on 4 June 2012
Let's be clear, this isn't another Pet Sounds or Smile but if it is the final studio album from the Beach Boys it does provide the perfect coda to what has been a magnificent career. It begins with outstanding track "Think about the days" where sublime vocals are set against a beautiful piano piece. Then we are on to the title track where the chorus features the sort of cascading vocals that were such a central feature of "God only knows. The following three tracks wouldn't have sounded out of place on "The Beach Boys Love You" album. It would be interesting to know if Mike Love (who went from frontman and chief lyricist to pantomime villain in the eyes of many fans) wrote the couplet,
"As for the past, it's all behind us
Happier now, look where life finds us".
"Shelter" starts of a bit weakly but suddenly takes off with a superb Carl Wilson like vocal on the chorus, by Jeffrey Foskett. "Daybreak over the Ocean" the only track not at least co-written or produced by Brian follows. Fortunately for a Mike Love penned track this more "Brian's Back" rather than "Student Demonstration Time" and with it's 50's and early 60's feel would have fitted nicely alongside some of the covers on "15 Big Ones". "Beaches in Mind" seems to me to be the weakest track on the album. "Strange World" sounds like it would fit perfectly on "That Lucky Old Sun" and we finish with a series of three gems, that were apparently originally supposed to be part of six song suite. I've read that Brian originally intended that "Summer's Gone" would be the final song on the last Beach Boys album and with the final verse one can see why,
I'm gonna sit and watch the waves
We laugh, we cry
We live then die
And dream about our yesterday."
Many of the more negative reviews of the album seem to have focused on the fact that there is nothing new here, that it seems to be almost recapping previous glories but they seem to miss the point that when your past glories have been as glorious as the Beach Boys then this recapturing produces wonderful music, so sit back and hear those wondrous harmonies surround you.
If you want to know why God made the radio, it was so he could listen to Brian and the boys.
on 8 June 2012
I always thought that this would be a pointless exercise, a bit like the awful Jeffferson Airplane comeback album from 1989, or Sinatra's Duets recordings from the early 1990s.
Thankfully not, as I found this to be a great album, bar Mike Love's sole soul-less composition. Of late, and I refer to previous albums from MIU onwards, The Beach Boys output has been throughly insipid, throughly uninspired, thoroughly awful. The best Beach Boy albums have been the solo recordings, i.e Carl's Youngblood, Dennis' Pacific Ocean Blue, and Brian's wonderful comeback as a functioning recording artist, from Brian Wilson (1988), I Just Wasn't Made for These Times (1995), Live At The Roxy, Smile, Lucky old Sun, etc.
The album does show that the Boys can revisit the close harmony material, a la Our Prayer, Brian's One For The Boys, on Think About The Days. It is also good that Brian's Wondermints backing musicians aid and abet the regular Beach Boys, i.e. Jeffrey Foskett and Darian Sahanaja, into creating an album that doesn't seem anachronistic, and this is apparent on the title track. I think this also harkens back to the vibe of Mount Vernon from Holland, but is, however, in a happier un-drugged state of mind.
Another old associate of Brian's appears as songwriter on most of the tracks, i.e. Joe Thomas - he produced 1998's solo album Imagination, which was a trifle over-done, but also contained great tracks, i.e Lay Down Burden. Isn't It Time is great, but Spring Vacation does over-egg the pudding somewhat with an unsubtle reference to Good Vibrations.
The Private Life of Bill & Sue shows that Brian is not afraid to write about a day to day scenario, a bit like McCartney on Another Day and Back Seat of My Car, or English Tea for that matter. Brian was good at it, too, on Busy Doing Nothing and Johnny Carson, and he returns to that scenario with aplomb. I am also wondering if Brian read the story of the insurance fraud scamster who fled in a canoe to Panama, faking his own death. If so, it may belie the assumption that Brian is a drug casualty being told what to do, and that he has a great ear for the news. That last verse, read by Skip Masters, does show an alert artist, with a Randy Newmanesque tongue in cheek sense of humour.
Shelter is a great track too, and shows just the right amount of yearning, with the infinitely sad lines of "Do you ever still think of me, and the way we used to be". Beaches In Mind, to me, is a little underwhelming, but the last four tracks on the album bring the album up to an amazing conclusion. If it be the last ever Beach Boys album, they leave us with love and more than a little mercy.
Now, if only Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would follow their example, and produce a final album of this quality. We can but hope !!
on 4 June 2012
People who tend to think that come-backs and reunions are only made for commercial reasons must be people who don't know about the deep bonding that happpens when people play music together. Ok, it is not always the magic can be re-created, but in most cases something surprisingly worthwhile comes out of the effort.
