Thursday, August 7, 2008

Review--Dennis Wilson--Pacific Ocean Blue

I have been going back and forth over what is going to be my next post, this exquisite album by a former Beach Boy or the new Batman movie, the Dark Knight, both of which I had been awaiting anxiously. Well, you have to start somewhere and this amazing work has soothed my disappointment over the new Batman flick.

First of all, although, this re-issue album is entitled Pacific Ocean Blue, which was a Dennis Wilson solo work from the late 1970's, it is much more than that. Dennis, the lone surfer in the group, was not one of the more-heralded Beach Boys, known mostly as the drummer who rarely sang, but became known for his excursion into transcendental meditation and for having more than a casual relationship with Charlie Manson, before Helter Skelter. He would eventually be overcome by personal addiction and drown in the very ocean he so loved.

Due to Dennis Wilson's early demise--he was to die a few years after the release of POB--he left behind a great deal of music in the archives directed toward an album that never saw official release. Tentatively called, Bambu, after the rolling papers that used to sit next to every cash register at every convenience store in the 1970's, the second disc of the POB re-issue carries songs from the so-called Bambu sessions, that have been bouncing around as bootlegs for close to 30 years. Finally, the release contains two versions of an amazing unreleased instrumental song by Wilson called Holy Man, which by itself is worth the price of admission.

I was never a Beach Boys fan growing up--too corny, I thought and I might have been right given what American radio usually played, Barbara Ann and Surfing USA--not that they were bad but I was more attracted to the Beatles and never realized that the Beach Boys had records like Pet Sounds and Surf's Up and Holland that were amazingly beautiful and deep. Strangely enough, the Beach Boys have always been much more popular in England than at home. Maybe the grass is always greener. But the works on the new POB release are not much like any Beach Boy albums that I know. They have an amazing 1970's feel. Think of the very best music from the 1970's, whether from Jackson Browne or Pink Floyd or George Harrison and you will be right at home with POB and the Bambu out-takes.

Even though POB and Bambu were not originally released together(or Bambu, ever, until now), taken together, they definitely have a similar feel among the songs. If Dennis Wilson had followed George Harrison (another unappreciated famous band member with vocals more expressive than exquisite) and released all of these songs at once, the effect might be quite similar to Harrison's lauded sprawling triple-album, All Things Must Pass, with Dennis's Holy Man playing the role of Isn't it a Pity, as the album's anthem, while River Song might be Dennis's My Sweet Lord. There are 33 tracks here and very few that feel out of place.

My only caveat for Beach Boys-aficionados is that this album reminds me much more of the best of 1970's album oriented rock and not of the the Beach Boys in general. These songs are not at all like the harmonies that many associate with the Beach Boys. They are much more bluesy and laid-back. I've only had these discs a fortnight and I may re-address this new CD release more in depth at a later point, but right now I rate Pacific Ocean Blue very favorably with Harrison's All Things Must Pass, which I see as maybe the classic album of the 1970's.

Five stars and highly recommended!