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A Life In The Day 

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They’re Shooting the Line, They’re Shooting The Line…

I Love To Say Dada

Never doubt the impact of whimsy as it applies to Brian Wilson’s art. At the peak of his powers — 1965-‘67, let’s say — the Beach Boys boss was a sage arranger/composer and bona fide pop innovator. Without question, focus and ingenuity are cornerstones of the creative process behind the wealth of sounds on this five-disc package. But the music is ultimately marked by playfulness. The CDs hold the DNA of the much-mythologized SMiLE, the post-Pet Sounds opus that was shelved after Wilson let its infamous intricacy get the better of him. Composed in modular bits, tracks such as “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villains” became gorgeous suites of sound — the latter, like most of SMiLE, further gussied up by Van Dyke Parks’ cinematic poesy. Wilson’s 2004 update of SMiLE‘s gorgeous tunes, made with an adept squad of acolytes, was terrific. But hearing the original Beach Boys’ vocal magic mixed with the work of the famed studio musicians responsible for nailing the particulars of these complex orchestrations is heavenly manna for any Wilson fan. Ditto for the wealth of individual snippets (piano riffs from “Surf’s Up,” harmony tracks from a myriad of tunes, conversation clips of Brian coaching drummer Hal Blaine on how to play like he was mad at a vegetable thief) that make up the bulk of the box set. It’s a hoot to think that the panorama of pop’s greatest puzzle can still be digested one small bite at time.

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Feel Flows

The Wall Street Journal: Some people think you’re not always coherent—yet you continue to record quite coherently.

Mr. Wilson: I think in terms of emotions. And feelings. So sometimes what I say may not always be clear. But creatively, there’s a lot to be said for that way of thinking.

wall street journal interview

Teenage Symphony To God

With guidance from the minions/ mentors of his backup band, the beleaguered Beach Boy finished work on a program of elaborate, wondrous tunes that were scheduled to follow the revered Pet Sounds some 40 years ago. A patchwork sprawl of sounds that bring pop tunesmanship to a keen compositional sense, the disc mixes the sometimes surreal poesy of Van Dyke Parks into a fountainhead of instrumental motifs. SMiLE is where French horn players and cellists have as much responsibility as rock guitarists, sophisticated adults make barnyard noises, and plaintive ballads are built from arcane wordplay. Here’s a serious work that uses a giddy innocence as a path to things both profound and poignant.

waiting for the Capitol version

I Know Perfectly Well That You’d Like To Hear Pet Sounds Come Together In The Studio

Abounding creativity and breath-taking imagination, right? Brian dropped Pet Sounds into the racks 45 years ago today.

Record Store Day: My 10 Most Memorable Buys

Spent my first allowance on 45s. Got a paper route to feed my album habit. Worked at a record store in high school and college. Ran a record store after graduation. Kept on grabbing up records. Bought one last week. I’m pro-digital, but something about this situation creates sadness. Last year these titles came to mind. This year? This year you should walk into a record store on Saturday and plop down some green. Here are ten purchases that remain vivid in my mind. What are yours?

1. Four By The Beach Boys (Capitol) – Hathaway’s Music (East Greenwich, RI)

“Little Honda” sounded great, but “Hushabye” sounded better. All hail Doc Pomus.

2. Moby Grape, “8:05/Mister Blues” (Columbia) – Main Music (East Greenwich RI)

In a marketing stunt, the label simultaneously released five singles from the classic and cursed San Francisco band. I bought only one. Why oh why did I not buy them all?

3. MC5, Kick Out The Jams (Elektra) – Warwick Shopper’s World (Warwick, RI)

Read about the insurrection aspects of their songs in Time or Newsweek. Purchased LP. Was amazed at the ass-kicking aspects of their songs in my bedroom. Wanted to be a revolutionary as well. Put my stereo speakers in my bedroom window, facing out. Blasted the “kick out the jams, motherfuckers” track at our neighbors.

4. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia) – K&M Records (Providence, RI)

Wasn’t going to buy it, but found a mispriced copy for 99 cents and couldn’t say no. Fell deep into country-rock hole from the first spin on. Playing “Blue Canadian Rockies” as I write this.

5. Thelonious Monk, Underground (Columbia) – Midland Records (Warwick, RI)

Didn’t know shit about jazz, but after a mentor spun the album for me, the giddy bounce of “Boo Boo’s Birthday” became irresistible. Was wooed by the cover art as well.

6. Nick Lowe, Bowi (Radar) – Rhymes Records  (Providence, RI)

You remember the story. David Bowie released the wonderful Low. Wiseacre Nick took it as a reference to his own bad self, sans the “e” at the end. He then followed it up with a reference to DB that erased the “e” from his own title as well. Four songs, one instrumental. Still love “Born A Woman.”

7. minutemen, what makes a man start fires (SST) – Looney Tunes (Westerly, RI)

Read a Village Voice piece about the Pedro upstarts and their pithy approach – I wanna say Tom Carson wrote it. Anyway the power of the essay got me out of my apartment and down the highway to pick up the album. Not their best, but one of my faves.

8. Chico Freeman, Morning Prayer (Why Not/Japan) – SoHo Music Gallery (New York)

Saved up a bunch of loot, maybe $120, and was off to NYC to buy jazz. Purchased a few Black Saint discs in one shop, and grabbed this baby in another. Two separate bags. Was thrilled with my new records. Got out of the cab at the apartment I was staying in, and left the (quite costly import) Freeman disc in the back seat. Wah!

9. Sun Ra, “I’m Gonna Unmask the Batman” (El Saturn) – In Your Ear (Providence, RI)

The El Saturn 45s are somewhat rare, and when this fell into my lap, I felt lucky.

10. Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs, “Sugar Shack” (Dot) – Shop-O-Mat (East Greenwich, RI)

The finest group to ever bust outta Raton, New Mexico. First vinyl I ever bought with my own money.