Yeah, that album is weak for certain. The singing all around does not sound terribly ambitious to me, although there are a few pleasant moments. It came off as a lazy contribution. Forever and Surfin' did not have to be remade at all. With that said, I am not certain that an album with the 'fun in the sun' theme would not work. Just not the selections that were on 'Summer In Paradise'. The idea I posed was to have other outside writers (or even a contest where other people) write Beach Boys style songs and Mike's band did all the work. Mike would only have to co-write and sing. It is basically what Brian did for the band anyways.
TWGMTR had somewhat (if not mostly) a "fun-in-the-sun" theme and it made it to #3 on Billboard...which is a huge accomplishment. I concede that fun-in-the-sun does work for success, but I guess my point is that the life-suite is the part that will be best remembered (edit, to clarify I mean out of all their modern day work the life suite will be remembered best. Their early stuff will always be what people will hear first). I heard the title song from TWGMTR on my local rock station a couple times, but what stands out are those final 3 songs (and I no longer hear the title song on the radio anymore). That Life Suite will be a Pet Sounds
moment for casual fans who delve into the catalog years down the road. The fun-in-the-sun nature of TWGMTR doesn't have the potential of making these guys prolific in the longterm - but the heartfelt songs at the end do have that potential.
I can see how fun-in-the-sun would work if Mike were to write a song about a day at the beach in his old age, sitting on a blanket watching the waves crash and the wind breeze by while he thinks about the beauty of the world....could work well with your S Crow 'Soak up the Sun' idea. But for these guys to pretend they're surfin in their 70s is ridiculous...which half the fans don't buy anyways, even if it does fit the band's image.
I guess to better clarify my point regarding your initially posted question: in order for Mike to be a modern
prolific writer (as I think he has solidified his status as an integral part of being a successful writer for the band in the early days), he (and the rest of the actual
band) need to follow the Johnny Cash route. And, just my opinion but he could not do this without Brian Wilson or the Beach Boys name. And I don't think he could do this with his current band, or to sound less offensive: to achieve prolific
status again these guys need to get down to the bare bones of honesty when it comes to writing and to the instrumentals they make....which means they need to drop the lyric cliches and stereotypical backing tracks.
Honestly at this point in their lives I don't think such a thing is possible. Brian, deep down, is obsessed with moog and rock
(and you can hear this in his soundchecks from time to time when he's really into it), and that honesty is what his
fans clamor for. Deep down I know Mike has it in him to write some amazing lyrics, but I wonder if he'd be open to Brian recording with a fuckin moog at full blast. But this is where an amazing producer comes in: A producer with the balls to step between these guys and the management and just find a way to pull that magic out of the hat again.
The absolute only
way I see Mike gaining modern day prolific status is if a damn good producer were to bring (whats left of) the original Beach Boys together. A producer that would walk the tight-rope between feuding band-mates, feuding ideas, feuding managers, etc, and walk across with a beautiful album in-tact. Mike would have to understand that his genuine songwriting from the Sunflower era would need to be restored. The work in "the room" would have to somehow be made possible. Mike would have to be open to all of Brian's quirky ideas.
On a side note. I think your idea about Mike working with modern day songwriters in is a good idea. Brian kinda did this during his promotional campaign surrounding NPP: he did a lot of work with indie bands for Capitol, and all of it is damn good - Mini Mansions "Any Emotion"
is a perfect example of a member of the Beach Boys working with a young band. It's somewhat along the lines of your idea, though with Mike more involved from a writing aspect I can see any project turning out well as long the subject didn't get bogged down with sunny nostalgia (Mike actually made an appearance in a music video
of a female singer who did a nostalgic Beach Boys-esque song, I don't think it went too far. But I don't think his involvement went further than making an appearance in a video).
This post is all over the place and I apologize haha. Thanks for your well thought out response to my post and I'll be back later for more discussion. I really do hope these guys regain prolific status in their latter years, they deserve it, and I know they have it in them to stand on top one more time.
Forgot to answer your last question: Had it been solely Brian's name on TWGMTR, it would've charted high, but not as high as with the Beach Boys name (I'd guess, since TLOS hit 21 I think, that TWGMTR would've hit around 10-15?). That Beach Boys name still carries with it a ton of momentum.