Since the release of Dennis Wilson’s spectacular Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977, Beach Boys fans have been treated to studio album releases from all the members except Al Jardine. That was until June 2010, when he released A Postcard From California in a digital-only format. The release received praise, but it lacked in overall sound quality and packaging. Amazon.com got the exclusive arrangement with a per purchase CD-R that came in a standard jewel case (with no text on the spine) bare bones package. The iTunes pdf booklet downlaod was a nice touch, but it was still an unusual feeling to not actually have a “genuine” physical release. The newly remastered digipak format — released on Tuesday, April 3 — is a welcome sight, as is the sound quality on each recording. On this new release there are three more tracks; “California Dreamin’,” “Waves of Love” and “Sloop John B (A Pirate’s Tale).” “California Dreamin’” is now track 12, and “Waves of Love” and “Sloop John B (A Pirate’s Tale)” are listed as bonus tracks. The guest artists include: Brian Wilson, Mike Love, the late Carl Wilson, David Marks, Bruce Johnston, Glen Campbell, David Crosby, Neil Young, Steve Miller, Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunnell, actor Alec Baldwin, Flea (The Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Adam & Matt Jardine.
The album perfectly captures the essential West Coast experience. Similar to Brian Wilson’s That Lucky Old Sun (2008) — a virtual tour of Los Angeles and surrounding areas — Jardine take us on a voyage up and down the coast of all things Beach Boys. Including, but not exclusive to, great harmonies and production.
The most intriguing composition remains “Don’t Fight The Sea;” a song that had its inception in the late 1970’s (with Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston on the chorus). It took Al 10-plus years to get Brian Wilson on the song (in the late 80’s), another 10 years to add Carl to the bridge, and another decade to add Mike Love in 2009. The song is a shifting mélange of the irrepressible essence of The Beach Boys sound that fits perfectly into the album’s ecological vernacular. Discussing the track, Jardine said, “I could never get all the guys together. That’s why it never became a Beach Boys song… I approached Mike about recording a vocal in 2009 and he was totally agreeable to it. Thanks to Mike we’ve got all the fellows on a recording again, which is nice. It’s kind of cool. Now I can do a tribute to The Beach Boys on my own album. Carl’s got that beautiful haunting interim part that he does.” The song was then released in April of 2011 as a collectible 45” limited edition white & black vinyl. The singles were manufactured in an effort to assist the Red Cross with its Japanese disaster relief efforts. The idea was so well received that Brian, Mike, Bruce and Al signed 90 limited edition/numbered sleeves for the initial 1,000 singles pressed on white vinyl. To make the release even more collectible, the group decided to use the previously unearthed a capella version of “Friends,” mixed exclusively for the B side.
To add to this historical recording, Al met up with the rest of the Beach Boys at Ocean Way studio on Wednesday, March 21 to film the group singing around “Don’t Fight The Sea” for a fundraising video to benefit the National Marine Sanctuaries. When asked about the video Al said, “Paul McCartney did a cameo for me for the ‘Don’t Fight The Sea’ video when we were at the Grammys. I just asked him to do a little finger wag, and he did it. Paul won’t be on the track itself…just the video. We’re making the video to support the National Marine Sanctuaries to help save the funding, because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are starting to cut funds at the sanctuaries.”
The album captures the amalgam of Jardine’s path with older material re-recorded and mixed with a vibrant earthiness: “California Dreamin’” (with David Crosby and Glen Campbell), “California Feelin’,” “Looking Down The Coast,” “Don’t Fight The Sea” (with the Beach Boys), “Campfire Scene” (with Crosby and Neil Young), “A California Saga” (with Crosby, Young and Stephen Stills), “Help Me Rhonda” (with Steve Miller and Flea), “Honkin’ Down The Highway” (with Brian Wilson) and “And I Always Will” all originated during Al’s Beach Boys years. “San Simeon” (with Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley) borrows a bit of its melody from “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Drivin’” (with Brian and David Marks) borrows a bit from The Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon,” but the fluiditiy of interpretations are steadfast reminders of Al’s ability to create strong arrangements.
As for the bonus tracks… “Waves Of Love” and “Sloop John B (A Pirate’s Tale),” it’s the former that includes yet another great vocal from the late Carl Wilson. The song is pure powerpop, and leaps out of the speakers! The title “Waves Of Love” has also been mentioned as being included on the new Beach Boys studio album. When asked Jardine said, “Yes. I would like to add background parts to the Beach Boys’ version of ‘Waves Of Love.’ That’s another Carl Wilson lead vocal. Carl’s presence on there is important to me.”
Whether it’s the countrified title track about Jardine’s family migration and nomadic lifestyle, the examination of the California coastline on “Looking Down the Coast,” the fun and poignant lyrics of “Drivin’” (“Texaco, you’re killin’ me man…”), the Beach Boys’ Party! album vibe on “Help Me Rhonda,” or the poetic shift of “Tidepool Interlude” (recited by Alec Baldwin), this is a song cycle that illustrates the culmination of Al’s personal and musical life on every level. There are many standout moments, particularly on the pop-friendly “San Simeon” (featuring Matt and Adam Jardine on backing vocals) and “Waves Of Love.”
Al brings new life and vigor to the well-known chestnuts with great vocals and completely recaptures his environmental sensibilities. He also provides the listener with a really organic experience. If you’re eagerly awaiting the new Beach Boys album, then this collection is for you. It has everything you would want in a Beach Boys album and more.
Visit Aljardine.com for song samples and the offical electronic press kit. Order the new album here: Al Jardine — A Postcard From California.
© 2012 David M. Beard/All rights reserved