September 5, 2008
Brian Wilson Hits the Road With New Album, ‘Lucky Old Sun”
By Jim Harrington
Mere seconds into "That Lucky Old Sun," the title track from original Beach Boy Brian Wilson's new solo record, the listener can tell that there's something different going on. There's a sense of joy to the music, especially in the vocals, that has been missing from much of Wilson's recent studio output.
"I had fun making it," Wilson remarks of the album during a recent telephone conversation from his home in Los Angeles. "The songs are all happy songs, so I had a good time doing them."
That experience greatly differed from what the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer went through recording his previous offering of original songs, "SMiLE." Wilson began that album, which he originally dubbed as "a teenage symphony to God," back in 1966 as a Beach Boys project. It finally hit stores in 2004, carrying with it the added baggage of some 37 years' worth of expectations.
Wilson knew that fans were looking for nothing short of a masterpiece with "SMiLE," knowledge that weighed mightily on him and translated to some forced performances on the album. In comparison, he sounds like a man without a care in the world on "That Lucky Old Sun."
"There was much less pressure," the 66-year-old legend says of the new album. "'SMiLE' was a very tedious album (to make). There were a lot of different snippets to it. There weren't as many snippets to ('That Lucky Old Sun')."
Local fans can deliver their own judgments tonight as the singer- songwriter kicks off his tour at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. Wilson and his terrific backing band will be performing "That Lucky Old Sun" in its entirety, as well as serving up all the old Beach Boys favorites such as "I Get Around,""Help Me, Rhonda,""California Girls" and "Good Vibrations."
Released on Tuesday, "That Lucky Old Sun" marks Wilson's heralded return to Capitol Records, the label that first launched the Beach Boys' career with the 1962 single "Surfin' Safari"/"409." From that humble beginning, Wilson and his former gang would go on to become one of the most popular American rock bands of all time.
"That was a very sentimental experience for me," Wilson says of the reunion with Capitol. "I hadn't recorded there in (40-plus) years."
The result, arguably, is Wilson's finest solo offering to date. While (thankfully) lacking in the "snippets" that made "SMiLE" spotty and cumbersome, "That Lucky Old Sun" is still rich with lush harmonies, exquisite arrangements and the type of upbeat songwriting that should please old-school Beach Boys fans.
Ironically, especially since Wilson is one of rock's most cherished songwriters, the album's title track is a cover of a tune popularized by numerous artists in the '40s. Wilson had long been enamored with Louis Armstrong's version and wanted to rerecord it and use it as the centerpiece of the album.
Given the star's track record, people will be tempted to label "That Lucky Old Sun" as a concept album. Yet it's really just a group of songs that share some similar musical and lyrical themes, knit together by Wilson's spoken narratives. Poetic images of Southern California abound, which has led many to dub "That Lucky Old Sun" as a "love letter to Los Angeles."
Wilson, for one, is OK with that with that description.
"I was born here," he says. "I love L.A. I think it's a great town."
Among the things he says he adores most about the city are the beaches, the restaurants and the movie theaters. He does admit, however, that there is at least one drawback to living in the land of swimming pools and movie stars.
"It gets pretty crowded on the highway," he says.
Reach Jim Harrington at jharrington@bayareanews group.com. Read his Concert Blog at www.ibabuzz.com/concerts.PREVIEW-- WHO: Brian Wilson-- WHEN: 8 tonight-- WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland-- TICKETS: $45.50-$125; 510-625-8497, 925-685-8497 or 415- 421-8497, www.paramount
Originally published by Jim Harrington, Contra Costa Times.
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