Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brian's "No Pier Pressure" Announced (Sort of), Brian PBS "Soundstage" Episode, New Brian Guest Spots

Finally announced a little while back was the official title (with accompanying cover art) for Brian Wilson’s upcoming new studio album, which will indeed be titled “No Pier Pressure.” The cover art looks just fine, and probably helps a bit to soften the title’s rather ham-fisted pun. Fans are still debating the “meaning” of the title, and if indeed it is a jab at some other Beach Boys.

The good news is that a title and cover make it highly unlikely the album will fail to materialize. The bad news is that Brian has stated the album is due “Spring 2015”, which means in even the best of scenarios we won’t see the album released until April or May of next year.

No other details have emerged as far as song titles, although it seems highly likely we’ll get the Zooey Deschanel and Lana Del Rey tracks. In the case of the former, they have apparently already filmed a “music video” for it. In the case of the latter, the “Last Song” track with Del Rey has received some mention in a few articles, with a rumored release date near the end of this year (the date has likely been moved to some time in the early months of 2015 I would imagine).

Meanwhile, Brian has popped up on a few releases.


Most interesting is an actual track credited solely to Brian, a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Wanderlust”, which appears on “The Art of McCartney”, an expectedly mixed bag of covers of McCartney tracks. The album is being released in about 87 different configurations. No worries though, Brian’s track is on any and every edition. The best bang for your buck is the Amazon-exclusive 2 CD/1 DVD version which gives you two bonus tracks and of course a DVD; meanwhile six other bonus tracks are being spread among various other outlets. Most elaborate is a big boxed set going for around $200 which includes a bunch of swag, a vinyl copy, a CD with *all* eight of the bonus tracks, the aforementioned DVD, and some sort of audio documentary.

As for the track itself, it’s an inspired and refreshingly unexpected pick (whether Brian or the album’s producer Ralph Sall picked it; it sounds as though Sall picked most of the tracks for the artists). It was likely recorded at some point in the last five years, and Brian comes off well. A+ for track selection, and a solid B+ for execution (including keeping the song in its original key).

Fans have been trying to do some deduction and figure out when the track was recorded, as Sall has been working on compiling the album since around 2003. The track credits include Brian's backing band. Most interestingly, former members Jeff Foskett, Jim Hines, and Taylor Mills are credited. This likely dates the track to some time in the pre-2007 era, and perhaps as early as 2003 or 2004.

A bit of a warning: If your only interest in the tribute album is Brian's track, then it's worth noting that the nearly 90-minute-long documentary on the DVD in the Amazon "Deluxe" edition makes not one mention of Brian, nor shows any footage of Brian.

Not sure how much folks would like a full review of the album, but as I mentioned, it's a mixed bag. It's a bit of a case of Ralph Sall having put about a million times more effort into the album than most tribute albums get, yet only getting about 50% better quality. Opening both discs in the set with rather bland, key-lowered Billy Joel covers (who I usually like; at least his back catalog) of familiar songs doesn't help. Jeff Lynne's cover of "Junk" is nice. It may not be a coincidence that, while many of the tracks on the album feature McCartney's touring band as backing musicians, both Brian's and Jeff Lynne's tracks do not. The album has too many old fogeys to lure in a lot of younger, new prospective fans. Sall produces or co-produces most of the tracks on the album, and most of the tracks have a rather bland, muted, softened quality; lacking punch. Still, with 34 (or more) tracks to choose from, there are always going to be some interesting bits.

Less interesting and a bit head-scratching are a few tracks by other artists with Brian popping in for some vocals. Previous reports of Brian’s album indicated a possible collaboration with Frank Ocean on a track titled “Our Special Love.” However it happened, what we have instead is “Our Special Love” on the new album from Peter Hollens, with some backing vocals from Brian. Cut immediately to Brian Wilson fans researching who Peter Hollens is. A quick bit of research indicates he’s most recently famous for a long series of a Capella YouTube videos. Whatever his background, the track and performance aren’t terribly impressive. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Hollens has gotten off his ass and done more than I’ll ever do. But whatever singing skill he has is mitigated by a sh*t-ton of autotune and an uber-bland composition, which Brian apparently had some hand in as well. I’m not a typical Brian Wilson fan living in a vacuum who will always say Brian’s contribution to something is the best element. But in this case, by far the only reason to seek the track out is to hear some warm and familiar stacked Brian vocals (likely also run through autotune).

Brian has also popped up on a track along with Andrew Wyatt titled “Falling Apart” by Emile Haynie. Cut once again to Brian Wilson fans looking these folks up and trying to find out who they are. I honestly haven't had a chance to listen to this one yet. But I wanted to mention that it's out there if you need a Brian fix. I'll hopefully have some thoughts on it soon. As you can tell, I'm not terribly super interested in these Brian guest spots.

Meanwhile, Brian has two shows currently scheduled. There is a show in Tulsa, OK scheduled for December 4th. Al has not been mentioned in relation to this show, so I'm not sure if he will be attendance. It appears so far this year that Al has played all of Brian's California dates, and the only show he has missed thus far is the benefit gig Brian did in Canada in October.

A more high profile Brian gig is scheduled for December 12 in Las Vegas, where Brian will be shooting an episode of the PBS series "Soundstage." Surely not coincidentally, this show is produced and/or directed by Joe Thomas. More interestingly, Brian will be premiering some stuff from the new album and will have a few guests from the album appear. This will include Al Jardind as well as Blondie Chaplin *and* Ricky Fataar. It's unclear whether Fataar is actually on the album. Either way, Brian will have no less than four Beach Boys on stage for this gig. Is this meant as a little mini-"FU" towards Mike? Perhaps, although all involved have to be aware that it accomplishes nothing beyond being a little "FU" moment. Mike continues to tour. The "BAD" tour in 2013 didn't change anything. One interesting question is whether Brian will have David Marks appear, as Marks did apparently play on some sessions for Brian's album at some point.

The "Soundstage" episode will air next year, no doubt in time to promote the new album.

Meanwhile, Mike and Bruce have already booked some shows for early 2015. That, coupled with Brian's biopic and new album coming out around the middle of next year, make the already unlikely prospect of more "reunion" activity for the group virtually impossible. Please don't mistake this for me having been delusional enough to think it was at all likely for something like this to happen. A few "sources" have been quietly suggesting that, despite some acrimonious moments between the camps in 2014, some sort of reunion in the future is not completely out of the question. But it appears that if by some chance that does happen, 2016 would be the earliest we would see it. Some fans have already been speculating on a "Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour." I'm not sure how likely that concept is. But another tour would be nice, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Brian Album News & Recent Interview Tidbits


Plenty of Beach Boys-related news, interviews, and commentary to catch up on….

I'm not sure how many read the blog here, and I'm even more skeptical that there are many who read the blog who don't also read the Smiley Smile message board, but a quick explanation for why I end up not posting as many updates here as I'd like: Simply put, I read and discuss these things to death on the Smiley Smile board. So by the time it's time to report recent news and opinions here on the blog, I'm burned out writing about most of it! But I'll try to be better about posting here, as I do like the idea of opining here first and in most detail.

Most importantly, it appears we *may* finally have a new Brian studio album very soon. A few weeks ago, word got out that the title may be “No Pier Pressure” (a title which hasn’t been met with exactly resounding enthusiasm, but how much should we care about the title?). A November 4th date was rumored.

