44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Pet Projects: The Brian Wilson Productions (Audio CD)
What a brilliant idea. Gather together as many of Brian Wilson's non-Beach Boys productions as you can onto a CD and sell to a grateful public. As noted in the accompanying booklet, sadly not all of Wilson's productions from the sixties could be included because of the cursed contractual reasons (read: some greedy b*st*rd wanting too much money). But let us not complain because there is more than enough here for us to take pause and give thanks to the mighty Ace label for undertaking this pet project in the first place. The five stars, incidentally, take into account the superb packaging (Ace records really do devote plenty of love and care on all their releases) with its nice retro surf-lp cover and fascinating booklet.
To have all these tracks gathered together in one beautifully produced package is a real treat. Some have been available on other re-issues; tracks by Sharon Marie, The Survivors and Gary Usher appeared on the fourth volume of Pebbles in 1979, and 'Guess I'm Dumb' by Glen Campbell is available on The Capitol Years double CD and several of The Honeys tracks have been available on various surf compilations. But it should be noted that all the tracks here are taken from original masters so the sound quality is a distinct improvement on previous incarnations (particularly the less than pristine sound reproduction on the Pebbles LP).
Wilson's outside productions are, as one would expect, delicious, like aural candy floss. Naturally most of the tracks were also written, or co-written, by Wilson, and many feature his vocal talents too. While none of them was a chart topping hit, which as we all know is no guarantee of quality anyway, nor by the same token does their obscurity necessarily indicate any overlooked or undiscovered masterpieces, they are never less than enjoyable in their own unpretentious way. Throwaway stuff it may be, but occasionally, with that deft Wilson touch, there's a little magic something to elevate even the most fluffy tune into something a bit special. Take The Honey's 'He's a Doll', a fizzing girl group confection, with excellent harmonies, that has a wonderful hook in the "He's so gorgeous" line in the chorus. Several of the tracks were subsequently re-worked as songs for the Beach Boys ('Thinking about you, baby' became 'Darlin' and 'Pamela Jean' as, er, 'Car Crazy Cutie') but I must say that I prefer these earlier versions.
The majority of the examples gathered here lean towards the early BBs style rather than the more ornate Pet Sounds era arrangements. Is that a problem? I don't think so, and there are some later works to balance it out. The aforementioned 'Guess I'm Dumb', for one, is practically a prototype Pet Sounds track and the B-side instrumental, 'After the Game', by The Survivors (i.e. Brian and a few friends) is also a very early pre-echo of the instrumentals from that album. The two tracks by American Spring, who evolved from The Honeys, though dating from 1972, are nice Wilson originals that show what he was capable of even in the midst of psychic meltdown. Otherwise it's joyous, frothy, simple, but never dumb, early-mid sixties surf-pop.
If you are in any way a Brian Wilson fan then this album is indispensable, and one that you may find youself playing more often than some of the BB's own offerings. One hopes that the cursed contractual wrangles will ultimately be resolved and that some time in the future more Wilson productions will be able to be released for us to enjoy.