California Sunshine: Andy B reviews Brian Wilson’s That Lucky Old Sun

Brian Wilson
That Lucky Old Sun

Capital/EMI

When last the world heard from Brian Wilson, the creative genius behind the Beach Boys and current solo artist, he was basking in the critical and commercial success of the Grammy-winning SMiLE, an album first started in 1966 and which famously remained discarded and unreleased until September 2004, when Brian Wilson completed what most thought was unfinishable. Four years later he’s got a brand new album out today titled That Lucky Old Sun.
It’s very good. Very very good.

I’ll admit here and now that I could have been biased. Brian Wilson is one of my musical heroes and I’m a bit of a Beach Boys fanatic. I’ve had a bootleg of studio sessions for That Lucky Old Sun for a few months now, but I decided to not spend too much time listening to them so I could have untarnished ears when the new album was officially released. All that being said, I have no problems acknowledging that he’s put out his fair share of lackluster material over the past decade (1998’s Imagination was sterile and Wilson sounded noncommittal on 2004’s Gettin’ In Over My Head). Fortunately, That Lucky Old Sun doesn’t fall into the category.

Recorded with his longtime backing band that know him best and co-written with bandmate Scott Bennett and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, That Lucky Old Sun is a concept album, a nostalgic love letter to California. The album is interspersed with spoken word narratives that move the album along, acting as brief segues between songs.

As for those, they are some of the best Wilson has come up with in 30 years. Highlights include the most Beach Boys-esque “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl”, and the closing home runs of “Midnight’s Another Day”, “Going Home” and “Southern California”. Not so great is “Mexican Girl” which in the contest of so many other great songs just sounds trite.
Working with musicians that are sympathetic to his legacy and produced by the man himself, Brian Wilson has created an album that’s both nostalgic and contemporary. And make no mistake – That Lucky Old Sun is meant to be heard as an album. Forget downloading a song or two. On That Lucky Old Sun, songs flow into one another and there’s a consistent feeling throughout the entire 38 minutes. And while Wilson may not have the clear falsetto voice from the days of “I Get Around” and “In My Room”, his vocals are consistently solid, once again ably assisted by his amazing backing band.

That Lucky Old Sun isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s pretty darn close. And for Brian Wilson, the man who spent much of the 70’s locked in his bedroom staring out the window at the California skies and is nearing 70 himself, there isn’t anything wrong with close.

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