A quick interview blurb from Brian/Joe Thomas collaborator Jim Peterik suggested a January release.
However, Amazon and some other retailers had the album up for pre-orders with the title “No Pier Pressure” and a November 4th release date. It has since disappeared from Amazon, but is still up on some other sites. It looks like either November or January are the most likely possibilities. We shall see…..

Less musically interesting, but sadly still intriguing are not one, but three interviews that have recently been published that give us some interesting information to chew on, one each from Al Jardine, Jeff Foskett, and David Marks.

Least interesting first: Publicizing one of his gigs with Dean Torrence for 9/27, David Marks touched on mostly familiar early days stories in his interview with The Beach Reporter: 

But, shockingly perhaps for the first time in two years since the end of the reunion tour, Marks commented (a bit) about its demise:

In 2012, Marks reunited with Brian Wilson, Jardine, Love and Johnston for The Beach Boys 50th anniversary tour. They also recorded “That's Why God Made the Radio,” the first album Marks had made with The Beach Boys since 1963. Following the 50-date tour, the five went on their separate tours, including Love and Johnston together. Rumors were rampant that Love had fired Wilson from the tour, but Marks said that was not true.

“Mike, at the beginning, said, 'I have other stuff booked after the tour that I have to do with The Beach Boys name,' because he has the license,” Marks said. “So there was a misunderstanding about Mike firing Brian and all that bull ... but it was the way it was all planned. He was going to leave after the tour and back to business as usual. We all understood that.”

Marks recently did some shows with Wilson and Jeff Beck and another month-long tour with Wilson and Jardine last year. He also continues to work with Love. But is there any chance the five will perform together again?

“Nothing is impossible,” Marks said. “We used to say we’d never get back for a reunion, that was totally out of the question, it would never happen. We were wrong about that, so under the right circumstances and depending on what mood everybody is in, I’m sure it's possible we would do something again before one of us dies. You know there’s not much time left.”

Marks’ words don’t offer a great deal of new information, but it does seems to more strongly support the supposition that Mike Love was always planning to go straight back to his own band after the reunion tour, going so far as booking post-reunion shows either before or during the reunion tour.

More interesting is that Dave has been doing gigs with Mike's Beach Boys lately, including an extended run of shows that will run at least through mid-late October. What this means, if anything, is anybody's guess. Billy Hinsche and Mike D'Amico from Brian's band even popped up during a recent show that Dave did with Mike's band.

Al Jardine provided an interview to publicize his gig with Brian in Paso Pobles, also on 9/27:

His interview also touched on mostly familiar topics. The reunion tour demise was brought up again, but no new information arose. Al still seems bummed Mike didn’t want to continue. But most intriguing was an odd exchange during the interview wrap-up that the interviewer chose to print, involving an exchange between the two that also involved Al’s wife. As the interviewer no doubt made sure to mention, Al appears to have wanted this all printed, but it provides a bunch of vague clues about just what might be going on:

First, a quick "C50" exchange:

JM: I saw the 50th anniversary show a couple of years ago in Santa Barbara. What are your reflections on that tour?

AJ: It was great, and unfortunately came to a close too soon. I would have loved to have seen it go into another year, which is so pragmatic, so logical. But due to certain members of the band it just wasn’t to be. We kind of were hobbled. We added dates, we added up to 74 dates – we added 24 extra dates. It was great while it lasted. We were just getting our motors going, you know, and I would have loved to have seen it continue.

JM: Do you think there’s any chance that the group of you will get back together to tour or record any more?

AJ: I don’t know. It was great working with Mike, when we were on tour. It was just great. It was complete, you know. It’s really up to him [laughs].

Then, the interview ended like this:

[JM: Thanks AJ for doing the interview]

AJ: My wife wants me to add something and I don’t know if I should.

JM: I usually listen to my wife, but it’s up to you [laughs].

AJ: What was that other question you asked me, that I didn’t really answer, did I? [about setting the record straight] It’s just not very well known by the general public. I’m not allowed to use The Beach Boys name in my own way. I’m legally – what’s the term – injuncted from using The Beach Boys name. Did you know that?

JM: I didn’t know that, no.

AJ: So Brian and I [laughs] are both under suspicion. This concert, even.

JM: I noticed how it was billed, as Brian Wilson with Al Jardine. So I guess that explains that.
AJ: Well, Mr. Love has imposed an injunction that prohibits either of us, but mostly me. We’re kind of a threat because we do look like The Beach Boys [laughs].

JM: There’s a resemblance, actually [laughs].

AJ: Yeah, there’s a resemblance [laughs]. “So watch out you guys, you’d better not call yourselves The Beach Boys.” It’s very strange. I don’t know if you want to publish that or not. But maybe it’ll bring people in?

JM: You tell me, if you don’t want me to publish that I won’t.
[Mary Ann in the background: Write that - "Don't call us The Beach Boys"]

AJ: Your article should say, “Don’t call us The Beach Boys”. You’re right, Mary Ann. It’s a strange oxymoron, is that the right term?

Mary Ann: He fired you, remember?

AJ: No…

Mary Ann: Oh yeah…

AJ: Oh you mean the reunion? He claims he didn’t, that he fired us after the reunion…

Mary Ann: During…

AJ: Or during, whatever, but that’s not even the point. You asked me a poignant question and I evaded it. And, you know, there’s nothing wrong with the truth.

JM: Well, as far as I know I can still use The Beach Boys name. Of course, I won’t say it’s a Beach Boys concert, but obviously you and Brian are from The Beach Boys, and you’ll be singing songs from The Beach Boys.

AJ: We are the founding members, yeah.

JM: It’s too bad that you guys aren’t getting along better.

Mary Ann: He [Mike Love] loves legal tactics.

AJ: He’s a brilliant songwriter, and unfortunately he has brilliant lawyers. We wish him all the best, but doggonit, you know, we’d like to be Beach Boys, too. There you go.

JM: I feel that the natural place is for all of you to be together. 
AJ: OK, well maybe we’ll get some positive results. Who knows?

JM: Well, I’m sure that this upcoming show will be wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

AJ: You’re very welcome. My pleasure.

This exchange is of course open to plenty of interpretation. What seems most interesting is that there seems to be an implication that something has occurred recently as far as Brian and Al being warned against how they advertise their shows together.

In advance of his October 9th show with Brian in Modesto, Al was also interviewed:

An interesting tidbit from that one:

In 2012, Wilson, Jardine, Love and David Marks (who has played with group since 1962) joined forces again for the 50th anniversary reunion tour of the Beach Boys. But after the tour ended, Love announced he would go on with the Beach Boys name without Wilson, Jardine and Marks.
Jardine said playing together with all the surviving early members was a breeze.

“It was just like riding a bike. It’s perfect and we have a ball. It’s an amazing ride, but an altogether too short ride,” he said. “But Mike Love owns the license to the Beach Boys and decided to call it quits. He wanted to go back to business as usual, which is ironic.”

Jardine said he and Wilson would love to return to the group. Their reunion was a special moment for them, he said.

“How often do you get a chance to revisit the best music ever written in terms of us and our success?” he said “I think the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And, by golly, that whole was pretty darn full of music. It had a wonderful resonance; I think our voices are richer now. We were wonderful. And I’ve got my hopes that we can do that again sometimes.”

Still, he praised Love’s current band, which includes longtime contributing member Bruce Johnston and carries on under the Beach Boys moniker. And he said he understands Love’s reasoning, even if he doesn’t agree.

“It’s like being divorced and you have a new family. Will you go back to your old family and live with them? No. I imagine that’s what happened for (Mike),” Jardine said.