That is definitely the case with this 50 years reunion album from one of the greatest bands ever. Uniting the three surviving original members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love with 2 musicians who has an imporatant place in the history of the band. Mainstay Bruce Johnstone and the more obscure surf guitarist David Marks who joined the band at only 13 and played on the first 4 albums.
Not surprisingly Brian Wilson is the driving force here, many of the tracks based on demos of songs he had made over the years - with Beach Boys in mind. Helped out by old time friend - and sometimes 'enemy, at least in the court rooms - Mike Love, multi-talent Jeff Foskett and co-producer Joe Thomas. And a host of first-rate studio-musicians, mostly from Brian's touring band but also guitar-legend Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter.
There are some beautiful gems here. The title track is certainly a bona fide hit song. Some more introspective songs like "From there to back again". Not a bad song, interesting arrangements, exemplary playing and on top it: the still present and vital vocal magic. And as always with music of this calliber an album that wins tremedously from repeated listenings
on 5 June 2013
This was one unlikely reunion if ever there was one, but to The Beach Boys' credit they didn't just embark upon a tour to cash in on the need for nostalgia like so many other old bands. Instead the reunited group justified their further existence by recording an album that's far superior to any other album they'd released since the late '60s/early'70s and hereby made one of the most gratifying comebacks of any band in music history. Not only was "That's Why God Made The Radio" a creative success, the album also did extremely well commercially, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Album Chart and securing The Beach Boys their first Top Ten album since 1965. Not bad for a group of old pros in their 70s.
Even though "That's Why God Made The Radio" isn't without its weaknessess ("Spring Vacation", "Beaches In Mind"), overall The Beach Boys' 29th album is an accomplished achievement containing some truly fine and affecting songs that should bring a tear to the eyes of any longtime fan of the band. These songs are "Think About The Days", "That's Why God Made The Radio", "Strange World", "From There To Back Again", "Pacific Coast Highway", and "Summer's Gone". And these are just the highlights on the album. If they never record another album together, I'm glad that their final album is one of such high quality. For me personally, the final four tracks ("Strange World", "From There To Back Again", "Pacific Coast Highway", "Summer's Gone") are the strongest compositions Brian Wilson has written since 1988's "Love And Mercy".
Strange how apparently random things come together to make a moment of pure spine tingling magic: I write this, fresh from such a moment!
Just by Google-chance this morning I discovered that Radio Caroline (arguably the Pirate Radio station that made the UK 60s pop scene and everything that flowed from it, possible) is still on air! I also discovered that you can stream Caroline's output from their site!
Now, I am utterly sick of UK music radio where the presenters all want to be chat show hosts and the music is subordinated to filling in between long boring chat breaks (the clue's in the title guys: "music" radio!!!) and the most common word you'll hear is "er...".
So, I thought I would stream Caroline instead of playing stuff from my large but over-familiar music library. The second song that came down was this one! A brand new song about the magic of music on the radio, one of my all-time favourite bands returning to form with a bang and their new song streaming from a pirate radio boat in the north sea! The hairs on the back of my neck must have made me look like a porcupine!
The song is a celebration of how magical radio can be when it's done right by people who have a genuine excitement about the music and the medium, like it used to be before it became a refuge for TV wannabes and has-beens.
It's the song the Beach Boys would have loved to have done in 1965, but didn't have the technology, the maturity or the power of nostalgia to fuel it. Apart from the much better sound quality, it could have been cut in the same session as "In my Room" or "Your Summer Dream". Well, now they've done it and I think it will play forever, or at least whilst there are still people who know what good music radio should be.
on 23 July 2012
I am 62 in a few weeks time and have been listening to the Beach Boys since I was 12 so imagine my surprise when I learnt that they had got back together to recored a brand new album to celebrate 50 in the music business. I was sceptical at first but after reading some existing Amazon reviews I decided to buy it. Ironically the one that convinced me to buy it was the most negative one because it bemoaned the fact that the music was too similar to their old style. Surely if we liked the Beach Boys of old isn't that what we want more of? It is fantastic. I have only had it a short time and already can sing along to all of the tracks. That's Why God Made The Radio most people will have heard because it's been released as a single, this doesn't mean it's the best track. They are all excellent and could hold their own as a single. The Beach Boys harmonies are as good and as mellow as ever and could easily have recorded this album in their hayday. If you liked the Beach Boys back then, buy this album; you wont be disappointed.
on 26 October 2013
A superb album by the Boys here, much better than i'd expected.
