The Beach Boys – With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

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This ain’t your Great Granddaddy’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra rising out of the ashes of 1946 war torn England with Sir Thomas Beecham at the helm. Nor is it your Granddaddy’s Brian Wilson era California sun drenched Beach Boys basking in the glow of their early to mid 60’s success some twenty years later. Not even close. Since the unexpected overwhelming success of the RPO’s take on Elvis Presley in 2015 with If I Can Dream (#1 in the UK) and once again the following year with The Wonder Of You, the production team of Nick Patrick and Don Reedman has been responsible for three other similarly themed orchestral records. Roy Orbison’s A Love So Beautiful, the seasonal Christmas With Elvis And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and last year’s A Brand New Me by Aretha Franklin all were to follow. Their latest The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is the most blatant cash grab yet.

Initially the concept of mashing isolated Brian Wilson produced Beach Boys vocal arrangements over a full orchestral treatment sounds tantalizing enough, unfortunately a criminally uninspired execution leaves The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra album dead in the water. The original arrangements, what publicist Derek Taylor once called Brain Wilson’s “pocket symphonies” have more orchestral scope and symphonic range than any one of the 17 newly recorded pieces here. At worst, this record is sheer caricature, a vulgar imitation. At best, it reduces the mad genius of twentysomething enfant terrible Brian Wilson to mere muzak, Easy Listening adult contemporary schlock. What is particularly abhorrent are the non-orchestral rhythm tracks Patrick and Reedman opted to re-record over the originals. Practically every track on The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra “features” newly recorded drum, bass and piano tracks (sadly even guitar on “Fun Fun Fun”). The ghastly re-recording of Wilson’s once perfectly sublime intro to “God Only Know” is particularly unforgivable. Sequencing is also a problem, bookending lightweight “Kokomo” between the brilliance of “In My Room” and “The Warmth Of The Sun”. That said, this travesty of an album is not completely without merit. After all these years it’s nice to see the studio musicians on many of the original sessions finally get credit here, notably Carol Kaye (bass) Hal Blaine (drums/percussion) Leon Russell (piano) and Glen Campbell (guitar) to name but a few. Regrettably, the initial promise of the exquisite but all too short opening track “California Suite” is ultimately unfulfilled, “Disney Girls” and “Heroes And Villains” notwithstanding. Fortunately, the Wilson brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis along with Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and Mike Love have left behind a diverse catalogue of 29 studio albums spanning 50 years between 1962 and 2012, any one of them far more deserving than this artless cash driven debacle.

Rating: 5/10

Star Rating: 2/5

2018 Song Of The Day Club Album Review 24/52

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#37 – The Flaming Lips – “Oczy Mlody” – 52 Weeks of 2017 Albums

Their first album in three years since re-imagining The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper with a motley crew of freaks and fwends, Oczy Mlody is the 14th Flaming Lips studio album and 20th overall in a career spanning 34 years since their inception in 1983 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Best described as an atmospheric symphony of chill, Oczy Mlody is more an elaborate musical composition for full band in 12 movements than a mere collection of songs presented over two sides of a standard rock n roll album. Imagine the HAL 9000 computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey attempting to decipher the Dark Side Of The Moon without rise or crescendo building solely upon a bleak emotional landscape of enveloping sound. An album that boldly states, “There should be unicorns!”, this is certainly music to listen to while hunting for faeries and witches and wizards to kill when your not too busy listening to the frogs with demon eyes.

Rating: 9/10

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#42 Spoon – “Hot Thoughts” – 52 Weeks of 2017 Albums

Austin, Texas indie darlings Spoon have been making their own brand of arty experimental indie pop for close to 25 years now. Centred around  longtime band-members Britt Daniel on lead vocals and guitar along with drummer Jim Eno, their 9th album in 21 years, Hot Thoughts demonstrates a sharp shift away from the arty and more directly towards the pop. Side 1 and Side 2 are divided equally into 5 parts, one fifth art four fifths pop with each side concluding with the longer artier pieces. By far the two most interesting tracks on the album are the closers, side one’s “Pink Up” along with side two’s sax heavy five minute instrumental  “Us” which would not have sounded out of place on either one of Bowie’s triumphant Berlin period albums Low and Heroes. What Hot Thoughts suffers most from is a complete and utter identity crisis. The band went so far as to bring in indie rock god Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney,  Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, The Go-Betweens, Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst, The Shins) as the albums officially credited  “sequence adviser” to help make sense of these disparate tracks in search of a home. Perhaps the simplest solution would have been to flesh out the musical topography over two different albums instead of trying to jam it all into one neat little Hot Thoughts box because, contrary to what that old bearded hippie philosopher once said, the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts. Roll over Aristotle and tell Spoon the news.

Rating: 6.5/10

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#46 The Orwells “Terrible Human Beings” – 52 Weeks of 2017 Albums

Rock n roll godhead crooner Jim Morrison is alive and well and inhabiting the body of Orwells lead singer Mario Cuomo. This fact is never more true than in “They Put A Body In The Bayou”, the kick ass opening track to The Orwells 3rd LP Terrible Human Beings. Double-tracking his limited low to mid range vocal swoon through these 2 and a half minute nuggets of hip shaking guitar driven psychpop brings to mind more the youthful wide eyed electric innocence of 1967’s The Doors (“Soul Kitchen”, “Twentieth Century Fox”) than the world weary blues of 27 Club alumnus Mr. Mojo Rising at his untimely end. A fitting soundtrack for the coming 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, 2.0 style.

Rating: 9/10

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