“Mike has a wonderful band and great guys. But it’s a reasonable facsimile. You want the real thing, don’t you? Why settle for anything less than the best? I think the fans deserve to have the authentic representation of the music.”

Read more here:

Finally, someone finally got Jeff Foskett to blab a bit about leaving Brian’s band and joining Mike’s (mostly commenting on the former):

While going to great lengths to remind that he has no ill feelings towards Brian in any way, his gripe seems to be that he was being overworked and given too much responsibility. Apparently, not only was he serving as the guitarist and vocalist in Brian’s band, but was essentially acting as his personal assistant. This was apparently too much stress and wasn’t allowing him to enjoy the elements of life on the road that he had previously enjoyed, especially when coupled with how he somehow got caught between the Wilson and Beck camps during last year’s tour. Foskett goes light on detail, but he makes it sound like he apparently knew folks in the Beck camp and may have been a part of getting Brian and Beck together, and this in turn led to Foskett getting caught in the middle when relations between the Wilson and Beck camps soured.

Foskett doesn’t discuss too much about his entry back into Mike’s band, other than to say that he was offered the gig, had to work though some things with Mike first, and then joined up.

The interview evades the issue of the obvious overt political/personal implication it has for Brian's right-hand-man of 15 years to not only leave, but specifically jump to Mike Love's band. To not even acknowledge this is not surprising, but unfortunate.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brian & Al - Indio, CA 8/30/14

Brian and Al's show in Indio, CA seems to have gone over well enough. The strangest aspect of the show was that, for some reason as yet unknown, Matt Jardine was not able to make it at the last minute and the band found a stand-in in the form of Chad Odhner of "The Fendertones." Reviews suggest he did a good job for a last-minute stand-in. Keeping in mind this was the entire band's first gig in nearly two months (and they only did the two gigs in July previously this year), and this was Odhner's first ever gig with the band and done with little prep time, it appears they pulled it off quite well.
The setlist saw nothing shocking added, following a similar pattern to the 2013/14 setlists. It's easy to be come jaded about the depth of setlists. This was still a pretty decent setlist for a one-off show done at a casino-type venue:
1. California Girls
2. Dance Dance Dance
3. Catch a Wave
4. Hawaii (Brian & Al?)
5. Shut Down (Al)
6. Little Deuce Coupe (Al)
7. Cottonfields (Al)
8. In My Room
9. Surfer Girl
10. Please Let Me Wonder
11. Girl Don't Tell Me
12. Then I Kissed Her (Al)
13. Pet Sounds
14. Heroes and Villains
15. Darlin' (Darian)
16. Do You Wanna Dance?
17. Don't Worry Baby (Chad?)
18. Do It Again
19. Marcella
20. Sail on Sailor (Scott)
21. Wouldn't It Be Nice (Chad?)
22. Sloop John B (Brian & Al)
23. God Only Knows
24. Good Vibrations
25. All Summer Long
26. Help Me Rhonda (Al)
27. I Get Around
28. Barbara Ann
29. Surfin' USA
30. Fun Fun Fun
The lead vocalists are not necessarily 100% accurate, as elements of this setlist are taken from the useful but far from reliable "" website.
In any event, I can't say I wouldn't have been a bit bummed to catch this show with no Matt in attendance, and with a nice but predictable setlist.
But at this stage, Brian's band is a bit like Al's band has been over the past decade-plus. When you only do one-off shows or short spurts of shows, you have to rely on the "meat and potatoes" numbers that don't require intense additional rehearsals. Lucky for us, a "standard" Brian setlist still has some relative "rarities." But they could certainly (and hopefully will) make things more interesting on future shows. They will presumably have some "new album" stuff to work in at some point (latest rumor/indication is an October release for Brian's new album), and I would hope they could perhaps switch out a few tired selections like "Do You Wanna Dance" or "Hawaii" or "Shut Down" for something more interesting. Al always sounds stellar on things like "Then I Kissed Her" and "Cottonfields", but he's been doing these tracks at nearly every C50 or Brian show since 2012. How about "Lookin' at Tomorrow?" Even varying small things would be cool. Let Darian sing "This Whole World" perhaps. Let Matt Jardine sing "Surf's Up."
We of course don't know what the future holds as far as the live shows, and whether Matt Jardine will return. The next scheduled show is the recently added September 27 date in Paso Robles, CA. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Al Confirmed for All Three Brian Gigs, The "Stamosgate" Controversy, etc.

Most interesting and important news first: According to Brian Wilson's website, Al is confirmed for all three of the Brian tour dates announced thus far:
8/30/14 - Indio, CA
10/9/14 - Modesto, CA
10/11/14 - Long Beach, CA
The header for these tour dates listed on Brian's site also specifically mentions: "Stay tuned as new tour dates are posted. Brian will be performing with his great band and Al Jardine in what promise to be unforgettable shows." This makes me hopeful that Al will be joining Brian at any (or all) other shows that are scheduled in this timeframe.
Brian tours have often been announced a bit piecemeal, but he has also been know to simply books sporadic tour dates; sometimes only a few at a time. So it's still unclear if these three dates are dates that will be contained within a larger tour schedule that we don't know about, or if Brian simply plans to do a few shows here and there this year. He still presumably will have an album out, so hopefully we may at least get a one or two-month tour as Brian has often done in the past.
I haven't offered much news here on Brian's album, despite scattered reports about what *might* be on it. Fans have lately been rather poopy about the prospects of some "guest stars" duetting with Brian on a few tracks. Names floated include Zooey Deschanel (a ten-second off-line snippet of her track with Brian has been posted online), Lana Del Rey, and Kasey Musgraves. Wiki them if you'd like. I'll wait until I hear the tracks. I just hope Jardine and Chaplin's stuff still makes it on there. I'll no doubt have *plenty* to say about the album once we can listen to it.  
Interestingly, no word of any involvement from David Marks on the Brian tour dates. Marks never seems to have an axe to grind with any of these guys, so we can finally (hopefully) assume for once that his non-inclusion isn't due to any falling out with Brian.
In an item that may or may not be related, David Marks has joined Mike's "Beach Boys" for another string of shows in late July-early August. It's unclear how many dates Marks has played (or will play), as reports from Mike's never-ending tour are more sporadic.
Mike has given a few interviews lately, but they have revealed little that we didn't already know. Two interviews found most prominently are a radio/audio interview and a print interview, both of which cover the usual bases Mike covers in interviews. Just to recap for those who weren't aware: The Wilsons did a lot of drugs and alcohol, and Mike didn't. Mike finds TM of key importance in life. Mike got screwed on some songwriting credits. The anniversary tour had a set amount of dates they agreed to, and now they're all "doing their own thing." And so on. It almost starts to become a philosophical question in terms of who we blame for these uber-repetitive interviews. Is in the interviewer, or the interviewee? I would say both. The same questions, often vague and/or open-ended, are asked. But it's also clear Mike has the same stock answers at the ready. He also comes across in these interviews as super defensive and insecure. He's still bringing up the songwriting lawsuit situation without specific prompting in interviews, even though that situation was settled nearly 20 years ago in favor of Mike. He got his name on those songs, as even BB fans who aren't big fans of his will admit is the right thing. For nearly 20 years now, every CD or sheet music song book, and so on, has had Love's name on the songs he co-wrote.
The audio/radio interview was a bit telling only in that it reinforced that Mike doesn't have much positive to say about the 50th anniversary tour. When simply asked by the interviewer if the tour was a good time (no pointed or accusatory questions about who ended the tour, etc.), Love can barely muster much to say about it and immediately goes into describing the lineup of his current band. It's not particularly a good sign I would say that as time goes by, Love's comments about the reunion tour become less positive and less time is spent even discussing it.
Meanwhile, when BB fans have nothing new to discuss, and something inflammatory if rather inconsequential happens, we end up with something like the recent "Stamosgate" epic controversy. Head over the Smiley Smile board to learn more. It's too long, involved, and mired in backbiting from touring band members and fans alike. The brief story:
One of the members of the "C50" band made a random, abrupt post on Facebook describing the 2012 tour "Stamos Incident" where the "Forever" video/audio presentation with Dennis' vocal malfunctioned and Stamos stepped in later in the song to pick up the lead vocal. This incident was discussed at length by fans back in 2012, and as usual it fell into the two camps with little compromise in between. If you're a fan of Mike's leaner, light, sometimes slightly campy stage presentation where Stamos can sometimes be found hamming it up, then you probably had no problem with his brief foray into guesting on the 50th anniversary tour. If you find his stage presentation to be tacky, then the "incident" was, well tacky and objectionable. This speaks not one bit to the guy on a personal level. Unfortunately, some fans can't see this distinction, and need to tell us how great of a guy Stamos is, and imply that those who don't want him on stage don't like him personally.
I can only speak for myself, but I think Stamos seems like a nice guy. He'd probably be great fun to hang out with. I'll still watch episodes of "Full House" (and no, I don't mean that sarcastically). But he has no place on stage with the Beach Boys, certainly not the 50th anniversary tour. Allegedly, many on the "C50" team agreed, and perhaps Stamos didn't realize this was a different operation he was dealing with as compared to Mike's typical tours.
Which leads us into the Facebook comment. You can go to the Smiley Smile board to read the particulars, but one C50 band member said some unflattering things about Stamos regarding the "Forever" incident, and then another band member responded with equally unflattering things about the first person posting, and then even after the two involved in this silliness removed their posts from Facebook, everything had been reprinted and spilled over onto the Smiley Smile board.
All I can say is to reiterate the point that many, if not most who object to Stamos, simply don't feel he belongs in any musical proceedings relating to the band. They don't know Stamos, so don't judge him personally. All the Facebook stuff appeared to be over the line, which was probably why it was all deleted.
Hopefully all involved will get onto to better things.
In the meantime, we hopefully will have a new Brian album and tour dates with Al to look forward to.
Should I still keep a watch/vigil for another reunion? What do you all think? (and that is not a rhetorical question!)....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The 5th of July Non-Bloodbath.........

