Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#734 in the Series) is The Beach Boys, That’s Why God Made the Radio
The first thing that comes to mind when discussing a new Beach Boys album is a not so pleasant retro-flashback to the last record of original material under the Beach Boys brand name that was released almost 16 years ago called Summer in Paradise. This release gave us the first glimpse of what it would be like if Mike Love hijacked the band, kidnapped Brian Wilson, and attempted to recreate the surf-opera sounds of summer without the genius production and arranging fairy dust provided by the undisputed leader of the band. The result was expectantly bad, with the new tunes coming across as almost a parody of the fun in the sun beach classics of days gone by, and the cover songs are rendered barely listenable. I am not sure how they managed to screw up “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” but they certainly did.
The second question to be answered is exactly what version of the beach boys will be getting. We received a little glimpse of what we might expect from a new Beach Boys album with the late 2011 release of Alan Jardine’s solo effort, A Postcard from California. Jardine, the often overlooked and definitely under-appreciated beach boy, gave us a sunny dose of songs about cars, girls, California, and beaches that was a pleasant nostalgic surprise. It was also nice to see that he could still hit those high notes and sing those signature harmonies without the aid of a younger albeit considerably talented back-up band as was not the case with Brian Wilson and his current touring project.
The current versions of the Beach Boy named projects include Brian Wilson with The Wondermints acting as his backing band and doing most of the heavy lifting on almost note-perfect versions of the old 60’s classics, a troupe called “The Beach Boys Family & Friends” playing the state fair corn dog circuit, and a “Beach Boys featuring Mike Love” band. It seems there is almost every conceivable incarnation on the road each year with the possible exception of a “featuring John Stamos” ensemble or a touring hologram of Dennis Wilson.
So, needless to say with so much time having elapsed, father time being good to some and not so-good to others, and some question as to whether all of the band members could coexist with one another for an entire album, my ears were quite interested in checking out the finished product.
But I digress……………….
That’s Why God Made the Radio is the best Beach Boys album in over thirty years. Brian Wilson, always the intricate and delicate knob twister, was in the production booth for all of these studio recordings, and was more involved in this project than he has been as far as a group project goes, in many a moon. The Wondermints playing on the record are just one of several indications that this is clearly a Brian project, and that he would have the final stamp and say on every move that was made in the studio. This is a very good thing, and as a result we get unique glimpse of what might have been had Wilson stayed out of his living room sandbox, and the band had spent the last two decades making music instead of suing each other.
The opening track “Think about the Days” is essentially an instrumental track with some nostalgic “ooos and ahhs” peppered in to set a calming, meditative tone (most probably Mike Loves idea), for the listener. It struck me as a nostalgically nice and classy touch.
The title track and first single from the album is better than “Kokomo” and would have fit in nicely on the Surf’s Up album. The vocals and harmonies are tight and in a pleasant register with Jardine and The Wondermints hitting the high notes, he still can do it quite well by the way, and the rest fulfill their vocal duties quite admirably, with the help of a little well placed knob tuning of course.
“Spring Vacation” is pure summer fun with a message. The song musically harkens back to the fun in the sun days of yore, while the lyrics clearly indicate that there was a little bit of hatchet-burying going on in the studio.
Spring vacation, good vibration, summer weather we’re back to together/As far as the past, it’s all behind us, happier now, look where life finds us./ Singing our songs, it’s enough reason, harmony voice it’s what we believe in/Some said it wouldn’t last./ All we can say is we’re having a blast.”
The arm-in-arm, “Kumbaya” inspiring camaraderie on the album is present throughout, with each member getting his place in the Sun. Mike Love has a Kokomo-style update on “Daybreak over the ocean,” and Al Jardine takes a turn on “From There to Back Again”, both fine songs.
The best thing about this album is that whichever side of the stylistic Beach Boys fence you may sit, there is something for you. In the span of one listen you can hear elements of the Today, Surfs Up, and Pet Sounds, albums. There are even a couple of songs a bit more epic sounding that would have been fine contributions on Carl Wilson’s masterpiece, Holland.
After listening to this record many times, the tear in my eye is for the looking back with longing feeling I get thinking about what might have been. The joy in my musical soul is for getting a chance to finally having the opportunity to listen to a fully formed mature album from a band that without the musical differences, the addictions, the interlopers, and the lawsuits would have without a doubt been considered the greatest American band ever.
– Bernie Sparrow San Francisco, California USA
- Think About the Days (Larry Millas / Jim Peterik / Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 1:27
- That’s Why God Made the Radio (Larry Millas / Jim Peterik / Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 3:18
- Isn’t It Time (Mike Love / Larry Millas / Jim Peterik / Brian Wilson) 3:45
- Spring Vacation (Mike Love / Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 3:06
- The Private Life of Bill and Sue (Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 4:17
- Shelter (Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 3:02
- Daybreak Over the Ocean (Mike Love) 4:20
- Beaches in Mind (Mike Love / Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 2:38
- Strange World (Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 3:03
- From There to Back Again (Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 3:23
- Pacific Coast Highway (Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 1:47
- Summer’s Gone (Jon Bon Jovi / Joe Thomas / Brian Wilson) 4:41
- Adrian Baker – Vocals
- Alisha Bauer – Cello
- Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – Guitar
- Eddie Bayers – Drums
- Scott Bennett – Clavinet, Organ
- Jessica Bish – Snaps
- Curt Bisquera – Drums
- Chris Bleth – Oboe
- Nelson Bragg – Percussion, Timpani
- Tom Bukovic – Guitar
- John Cowsill – Drums, Snaps
- Chad Cromwell – Drums
- Joel Deroulin – Violin
- Jeffrey Foskett – Guitar Snaps, Vocals
- Vanessa Freebarin-Smith – Cello
- Probyn Gregory – Banjo, French Horn, Guitar, Trombone
- Gary Griffin – Accordion
- John Hobbs – Piano, Tack Piano
- Cliff Hugo -Bass
- Sharon Jackson - Violin
- Peter Kent -Violin
- Songa Lee -Violin
- Christian Love – Vocals
- Hayleigh Love – Vocals
- Skip Masters -Voiceover
- Paul Mertens – Flute, Sax
- Larry Millas – Bass
- Jim Peterik – Percussion, Ukulele
- Michael Rhodes – Bass
- Jim Riley – Guitar
- Julie Rogers – Violin
- Nick Rowe – Guitar
- Brett Simons – Bass
- David Stone – Double Bass
- Scott Totten – Guitar
- Nick Walusko -Guitar
- John Wittenburg -Violin