Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Albums of Magic and Beauty....

The Beach Boys Friends (1968)

While Pet Sounds (1966) is clearly Brian Wilson's most realized work, it is the first in a series of four releases that define the band's best period.  It's taken this long to see this work without looking at it through the prism of the collapse of Brian's Smile album, his "teenage symphony to God."  Released in its wake, Smiley Smile (1967) seemed like someone talking you through a tour of a house they loved, but after a fire. And swept up in the wake of that odd record - an album that the years have definitely redeemed - were two of the best Beach Boys albums of all.

Also released in 1967, and the last of their albums to be issued in both stereo and mono, Wild Honey is the funkiest the Boys ever got, and side one opens with four really strong tracks and is still a blast to put on today. "Wild Honey" "Aren't You Glad" "I Was Made To Lover Her" and "Country Air" are high energy and imbued with a new post-Smile confidence.  Side two opens with "Darlin'", the most successful single off the album (#19 US #11 UK) and the song I most vividly remember from the only time I ever saw The Beach Boys when they opened for the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at Philadelphia's Spectrum in what would be a mostly disastrous tour in the Spring of 1968 (canceled after drawing only 200 people to their show in New York City). They wore white suits and had a large horn section and played on a stage that was covered in flowers.

In 1968 The Beach Boys released Friends, the album that remains my own favorite to this day. I am a sucker for records with great opening tracks and, at 38 seconds, "Meant For You" is about as perfect as it gets (when I recorded the third Many Bright Things album I opened it with the 26 second track, "Many Bright Friends", as my own private little homage).

The album has twelve tracks and the tenth "Busy Doin' Nothin'" is classic Brian Wilson. Legend has it that the directions given in the song actually led to his house outside of Hollywood. It's also a perfect Bossa Nova.

Here's the title track. Enjoy.