Well, it appears all involved in the Beach Boys universe made it out of the 4th/5th of July holiday unscathed. Brian played his two European gigs with Al, to good overall reviews.

Al as always appears to have brought his pristine voice to the proceedings. The group played a setlist not terribly unlike those of 2013, which isn't a bad thing. Al was given his usual recent leads on European-centric hits like "Then I Kissed Her" and "Cottonfields." The main point of interest, as far as something visually and sonically new, was the debut of Matt Jardine in Brian's band.

These two Brian gigs were noteworthy not only for the debut of Matt in Brian's band, but also as pretty much the first solo gig Brian has done without Jeff Foskett by his side (I can't say with certainty that there has never been a full Brian show without Jeff; there may be a few one-offs I'm forgetting).

Stage setup wise, it appears they are going with the route of simply having Matt sing up front standing, with no instrument (other than a tambourine). No apparent bongos are present as in the case of Matt's 90's shows with the Beach Boys and sometimes with Al's band. I think it speaks to the emphasis they are willing to place on Matt's voice (both in terms of cost and stage presentation) that they are having him up front and there solely to belt out his falsetto and a few leads.

They haven't wasted any time in getting Matt out there, as he was even handed several leads during the show, including "Don't Worry Baby" and apparently "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Fans lately have been having a weird "falsetto debate" discussing the pros and cons of Matt versus Jeff Foskett.

I've said all along, since the band splintered in 1998, that I've always felt Matt's falsetto was the most pleasing to the ears (other than Brian's 60's original), and also works best in the "Beach Boys mix" of harmonies. Matt also has a good lead voice, and his voice at times can indeed sound like a weird hybrid of Brian and Al. He's pretty versatile, often singing Beach Boys classics at Al's shows by handling both the "Mike" and "Brian" parts.

I've never had a problem with Jeff Foskett's voice, and he has handled the falsetto parts just fine. He tends to bend up notes to hit them sometimes while doing falsetto parts, whereas Matt hits them straight on. (Comparing their takes on "I Get Around" is perhaps the easiest way to hear this). It's simply a stylistic difference; but I prefer Matt's voice. In fact, if I could dig through every internet post going back 15 years, I know somewhere at some point I actually made a futile wish for Matt to be the falsetto in Brian's band.

In any event, the big question now as far as Brian's shows are concerned is whether Al (or any other guests) will be added to future shows. It seems pretty 50/50 now. Having Al there makes sense. He clearly won't be in Mike's band anytime soon. Having Matt in the band makes having Al there make even more sense. But it also appears they didn't originally plan to have Al at these two July Brian gigs. Al also referenced touring with his own band later this year. I certainly hope Brian keeps Al in his band. His voice needs to be heard, and it would make even more sense if in fact they are going to be promoting an album that Al also sings on.

Meanwhile, David joined Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys" for the Jones Beach gig. Also in attendance was everybody's favorite Uncle, John Stamos. It it perhaps telling that, flipping through a photo album that the Jones Beach venue has posted on their Facebook page, there are seemingly over a dozen shots of John Stamos, and precisely one shot of David Marks. I couldn't even find a shot of David with the other band members.
Reviews indicate the show was just fine. It was a shortened setlist due to time constaints. Dave's one lead vocal was apparently "Do You Wanna Dance." Even staunch supporters of Mike's "Beach Boys" seem to feel Stamos was a nuisance as usual at the show, hamming it up and stealing the spotlight, and singing the lead to "Forever", which apparently is a Dennis tribute unless Stamos is present to sing it.
It appears Dave was pretty low key at the show, with his one lead vocal and otherwise staying back and letting the band Stamos ham it up. While I don't like the idea that there will be some bad interpersonal fallout from Al's non-appearance at the show, I can't say this show format would have afforded much input from Al. He would have been in the background like Dave, and likely wouldn't have had but the few requisite leads on "Rhonda" and perhaps one or two others.
If they had been inclined to get it all lined up and get four Beach Boys on stage, this wasn't the show to do it. It was a shortened show due to multiple bands on the bill as well as a local sound curfew, and they had Stamos stealing the spotlight anyway. David was not announced as a special guest, and many noted that if you didn't know who he was, you would have never known he was even there.
Aside from the reunion lineup getting back together, I'd love to see Dave *and* Al back on board with Brian's band. We shall see.
In any event, everything apparently went off relatively well for both camps. Everyone survived, and the audiences enjoyed the shows. No snide comments from either camp during the show. Ironically, Stamos was reportedly the only person to namecheck the Wilsons and Jardine during a quick comment thanking them for the music. Coolest thing by far Stamos seems to do at these shows. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beach Boys Proxy Wars..... The Clusterfudge Continues.....

Take a look at that picture above folks. The chances of the Beach Boys reuniting again, are, I would guess at this stage, about as likely as it is that the Beach Boys ever actually looked remotely like the picture above.

We have a bit more info to work from as far as the "Jones Beach Incident" as I will now call it.

