Stranded in Babylon

The Warmth of the Sun: The Beach Boys Again

Warmth_of_the_sunOK, I admit it. I'm a little obsessive-compulsive when it comes to the Beach Boys or Brian Wilson. I buy it all. After all, I bought Pet Sounds at least five times! And today, I bought the newest Beach Boys release, Warmth of the Sun, a career-spanning album of 28 tracks culled from the Boys pre- and post- Pet Sounds efforts. Two things attracted me about this collection. First, six of the tracks are in stereo mixes for the first time (see below). I'd buy it just to hear "Let Him Run Wild" as it should be heard. (Purists may take me to task on this, as Brian heard and released it in mono; being partially deaf in one ear, that's how he heard it.) My, it's beautiful.

The other attraction was the fact that the living Beach Boys themselves selected the tracks. That's a minor miracle: they agreed. Mike Love said he and Brian and Al gathered for a kind of roundtable discussion at Brian's house in L.A.'s Bel Air section of Beverly Hills and actually agreed on something! I can imagine Brian's wife Marilyn saying to him before Mike got there: "Just keep it light, honey." These guys rarely speak. Al even sued Mike over who could use the Beach Boys name. (He lost.) Their history is fraught with disagreement. But perhaps age may bring a little grace to these long and difficult relationships.

Here's the track list:

01. All Summer Long (New Stereo Mix)
02. Catch A Wave
03. Hawaii
04. Little Honda
05. 409
06. It's OK
07. You're So Good To Me (New Stereo Mix)
08. Then I Kissed Her (New Stereo Mix)
09. Kiss Me, Baby
10. Please Let Me Wonder (New Stereo Mix)
11. Let Him Run Wild (New Stereo Mix)
12. The Little Girl I Once Knew
13. Wendy (New Stereo Mix)
14. Disney Girls (1957)
15. Forever
16. Friends'
17. Break Away
18. Why Do Fools Fall In Love
19. Surf's Up
20. Feel Flows
21. All This Is That
22. Til I Die
23. Sail On, Sailor
24. Cool, Cool Water
25. Don't Go Near The Water
26. California Saga (On My Way To Sunny California)
27. California Dreamin
28. The Warmth Of The Sun

Every one of these songs holds memories for me. For many, I can remember holding the LP (vinyl rocks!) and examining the sleeve and liner notes, even recalling where I was when I first heard it. For example, I was probably no more than ten when I first heard "All Summer Long" and "Wendy." I was staying at my cousin's house and not to happy about it. But he did have an old record player and a dog-eared copy of the album All Summer Long. It was pretty scratched, but when I played it I was captivated by the energy of the songs and the harmonies. I just stood there looking at the record going round and round on theturntable. But actually, at ten, I could not have told you why I like it.

Or take Carl Wilson's "Feel Flows" or Brian Wilson's "Till I Die," both from the Surf's Up record released in the mid-Seventies. These beautiful songs are also full of melancholy, not at all like those girls-surf-car songs of the Sixties, great as they were. I remember lying on the tile floor of my high school bedroom and running through these over and over again. They put me in a nice teenage funk (which nows seems to have infected my kids)!

But enough. You need to hear a collection of great songs, maybe not all the top hits (buy 2004's Sounds of Summer for that), but a great hand-picked collection nonetheless. I'm reminded once again why The Beach Boys are the great American band.

P.S. Check out this great blog devoted to the record. It has original podcasts of the band as well as videos. Very cool.