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Various Artists | Caroline Now! The songs of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (Marina)
There are hundreds of dodgy Beach Boy covers, be they bootlegs, charity records or corny US hard rockers covering California Girls but only a few duds made it on board Marina's mighty collection. Alex Chilton is the biggest fish here yet sings Love You's great I Wanna Pick You Up with a flattish vocal and all the enthusiasm spared for light conversation with a dull milkman. A smaller fish, Malcom Ross, with scant accompaniment busks through Heroes and Villains like a suburban uncle checking a shopping list. Most underwhelming is the Pastels' Katrina Mitchell singing Wind Chimes as if to herself, checking out the tune. Otherwise this host of mostly little known Indie stars win us over within a couple of listens. Eugene Kelly, June and the Exit Wounds, Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake and the David Ritchie coalition stick close to the originals and, while their vocals aren't Brian or Carl, compensate with their infectous enthusiasm. Singing is the province of the sixties harmony group the Free Design (who have reformed thirty years later for a new Marina album!) who cover Bruce Johnson's Endless Harmony and may well have made the definitive version. Several other little chunks of joy should be noted. St Etienne, sounding more like Kraftwerk, choose a bootleg song, the tuneful Stevie and mutate it into My Diane. Whoa! Kle (who is she?) covers another bootleg tune (from the wacko Sweet Insanity album) Rainbow Eyes and should make a name for herself. There are those who dislike the Beach Boys voices, but I think it was Dennis Wilson who said the real stars in the Beach Boys are the songs. I hope some of the unconvinced get to hear these twenty four greats. Surely one of the compilations of the year.

Stephen Ridley
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000