Apparently, in response to a bunch of internet tools posting who-knows-what about who-knows-who on facebook, a person close to Mike Love posted some response comments. I won't reprint all of the info, but found among the teenager-style internet/text-speak and questionable punctuation defending Mike, a bit of info can be gleaned. First, let's get into the Jones Beach Incident. This person stated that Al wanted to do the shows, asked to do the show, and then backed out at the last minute.

While cringe-worthy, this elicited a response from someone close to Al that did include some additional information to chew on. According to this person, it was not Mike but the promoter Live Nation that asked Al to perform. Al apparently was bummed out that the promoter asked him to play and that Mike didn't. Apparently, there were other problems between all the parties that clearly ultimately prevented the appearance from happening.

This is a classic case of answering and also raising a bunch of questions. If Al was offended, did he then still continue to try to make the appearance happen? What was ultimately the reason it all fell through? This does perhaps answer the question of whether Al "signed" anything to do the show. It sounds as though he was negotiating with Live Nation, not Mike. I would presume any issues such as adding Al's name to the advertisements was done between Al and Live Nation. Perhaps he didn't sign an agreement but agreed to let them use his name? Again, I could only hope and assume Al didn't simply sign a deal with Live Nation and then say "screw it, I'm out."

Additionally, among the facebook comments (and I use even the term "comments" loosely; clearly some folks go on there and just blurp out whatever is running through their brain at the moment), a reference was also made by the person close to Mike that Brian allegedly sent an e-mail during the 50th anniversary tour saying he would perform no more shows.

I've already read and written volumes on this over at the Smiley Smile board, so I'm too exhausted to get too much into it again. To briefly summarize, I'm guessing that assuming Brian sent a terse, one-line e-mail stating he would be doing no more shows, it was largely inconsequential in light of a few things: Not long after, Brian changed his mind and wanted to do more shows. There were many offers on the table for more shows/tours/an album. Brian and Al wanted to do them. It appears Mike didn't, and maybe never wanted to do more shows. Essentially, a "no more shows" e-mail from Brian amounted to stating something that was already pre-ordained to happen, and was already happening. Had Mike already booked non-reunion shows when that e-mail was written? Either way, Mike's own expressed opinions and comments strongly indicate he didn't like aspects of the reunion and was happy to go back to his own thing. It's also clear that, even if at one stage Brian briefly stated he was done with the reunion, he changed his mind and wanted to take more reunion booking offers and do another album. Hence, please assign blame for the end of the reunion accordingly, if such blame even matters anymore.

Back to my opening line, let me just say this. My own observations of recent events, such as the "Jones Beach Incident", as well as a few private comments from a few sources, lead me to the heartbreaking conclusion that it is EXTREMELY unlikely we will see another full Beach Boys reunion. That is just extremely sad.

So, I offer my immense and sincere thanks to the guys for giving us the 50th anniversary tour, and immense disappointment for not collectively having their shit together and keeping it going for awhile longer while some of us are still alive....

Monday, June 23, 2014

More Clusterf***s in Beach Boys Land... Al not playing Jones Beach with Mike, Will Play with Brian Instead!

This, my fellow Beach Boys fans, is why we can’t have nice things sometimes.
Plenty of speculative analysis is to follow, but to report the latest, Al Jardine will NOT be appearing at Mike and Bruce’s July 5th “Beach Boys” show. He will, however, be playing the two July European gigs with Brian Wilson, including a gig that falls, depending on how you view timezones, on the same day as the July 5th Jones Beach gig. First, here’s Al’s Facebook statement on the matter:
Despite some reports to the contrary, I am not touring with Mike Love and the Beach Boys this summer. I will, however, be joining Brian Wilson on July 4th in Cork, Ireland and July 5th at the Hop Farm Music Festival in Kent, England. I'm also planning to go out with my own band later this year. Thanks for all your support, Al
First, let’s look at what this confirms. Curiously, this statement doesn’t speak specifically to the Jones Beach show, but rather indicates Al is not touring with Mike’s band this summer. This implies someone made the suggestion that he would be touring with Mike, which doesn’t seem to be the case. So I’m not sure if this is a way to speak to the Jones Beach situation without directly naming it, or if this means something else. We also know now that Al will be playing the two July gigs with Brian. Future plans aren’t clear, but the statement seems to imply Al may not be playing shows later this year with Brian (we only know of a few October bookings for Brian in the US so far), although that would depend on his and Brian’s schedules. The reference to Al touring with his own band is intriguing. Hopefully this isn’t a case of Al simply hoping he can get a half dozen street fair bookings for his “Endless Summer Band”, but perhaps that he’s making a more concerted effort to make solo bookings for interesting shows. We shall see. I won’t hold my breath. Remember that Christmas tour with Christopher Cross from like 2006 or so? You probably don’t, because it never happened!

