Even as the Beach Boys’ long-awaited reunion project That’s Why God Made the Radio bows at No. 3 on the Billboard charts — the Hall of Fame band’s highest debut ever — a sense of mystery surrounds their unique musical bond.
Brian Wilson and the group, in a new video called “A Signature Harmony,” seem at times taken aback by the way their voices still intertwine in the studio. Some of the work is revealed to be as meticulous as weaving a complex tapestry, as Wilson works out low and high parts.
“I think he’s more in tune with our vibrations than we are,” Al Jardine says. “Brian is channeling, is what I think. I think it just comes through with some other parallel universe. There is something extra special there that just keeps coming through.”
Other times, the Beach Boys find magic with an almost effortless ease: “We put a lot of love in the harmonies,” Wilson says. “There’s some really, really good love in there.”
That the Beach Boys would ever find that kind of harmony again was, of course, the subject of deep debate.
Following the death of Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston continued to tour as the Beach Boys. Jardine, meanwhile, has been appearing with the Endless Summer Band. Long absent from the road, Wilson started playing separately with his early-1990s comeback — all amidst a flurry of lawsuits back and forth between the members.
Jardine then joined Brian Wilson in a solo concert, and later appeared in the Love-led Beach Boys edition of the band last year. By December, the band had confirmed plans for a reunion tour. Next came word of a new studio project, issued last week as That’s Why God Made the Radio.
David Marks, who played guitar with the Beach Boys from 1962-63, is performing with the group for the first time since briefly rejoining for some 300 shows between 1997-99. The rest of the surviving Beach Boys last performed together in the studio on 1995’s Stars and Stripes Vol. 1.
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on the Beach Boys. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
BEACH BOYS – THAT’S WHY GOD MADE THE RADIO (2012): Who would have guessed, after decades of awful public squabbling, that the battling Beach Boys would return at all — must less in perfect harmony? The first new album in forever to feature founders Al Jardine, Mike Love and Brian Wilson, along with legacy members David Marks and Bruce Johnston, is highlighted by stirring finale suite of songs, very much in the style and substance of Pet Sounds and SMiLE. If some — or, maybe all – of it feels steeps on sun-drenched nostalgia, well, that’s also part of the magic of their return. After all, Wilson was waxing poetic about things like transistor radios, beach bunnies and hot rods back when they were all shiny and brand new.
‘FIFTY SIDES’ SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON BEACH BOYS LEGEND: Coinciding with this rewarding recording from founding or former bandmates Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks, and coming close to doing full justice — your subjectivity may vary too, after all — journalist Mark Dillon has engineered, in what must of been a labor of love, a page-turning heaven in Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys: The Songs That Tell Their Story. Garnering more than four dozen hits and hidden gems and infusing them with exclusive commentary by an array of collaborators, fellow musicians, and famous fans (from Al Kooper to Zooey Deschanel, the simplicity of “Surfin’” to the artistry of “Surf’s Up”) this treasure trove runs the golden anniversary gamut from giddy fun, fun, fun to a sense of misty melancholy — signature sounds still of the once-troubled but reemergent guiding light Brian Wilson.
THE BEACH BOYS – THE SMILE SESSIONS (2011): Wilson’s long-awaited mythical masterpiece was issued in expanded form as The SMiLE Sessions, nearly 45 years after its conception. Be warned, though: While the original album has been referred to as the Beach Boys’ Holy Grail, this massive collection of studio recordings will probably be more well received by musicians and the serious music fan. Novice passersby need not apply. That said, despite the newly recorded version of this project released by Wilson in 2004, no one could have expected what depth and quality Sessions would bring to the table.
SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: THE BEACH BOYS: As the Beach Boys prepared to celebrate their 50th anniversary with the 2011 release of The SMiLE Sessions, an updated version of the 1968 track “Do It Again” and a proposed world tour, we took a look back at some fun, fun, fun old favorites — including tracks from Surfer Girl, Pet Sounds, Holland, Smiley Smile and Sunflower.
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