to sell what was, in many ways, Dennis's real home. He loved that boat. He threw many of his possessions out into the waters of the harbor where it was docked and years later when he was at a particularly rough patch of alcoholism dived under water to retrieve his lost items. Apparently he hit his head on a boat on coming back up to the surface, knocked himself unconscious and drowned. When they found him he was curled up in a fetal position on the bottom of the ocean. Words can't express what a tragedy this is.
Rest in peace Dennis and a superb album to leave behind in your legacy.
When Dennis Wilson became the first Beach Boy to release a solo album everybody raised a flabbergasted eyebrow , especially the other Beach Boys. The notoriously party hard beach bum( he was the only Beach Boy to actually surf) seemed an unlikely candidate to get an album out first but he had been working on the album for most of the 1970,s but in 1976 he made a concerted effort to record an album proper and Pacific Ocean Blue finally saw the light of day in August 1977. What may have been even more surprising was just how emotionally broad and how superb the album was. Under any criteria Pacific Ocean Blue is a classic.
Its been unavailable for ages but not only has someone had the good sense to re-issue this great album they have done a superlative job of it too. There are loads of photo's, a booklet explaining the albums conception and execution and an extra disc with tracks from the never released follow up "Bambu " also dubbed "The Caribou Sessions". Disc one also has four bonus tracks all previously unreleased and unlike a lot of un-released material these are well worth hearing.
Anyone unfamiliar with this album may be shocked by Dennis Wilson ,s voice a cracked slightly husky instrument , light years away from the sweet harmony dripping tones of the Beach Boys. The thing is though his voice suit's the rather introspective melancholic and reflective nature of much of the material on Pacific Ocean Blue .A touching song like "End Of The Show" wouldn't be the same without that vulnerable lived in quality his voice suffuses the words with.
The music in this album has been called "California gospel" and that in many ways makes sense .There is copious use of choral vocals courtesy of The Double rock Baptist choir but the songs are usually arranged around guitar, keyboards, bass and percussion with some horns and reeds. The scope of sounds, textures and nuances Wilson and producers John Hanlon( The extra tracks) and Gregg Jakobson evince from this is truly staggering. It helps that these are such tremendous songs of course . Most of the songs are co-written with either Jakobson, Mike Love , Karen Lamm-Wilson or Carl Wilson with Jim Dutch and Steve Kalinich also contributing .
What songs they are too -from the throat tightening choral magnificence of "River Song" to the boogie woogie tones of "What's Wrong" to funk/blues hybrid "Friday Night" to the gorgeous ballad "Thought Of You" , "Time" "You And I" this is a flawless album . They even carry off the loose funk grooves of the title track and "The Rainbow " is just a great pop song. And the bonus tracks are a genuine bonus . I especially love the instrumental "Mexico " and the choral magnificence(again) of "Tug Of Love"
And as a bonus to the material that is already a bonus there is the extra disc which again is well worth hearing. While not as essential as the main album "Bambu" still has stellar moments of radiating virtuosity. "It's Not Too Late" is a heart-rending wracked ballad ,"School Girl" has a gulping choral majesty , "Love Remember Me" is bordering on the ecstatic but is still underpinned with an affecting melancholy ."Constant Companion" exudes such a rich multi-dimensional harmonic magnificence I had to keep checking to see a choir hadn't moved into the attic and started practising . "Time For Bed" is what I imagine would have transpired had Harry Nilsson gate crashed the Sgt Pepper recordings after a night out with Lennon. "Album Tag Song" could be off Dion,s "Born To Be With You" with it's broiling fat piano notes .