Meanwhile, David Marks has apparently confirmed he will be playing the Jones Beach show with Mike, and is not appearing with Brian and Al. Make of that what you will. Marks doesn't seem to have an axe to grind with any of these guys, so I'm guessing he's simply playing the gig with the guy who asked him.
Internet fans are much more interested in an elaborate and speculative blame game on the Jones Beach issue. The argument is two-tiered: Personal blame as it pertains to letting fans down, and the possible legal consequences.
In the personal, non-legal blame realm, more damning for Al is the fact that he did apparently list the Jones Beach gig on one of his internet hubs at some point. Make no mistake, it’s pretty clear that at some point Al was planning on or considering playing the gig. How serious he was about it, or what if anything was signed, we don’t know. But there’s no way that a concert promoter, Ticketmaster, and Mike himself in an interview all just dreamed up the idea of Al playing the gig. It certainly was planned to some degree at some point.
Then there is the issue of the promotion of the show by other entities. Ticketmaster sent out flyers with Al’s name. Al’s name is not on the ticket stub as far as we know. But his name was used to advertise the show at some date well after tickets had gone on sale. Mike also mentioned in one interview that Al and Dave would be at the show. The question becomes, if Al was unsure about playing the gig, should he have quashed any of this promotion? It’s hard to say. We don’t know what was being said or done behind the scenes. The fact that Al didn’t make a big announcement may indicate it was always tentative. One would think if he was excited about a semi-reunion gig, he would have made a statement or given an interview on the topic. That didn’t happen. But he also didn’t make any statements indicating the advertising was false. The problem may have been, if he was still considering doing the show but unsure, he probably wouldn’t want to speak out against the advertisements. It would just confuse people even more to say “Recent promotions using my name for the Jones Beach show may be false, I don’t know yet.”
At the very least, having posted the date on one of his internet hubs, Al should have directly addressed the show and potential fans who bought tickets specifically because he was going to be there. Whether to disavow those advertisements or to apologize, either way it would have been nice to see him address this.
As concerns refunds to ticket buyers, a few things are worth speculatively noting. First, the venue may well allow refunds to those who ask. For those who bought tickets after the flyer with Al was mailed out, they could offer refunds to those who ask. We don’t know. Also, how many people truly bought tickets specifically because Al was going to be there? It doesn’t reflect that well on Al to point out that probably not that many people bought tickets just for him. The venue may well not even get many requests for refunds. I also find it a bit ironic that staunch pro-Mike fans would imply they would want a refund in this scenario, as it implies that Mike’s “regular” show is not enough of a draw to warrant buying a ticket. Odd. Nevertheless, there is no question that at least a small group of fans did buy tickets because Al was going to be there. If a Mike show with Al’s participation had been announced near me, I probably would have bought tickets, and I would indeed be very conflicted right now if that were the case. Hopefully fans can get a refund if they desire. Otherwise, I’m not sure what else they could ask for other than an apology from Al and/or any other entities for what we can all agree is a classic Beach Boys-style clusterf***. 
In the legal realm, we have even less information to go on. All speculation, but it would probably mostly hinge on whether Al actually signed anything agreeing to do the show. The puzzling aspect, and again this is all speculation and really serves no purpose other than to amuse fans, is that neither scenario seems so likely. That is, on the one hand, it’s hard to imagine a venue/promoter putting Al’s name in ads without a signed deal, and hard to imagine Mike mentioning Al’s participation without something set in stone. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Al being contractually obligated to do the show and simply bailing.
The even more interesting, and even more speculate area is, what happened? Specifically, that is. What could have been the sequence of events? Let’s break it down: As of late April or so, fans began to get e-mail notices of the Jones Beach show. It appears that, all along, the idea was for it to be a bit of a “oldies” revue with whatever versions of “The Lovin’ Spoonful” and “The Rascals” are currently touring.
Soon after, in an article that detailed Mike’s upcoming summer tour and the addition of Jeff Foskett to his band, Mike mentioned that Al and Dave would be at Jones Beach.
At some point around this time, one of Al’s internet hubs apparently listed the Jones Beach show.
After this, we heard nothing. Al never personally commented on it, which seemed odd. Then, as reported here a few weeks ago, one internet source over on the Beach Boys Britain board indicated that they had a source indicating that at that point Al had not “signed” anything agreeing to the show, and that he may not appear.
After that, nothing but speculation for a few more weeks until Al’s Facebook post.
Fans are speculating on what could have happened, and it is a classic Beach Boys mystery. We know everybody considered the possibility of Al doing the show, and now he isn't. That's about all we know. Did the terms of Al's involvement change or fall through?
A theory to which I would apply some serious consideration is the idea that Al would perhaps have a more long-term goal in mind. Perhaps he envisioned (or was given an indication?) that he might have a future with Mike's touring band. Perhaps he would like his idea, less due to being able to sing with Mike, and more due to the idea of keeping as much of the band together as possible. Perhaps once he saw that this was without question a one-off performance, the show became less interesting and more insulting.
Also, there's the question of how the Brian gigs fit into this. Did Al bail on Mike to play with Brian? Whether contractually obligated or not, it would be interesting to know if he bailed on the Mike show for a potentially more interesting and rewarding experience playing with Brian. When did Al agree to play with Brian? When was an offer made? Did the offer impact his involvement (or non-involvement) with Mike's show?
Lots to chew on, and hopefully more info to come. I would be concerned less with this particular Jones Beach show and more concerned with whether Al's non-appearance might end up being a cause or an effect of a more serious falling out with Mike. I want these guys to stay on good terms, if for no other reason than to keep lawsuits from happening and keep that slimmest of slim hopes alive for more full reunion activity. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Al Jardine's Participation in July 5th Mike & Bruce Show Questionable?

In a situation that may be dicey or may be cleared up within days, potentially rendering this piece of writing rather moot, Al Jardine’s participation in the July 5th gig with Mike Love’s “Beach Boys” may still be questionable.
One source on the “Beach Boys Britain” message board has indicated that Jardine has not yet officially signed on for the show. No “paperwork” has been signed apparently. Obviously, when these guys do things like the 50th anniversary tour, all sorts of contracts need to be signed. There are no “handshake” deals in the business world anymore, especially when it comes to the litigious bunch that are the Beach Boys. Whether they work on verbal agreements when one guy is sitting in for one show, I do not know. The story sounds a bit dubious only because it seems far-fetched for Love to advertise Jardine’s involvement in a recent interview (as well as print advertisements to appear with Jardine’s name) if Jardine has not officially accepted the offer. At least some fans have no doubt specifically bought tickets to this show to see Jardine appear with Love for the first time in a full-length show since 1998 (apart from “C50” of course). The same source claims that David Marks is confirmed for the show. We shall see whether any of this is accurate. I would still lean toward Jardine appearing, as there has been way too much promotion done touting his appearance already. Also, Jardine’s own internet hubs still list the show. It would be rather ironic if Jardine doesn’t show up and was actually never confirmed, considering all of the hassles Jardine was forced to go through in 1999 when he advertised his band as “Beach Boys Family & Friends.” Even back then, Jardine never promoted his shows as featuring specific band members that wouldn’t be present.
An item that may or may not ultimately be related to this story is a recent report from a one-off solo gig Al played in Atlantic City. A few general fan reviews of the gig seem to indicate that at some point Al was cajoled by a fan into commenting on Mike Love, and may have made a semi-joking (or not so much joking) reference to Mike that didn’t indicate a strengthening connection between the two, let’s say. Head over to the Smiley Smile board for a more detailed report from the show. While commentators who have had closer contact with Al, such as Howie Edelson, have pointed out that Al’s bitterness over Beach Boys business in the aftermath of Carl’s death has subsided, leading to a much more mellow Al Jardine, it’s not difficult to imagine that he still has some complicated feelings about Mike touring without him. These feelings were all set aside in the glorious glow of the reunion tour two years ago. But to paraphrase the metaphor used by a fan on the Smiley Smile board, Al indeed must sometimes feel like he’s repeatedly getting the ball taken away from him steps away from the end zone. Sometimes he’s probably partly to blame for it. But he seems to have far more enthusiasm than anyone else in the band for keeping the entire band together. Brian stopped complaining about the end of the reunion a few weeks after the press hoopla died down. Mike and Bruce, Bruce oddly especially, seem ecstatic to not have the full band reunited anymore. David Marks seems to maintain good relations with all parties, but understandably has no power or clout when it comes to the interpersonal or business issues that keep the band apart.
Whether it happened like this or not, let’s imagine a scenario where Mike calls Al up and says, “Hey, wanna play with us on July 5th in Jones Beach? It’ll be fun to do a gig together.” Someone in Al’s position could take that any number of ways. It could be seen as a fun time with an old musical pal. It could be seen as a fence-mending exercise. It could be seen as Mike trying to sell more tickets to the Jones Beach show because ticket sales may have sagged. Perhaps Al finds it a bit grating to be invited back for "one special night" into his own band. In any event, one can only imagine how there might be some complicated emotions and feelings involved with something like this, to say nothing of the business and financial issues that may or may be a motivation or a result of doing a show like this.
One has to wonder if Al is once again the strangely isolated one in the band. He has the most intact voice, he has the strongest desire to keep the entire band together to record and tour. Yet, we could end up as this year progresses with Brian releasing a solo album and touring solo without Al, and Mike and Bruce touring as "The Beach Boys" without Al. As I've already mentioned, Al is not likely to be blameless in all of the band's dealings and situations over the years, and some if not most of what Al wants out of this band may not be remotely realistic. But it's difficult to not see the irony involved here.
If Al plays a gig with Mike and Bruce, I'm less interested in that individual event, and more interested in whether these guys can't put something back together as a group. I'm more interested in Al either somehow getting the band to do something with him, or to finally find someone who will help him do a legit solo career, at least one shot at one. Another solo album and a real solo tour. Not an "Endless Summer Beach Band" where Al plays the local mushroom festival and plays a 45-minute set of surf and car songs with rented equipment. Maybe Al needs to find some Wondermints-type Beach Boys nerd musician fans (or grab some of Brian's guys when they're free) and do some small gigs and finally do the deep cuts that he has wanted to for eons.
But I digress. We shall see what comes of this July 5th show.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Foskett Jumps to Mike's Band, Al *and* Dave to Play Gig with Mike's "Beach Boys", Matt Jardine Joins Brian's Band, Mike and Al Discuss Working "Creatively"

Okay, this is apparently what I get for more than one reference to Beach Boys news being dead as of late. Today, we have no less than four news items that are probably more interesting than most of what has happened in the last six months.....
From yesterday's Rolling Stone article concerning Mike and Bruce's summer tour:
The trek kicks off May 25th at the Belvedere Festival Park in Louisville, Kentucky. After a few European dates, the group will return stateside for a gig at Jones Beach in Long Island, New York that will feature special appearances from Al Jardine and David Marks.

