Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SMILEY SMILE/WILD HONEY

 

I am reviewing here the double CD release of The Beach Boys albums SMILEY SMILE and WILD HONEY put out by Capitol Records with six bonus tracks in 2001.

SMILEY SMILE originally came out on September 18, 1967 on Brother Records.  It is The Beach Boys twelfth studio album.  It came out after the much anticipated SMILE album was scrapped.  It is said to be psychedelic rock/pop music and was mainly recorded in Brian Wilson’s home studio in June and July of 1967.  It was the group’s lowest charting album to date, reaching No 9 in the UK and No 41 on the US Billboard charts.  Carl Wilson said the album “was a bunt instead of a grand slam”.  Nonetheless, Pete Townsend of The Who and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith are fans of the album.  Dennis Wilson said it “was just something we were going through at that time connected with drugs, love, and everything”.

SMILEY SMILE opens with the second single ‘Heroes and Villains’, which finds Brian Wilson on lead and hit No 12.  It was meant to be the heart of the abandoned SMILE album.  It is a carefree pop story song that begins like this: “I’ve been in this town so long that back in the city/I’ve been taken for lost and gone/And unknown for a long, long time/Fell in love years ago/With an innocent girl/From the Spanish and Indian home of the heroes and villains”.  ‘Vegetables’ was also meant for SMILE.  It has Al Jardine on lead and includes the group and Paul McCartney munching on raw vegetables for percussion.  The song has quite silly lyrics: “I’m gonna be round my vegetables/I’m gonna chow down my vegetables/I love you most of all/My favorite vege-table/If you brought a big brown bag of them/I’d jump up and down and hope you’d toss me a carrot”.  Next up is ‘Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (Woody Woodpecker Symphony)’.  This instrumental with some vocalizing would make for good videogame background music.

Mike Love takes the lead on ‘She’s Goin’ Bald’.  At one point Brian speeds the tape up to make it sound like the group is inhaling nitrous oxide.  This song should bring a smile to your face: “She drew her comb acrost her scalp/And brushed what she had left/I tried to salvage what I could/And threw it in a sack/She made a beeline to her room/And grabbed all kind o’ juice/She started pourin’ it on her head/And thought it’d grow it back/Ah ha haaaaaa/You’re too late mama/Ain’t nothin’ upside your head/No more, no more, no more, no more”.  ‘Little Pad’ finds the guys daydreaming: “If I only had a little pad/If I only had a little pad/In Hawaii.../By the sea that’s where I’ll build a pad/In Hawaii”.  ‘Good Vibrations’ was actually put out as a single in October 1966.  It was the group’s first million-selling #1 hit!  Brian Wilson calls it “a pocket symphony”.  It makes use of the theremin and cellos and was nominated for 3 Grammy’s in 1967.  This terrific pop song deals with infatuation: “I-I love the colorful clothes she wears/And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair/I hear the sound of a gentle word/On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air/I’m pickin’ up good vibrations/She’s giving me excitations (Oom bop bop)”.

Carl Wilson sings lead on ‘With Me Tonight’ which has simplistic lyrics: “On and on you go, dum be do/With me tonight, I know you’re with me tonight/For sure you’re with me, tonight/I’m sure you’re with me tonight”.  ‘Wind Chimes’ is another track that was meant for SMILE.  It is a mellow and sentimental song: “Now and then a tear rolls on my cheek/On a warm breeze the little bells/Tinklin’ wind chimes/Wind chimes, wind chimes/Close your eyes and lean back/Listen to wind chimes/Wind chimes, wind chimes/It’s so peaceful/Close to a lullabye/The wind chimes tinglin’”.  Mike and Brian share the lead on ‘Gettin’ Hungry’, the album’s third single.  This song is sometimes loud, sometimes quiet.  The lyrics make it clear that the group has an appetite for the opposite sex: “Gettin’ hungry/Hungry for my kind o’ woman/I’m gettin’ hungry/Soon I gotta find me a woman/I’m gettin’ hungry/Searchin’ for a pretty girl”.

‘Wonderful’ was also meant for SMILE.  It includes a strange laughing interlude and has been interpreted by some as being about a gal losing her virginity: “She knew how to gather the forest when/God reached softly and moved her body/One golden locket quite young/And loving her mother and father/Farther down the path was a mystery/Through the recess, the chalk and numbers/A boy bumped into her/Won-won-won-wonderful”.  ‘Whistle In’, a repetitive mantra set to pop music, closes the album.

