Friday, June 21, 2013

Beach Boys 11: Carl And The Passions

Maybe as a recognition that that they weren’t the same band, the next Beach Boys album sported the unwieldy title of Carl And The Passions – “So Tough”—Carl of course being the most stable of the Wilson brothers. Bruce Johnston was ousted, and they brought in Blondie Chaplin and future Rutle Rikki Fataar to boost the guitar and drums respectively. They happened to be decent singers and songwriters to boot, which would help them on record as well as on stage. But their label clearly showed they weren’t completely behind the album by packaging it as a double, with Pet Sounds in the same jacket. It’s too bad, because the album is good enough to stand on its own.
Speaking of which, “You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone” is an unwieldy title that unfortunately fits in the long line of “therapeutic” songs that Brian was obsessed with from about 1967 on, whether it be raw vegetables or jogging, when all he had to do was cut out the pot, pills and cheeseburgers. It’s got something of a “Wild Honey” feel, serving the same purpose to kick off side one. The new guys take over with “Here She Comes”, a generic title of its own, but decent ‘70s rock nonetheless. “He Come Down” has a terrific production, with plenty of soulful piano, Hammond organ and harmonies, but is ultimately another Mike Love advertisement for the Maharishi. But the “classic” Beach Boys sound returns on “Marcella”. This is the one people tend to cite as the best on the album, and while that’s a matter of taste, it does sound the most like a Brian Wilson creation.
The new guys emerge again on “Hold On Dear Brother”, with its prominent pedal steel and confusing time signature taking it far from the brand. Then there’s “Make It Good”, the return of Dennis, his voice already cracked and aged, full of the character for which he’d become a cult figure. It’s more like a lengthy interlude, rising up from nowhere and hanging in the air until it’s over, suddenly. It makes a nice setup for “All This Is That”, another mildly spacey number trading lead vocals between Carl and Mike, then returns the spotlight to Dennis for “Cuddle Up”, a lengthy ballad largely the product of the guy who would one day gain fame as half of Captain & Tennille.
So Carl And The Passions isn’t a bad album at all, since it doesn’t really sound like the stereotypical Beach Boys. It wasn’t an easy album to make, considering that each track sports different producers, eventually giving most of the credit to Carl. Since we hadn’t expected much by now, and having been burned by the unfulfilled hype of its predecessors, it’s a recommended listen. Imagine that.

The Beach Boys Carl And The Passions – “So Tough” (1972)—

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