What we have here is a REALLY strong set of songs , with maybe only Beaches In Mind letting the side down. I promise you , if any of the others had been on a Beach Boys album from the late 60's until the early 80's it would fit quite comfortably and would in some cases probably be the best song on there.
It's all good but special mention must go to the closing trio of songs , a sublime suite of music. If this turns out to be the last album released by the band (of original material) it would be a fitting end to a marvelous career.
on 24 January 2016
For all its flaws, That's Why God Made the Radio is an infinitely better way for the Beach Boys' story to end than their last album of new recordings, 1992's disastrous country outing Stars and Stripes Vol 1, or indeed the last album that bore their name – Mike Love, Bruce Johnston & David Marks of the Beach Boys salute NASCAR – on which the trio rerecorded old hits for the benefit of a chain of US petrol stations. Exquisite beauty nestles alongside stuff that's wildly misjudged, painful honesty alongside the constant burnishing of a myth about youth and sunshine and a California that everyone stopped believing years ago, the whole thing wrapped in stories of non-existent fraternity, harmony and good vibrations: it's the Beach Boys in a nutshell. Perhaps without realising it, That's Why God Made the Radio tells you almost everything you need to know about America's Favourite Band.
on 8 June 2012
I've been a fan of the Beach Boys for, ooh, 40 years now. Since I was about 12.
After the first few years of working my way through the journey of discovery of their wonderful 60's music, both pre and post the incomparable Pet Sounds, I have to admit it's not always been a rewarding journey. Between about 1970 and 2000, There have been only rare moments (some of Dennis's work, for example) to compare with the music we all know. Mostly, things like MIU, Keeping the Summer Alive and (worst of all) Summer in Paradise are embarrassing episodes that shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath at Pet Sounds and Brian's other great work.
Things have improved drastically since Brian walked away from the Beach Boys. His solo albums, especially Lucky Old Sun, show that his genius left him. Even "covers" like the Gershwin and Disney albums are lovely to listen to and show Brian's special talent.
So it was with some trepidation that I heard that Brian was rejoining the Beach Boys. I feared a huge step backwards. But no. Quite the opposite. TWGMTR isn't like his solo work, it's very Beach Boys. But it's light years ahead of their 70s and 80s stuff. It's the only thing I've heard that's comparable to their 60s stuff. OK, it has a nostalgic tone and one or two tracks have a strong taste of cheese under the impeccable harmonies. But I love this album. It's the first Beach Boys album since 1970's Sunflower worth buying in my opinion. Go on, treat your ears and your soul.
on 6 June 2012
I bought my first Beach Boy album,Shut Down Vol 2, in the Summer of 1964 with 2 weeks paper round money(thankfully i could afford to give it up last winter) and since then I have bought every album of theirs.Despite loving many,many groups and singers spanning many genres over the last 48 years(and still buying new stuff such as Keane,Coldplay,Snow Patrol etc)I have considered the Beach Boys to be my favourite group but have also tried my very best to stay objective when assessing any new material.There is no denying they have had one or two suspect moments over the years,with me personally considering the three albums from the the mid 70's their lowest point(it's only my opinion BB guys please don't shoot me)but when you've made over thirty albums,lost two absolutely pivotal members along the way in tragic circumstances and provided some of the most wonderful listening moments in so many people's lives,a below standard album or two can be easily forgiven,expected even.
So taking all the above into consideration I have to say "That's Why God Made Radio" is a delightful album.Sure they have recruited the help of a few more than capable friends,with Jeff Foskett especially making the top end of the harmonies sparkle almost as if Carl is still standing around the microphone,but what the heck,the end result is a BB album that is full of great harmony drenched vocals performing some of the best songs in a very long time.From the lovely wordless "Think About The Days" opener,to the latin feel of "The Private Life Of Bill And Sue",right through until the very end of the closing "Summer's Gone",it's the majestic backing vocals that fill the speakers from both sides - in short it's the very reason most of the long standing lovers of the band joined the club in the first place.To top it all,in "From There To Back Again" you have a song and performance that would stand up alongside their very best of any album or era,that's saying something after fifty years.A particularly significant point for me is that they are no longer trying to sound like "cool young guys cruising for chicks in the stingray on the way to the beach",and thank heavens for that. They do make a nod to the old days here and there,quite naturally,but they are no longer pretending to be living them.Elder statesman growing old-ish gracefully - even you Mike.........................maybe.
Even if you're not a big Beach Boy fan,if excellent harmonies is what you're after this is an album you would not be disappointed with - and you'd be making some old men VERY happy!(myself included)