To many, SMILEY SMILE was a letdown after all the hype surrounding SMILE.  I quite like the album though.  Listening to it makes you feel like you are walking through a carnival.  There are lots of experimental sounds and nice group harmonies here.  I think it is brilliant and cutting edge!  It is an album you won’t tire of.  I’m rating SMILEY SMILE 88%.

WILD HONEY originally came out on December 18, 1967 on Capitol Records.  It is The Beach Boys thirteenth studio album.  It hit No 7 in the UK and No 24 in the States.  It leans towards soul, pop, and R&B music.  It has sparse production and was cut in just a couple of weeks.  There is not a lot of group singing on it.  Group members at the time were: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, and Al Jardine.  The front cover of the album is a beautiful small section of a stained glass window that was in Brian and Marilyn Wilson’s house in Bel Air.

The title track and lead single ‘Wild Honey’ starts things off.  Honey was one of Brian’s favorite foods.  The song uses the theremin and organ and finds Carl delivering a strained sounding lead vocal.  The upbeat pop song tells of one who is smitten by a gal: “Mama I’m tellin’ you as sure as I’m standing here/She’s my girl and that’s the way I’m keeping it now mama dear/No good will it do you to stand there and frown at me/The girl’s got my heart and my love’s coming down on me/My love’s coming down since I got a taste of wild honey/You know she’s got the sweetness of a honey bee/Wild honey”.  ‘Aren’t You Glad’ is a bouncy pop song that uses piano, guitar, bass, some percussion, and trumpet.  Mike and Brian deliver the lead on this song of passion: “You know that I been a long time needing you/You say that you been a long time needing me/And don’t you know that there’s so much more to come/I got a heart that just won’t stop beating for you/I got a love I just can’t stop feeling for you”.

‘I Was Made to Love Her’ is a fast-paced R&B tribute to one of its writers, Stevie Wonder.  The lyrics begin by reminiscing: “I was born in Lil’ Rock/Had a childhood sweetheart/We were always hand in hand/I wore hightop shoes and shirt tails/Suzy was in pig tails/I know I loved her even then/You know my papa disapproved it/My mama boohooed it/But I told them time and time again/’Don’t you know I was made to love her/Built my world all around her”.  ‘Country Air’ finds the group on lead.  It includes a crowing rooster and whistling.  This catchy song will please environmentalists: “Come on/Get a breath of that country air/Breathe the beauty of it everywhere/Mother Nature, she fills my eyes/Get a breath of that country air/Breathe the beauty of it everywhere/Rise up early, the day won’t let you sleep/Ahahh-haaa (3X)”.

‘A Thing or Two’ is a less than stellar, jazzy rocker.  It finds the Boys a bit frisky: “When I see my baby/When I look in her pretty eyes/When I get with my darling baby/I say my heart will start to beat like a couple of drums/She’ll get my temperature to rise to ‘bout a hundred and one/Yeah, do it right baby/Ahhh, haaa/Outta sight baby”.  ‘Darlin’’ is WILD HONEY’s second single.  It hit #19 on the charts.  It was originally written in 1963 as ‘Thinkin’ Bout You Baby’ for a record Brian produced for a girlfriend of Mike’s, Shannon Marie.  It is a great, breezy pop song with Carl on the lead.  It speaks of how a lady can truly change a man for the better: “Ì was living like half a man/Then I couldn’t love, but now I can/You pick me up when I’m feeling sad/More soul than I ever had/Gonna love you every single night/Cause I think you’re too outta sight/Oh darlin’/I dream about you often, my pretty darlin’”.

Brian takes the lead on ‘I’d Love Just Once to See You’.  It has playful lyrics: “I wash the dishes and I rinsed up the sink/Like a busy bee/I make up a song as I’m a-working along/No one’s watching me/I wish that you were here to help me dry/When’s the last time you baked me a pie?/You had a way of making it come alive/It’s not too late for you to take a drive”.  ‘Here Comes The Night’ admits dependence on one’s partner for security: “Hold me, squeeze me, don’t ever leave me/Tell me I’m doing alright/Hold me, love me”.

