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

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Music Blogs You Need To Read!

There are quite a few music sites out in the blogosphere that are worthy of your attention. Most have a distinct flavor that reflects the personality of their owners. Here are a few that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Music & More is a blog with a strong taste for female singer-songwriters. Even though female artists aren't the only thing W. Kates writes about I don't know anyone who is a bigger champion of women's music. Music & More provides a real musical education because many of these ladies are not household names. The author goes to a lot of concerts, publishes many pictures of the performers, and often posts samples of their work. If you're looking for something new that is not in the mainstream, you've found the right place. For example, here is a review of a recent concert by newcomer Shayna Zaid.

The Review Revue is the property of fellow music fan Perplexio who often writes about classic rock even though he is too young to have experienced it all firsthand. In addition, he will sometimes offer his views on recent films or the latest novel he just finished reading. His biggest musical love appears to be pop music from Australia. You'll see articles about well known, mainstream Aussie bands like Little River Band as well as many artists who are far more obscure to Americans. You can read a sample of the author's affection for Australian rock on this review of a CD by James Reyne.

The Hits Just Keep On Comin' has quite a large and devoted fan base. It's written by Wisconsin disc jockey, J. A. Bartlett. J. A. tells us his blog "is mostly, but not entirely, about our Top 40 past, and how it’s still with us today in lots of ways." Much of the music he writes about you'll know, but just as often he'll help us remember a long forgotten 45 RPM single of the 60s, 70s, or 80s. How many of you remember McGuinness Flint's hit single, "When I'm Dead and Gone" from 1971? You don't? Well, J.B. certainly does and he wrote about it too.

If you're interested in singer-songwriters and adult alternative music it's time to visit Direct Current. You'll find articles about everyone from India.Arie, to Pete Yorn, to Elvis Perkins, to Lily Allen, and U2. American Idols need not apply.

For a lot of jazz and blues, with some baby boomer rock thrown in for good measure, you'll need to catch Something Else Music, a very prolific blog published by two music fans from the American South. Pico and Nick are New Orleans Saints fans which may explain their love of the blues.

Music Obsessive is hosted by Martin Warminger, who lives in the same country that gave the World those four musical lads from Liverpool. For that alone he deserves the publicity, but he is also a published author who wrote Memoirs of a Music Obsessive a book about his own addiction to pop music. Martin may be the world's biggest fan of the 70s, all-girl rock band, Fanny.

Finally, there is Layla's Classic Rock Faves. Of course her name is a pseudonym, but the moniker suits her well because she loves classic rock more than anyone I know. Her passion comes alive on her frequent posts. If you're fans of Bono or The Boss Layla's site is the place for you. Last summer her blog ranked #69 on a list of the 100 most read music blogs.

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.