I didn't even realize Brian Wilson kept producing music outside of The Beach Boys until that glorious moment that I heard Smile would finally be completed and released. Nonetheless, while the usual top quality songwriting appeared on his earlier output, a lot of it is adorned with truly regrettable '80's production. I may explore it more thoroughly later. The other unfortunate part of his solo output is that, of course, he's super old, and his voice just can't be what it once was. He deftly uses his backing band to make up for his vocal shortcomings now, but his solo work just often makes me think of what could have been if he had been able to keep going with Smile back in the '60's.
This 2004 remaster is incredibly faithful to what Brian had mostly completed with the Beach Boys, with just one major flaw: the vocals. This album, which should be full of youthful vigor because of its style, has an old man singing. And his backup singers, who are wonderfully talented, just aren't The Beach Boys. But once you can get past that, it's an amazing album. There are no highlights or lowlights; the album just flows from song to song, and all of it is great. Smile really is a pop symphony: there are recurring motifs across the album, sections of related songs, and an overall direction. It may not have rocked the world as it would have if released back in the '60's, but it's still a legend. I am very happy it was completed. But I do have to say: it doesn't quite strike the same chord as Pet Sounds. It may be more refined in terms of arrangement and songwriting, but the songs just don't quite hit me emotionally in the same way.Best tracks:
All of them. This album just has to be listened to all as one.
That Lucky Old Sun is an interesting follow-up to the masterful Smile. I suppose it couldn't have been as good. Once again, Wilson connects many of the songs, but they are definitely individual songs this time. Unsurprisingly, they are mostly all excellent, and Brian reminds us that he is still unmatched as a master songwriter. The main thing that makes this album somewhat unfortunate is that there are a ton of short, spoken word pieces, between nearly every song. These are uninteresting and disruptive. I get that Brian really wants to paint a vivid picture of California, but I'd rather do without these. Unfortunately, there are also two weak songs on this album: California Role, which is a hokey and annoying song, and Going Home, which is a cheesy attempt to throw in a bit of rock. The first half of the album does end up being significantly better, as a result.Best tracks:
1. Forever She'll Be my Surfer Girl
2. Live Let Live
3. Mexican Girl
No top 10 for Brian Wilson.