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Author Topic: Stars & Stripes reappraisal?  (Read 2346 times)
maggie
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« on: August 21, 2021, 02:00:19 PM »

When I was getting into the Beach Boys in a serious way 20 years ago, it seemed like there was an absolute consensus that Stars & Stripes was the pits -- the most egregious example of the band being out of touch, out of ideas, out of gas, cynically giving themselves over to their management's worst commercial instincts and not even succeeding at that.

It was easy to accept this point of view, since I didn't really know much about contemporary country music (growing up in a big city like Toronto) and what I did hear seemed awful. I have always enjoyed country music -- but to me, the likes of Shania Twain and Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus weren't country, they were something else, something awful.

So I duly steered clear of Stars & Stripes for many years. It was easy to do since I had never seen a physical copy of it anywhere. A while ago, though, I stumbled on some clips from the Nashville video on YouTube. I listened to them and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the music, especially the Kathy Troccoli version of "I Can Hear Music."

One thing I found striking, checking out the videos on YouTube, was how overwhelmingly positive the comments were. It seems like a lot of Beach Boys fans have started to stumble on the Stars and Stripes recordings over the last few years and, like me, are surprised by how much they enjoy what they are hearing.

I finally bought myself a copy this spring and I have to admit, I didn't have a clue who most of these singers were, except for Willie Nelson, Timothy Schmit, Junior Brown, and Toby Keith. (Apparently Sawyer Brown is a group, not a person??) Listening to it from start to finish, I understood some of the criticisms -- the choice of songs is uninspired, the Boys themselves sound quite anonymous, there's way too many "trucker bro" type vocalists. But I feel like Graham Brown's "Help Me Rhonda" is kind of a hidden gem of that sort of thing? And same with Junior Brown's "409"? And the two ladies (particularly Troccoli) both bring something genuinely interesting to the material? And "Caroline, No" is worthy in its own right, with a genuinely interesting new vocal arrangement? And the background playing is solid and energetic throughout? And I seem not to be alone in having arrived at these responses. Going by the YouTube comments (I know, I know, not a great sample to cite) it's like there is a generation of listeners out there who didn't get the memo that they are supposed to hate this stuff.

Maybe the hostile reception of the album had more to do with what it wasn't -- an album of new, valuable Beach Boys/Brian music, or a fitting send-off for Carl -- than what it was (an energetic if largely surprise-free Beach Boys tribute coming from a different place than usual).

So, is there any sense around here of this album being reappraised? Or does the fandom still think it's the absolute nadir of the band's recorded legacy?
« Last Edit: August 21, 2021, 02:02:27 PM by maggie » Logged
RubberSoul13
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2021, 06:09:42 PM »

Eh, still a steaming pile to my ears...

Willie Nelson's "Warmth of The Sun" is endearing, but his singing style is the polar opposite of 1964 Brian Wilson's...and that's a big part of what sells the song in the first place.

Kathy Troccolli's "I Can Hear Music" is damn good. It's one of two I only ever actually listen to...the latter being "Caroline No" from Timothy B. Schmit.

The rest is...as said, a steaming pile...
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NateRuvin
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2021, 08:27:04 PM »

I dig the album for what it is. I think it has some of the last truly great group harmonies, and some of the last groundbreaking harmonic arrangements by Brian --- even if they're modeled after the original recordings, they're tweaked and updated, sometimes to fit the different style or key. Some great, great vocal arranging on Brian's part and it totally gets overlooked.

I enjoy the album because I personally feel Brian's presence is felt through some of the instrumental and vocal quirks. Sure, it was also a Joe Thomas production, but there are some unique musical moments and motifs that are pure BW.

Even with the Country & Western flare, I definitely see this as the first chapter in a series of Wilson-Thomas AC tinged efforts.

S&S, Imagination, TWGMTR, C50 Live CD, NPP & BW & Friends all live in the same sonic universe to me. Their tracks could be shuffled around onto different albums and it wouldn't be that noticeable. (Largely because most of the material Imagination, NPP & TWGMTR is pulled from the same pool.) They all have a recognizable slickness and, to put it politely, 'mellow' vibe. S&S is definitely the least digital/electronically altered sounding album of the bunch. I think it actually has a nice warmth and atmosphere.

I have to admit that Country isn't really a genre I'm all that familiar with--- I don't listen to songs by any of the artists featured. I enjoy Country when I'm visiting the American South and it's inescapable and does create a bit of a vibe, but other than that I never really listen to it.

So I approach S&S strictly as a BB fan and fan of BW productions. And looking at it that way, looking at the Boys' performances and Brian's studio work, I can dig it a lot.

