As we come down the home stretch of this week's battle, thanks to all who have cast your votes, made comments, or posted additional theme-related songs in the past few days -- stkilda4ever, Darren, Larry, bonnie, Al, popeye, t, Deb, D.A.N., David, and paul.
stkilda -- Good to see you enjoyed Al's contribution this week. Though he may keep a lower musical profile than some of the other long-time Beach Boys, his first solo album is actually quite good, with a few excellent songs. Dennis’ song didn't seem to fare too well with you this week. It's certainly a good enough contribution from Dennis, but there are other songs on his solo album that I like more.
Darren, interesting that two separate groups had #1s with their versions of "Yellow River". Here in the states, the British group Christie had the hit version but only reaching #23 on the US pop charts. I remember Jigsaw, however, for another of their hits, "Sky High" in the mid-70s:
Larry, thanks as usual for all the additional song contributions. Interesting to hear two totally different "La Mer" songs, both the traditional Charles Trenet song and the very different and interesting song by NIN. Quite a contrast. And your contribution from Beach House was quite nice too, a delightful group and album (Bloom). Bruce's "The River" is certainly a classic, and it was interesting to see/hear Bruce talk about the song in the separate clip you included. The lovely version of "Moon River" by Petra Haden and jazz guitarist Bill Frisell was a nice find too! Most of all, I enjoyed Alison Krauss' "Down to the River to Pray" – it brings to mind the entertaining river scenes from O Brother, Where Art Thou.
bonnie, you’re so right about Brian’s brilliant creation, and especially about the segment from 4:00 – 6:13, it’s pure musical magic; then it’s followed by the also delightful “night bloomin’ jasmine” segment and the final coda. Such an excellent piece of music! Al Forsyth justifiably refers to this multi-part extended song as a “suite”, the way it delightfully transitions from one distinct segment to the next and as an overall whole piece of music. If you’re a big Dennis fan, I hope you have the extended 2-CD version of his Pacific Ocean Blue album from 2008, which also includes Dennis’ uncompleted Bambu album and a handful of additional songs. There are certainly plenty of lovely songs on the 2008 extended re-issue of POB, such as the exquisite “Holy Man”. Being a fan of good instrumentals, I also love Dennis’ “Mexico”, which is included as a bonus track on the 2008 extended edition of POB.
Since you also liked Al Jardine’s contribution this week, you may want to check out his solo album, A Postcard from California, released in 2010. There are a number of good songs on that album. See my further comments on this subject below to Al Forsyth.
Al, thanks as always for your votes, insightful comments, and added songs. So Al’s “Don’t Fight the Sea” gets your gold! It really is a lovely and powerful song, and Al managed to get the other Beach Boys (including Carl) to contribute backing vocals, so he must have had this song in the works for some time before finally releasing it on his solo album in 2010. If you liked this song, you should really check out the rest of the album, then go get it. He does perform fresh cover versions of a few older songs (e.g., “Help Me Rhonda” with Steve Miller and members of his band making a major contribution, “Honkin’ Down the Highway” with Brian, Al’s sons, and others, and an updated version of “A California Saga” ("On my way to sunny Califor-ni-a") with contributions by Neil Young and David Crosby, including Neil taking lead vocals on one verse and other parts).
But, more than revisiting a few older songs, Al also has some lovely new recordings, such as his “San Simeon” with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell from America:
Here’s another nice one, a reflective ballad, “And I Always Will”, which closes out the album:
Thanks also for including the extended video of Al Jardine previewing the album with segments from the studio sessions. You definitely need to get this album if you like what you’ve heard to date.
Popeye, glad you enjoyed all this week’s battle songs. Another big fan of Brian’s “Rio Grande”! It’s definitely an ambitious multi-part epic among Brian’s solo catalogue. And good call with that old Johnny Cash nugget, “Big River”!
t, yet another fan of Dennis’ “Pacific Ocean Blues” with “Rio Grande” as your runner-up. Nice selection of additional songs from some of your favored groups – good to see XTC and Gentle Giant work their way into the mix this week.
