Picks and Pans Review: Imagination
Listen to the simple and wistful see-you-in-September high school ballad "Keep an Eye on Summer," and you may swear that the rest of the Beach Boys are back in the mix singing those gorgeous high harmonies behind big Brian Wilson's lead. The fact is that Brian himself sings all the vocal parts on "Summer" (an obscure composition co-written by Wilson and originally recorded by the Beach Boys in the early '60s) plus every other cut except one on this brief (39 minutes), 11-song solo album. Where most long-past-their-prime classic rockers now sing like mere husks of their youthful selves, Wilson's own vocal powers seem to be undiminished. The same cannot be said of his skills as a composer and arranger, which 30-some years ago sent the Beatles scurrying to duplicate his Pet Sounds recording feats on Sgt. Pepper. Here, many of the string-and bell-sweetened arrangements sound as jaw-droppingly saccharine as some of the lyrics ("You can fly forever/ Never wonderin' why"). On a few songs, however, Wilson's material nearly matches his talents, as on another old Beach Boys tune, "Let Him Run Wild"; "Dream Angel," a lullaby for his baby daughters; and "Lay Down Burden," a eulogy in which the surviving Wilson brother mourns his late sibling, fellow Beach Boys founder Carl. The song, like the CD, is a sweet reminder of the Boys of summer.
Bottom Line: Beachy vocals with an undertow of schmaltz