‘Let the Wind Blow’ is a forgettable cut.  It finds the group yearning for a long lasting relationship: “Let the bees make honey/Let the poor find money/Take away their sorrows/Give them sunshine tomorrow/But don’t take her out of my life/What would I do without her/Tell me now?”  ‘How She Boogalooed It’ is the first song on a Beach Boys album (not including instrumentals and covers) written by the group members without Brian Wilson.  It has an old time rock and roll feel to it.  These lyrics from it are good for the weekend: “Oh the boys are with me to do some outta sight dancin’/Got a girl givin’ me some lessons/And now she’s gonna be my confession/Aren’t you glad we found our way in here?/Put another record up on the player”.  An acapella ditty ‘Mama Says’ ends the album: “Eat a lot, sleep a lot, brush ‘em like crazy/Run a lot, do a lot, never be lazy”.

David Leaf says WILD HONEY was “the record that marked the birth of the second era of great Beach Boys music”.  I disagree!  The record at times doesn’t even sound like The Beach Boys.  The vocals are at times shrill.  The group was charting new territory, but the album comes across as being all over the place musically.  There are a couple bright spots but for the most part this is an inferior record.  It is ambitious, yet unable to connect.  It would be like Michael W. Smith trying to make a hard rock album.  I’m rating WILD HONEY 75%. 

As previously mentioned, this 2001 double CD release by Capitol Records includes six bonus tracks.  An inferior alternate take of ‘Heroes and Villains’ is up first.  A couple of the tracks that partially show how ‘Good Vibrations’ came to be are pretty neat.  ‘You’re Welcome’ is an invitational chant of sorts: “Well, you’re well, you’re welcome (3X)/Well, you’re welcome to come”.  It was the B-side of the ‘Heroes and Villains’ single.  An acapella cover of Bobby Troup’s ‘Their Hearts Were Full of Spring’ follows.  Last up is ‘Can’t Wait Too Long’ with Brian on lead.  It is the song of a lonesome man: “I miss you darling/I miss you so hard/Miss you so hard/Now.../Way too long/Been way too long baby.”  For more info visit: www.thebeachboys.com.

 

Saturday, March 08, 2014

CITY HARBOR


In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says: “Come to Me all who are weary and I will give you rest”.  City Harbor is the duo of Molly Reed and Robby Earle.  Molly has written on songs for artists such as Amy Grant, Francesca Battistelli and Danielle Bradbery.  She is married to Mike Grayson of MIKESCHAIR.  Robby has also been a songwriter and worked as a singer.  City Harbor’s full length debut is simply called CITY HARBOR (2014, Sparrow Records).  The producers are: Ben Glover, David Garcia, Ed Cash, and Matt Bronleewe.  In her thanks, Molly writes: “Jesus, great is Thy faithfulness.  Be glorified with each note we sing and each show we play because it is for You”.

‘Like I Am’, a cheerful adult contemporary song, starts things off.  It tells of God’s unconditional acceptance of us: “Somewhere in my desperation/You give me this invitation/To leave the guilt I’ve carried/To know that You accept me/Even with my complications/Your love has no hesitations/You see the good, You see the bad/And You love me, You love me like I am/I am not my failures/I am not my flaws/I’m not defined by my mistakes/Only by Your love”.  ‘Come However You Are’, the record’s first single, was penned by Molly Reed, Robby Earle, Ben Glover, and David Arthur Garcia.  This one is a light pop song of spiritual invitation: “Come with your regrets/Come with the things you can’t change/Come with all your fears and all your shame/With everything/Come with the pieces of your bruised and broken heart/Don’t wait, don’t wait.../Come however you are/Come with all your heartbreaks/Come with all the mistakes you’ve made/And lay them down at the cross”.

Molly Reed wrote the nice ballad ‘I Still Believe’ alone, when she was battling depression.  It speaks of the blessed hope we have as believers in Christ: “I know that it is not the end/On the day that I take my last breath/You will be there to welcome me forever for eternity/And that’s the reason I believe”.  I can hear country music influences on ‘Lift It Up’.  This song includes these great words of faith: “How many times God/Have You been faithful?/I know You’re right here/I know You’re able/You’ve got a plan God/Your timing’s perfect/Even in the darkness/I know You’re working”.

