BRIAN WILSON That Lucky Old Sun
Brian Wilson: Performing smile in 2005
In the mid ‘60s, the pop world was in awe of Brian Wilson. A lead voice and chief composer for The Beach Boys, he was a master at creating layered and intricate pop symphonies which dripped sunshine and good vibes. Today, Pet Sounds sits right up there with The Beatles’ Revolver and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde as one of the greatest rock albums of the ‘60s. But Wilson lost the plot after that, his perfectionist tendencies overwhelming his fragile, shy mind.
After years in the musical wilderness, he returned early this decade with his definitive version of SMiLE, the long gestating album which had destroyed his sanity in the first place. Having reached catharsis, he teamed up with his long-term touring band and lyricist Van Dyke Parks to create That Lucky Old Sun—a neat summation of the lazy sun splattered California daydream that has always been Wilson’s chief muse. It would be unfair to expect an album as great as SMiLE or Pet Sounds, and That Lucky Old Sun should be enjoyed on its own terms.
The Beach Boys: In this 1976 picture, Brian Wilson is top left
Van Dyke Parks spins stories and fables of an idealised Southern California that probably never existed, but they work as songs because of Wilson’s melodies. So you get the hazy glow of Morning Beat, the gorgeous close harmonies of Good Kind of Love, and the driving sunshine pop of Oxygen to the Brain. The spoken word fragments about California drag down the album, but at about 30 seconds each, they’re a minor distraction.Download the album fromwww.emusic.comTHE VERVE Forth
Richard Ashcroft: Performing at Manchester Central in 2007
English space rockers, The Verve, always seemed to split up whenever success beckoned. They first split for a year after their 1995 album A Northern Soul was released. Then, oddball shamanic lead singer Richard Ashcroft reconvened the band for the towering Urban Hymns of 1997. Documenting the tail-end frustrations of Britpop with great songs like Bittersweet Symphony and The Drugs Don’t Work, the album became a smash hit, giving the band the recognition they so craved. Then they broke up again. A decade and three Ashcroft solo albums later, the band reconvened last year for a string of shows.
And they were so good that an album was inevitable. The cunningly titled Forth sounds like a sequel to Urban Hymns, as if time had stopped somewhere in the late ’90s. But instead of sounding anachronistic, they sound in great form, returning to the swirling, multilayered guitar driven psychedelia that had been their signature sound in the first place.
Powered by the heavily programmed hit Love is Noise, Forth has its quota of pop hooks and epic sonic workouts like Noise Epic and Sit and Wonder. Ashcroft’s lyrics on love and redemption always worked best in the musical setting of the band and on songs like Judas, his voice positively shines. If you’re looking for new ideas, you’ll be disappointed, but there’s no question— The Verve are back.Download the album fromwww.emusic.com