"Year after year, it's been a great source of inspiration to see the happiness our music has brought to multiple generations of Beach Boys fans in so many parts of the world," Mike Love said in a statement. "This summer I’m particularly excited for the Jones Beach show, which is such a terrific, iconic venue. It will be very special to share the stage with some old friends and bandmates, Al Jardine and David Marks."

The tour also marks the introduction of singer/guitarist Jeffrey Foskett, who has worked regularly with the group since 1981, as a permanent member of the Beach Boys touring band. He'll replace Love's son Christian, who left the group to pursue a solo career ("As talented as he is, I hope he’ll still want to join his dad on stage every once and a while," the elder Love added).

So, we have confirmation that both Al as well as Dave will join in on Mike's July show at Jones Beach. Well, that's interesting and..... wait, what? Rewind.....

Apparently, Mike's son Christian Love is departing the touring band and his replacement will be none other than Jeff Foskett. As is often the case in Beach Boys Land, the immediate news is not necessarily the most thought-provoking part of the story. That Foskett would be recruited by Love is not in and of itself surprising. As many of us know, Foskett was originally brought into the touring band in 1981 by Mike. Mike also allegedly tried to recruit Foskett in the 1998/99 timeframe when the touring band splintered. Mike also seemed to most closely relate to Foskett compared to the rest of Brian's touring band during the 50th Anniversary tour.

No, the bigger question is, what does this mean in terms of Foskett's working relationship with Brian? Foskett has not only been Brian's main falsetto guy for essentially Brian's entire solo touring career, since 1999, but he's also pretty much on-stage and in the studio Brian's main companion, often operating essentially as a "handler" for Brian in some non-musical matters as well.

We had less than a day to stew on this before we got, for better or worse, the "official" responses from both Brian and Jeff:

First, Brian:

"Yesterday I found out that Jeff has decided to tour with Mike Love's BB's. I think its great since he really loved touring with Mike and the boys back in the day. He made it clear at the end of the JB tour that he would be moving on . I wish him the best and I'm happy for him. As for me , I'm busy in the studio working on my new album. A couple months ago I asked Matt Jardine to tour with my band and he accepted. He's a great guy and I love his voice. He's busy working with Paul and Darian and eager to get started. All good- Brian"

We'll get back to discussing how "real" this response is far as sentiment. What this does firmly state is that we have a new guy in Brian's band - Matt Jardine. I find that to be frankly more exciting news than Jeff joining Mike's band. But back to Jeff and his quick statement:

Thank you for all of your kind words regarding my career change. I am very much looking forward to touring with The Beach Boys. It’s where I started my professional career and it feels like a “homecoming” for me. It’s going to be a blast performing with Michael, Bruce, Scott, Timmy, Randelle and Cowsey. I am very grateful to Brian for his years of friendship, music, support and teaching. We’re still great friends and I’m sure Matt will be a stellar addition to his band. As for me … No Drama, No Hard Feelings, No Weirdness … simply time for a change. I look forward to seeing you out on the road this year!

So, how much should we dissect this? Realistically, all we can really say is that we have no way of knowing how amicable this all actually was. If Foskett left, and only later was offered a gig with Mike, then we know he didn't leave one band to join the other. Why did he depart from Brian's band? Other than guessing at obvious possibilities (money, politics, etc.), who knows? We can only hope it's as amicable as they seem to suggest.

In a separate article featuring a quick interview with Mike (, we got the following additional tantalizing bit of info:

Where do you see the future of the Beach Boys heading?

"Year after year we have opportunities in tour. We’re going perform in Tel Aviv in November. We’ve never been there. We’ll be in Paris before that. A lot of great things to come. I’m having a dialogue with Al Jardine and we’re talking about doing stuff together creatively. There are a lot of things left to do and a lot of creativities left to be manifested. As long as you like doing what you’re doing creatively there’s no real time limit on anything."

It's difficult to tie this all together, and maybe there's no reason to. What do we know for sure? To recap:
- Jeff Foskett has left Brian's employ, and informed him some time ago
- Christian Love is leaving Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys"
- Jeff Foskett has joined Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys", and if the apparent timeline is actually accurate, made this decision after Christian Love left and presumably an offer made to join
- Matt Jardine is apparently permanently joining Brian's tour band to replace Foskett
- Al Jardine and David Marks are playing one show with Mike and Bruce's "Beach Boys" in July
- Al Jardine and Mike Love are having a "dialogue" about doing something "creatively" (presumably less about touring and more about writing or recording?)
So that's a lot of info to chew on. What about the unknowns?
- Will Al and Dave (and Blondie Chaplin), all of whom have added material to Brian's album, be joining Brian on future live dates? Brian has two European tour dates, and it appears unlikely they will be joining Brian on those dates, as the July gig with Mike and Bruce conflicts. Brian has one apparent date in October in Modesto, CA, so that gives a good indication of a possible timeframe for a tour to promote a new album.
- Will Al and Dave do any further dates with Mike and Bruce? This seems like a very iffy prospect. More likely is the possibility of a few gigs here and there. But could they permanently join? That seems far less likely.
Rather than run down all of the various permutations of "what if's", we'll stew on this while you readers stew as well. There will be plenty of time for commentary......

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Reviews from the Archive - Vol. 1 - "A Celebration Concert" DVD

As I mentioned way back when I started this blog/page, the idea was to restart the old “Beach Boys Opinion Page” (or “Beach Boys Resource Page”) that was around starting in the late 90’s (wow!) through the mid-2000’s. It was a repository mainly for reviews of concerts and DVDs/CDs. With this new blog, I originally figured I would mix in new commentary with somehow reformatting/reposting old stuff from the old site.

There hasn’t been a ton of news in Beach Boys land lately, so I thought I might start up a sort of “From the Archives” series for my old reviews. I guess if the actual Beach Boys can’t start their actual “archival” releases of material, I will stick fans with the alternative: an old web page archive!

I suppose I’ll just pick out some random reviews of interest and start there. Please remember some of these reviews are as much as 15 years old (maybe a bit more!), and while I’ve briefly looked at them again and in some cases have done some re-writing and editing, they are not perhaps up the standard of what I would write now, scary as that may be.