I didn't appreciate the album *at all* and never listened to it in full until I saw the S&S movie. Seeing the joy and emotion that went into the album made me see something must be there. Seeing Brian's reaction to the In My Room performance was powerful- I'll never forget it. I know there was apparently some behind the scenes drama related to the wives, production control, etc... And yes, I know documentaries of this kind are never 100% true to life, but the movie shows the band functioning as a true unit for the last time until C50, and I'd say they were a more cohesive democratic unit here, and kinda became Brian's instruments again (a la 1965) with C50. 

It's a fun album. These songs and the Boys harmonies are SOOO good that it would be hard to ruin the material. I think it's a fun twist that was never meant to be taken super seriously as some kind of seminal artistic statement--- it was just a band with enough hits to fill multiple volumes of CDs experimenting with their beloved catalog, in an inspired, 'modern' (for the times) kinda way. I think a genuine BB fan could find lots of moment to enjoy on S&S. Is it Sunflower or Today!? No. It's a unique nostalgia soaked reflection on their catalog, and also a great showcase for Country staples & rising stars, some of Nashville's greatest session musicians, some of Carl Wilson's last vocals (outta sight, you can hear him clear as day) , and also a great spotlight for Matthew Jardine--- his contributions are overlooked when talking about this album.


Yeah, the Joe Thomas bag of material may not be *exactly* the kind of music we were hoping for from Brian & the Boys, but I think there's a certain maturity or acceptance that comes in realizing that like him or not, Thomas is a good facilitator and without a doubt helps Brian deliver the goods. Not everyone will agree with me, but I honestly think history will look fondly upon the Wilson-Thomas era, quirks and all, because it gave us so much more music to enjoy from Brian and The Boys, and I treasure every album I listed, even if they aren't perfect. I wouldn't be at all upset if they made a S&S vol 2 (that would never happen) or hypothetically found a lot more tapes from the era to release. I'm a sucker for BB material , I can dig it all. Give me S&S, KTSA, SIP, and C50 Live and I'd still be a happy camper. Maybe I'm just that much of a fan and completely down the rabbit hole  LOL LOL LOL
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Emdeeh
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2021, 08:56:22 PM »

I appreciate this album for introducing me to Junior Brown. I've seen him in concert twice now -- he's a lot of fun and a very talented songwriter and guitarist.
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Wirestone
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2021, 09:05:04 PM »

Brianís new tag on Caroline, No is inspired. The backing vocals are tight and excellent.

The country backing tracks are a bit too anonymous for my liking.

But definitely, overall, not as bad as some say. Too bad there wonít be a 25th anniversary edition with the volume two tracks added (SOS, In My Room) and some vocal-only bonus tracks. I could really go for that. (Also the stunning Colin Raye Winter Wonderland.)
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2021, 01:57:49 AM »

In case you're interested, we had a discussion about the album last year and apart from my usual "What could have been"-list for the project, I added some links in connection to the album, including live promo performances and other stuff.

http://smileysmile.net/board/index.php/topic,27289.0.html
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Greg Parry
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2021, 06:35:30 AM »

Yeah, the Joe Thomas bag of material may not be *exactly* the kind of music we were hoping for from Brian & the Boys, but I think there's a certain maturity or acceptance that comes in realizing that like him or not, Thomas is a good facilitator and without a doubt helps Brian deliver the goods. Not everyone will agree with me, but I honestly think history will look fondly upon the Wilson-Thomas era, quirks and all, because it gave us so much more music to enjoy from Brian and The Boys, and I treasure every album I listed, even if they aren't perfect. I wouldn't be at all upset if they made a S&S vol 2 (that would never happen) or hypothetically found a lot more tapes from the era to release. I'm a sucker for BB material , I can dig it all. Give me S&S, KTSA, SIP, and C50 Live and I'd still be a happy camper. Maybe I'm just that much of a fan and completely down the rabbit hole  LOL LOL LOL

A certain maturity in accepting albums helmed by a man who has not one iota of understanding about Brian's music and legacy? I think not. Hal Blaine certainly didn't agree either.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frTDGpHOY-4
 
(Skip to 3:20 for the pertinent section).

Yes, 'everything I need' to know about that man's nefarious influence over Brian's music is summed up perfectly by Hal. As for him being a great facilitator, other's may well agree with you, but I  would much rather have one recording every five years where Brian has just been left to his own devices than 100 Joe Thomas 'produced' abominations.

For anyone unconvinced, I challenge you to listen to the two versions of 'Everything I Need'.

