Brian Wilson - That Lucky Old Sun DVD (Capitol)
The first part of the DVD for That Lucky Old Sun is an in studio performance in Studio A, at the Capitol Records building in California, where many classic Beach Boys songs were created. Brian and his band play all of their new album to a small, but appreciative audience. They recreate the entire album without any extra songs, or Brian or anyone frim the band talking to the crowd. Just a straight, live performance piece.
My thoughts after seeing about two minutes of the first song “That Lucky Old Sun” was that this was going to be a cut and dried show with very little emotion. Then the band, including a six piece string section, breaks into a mid-tempo boogie-woogie vibe, with Brian becoming animated, and the band locking in together, with everyone smiling ear to ear! You get the feeling that the past and present of Brian’s music has just evolved, and has enveloped everyone within listening distance, and brought us to a higher plane.
“Forever My Surfer Girl” features spot-on Beach Boys-like harmonies. Like most of the songs' harmonies (they’ve added a female backup singer, Taylor Mills, who helps brighten the songs through the set), the band helps open the door to Brian’s new music with an eye toward the legacy of his past.
“Venice Beach” and “Live Let Live/That Lucky Old Sun” (reprise)” are basic, simple snapshots of California today, put to beautiful music. They’re reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ “California Saga,” from their late 70’s Holland album. It’s like Buddy Holly said: “Look around you and write about what inspires you, that’s how you compose.” These are beautiful songs colored with pictorial soundscapes.
The music takes a new direction with “Mexican Girl,” “Cinco De Mayo,” and California Role,” which all feature a taste of The Grateful Dead’s “Mexicali Blues”-vibe. The band’s added gusto gives you the feeling that this is the next best thing to being there!
Some of the songs are punctuated with short cartoons, or photo stills from the 60’s featuring Brian, The Beach Boys, and The California scene, all of which are highlighted with hot rods and surfing shorts.
“Oxygen to the Brain,” and “Going Home” are brighter and bouncier than the studio versions, if that’s possible. This is a band that rises to the occasion every time they're challenged, either by Brian (“The Making of the Album” documentary is eye-opening) or an audience that’s pretty much expecting a nostalgic Beach Boys set. Amazingly, they not only deliver the goods in the “Bonus Material,” but they also bring Brian’s music into the here and now, vibing off each other with a mix of nostalgia and originality.
Back in the 60’s Brian Wilson gave instrumental surf rock a voice. He took Dick Dale & The Ventures’ mojo, and added romance (“Surfer Girl”), excitement (“Fun, Fun, Fun”), and love and loss (“In My Room”). He made the whole experience accessible to every one, and epically this New Jersey guy, and most of my friends.
On the documentary he uses his current band like he did the Wrecking Crew, which back in the 60’s included ace studio musicians like Glen Campbell, and Hal Blaine on drums. Part of Brian's creative process is examined by his current band in interviews, who say that Brian hears the complete song in his head, then he explains it to them, and then they have to play their parts with reverence and originality. They don’t use ProTools, it’s just Brian, the band, and a few microphones. At one point you hear Brian say to the backup singers to: “I want to hear your soul!”
Contemporaries from the 60’s like Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees give in-person testimonials about Brian and The Beach Boys, and Tony Asher, who co-wrote most of the songs with Brian on Pet Sounds, gives an incisive fly-on-the-wall overview of Brian and The Beach Boys’ creative process.
The DVD also includes track by track commentary by Brian and Scott Bennett, who is one of the guitarists from the band. There’s also performances from live sets that show the bands strengths on past and present songs. “The Black Cab Sessions,” is a web performance that will knock your socks off!
Just about everyone knows of the stories of Brian’s drug use in the 60’s, his demise and fall, and his recent amazing resurgence in the past few years. With all that said, we really don’t need to know too much about what Brian Wilson thinks, we just need to feel and listen to what inspires him. - Phil Rainone