So, here is “Reviews from the Archive – Vol. 1”:

We’re going to take a look back today at the oddball Japanese DVD release “A Celebration Concert”, the only official release of the band’s July 4th, 1980 Washington DC concert:

The Beach Boys- A Celebration Concert (1980)
Color, Full Screen (1.33x1)
Columbia Video (Region 2)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Supplements: Chapter Selections

The Film:

This Region 2-only release from Japan is quite obscure, apparently. This one was difficult for me to track down back when it was still in print in 1997. It eventually came to me courtesy of a friendly fan who grabbed it for me at a Virgin Megastore in France! (289 francs!). Let me tell you, the cost of importing a DVD from Japan to France, and then to the USA, is astoundingly high!
The Beach Boys performed their first concert on the 4th of July in Washington DC in 1980. Culled from the show (which was broadcast live on the radio) were 17 songs for an eventual HBO TV special. It was never (and still hasn't been) released on home video in any format in the USA. The show was issued on videocassette in Japan sometime in the 80's as my research indicated years ago. The version on this Japanese release is that same HBO special. This DVD was issued in Japan around 1997, and as far as I can tell, quickly went out of print.
As for the show itself, it’s pretty darn similar to the “Knebworth 1980” show. Not surprising, considering this DC show took place a mere two weeks after Knebworth. On the plus side, all six Beach Boys are present. This was one of the last times that they were captured performing a full show together; certainly one of the last televised in-concert performances showcasing all six members. I personally feel that the performance is pretty tight and enjoyable, and all the group members (except for Brian who isn't very involved) are in good form. Even Dennis does a pretty good job on the drums. He doesn’t have the spunk he showed at Knebworth, but he holds the band together well.
Also, besides covering the mandatory hits, this DVD captures a few songs that survived in the Beach Boys' set list for a relatively short amount of time, namely "Good Timin'", "School Days", and "Keepin' the Summer Alive." It has at least a few tracks that aren’t repeated from the Knebworth DVD release as well (“Good Timin’”, “Catch a Wave”). However you view this era of the group’s history, this is a pretty historic concert. It still must be among one of the more widely attended shows of all time, with the crowd reported at 400,000 to 500,000, maybe even more. It’s certainly among the band’s biggest shows.
The band may not have been known to rock out convincingly that often, but even I must admit they do a pretty nice job on “Keepin’ the Summer Alive” at this show, breathing life into what was a stale studio recording and better-but-still-stilted performance at Knebworth. Also making this show fun is the uncensored crowd. We see an angry fan flipping the camera off, another guy smoking weed, a topless woman, and so on. Sorry folks, I was never a fan of James Watt, but he was actually kinda right about the audiences at these DC shows! It’s certainly a more surly, energetic crowd that the gingerly-moving baby boomers in Hawaiian shirts you see at Mike Love’s shows these days.
Video Quality:

The DVD itself is pretty stripped down, but it delivers the show itself in excellent quality. The picture quality is stunning, easily surpassing my now 34-year-old original off-air videotape of the show, which is still of better quality than most copies floating around the videotape trading circles. Simply put, this is truly as good as a live concert shot on videotape in 1980 is going to look.

Audio Quality:

As noticeable as the improvement in clarity of the picture is that the picture is much brighter. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, featuring a good stereo mix that is of much better fidelity than how it was originally broadcast in mono. As with Knebworth, this show did benefit from some post-show overdubbing (most notable in some apparent backing vocal overdubs and, to my ears, some electric piano/keyboard, which you can hear punched-in at certain points when listening with headphones). Indeed, it appears as though years later Bruce Johnston may have viewed the DC show as a more "polished" product than Knebworth, as the DC show was overdubbed and then presented as a "finished" product via its TV airing, while Knebworth sat shelved for another nearly 25 years.


There is no supplemental material, apart from a chapter menu available both in Japanese and English.
Since it is quite doubtful this show will ever see official release in the US, or anywhere else for that matter (especially as it is somewhat redundant in light of the DVD release of the Knebworth show), this release is probably the only way you can get the show on DVD, or any officially released format. The disc is NTSC, but it is encoded in Region 2, meaning those in the USA will have to either have a Region 2 player or have your existing Region 1 player modified to play Region 2 discs or modified to play all regions. That is, if you can even find this disc. I couldn’t even easily find a *picture* of this release online (resulting in my getting off my lazy ass and taking pictures of my disc), let alone a copy for sale when searching in 2014.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Al Joining Mike & Bruce for Gig in July?

It’s been kind of a dead year so far for Beach Boys fans, at least as far as any kind of “new news”, so something like this maybe jumps out as a bigger deal than it might be.
Apparently, Al will be joining Mike and Bruce for a gig in July at Jones Beach in New York. Details are literally non-existent at this stage beyond the advertisement pictured above. That Al is appearing is not even 100% confirmed. In the past, gigs for Mike’s band have on rare occasions been incorrectly billed as having other band members present. However, when promoters mistakenly do this, it usually consists of a more general “all original members” or accidental use of a picture of an old band lineup. For this billing with Al to be a mistake would take a lot of deliberate action, since someone had to specifically put his name on the ad and also leave out Brian and Dave. So it seems more likely than not that the Al billing is legit.
The two main questions this curious fan has are: What does this mean in the grand scheme? Also, What will Al’s appearance consist of?
Let’s look at the latter first. It’s worth noting that Al has never played a full-length gig with Mike and Bruce’s version of “The Beach Boys”, with the possible exception of one or two pre-50th tour private/charity shows Al reportedly played with Mike and Bruce’s band in April 2012, of which there were scant reports at the time. Apart from that, and I suppose technically the few gigs Al played in early 1998 before departing the band, Al’s only on-stage appearances with Mike’s “Beach Boys” have been quick cameos such as the early 2011 gig, or earlier this year at the Ella awards. So will Al be on stage for the entire show, or will he just pop in for a few numbers? Will he get a special introduction like he did when he played with Brian in 2006/2007, or will he just appear for the duration of the show as if it’s just a gig like 1997 again? Will he simply get tossed a few Al-centric leads like “Help Me Rhonda”, perhaps “Sloop John B” or “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, and maybe “Come Go with Me” or “California Dreamin’?” Setting aside the sort of visceral weirdness and potential uneasiness with Al simply rejoining Mike’s band, my main concern with this happening has always been that Al would simply get relegated to a role with only a few leads despite having such an in-tact voice.
Grand-scheme wise, does this mean anything? I’m not sure it foreshadows some huge imminent event in the Beach Boys universe, but it is very notable. It signifies a lack of estrangement between Al and Mike, which is a big deal. One also can’t help but wonder what this means in relation to Brian’s solo work and tour (and Al’s potential participation), and also what it might mean for more full reunion activities. When Al made a guest spot with Mike in early 2011, most spectators agree that among other things, it had to be a very small early trial run for making sure Al and Mike could handle being on stage together, and indeed we got the reunion project which began a few months after that. It’s tempting to wonder if Al “jumped ship” from the Brian camp to the Mike camp, but we also know that mere days or weeks ago, Al was pictured doing more recording with Brian.
Generally speaking, it’s refreshingly nice to see these guys be able to work with each other in various capacities and not be estranged even if they don’t all stay together as a group. It’s also frustrating, since the reunion tour was so amazing.
Also interesting to ponder: What is Mike’s motive in this? Is there one beyond just playing with Al? I truly want to believe these guys just love each other and want to sing together. That’s one possibility. I’d like to believe even more they are priming things for an eventual return to the reunion lineup, perhaps in 2015 or 2016. But fans are not completely out of line to wonder if there are band politics involved here, and/or any number of motives. Reading Jon Stebbins’ and David Marks’ book and its recounting of the shuffling with bringing David on board in 1997, one always has to wonder if something like that could be happening again.
Time will tell, for lack of a less clich├ęd way of putting it. I can’t particularly see anything negative about Al playing a gig with Mike. There is a vast potential for some observational irony, and it’s easy to be cynical. But let’s see what happens…..