Pacific Ocean Blue is a seminal album up there with "No Other", "Bryter Layter" , "Berlin " .Albums that aren't just tremendously rewarding to listen to but seem to have an intangible extra element that transports the music into realms of artistry we hadn't heard before. It's been way, way overdue a release so not only is it justice that this is out but that so much love and attention hads gone into the final result. Very much like the album that inspired it.
on 28 March 2010
Just watched the BBC Documentary on Dennis and as I grew up with the Beach Boys felt I had to write a review of this music. Dennis was a grown man when he conceived and wrote these songs. The original album was released in 1977 and Dennis was 33. by which time he was in his third marriage. He had seen good times and bad, like the rest of us, and this reflects in the music. His involvement with Charles Manson is well documented and there is no doubt that this most likely left Dennis with emotional scars. This isn't the music of teenagers and certainly much of it is in bold contrast to the fresh and optimistic sound of the Beach Boys. This is the sound of a travel worn and weary guy who always wore his heart on his sleeve. Yes, Brian is the genius of the family, but Dennis was more than 'just a drummer" in the band. His tireless contribution in terms of energy and providing a solid (and unique sounding) backbeat was as quintessential to the Beach Boys sound as the impeccable vocal harmonies. It would be wrong for this album to sound slickly produced and sugary sweet. The songs are about life and it's disappointments and joys, written by a guy who put his heart and soul on a piece of vinyl with sincerity and feeling. Dennis's voice suits the songs and subject matter perfectly and without doubt this is a gem of a record. Think of it as the Beach Boys "grown up".
on 15 July 2011
I recently watched cult movie Two Lane Blacktop starring Dennis Wilson,an oddly cool film thats sort of stayed in my brain so i started to check out Dennis Wilson,his career,his troubles,his passing.I am not a Beach Boys fan really,way too american but obviously appreciate their cultural placing and legacy.Pacific Ocean Blue is commonly refered to as the great "lost album" bar none,however it was more of a matter of being deleted.I have heard of this album and its plaudits for years and years,it sold 300,000 copies on its initial release so do not really know about this recurgitated "lost album" thing.It is a really cool album,very cool.Honest,musically accomplished and i can understand why Beach Boys and the industry were taken by surprise at Wilsons evident talent,i think he was kinda seen as a pretty boy drunk who did not give much to the band.A strong sense of spirit envelops this album and Wilson is very natural,i mean HE IS the beach boy.This is classic 70s stuff but still conveys much today.Recommended and definetly worth the praise and status.Wilson had real star quality,heart and spirit.Not like the vapid,ego bloated siliconed brained singers of nowadays.
on 9 April 2009
As a huge fan of Brian Wilson, it was only quite recently that I learnt of the existence of an album by his younger brother, the real beach boy of the band, Dennis.
To say that I was knocked over by Pacific Ocean Blue is an understatement. It instantly became one of my favourite albums. It is undoubtedly a work of extraordinary musical breadth, combining both the sublime harmonies and melodies of his brother's band, with a soulful edge that utilises his blues-tinged voice to great effect.
For me, this is the best, and certainly the most consistent, album produced by any of the Wilson family. This double CD package also includes the recordings that Dennis was making for his tentatively titled 'Bambu' project, and the hidden gem 'Holy Man' as finished by Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins. The saddest thing about this CD is that it highlights how much more Dennis had to offer.
I bought this album purely because of an Amazon recommendation and reading the reviews on this page, and I am so glad I did. This album is fantastic. I tend to prefer 'Pacific Ocean Blue' (disc 1) to 'Bambu' (disc 2), but they are both great albums showing Dennis Wilson's songwriting ability and his vocal talents. There are some who say his voice is too rough, but I feel it lends his music a certain integrity and the rawness adds to the passion and emotion in the music. This package is superb, with two essays (as well as extended essays on pdf on disc 1) and extensive photography, it really adds to your understanding of the music and the history behind the album. Some moving and inspiring music, in a top package, you can't ask for too much more. Well worth a buy.
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on 2 January 2013
Once pop music's best-kept secret, it's wonderful to finally see this record back in print.
Dennis was the Beach Boy everyone least suspected to record a masterpiece to rival brother Brian's Pet Sounds - but there's no denying the power of the songs contained on this collection.
Perhaps because Dennis was self-taught, many of the songs in this collection feel somewhat unconventional in their approach to songwriting. This allows the raw emotion to spill directly from artist to the listener and can even prove a little uncomfortable to some. Each tune stands as its own little epic - a play with a beginning, a middle and an end that takes the listener on a journey.
This is the sort of LP that you can continue to discover no matter how many times you've heard it. If I were stranded on a desert island, that's just the sort of record I'd want with me.