‘Somebody Tell Them’ is an inspiring song that urges us to share the hope we have found in Christ with others: “There’s a child on the subway/His story’s written on his face/The pain he’s felt is enough to fill a lifetime/He doesn’t know any other way/Somebody tell him that the lost are saved/Somebody tell him that his debt’s been paid/And let him know Love is calling out his name/Somebody tell him he’s a child of the King/And there’s an end to the suffering”.  Justin Ebach, David Moffit, and Ben Glover wrote the quiet, pretty song ‘I Will Rest’.  It points to God as the ultimate Source of security: “I will rest, I will rest/In the promises that You have given me/I will rest, I will rest/All Your goodness and mercy follow me/They follow me.../You’re my shelter, my refuge, fortress for my soul/I will trust You/You’re my Shepherd...”

‘Heartbeat’ is an upbeat song of testimony: “I remember the first time that I felt You in my life/I was different for good/I started seeing the world with new eyes/A new hope, a new mind/And that’s when I finally understood/You are the center of everything/And You are moving inside of me/You are the heartbeat (3X)/You put the light inside my eyes/You make me come alive”.  ‘Your Love Still Wins’ utilizes strings by David Henry and contains these intimate words of inner dialogue: “Sometimes the days go by and I start to wonder/Why pain lives on/Why we have to suffer/And I don’t understand and I might not ever/But I do know that You walk among us/And I hold on to the things You’ve promised/This world will put up a fight, but You’ve conquered it/Whatever comes in my life/Your love still wins (3X)”.

‘You’re There’ would be a nice fit on daytime Christian radio musically.  It tells of God’s faithfulness: “In the middle of the night, You’re there/When everybody’s giving up, You’re there/When I’m falling and crashing/Wondering, asking/Does anybody out there care?/You loved me through my deepest pain/You’re with me on my darkest days/And I’m never alone ‘cause wherever I go/You’re there”.  The last song ‘Leave It Here’ has Molly Reed, Jason Walker, and Connie Harrington as writers.  It offers us a simple, yet profound, solution to life’s troubles: “There is healing at His feet/Suffering finds complete relief/Trade your fear and pain for peace”.

Robby Earle says: “In the midst of so much darkness, it’s so incredible to sing about what’s good and true.  We all have this need, this insatiable longing for something more”.  To their credit, City Harbor does not take a preachy tone, and they don’t talk down to their audience.  Molly and Robby share lead vocal duties and their voices go well together.  This album sounds very contemporary and relevant to young adults musically.  Fans of FFH, Jenny & Tyler, and Love & The Outcome will like CITY HARBOR.  I’m rating the album 88%.  For more info visit: www.cityharbormusic.com and www.sparrowrecords.com.  This Spring the duo will tour with Sidewalk Prophets.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

DREAM WITH ME


Elizabeth South grew up singing various types of music.  Broadway was her first love but she enjoys many other styles of music including classic rock.  She says: “Nothing makes me happier than to write a song, record it, and make a music video.  I write songs about love, faith, and life”.  She adds: “I believe in the kind of faith that invites people by love in and not pushes people away by harsh judgment and legalism”.  Her latest effort is a mainstream country album called DREAM WITH ME (2013).  It was produced and arranged by Billy Smiley for Northern Shore Productions.  The album is dedicated to Elizabeth’s nephew and niece, Nathan and Anna South.  Some of the instrumentalists on the album are: Steve Brewster (drums), Mark Hill and Matt Pierson (bass), Blair Masters (keyboards, accordion, B3 Hammond), Bruce Bouton (Steel Slide and Lap Slide Guitars), and Andy Leftwich (fiddle, mandolin, banjo).

The album opens with one of six songs penned by the duo of South and Billy Smiley.  ‘Run Away With Me (Cinderella Song)’ is an upbeat country track with a carefree, poetic chorus: “If I’m your Cinderella/You’re my Prince Charming/It’s almost past midnight/So let’s just run away/Run away with me/Your search is finally over/Found my glass slipper/Come away in my carriage/ Where it’s just you and me/Run away with me”.  ‘Honky Tonk Jive’ is one of two songs on which Andy Leftwich is a co-writer.  This one will make you want to get out on the dance floor both musically and lyrically: “Playing on the bandstand/Rippin’ up the joint/Tripping to the backbeat/With perfect points.../Flipping out the fiddles/Stepping in the air/Moving with your partner/Line up in a pair/There’s no need to ever back down/Cause honky tonk jivin’/Is what we’ve found/So drag me around/Gotta cut me loose”.

