Saturday, August 26, 2017

1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow

While The Beatles success would continue, even through Yoko's intrusion, Brian Wilson's decline had no unpopular muse. Having achieved his apex in the Pet Sounds sessions, the drugs, the depression and schizophrenia, and the overwhelming need to create the ultimate LP (SMiLE) would confound Wilson's and The Beach Boys' future. Keep in mind though, that while The Beatles' success was only enhanced by the studio, Rubber Soul and Revolver were the band’s second stage of superstardom, Pet Sounds was a comparative flop, despite every writer's accolades today. Though "Wouldn’t it Be Nice" and "God Only Knows" were reasonable hits, The Beach Boys couldn't compete with their previous incarnation – The Beach Boys of "California Girls" stature.

We discount everything after Pet Sounds as rudimentary or substandard, many referring to Smiley Smile as merely remnants of SMiLE, poorly accomplished. Still, The Beach Boys were creating a brand of pop as sophisticated as the new generation of singer/songwriters could only hope to be. Comparing Smiley's Smile to a fictitious LP that was never released is like saying that The Last Tycoon would have been F. Scott Fitzgerald's greatest achievement, had he not died. Pet Sounds was The Beach Boys' Sgt. Pepper; in Wilson's case, not to be duplicated. Doesn't keep LPs like Wild Honey from being worth one's while.

This year we were blessed with the release of 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow, which features producers Mark Linett and Alan Boyd's new, first-ever stereo mix of Wild Honey  and throws open the vault to debut 54 sought-after 1967 rarities, 50 years after they were put to tape. Previously unreleased highlights on the new collection include a shelved "live" album, Lei'd in Hawaii, studio recordings from the Wild Honey and Smiley Smile album sessions, and several standout concert recordings spanning 1967 to 1970. 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow dives into a fascinating and frenetic chapter in The Beach Boys' long, groundbreaking creative arc, exploring the band's dynamic year in the studio and on tour. The Beach Boys' final studio session for the shelved SMiLE album took place on May 18th, 1967, with Smiley Smile album sessions booked at Brian Wilson's new home studio from June 3rd through the end of July. The band's 12th and 13th studio albums were released exactly three months apart to cap the year's studio efforts: Smiley Smile on September 18th followed by Wild Honey on December 18th.

"I wanted to have a home environment trip where we could record at my house," recalls Brian Wilson in the liner notes for 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow. "I wanted to try something different, something new. I produced Smiley Smile, but Mike inspired me. He said 'Brian, let's make a really good, easygoing album'. We had an engineer convert my den into a studio. We had my piano detuned to make it ring more."

On August 25th and 26th, 1967, The Beach Boys (absent Bruce Johnston, but with Brian Wilson on organ in his first concert appearances with the band in more than two years) recorded two concerts and rehearsals in Honolulu for a prospective live album to be titled Lei'd In Hawaii, applying a new Smiley Smile-inspired aesthetic to the performances. Just over two weeks later, the band (with both Brian and Bruce participating) began re-recording the live set in-studio at Brian's house and at Wally Heider Recording in Hollywood, after the Honolulu concert tapes were deemed unusable. Although completed and mixed, the final planned audio element of a canned concert audience was not added and the Lei'd In Hawaii project was canceled. Those live, in-studio performances morphed into sessions for the Wild Honey album, primarily comprised of original Brian Wilson/Mike Love compositions.

In a 1976 look back at 1967's most heralded albums, Village Voice critic Robert Christgau praised Wild Honey with an "A+" review, writing, "It's perfect and full of pleasure; it does what it sets out to do almost without a bad second."

Bruce Johnston says that Wild Honey showcases a band devoid of pressure: "Here's the thing – the most important thing – you need to know about Wild Honey. It was just an album for us to exhale and do something real simple; but as it's Brian and Mike's music, it's still fabulous and not so simple. I love the album."