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Various Artists | Pet Projects: the Brian Wilson Productions (Ace)
The last ten or so years have shown that all kinds of music fans can find enjoyable artistry in areas previously considered campy, corny, dated and/or plain uncool.  You know, C&W, doo-wop, easy listening, early rock 'n' roll and soft '50s high school crooner pop to suggest but five.  Brian Wilson has rarely been uncool but most of these cuts may be rather more enjoyable and comfortable today than at any time since their '60s creation. Most of these recordings date from 1963 to 1965 but could have been from 1959.  Those selections that could get a little airplay were out there competing in a market saturated with the oh-so-modern and truly exciting sounds of the English invasion.  I mean who wants to stick with the tail end of '50s girl group pop in 1964 when you've just heard the Zombies? But that was all a long time ago. Today it simply feels like another genre of music.  Fashion doesn't enter into it.  We can be objective.   If we still possess a little innocence then there's real fun to be had here.  Thus I find myself recommending a product I initially thought was of interest only to Beach Boy completists who would purchase albums of Brian blowing his nose, a product I thought would resemble a rare bad run of jukebox junk in the wonderful chrome paradise of Ed's Diner.

The girlie pop of Rachel and the Revolvers and Sharon Marie may not even be a footnote in pop history but each have their moments in the sun as does Paul Peterson with She Rides With Me which makes you wanna twitch enthusiastically despite sounding like a total composite of every rock 'n' roll song of the period.  Brian's wife's little group, The Honeys (later a twosome rechristened American Spring in the '70s) were the main focus for his production talents outside of the Beach Boys. There's ten of their absolute best ever tracks in this generous CD including their rare version of a Dennis Wilson rarity Lady (here known as Fallin' In Love) which in my experience totally enraptures anyone hearing it for the first time.  In 1964 Brian teamed up with some music biz buddies for a rare 45 called Pamela Jean, it's tune and delivery sounding hugely like the great Dion.  Of little merit beyond its rarity status it is the b-side instrumental After The Game that delights and surprises in its proto-'Pet Sounds' stylings.  Another sure-fire nugget is Guess I'm Dumb by a truly talented young Glen Campbell.  Brian it is said penned this small masterpiece as a thank-you to Glen for his stint in the Beach Boys following Brian's breakdown and subsequent refusal to tour.  With a more studied instrumentation this too could almost be a 'Pet Sounds' moment.  Dean Torrence puts in an appearance (as you might expect) with his usual musical buddies under the magical moniker of The Laughing Gravy. This, their one and only bash, is a cover of 'Smiley Smile''s Vegetables.  It sounds a good deal like the original but with humorous cowboy saloon piano to give it lift and bounce.  A shame there's not more from the Gravy.  A shame too that there probably isn't enough material to compile a second volume.  Recommended.

Stephen Ridley
January-February 2003