The title track ‘Dream With Me’ is a strong duet ballad with Matthew Jordan.  He has been praised by the likes of Vanessa Carlton and John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting.  Ex White Heart member Dann Huff plays electric guitar on this song that longs for unreserved lasting love: “Let’s just imagine that there’s no more time/Let’s get lost and steal away/Let’s make it last and never say/Good-bye, goodnight.../Tonight be mine/Turn away the doubt we’ve had before/’Cause I don’t want to fight this anymore”.  ‘Down’ is a groovy country song that finds Elizabeth declaring her independence from a bad apple: “Funny how you had me hypnotized/Jekyll don’t you know you were Mr. Hyde?/Don’t slander me around and twist the truth/Cuz if you really do, you have no couth/I’m not gonna let you get me down, ooh, yeah/What’s right for you may be wrong for me/I’m gonna set this prisoner free/I’m shackled and torn and I’ve been scorned/By your lies”.

Dan Huff again plays electric guitar on ‘Holding on to Love’.  He has played for the likes of Celine Dion and Michael W. Smith, and is a highly sought after country music producer.  This song of romance falls into the inspirational category musically and vocally-think Twila Paris.  Here are some of the words: “This is where it all begins/We started out as friends/Now we’re lovers ‘til the end/We were always meant to be/Sometimes we couldn’t see/It was our destiny/Through the ages/Our love will turn the pages/Til our dying breath/Our love will carry on.../We’ve been blessed from above, we’ll keep holding on to Love”.  George Cocchini is a co-writer on ‘Take a Chance’.  It encourages us to have an adventurous spirit: “Maybe, take a chance, you’ll never know/Just how far you’ll dare to go and try/Something new, something bold, that’s how you’ll learn to grow/Through the pain, through the cold, let this journey unfold, yeah”.

Elizabeth says: “I was married once briefly and it didn’t work out.  I still hope and pray to find the love of my life, even though I feel time is passing me by.  That’s why I wrote the song ‘I Love You’ featuring Vince Gill”.  Gill and South’s voices go well together on this terrific, breezy country song.  The video for the song has gotten airplay on the Zuus Country Network!  Here are some of the lyrics: “I love you/Even though I’ve never met you/I’ve prayed for you/That you’ll come my way.../I’m saving all the best of me/With no regrets I do believe/Hurry now, it’s getting late/I can’t wait/Cause I love you”.  ‘Painted Life’ is the song of one with a realistic, yet optimistic outlook on life: “Gonna stand against the winds that blow/Gonna face this with my heart and soul/Won’t let the petals of these roses fall to the ground/And the beauty of this world shines around.../Time to lay this burden down/Gonna trade these tears for a crown/It’s so hard to know which way to go/As I walk down this broken road”.

‘Change’ was penned by South, Billy Smiley, and Mark Boliek.  This is an upbeat country song with a pulsating, infectious beat.  Lyrically, it truly sees the potential in someone: “Whether you can or you can’t/Or you will or you won’t/That’s when you’ll find what you will be/Whether you win or you lose/Or you try or you fail/Just be the change you want to see/.../I have no doubt you’re changing/You’re just rearranging/All of the things you’ve held so long/Throw out all the lies and no compromising/Just know the place where you belong”.  The ballad ‘Just Begun’ ends the album on a hopeful note: “When I was just about to give in/You came along and turned my world around/And right side up/Silent angels waiting/Crossing through like shadows/Whispering you’ve just begun”.

If you have followed Elizabeth South’s musical journey over the past few years, you know her tendency to experiment with various genres.  DREAM WITH ME is a decent country debut.  Fans of Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Lady Antebellum will appreciate it.  Elizabeth’s voice is her strong suit and she has good fashion sense.  I’m rating DREAM WITH ME 83%.  Personally, I prefer her previous pop/dance songs though.  If she releases another country album I’d like to see her work with a wider variety of established industry songwriters, and include more personal story songs specific to her own life.  For more info visit: www.elizabethsouth.com.