The Beach Boys released their sixteenth studio album SUNFLOWER (Brother Records/Reprise Records) on August 31, 1970. It only reached #151 on Billboard’s Top LP’s chart in the four weeks it was on it. It did, however, reach #29 on the UK Top Album Chart in 1970. The picture of the band on the cover of the album was taken on the golf course at Dean Martin’s Hidden Valley Ranch near Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, California. It was shot by Dean’s son Ricci.
The album begins with ‘Slip on Through’, one of two songs penned solely by drummer Dennis Wilson. It is a bold rock ‘n’ roll declaration of romantic feelings: “Baby, come on won’t you let me be/By your side from now and eternity/Cause I love you/Baby I do and now/Can’t you see/What has come over me?/Oh my life is growing like a big oak tree/Cause I love you/Baby I do.../Now you relax, let your mind go free/You won’t regret the feeling you receive”. Brian Wilson wrote ‘This Whole World’. He says: “This is a real spiritual tune”. It begins with these words: “I’m thinking about a-this whole world/Late at night I think about the love of this whole world/Lots of different people everywhere/And when I go anywhere I see love (3X)”.
‘Add Some Music to Your Day’ is a nice easy listening tune penned by Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Joe Knott. It praises the benefits of music in our lives: “The Sunday mornin’ gospel goes good with the soul/There’s blues, folk, and country, and rock like a rollin’ stone/The world could come together as one/If everybody under the sun/Add some music to your day.../At a movie you can feel it touching your heart/And on every day of the summertime/You hear children chasing ice cream carts/They’ll play it on your wedding day”. ‘Got to Know the Woman’ is a groovy rock ‘n’ roll song about the charge of vibrant male sexuality: “I just met a woman on my way home/She just blew my mind/My heart was a-pumpin’/I mean all the way home/Got to know the woman/Whoa, I got to know the woman.../Baby, I’m gonna tell you somethin’ right now/You got so much soul you blow my mind”.
Bruce Johnston and Brian Wilson penned ‘Deirdre’. It uses flutes and is conversational: “You’re back again, you still have all your friends/And they used to ask me why’d you go away, Deirdre/What could I say?/That you ran away/Don’t you think it’s time that you stayed right near me?/These nights, pretty nights, that were meant to be/With you and me/It’s the way that we always had our love, Deirdre/I love your red hair”. ‘It’s About Time’ urges us to truly love our neighbor: “It’s about time we get together/To be out front and love one another/Brothers, sisters, everybody/We better start to help each other now/We need it now/When we’re sharin’ our love, brother/That’s when we know we can shape another world”.
‘Tears in the Morning’ uses Parisian accordion, horn, and piano. It is the emotional song of one whose spouse has left them: “So you moved out up to Europe/You packed your warmth and you took your soul/Well, I hope you do what you’re damn sure of/A lonely bed here takes on the cold/Lose a wife, change my life, we’re not together/A canceled future, well, it’s hard on me/Gone, you’re gone, are you gone forever?/Hope you love the baby/I’m never gonna see”. ‘All I Wanna Do’ is a mellow song that contains these heartfelt words a newlywed might say to their spouse: “All I wanna do/Is always be good to you/To give you all the love I can/And help you in whatever you do/Sure as the sun will come around again to start off another day/You can be sure that in my heart and soul/I’ll love you in every way”.
The next song is ‘Forever’. Brian Wilson says it “has to be the most harmonically beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. It’s a rock and roll prayer”. Here are some of the words: “If the song I sing to you/Could fill your heart with joy/I’d sing forever/Forever (2X)/I’ve been so happy loving you.../Let the love I have for you/Live in your heart/And beat forever (together my love)/Forever (2X)/I’ve been so happy loving you”. ‘Our Sweet Love’ is a soft, pretty song of innocence: “Like a child with his new toy/My heart is filled with joy for/Our sweet love/Honey, it’s heaven/Our sweet love/Lord knows I love her so/I feel it down inside my soul/A precious love like this can flower/There’s nothing in this world like/Our sweet love/Should last forever”.
‘At My Window’ is an experimental track penned by Alan Jardine and Brian Wilson. It reflects on our feathered friends: “Birds fly up/And down spinnin’ round/Flyin’ all around/From my window/A little brown sparrow came flutterin’ down.../He came to my window”. ‘Cool, Cool Water’ runs five minutes long and uses snaps and sonic experimentation. It is a song about getting refreshed: “When I’m just too hot to move/Cool, cool water is such a groove/In a shady spot when I’m layin’ down/Only thing movin’ are the ants on the ground/When I’m thirsty I reach for a glass/Cool water tastes like such a gas/From the mountains on down to the sea/Cool, cool water keeps on coolin’ me”.
On SUNFLOWER, in many ways, the Beach Boys sound like a completely different group than that which released numerous hits including ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ and ‘California Girls’. Various group members take the lead vocally, but the group’s signature harmonies are still there. The music is decidedly less commercial and catchy, and more artistic and creative. This album reveals a certain maturity about the group. I would call this album a success, but in a different way than that of their early works. I’m rating SUNFLOWER 86%. For more info visit: www.thebeachboys.com.