Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 in Inglewood, California. He co-founded the magnificent rock and roll group The Beach Boys in 1961. Not only that, he wrote or co-wrote over two dozen Top 40 hits for the group! In 1988 he released his self-titled solo debut. Fast forward to 2008 and he released his 8th studio album THAT LUCKY OLD SUN (Brimel/Capitol Records). It entered the UK Album Chart at #37 and the Billboard 200 at #21. The album was produced and arranged by Brian, with additional production by Scott Bennett. This is a concept album based around the 1949 song ‘That Lucky Old Sun’. It was penned by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie. Frankie Lane originally recorded it and took it to #1. Others who’ve recorded it include Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Cash. Brian Wilson sings lead vocals and plays keyboards on this album.
First up is the title track, which is one of seven tracks on the CD that are under a minute long. This one is a pretty and nicely orchestrated song of reflection: “Lucky old sun, that lucky old sun/Up in the mornin’, out on the job/Work so hard for my pay/But that lucky old sun’s got nothin’ to do/But roll around heaven all day/Show me that river, take me across/Wash all my troubles away”. ‘Morning Beat’ is one of eight Brian Wilson co-writes with Scott Bennett. This one has a fun, old-time rock and roll feel to it with nice harmonies. It is for sure a song of positivity: “The sun burns a hole through the 6 a.m. haze/Turns up the volume and it shows off its rays/Another Dodger blue sky is crowning L.A./The city of angels is blessed every day/That lucky old sun smiles on me/Wanna slide down the mountain into the dancing sea/I’m listening to the morning beat/It’s rising from star-studded concrete”. ‘Room with a View ’is one of four narratives by Van Dyke Parks. It includes these poetic lines: “One by one/A carpeted star spangled city sleeps/Like so many dancin’ diamonds with a beat/Each of them a home/With walls of stories they could tell/Meet the crack of dawn/A freeway starts to roll/An owl hoots its last goodbye to a coyote on patrol”.
Brian is the sole writer of ‘Good Kind of Love’. It is a happy, light, breezy, pop song about puppy love: “He loves her when she’s sleeping and all the dreams she’s keeping/She keeps them in a jar, but not too far from her heart/They have the good kind of love, good kind of love, good kind of love/They have the right kinda thing, right kinda thing, right kinda thing/Makes me want to sing it to you/Just him and her, there so close together/Now they just met and scored a newfound treasure/Oh, oh, run to him, run to him, right to his arms, yeah/They have the good kind of love”. ‘Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl’ is a cheery adult pop song of one in love: “First love is the moment/You can’t repeat but you’ll always own it/The gift she gave to me/Her timeless melody/Forever she’ll be my surfer girl (2X)/My little one, so sweet”.
‘Venice Beach Narrative’ paints a distinct and clear picture of a popular California locale: “Venice Beach is poppin’/Like live shrimp dropped on a hot wok/Hucksters, hustlers and hawkers/Set up their boardwalk shops/Home for all the homeless, hopeless/Well heeled and deranged/Still nothin’ here seems out of place or strange”. ‘Live Let Live/That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)’ is an easy listening ballad that shows great respect for creation: “God help me for whale babies who cry/Live let live not die/My heart beats so fast/Our hearts meet at last/Feature creatures of God/Let them abound, where they are found/Let’s get the hell outta here”.
‘Mexican Girl’ is a warm, tropical pop song of infatuation with nice harmonies and good use of horns: “Hey, Mexican girl, with eyes of burning fire/Heal me with your passion/Inspire me to inspire/Loyal and strong, as tender as a song/Help me understand, make me a better man/Mexican, Mexican, Mexican girl/Danced her way into my world”. ‘Cinco de Mayo Narrative’ includes these interesting thoughts: “Salsa rumbles rafters/In a chop shop filled with cars/Custom chopped and channeled/With a drag race in their stars/City of Angels/Be all you can be/Be movies/Be A-list/Be seen just to see/Your part/Repeat/The heart beats in L.A.” Next up is ‘California Role/That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)’. Brian offers some great advice to newcomers to California on this playful middle of the road song: “Every girl’s the next Marilyn/Every guy, Errol Flynn/Sometimes you’ve got to edit your dreams/And find the spotlight behind the scenes/Here in California, man I got to warn ya/Find your California role/You don’t have to climb the Capitol Tower or play the Hollywood Bowl/If there’s a roll in your heart, and a rock in your soul/If you miss your shot/It doesn’t mean you won’t reach your goal”.
‘Between Pictures Narrative’ ponders people’s plights: “Actors waitin’ tables/With a method they can’t share/Waitin’ for what’s next/Waitin’ for the big screen in disrepair/I mean despair/I mean/That actor standing there/Are we all not actors and the whole wide world our stage?/Naw/Some are worthy writers with the grit to hit the page/To be or not to be/Now/Just part of the heart beat in L.A.” ‘Oxygen to the Brain’ has a cool pop vibe to it with a varying slow and fast tempo. Anyone who knows Brian Wilson’s troubled history will see this is clearly an autobiographical song: “I cried a million tears/I wasted a lot of years/Life was so dead, life was so dead.../How could I have got so low?/I’m embarrassed to tell you so/I laid around this old place/I hardly ever washed my face.../So take a lesson from one who knows/Just where being lazy goes/There’s a time to live/A reason to live”. ‘Can’t Wait too Long’ is an unfinished Beach Boys song dating back to 1967. The only lyrics here are: “Oooh, oh, been too long (2X)”.
‘Midnight’s Another Day’ is a quiet number that begins by waxing spiritual: “Lost my way/The sun grew dim/Stepped over grace and stood in sin/Took the dive, but couldn’t swim/A flag without the wind/When there’s no morning without ‘u’/There’s only darkness the whole day through/Took the diamond from my soul/And turned it back into coal”. ‘That Lucky Old Sun (Reprise)’ is a quite short affair.
Two of this CD’s best songs finish the album off. Tommy Morgan plays harmonicas on the fun, soulful rocker ‘Going Home’. This autobiographical song is about finding oneself: “I’m going home, I’m going home/Back to the place where I belong/Found peace of mind, yeah, yeah, one piece at a time.../At 25 I turned out the light/Cause I couldn’t handle the glare in my tired eyes/But now I’m back, drawing shades of kind blue skies”. ‘Southern California’ is a lovely ballad just shy of five minutes in length. It finds Brian nostalgic: “I had this dream/Singing with my brothers/In harmony, supporting each other/Tail winds, wheels spin, down the Pacific Coast/Surfin’ on the A.M./Heard those voices again.../Surfer silhouettes/The sun went into the sea/As we headed home/We drove into a movie/Love songs, pretty girls/Didn’t want it to end”.
THAT LUCKY OLD SUN is an absolute masterpiece from one of music’s all-time geniuses! This really is a delightful album to fall upon your ears if you let it! What a wonderful, loving tribute Brian Wilson has given his native California here! Brian’s warm vocals are a pleasure to listen to. A wide variety of instruments add to the perfection here, including: ukulele, bells, flute, French horn, violin, and cello. Several terrific background vocalists are used including: Darian Sahanaja, Probyn Gregory, and Taylor Mills. What great harmonies! The CD booklet, photos, and packaging are lovely. I’m rating THAT LUCKY OLD SUN 100%. For more info visit: www.brianwilson.com and www.capitolrecords.com.