Friday, June 8, 2018


I'm usually not that keen on these projects where they mess with the originals, adding elements to the familiar hits. It kinda seems like sacrilege, no? Or another precocious idea to milk more money out the cash cow for record companies. This one intrigues me however, as The Beach Boys music yields lots of opportunities to had some interesting orchestral parts, already being quite advanced in structure, arrangement and performance, and no doubt Brian Wilson would have loved to have a symphony kicking around when he was doing some of these productions. He was also on board with allowing the project to happen, so why not just approach it with open ears?

The set kicks off with an opening symphony piece called California Suite, just to introduce the orchestra. That moves right into the famous opening of California Girls, and the orchestra backs off, as there are certain bits that are so iconic, and in this case perfect, you don't want to mess with them. That's followed by Wouldn't It Be Nice, and I was a bit surprised at how little the orchestra was used on these cuts, given their dynamic productions. It's almost as if the arrangers didn't feel there was much of a place for the symphony. Surprisingly, it's an old rock 'n' roll number, Fun Fun Fun, that is the first to truly benefit from the added orchestra, as we get a bit of a surprise hearing the new parts on such a familiar cut. Sloop John B is another that gets an interesting opening, and it becomes apparent that this is the best place for the orchestra to get involved, adding new starts, endings and links to the pieces, already so well produced. There are a few stand-outs certainly. Bruce Johnston's underrated Disney Girls from 1971's Surf's Up album gets a full orchestra through the whole song, and it really does lift the song to a new level. As for Kokomo, well, it's always going to be a love-it-or-hate-it number, and no amount of flutes and tympanis can change that.

In My Room has some nice new moments, to bolster the harp that was already on the track (courtesy of Mike Love's sister Maureen, trivia buffs), and Darlin' is even beefier with the orchestra cooking along on the rocker. They save the best for last, and it's a real surprise, Good Vibrations, where the whole orchestra plays along. And it works very well, not wrecking the classic but instead giving it a new feel, more sweeping and grand. It may not improve on the original, but it's not offensive, it's just different, and really, why not? If anything, I'd say the people involved might have been a little too tentative and conservative with the arrangements, fearful of complaints.  A few more cuts could have used the full-on treatment.

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