Friday, March 27, 2009

A Tribute To Carl Wilson

Carl Wilson, the youngest of the three Wilson brothers who formed the core of The Beach Boys, died of cancer in 1998 at age 51 effectively ending the group as its fans knew it.

Even though there were times he too succumbed to the excesses of the rock 'n roll lifestyle, Carl was always considered the most level-headed of the brothers. It was primarily due to his efforts that the Beach Boys survived well into the 90's.

Carl played a pivotal role in the the band's overall sound. His vocal range was almost as wide as Brian's but he sang with a more soulful voice. When the Beach Boys wanted a more R&B feel to their songs Carl, not Brian, sang lead. While not discounting Brian's vocal work, composing, arranging, and overall leadership of the group, I always preferred Carl's lead vocals over his big brother's. His voice was more naturally appealing than Brian's. He didn't have to a use a falsetto, as Brian did, to elicit the same emotions from the listener. Just listen closely to the songs listed at the end of this article and you will understand just how passionate his vocals were. He never sounded as if he was only in it for the money. Are you listening Mike Love?

Carl also played lead guitar for the band. His Chuck Berry style guitar solo that opens "Fun, Fun, Fun" has become legendary.

Unfortunately, The Beach Boys split into three separate entities after Carl died. Love and Bruce Johnston continue to tour under the Beach Boys name, Al Jardine tours with his Endless Summer Band, and Brian now tours and records as a solo act. Even so, we should not lament. How many musical groups remained virtually in tact with their core members still together after 35 years? The Beach Boys played and sang to us for a long, long, time.

In the early 80s, fed up with the Beach Boys being nothing more than an oldies act, Carl took a hiatus from the band and recorded two solo albums. They were not warmly received. The covers of both Carl Wilson, 1981, and Youngblood, 1983, can be seen here. Quite a few years later he teamed up with Chicago's Robert Lamm and America's Gerry Beckley to record Like A Brother. Carl is the star of this CD, trumping almost everything Lamm and Beckley wrote for the sessions. The disc was not released until 2000, two years after his passing.

Here is another Tribute to Carl that echoes many of my sentiments.

Carl Wilson's Top 10 Lead Vocals (in chronological order) And The Album On Which They Originally Appeared

Girl Don't Tell Me (Summer Days & Summer Nights) 1965
God Only Knows (Pet Sounds) 1966
Good Vibrations (Smiley Smile) 1967
Wild Honey (Wild Honey) 1967
I Was Made To Love Her (Wild Honey) 1967
Darlin' (Wild Honey) 1967
I Can Hear Music (20/20) 1969
Long Promised Road (Surf's Up) 1972
Feel Flows (Surf's Up) 1972
The Trader (Holland) 1973

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Outlaws - Outlaws (1975)

When The Outlaws debut LP was released in 1975 it instantly became one of my all-time favorite rock albums. Thirty-four years later I still love it to death.

In many ways this is a typical Southern rock album. The Outlaws employed the sub-genre's usual country influences and multiple lead guitarists but instead of the dual lead setup used by many Southerners they assaulted your speakers with a loud electric trio. Fronting the quintet were Hughie Thomasson, Billy Jones, and Henry Paul. They were supported by the rhythm section of Frank O'Keefe on bass and Monte Yoho on drums. Keyboards were nowhere to be found.

What made these Floridians, and especially this album, so outstanding? The boys from Tampa could rock with wild, reckless abandon and be tasteful at the same time. The trio were among the most melodic of Dixie's electric axemen. Add sterling three part vocal harmonies to the mix that were worthy of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and the clean production of Paul A. Rothchild who became famous for producing the early Doors albums, and we were all treated to some of the best Southern rock 'n roll ever put on vinyl. The album's opener, "There Goes Another Love Song," became the band's biggest hit and is a perfect showcase for everything they did well.

Other standout tracks include the Jones ballad "It Follows From The Heart," and Paul's "Stay With Me" and "Song In The Breeze." The LP closes with the arena anthem, "Green Grass & High Tides," a song that followed in the footsteps of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." It's 9:47 of guitar-jamming, speaker blowing, head-banging, rock 'n roll.

The Outlaws never made a bad record but their debut was so phenomenal they were never able to top it. The album charted for sixteen weeks, peaked at number thirteen, and was deservedly certified gold in 1977.

Their follow up album, Lady In Waiting, contained "Breaker Breaker" a minor hit that took full advantage of the CB radio craze that was peaking around 1976. O'Keefe then left the band and was replaced by Harvey Dalton Arnold for 1977's Hurry Sundown. Soon the band's lineup became a revolving door of personnel changes until they broke up in 1982. There was one more hit single, "Ghost Riders In The Sky" from the 1980 album, Ghost Rider.

Unfortunately, only two of the original band members survive today. O'Keefe, a chronic alcoholic, died at age 44 in February 1995 and Jones was found dead less than a month earlier of unknown causes. Thomasson passed away from a heart attack in 2007. Paul and Yoho continue to play today in the most recent version of The Outlaws.

The current lineup's official website has a video of a fine live arrangement of "Green Grass & High Tides."

You can buy the album on CD from Amazon.