Following from the dizzy heights and horrible fallout of Pet Sounds and the at-the-time-unreleased Smile'you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Brian Wilson was finished in the late '60s. He did however play a large part in several low key records of the era including the straight down the line cool r&b of 'Wild Honey'. It's literally the anti- Pet Sounds - bargain basement production, squeaky harmonies but fantastic breezy tunes that comprised what was as close as the Beach Boys came to a Motown-styled album.
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The problem the Beach Boys had in the late '60s (actually they had many problems but the main one) was that they were again ahead of the curve. It was ok for the Beatles a couple of years later to go back to basics and rediscover rock and roll but in 1967 when Sgt Pepper was redefining music the Beach Boys were releasing odd but enjoyable albums like Wild Honey. At this point all the previous experimentalism was ditched in favour of a Motown flavoured album which despite it's spindly production and squeaky harmonies offers a veritable breeze of musical treats. It is not supposed to surprise or challenge you but instead is an enjoyable romp through harmonic pop.
The Motown influence is there from the get go - the r&b styled opening title track is a blues influenced screamer with buzzing theramin and a wailed impassioned Carl Wilson vocal. 'Aren't You Glad' is a three minute playful romp with lovely horn lines and the sort of catch all chorus Brian Wilson could still knock out in his sleep. Their cover of Stevie Wonder's 'I Was Made to Love Her' is a pointless if enjoyable signpost of where the Beach Boys heads were at this stage. Though there are golden harmonic moments in the semi wordless 'Country Air' and the delicious haunting 'Let the Wind Blow, the album's main success was the rollicking 'Darlin'' which upped the production ante showcasing a tour de force of driving harmonies and incredible complex horn patterns.
The albums weakness really is it's slightness and sameyness. There's generally a lack of depth and it ends uncharacteristically weakly with the awful band composition 'How She Boogalooed It' and the a capella rounds of 'Mama Says'. If the band weren't strung out and confused at this point a bigger production such as the unreleased 'Can't Wait Too Long' might have helped but even if the Beach Boys weren't far off descending into total chaos at this point they were still able to make cool if less significant music seemingly on a shoestring.
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