Deb, thanks for your votes, and another Brian/Dennis finish in the top two slots. Dennis’ often rough vocals are an acquired taste, in my opinion, but they certainly can be powerful as well as vulnerable. And Al certainly is in good vocal form on his song, as he still is in concert – probably the best current vocalist of the remaining original Beach Boys. And good flashback with the old Phil Phillips classic, “Sea of Love”. Some years later, as a member of the Honeydrippers, Robert Plant recorded an excellent update of that old nugget:
David, thanks for your votes (this time a Dennis/Brian combo in the top two slots) and for sharing Tina Turner’s powerful “River Deep, Mountain High” with us. Definitely a classic, even if it wasn’t a big radio hit in the US, though it was elsewhere. Gave us a hint of what was to come from Tina in the future as a solo performer.
paul, insightful and entertaining comments as always. And yet another 1-2 finish for Dennis’ and Brian’s songs. For a person who got so little musical respect during the Beach Boys’ prime years, Dennis proved in the 70s that he was an excellent creative force too, perhaps exceeded only by Brian as a songwriter. And I couldn’t agree more about Brian’s solo magnum opus, “Rio Grande”. That extended piece would be won-won-wonderful to see and hear Brian and his band perform live in concert. Sorry that Al’s solo contribution ended up in your final spot this week, but something has to finish in fourth place. It’s interesting to see that the better-known “Don’t Go Near the Water” from Surf’s Up has not held up too well against the other solo Beach Boys contributions this week, despite its excellent vocals and environmental message and a few clunky lyrics.
As for my own votes this week, it was a tough call after my gold selection, because I really liked all four songs:
Gold – “Rio Grande”, Brian Wilson. Ditto the many positive things others have said about this ambitious extended form song from Brian’s debut solo album. Since it was a selection on Brian’s recent solo Anthology album, perhaps we may get to see him perform it live in concert one of these days. That would be special!
Silver – “Don’t Fight the Sea”, Al Jardine (with the Boys). What a delightfully gorgeous surprise from Al’s fine solo album. I’ve listened to this song many times over the past 7-8 years and it still holds up really well for me. When I picked the body-of-water themed songs for this week, it turns out that three of the four songs had an environmental theme. Nice! Now if our people, businesses, and countries would only learn to control the pollution and waste that enter our bodies of water and often eventually into our planet’s oceans and seas.
Bronze – “Don’t Go Near the Water”, Beach Boys. This was really a difficult choice, because I hated to place Dennis' fine song in fourth place. But this song, and especially its environmental message, has resonated with me ever since the Surf’s Up album was released way back in 1971, the year after the very first Earth Day was celebrated in the US and around the world. There’s a bit of lyrical and end-rhyme laziness as others have pointed out, but the overall music and message are spot on.
Tin – “Pacific Ocean Blues”, Dennis Wilson. Shame on me for having to rate this song in fourth place this week, because it’s a fine song, just one of a number of excellent songs from Dennis’ solo debut album. I love the funky blues feel of this song, and it goes so well with Dennis’ raspy vocals. I’ve always wondered if Dennis had got his life together in those later years what additional excellent music he would have created after finding his creative voice as a songwriter.
I really DO wish we could have included Mike’s solo version of “Daybreak over the Ocean” this week. It would have been fascinating to learn how everyone would have reacted to its different interpretation and how it would have fared against the other three solo Beach Boys songs. C’est la vie!
It bit more good music about bodies of water:
First, the Band:
And one of my all-time favorites from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band:
Finally, back to Led Zeppelin for this classic from Houses of the Holy:
For anyone who hasn’t voted yet or wants to make additional comments or song contributions, please get your votes in before midnight tonight (Sunday night) US time. I’ll plan to wrap up the voting by around midnight US time tonight, then share the results sometime tomorrow after Darren and I balance out our preliminary results.