The first, incorrectly titled as a 'demo', is what happens when Brian calls Hal and tells him he wants to 'make records like we used to make'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRc_ao2NrIk

The second is what happened when Thomas got his claws onto the song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR-8OG6v3ac

I'll let the evidence speak for itself. Joe Thomas can 'facilitate' off.
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Wirestone
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« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2021, 08:49:16 AM »

Yeah, the first version of Everything I Need was flat as a pancake. Lifeless and listless. Joe Thomas worked with Brian to make it somewhat releasable to mass audiences.

The truth hurts in this case, Iím afraid.
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Greg Parry
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« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2021, 09:11:23 AM »

Sir, you have cloth ears  Smiley

The only thing that hurts is listening to the MOR Muzak produced by that malignant mullet-haired moron.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2021, 09:18:20 AM by Greg Parry » Logged
Peadar 'Big Dinner' O'Driscoll
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« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2021, 09:59:52 AM »

Sir, you have cloth ears  Smiley

The only thing that hurts is listening to the MOR Muzak produced by that malignant mullet-haired moron.

 Grin Agreed....never listened to them side by side.
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Greg Parry
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2021, 10:34:37 AM »

Sir, you have cloth ears  Smiley

The only thing that hurts is listening to the MOR Muzak produced by that malignant mullet-haired moron.

 Grin Agreed....never listened to them side by side.

In fairness to Wirestone, I think most people find it hard to hear beyond the mastering. The Brian produced track is likely a second gen copy of an unmastered track, which is what I'm imagining sounds lifeless and listless to him. The JT version is mastered, so will sound 'better' to the untrained ear. It's just gloss though.

The first version is full of Brian's inventiveness and mastery. There's plenty going on, but you have to listen. The guitars and piano are doing some interesting little figures, but it's all there to support the vocal, which sits proudly in the centre in glorious thick mono. Hal's drums are there to support the track, providing punctuation without distraction. These are the hallmarks of a classic BW production. It's no God Only Knows for sure, but it's wonderful to hear a mid 90's Brian, chops intact, adding that 'magic dust', that almost undefinable quality that makes you know it's a BW production. It is joyous.

The second track however has that joy sucked out. That is the one which is listless and lifeless, just like all his other productions. That horrible acoustic guitar straight out a daytime soap opera. That tired Lexicon reverb giving it all that 80's power balled feel. Utterly repugnant. 

Hal Blaine, who has played on countless hit records for countless music legends recognised Thomas's sickly gloss for what it was.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2021, 10:44:35 AM by Greg Parry » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2021, 11:25:40 AM »

I'm a country music lover though I do prefer the older stuff. I like the idea of Stars & Stripes and it's certainly not all bad, but it could've been so much better.

it was an attempt to repeat the success of the Common Thread country tribute to the Eagles from a couple years earlier. The Beach Boys even used an Eagle, Timothy Schmit, who is not really thought of as a country artist per se. still, his version of Caroline No is probably the best thing on the album.

they were so sure of its success they even had a second volume planned, and unfortunately left some good things off the released album. Tammy Wynette's reading of In My Room blows away anything else from those sessions, and apparently Merle Haggard cut a version of California from the saga. I still fantasize about George Jones singing God Only Knows...

the big mistake was using so many flash-in-the-pan country artists instead of more established names. somehow Toby Keith has lasted but names like James House, Doug Supernaw, Collin Raye, etc are basically forgotten. the Thomas production is not my cup of tea and they also picked too many non-BB originals in my opinion. 3 of the songs were already covers
« Last Edit: August 22, 2021, 11:27:46 AM by bossaroo » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2021, 11:42:42 AM »

and apparently Merle Haggard cut a version of California from the saga.


AFAIK Hag didn't record a version of that song, but Al's accoustic recording (as heard in Endless Harmony) was allegedly a demo for Merle. I don't know if Haggard ever heard it but Al is channeling him here. He totally got the intonations down. Sounds like something off of "If I could only fly".
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a diseased bunch of mo'fos if there ever was oneÖ their beauty is so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.

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To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

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RubberSoul13
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2021, 12:35:02 PM »

Yeah, the first version of Everything I Need was flat as a pancake. Lifeless and listless. Joe Thomas worked with Brian to make it somewhat releasable to mass audiences.

The truth hurts in this case, Iím afraid.

The original would have been irrelevant in the late 90's. It sounds like a record cut in the early 70's. It would've suited Bruce's voice well back then. However, I don't know where Hal comes off repeatedly saying it would be "his record of the year". No matter how you produce this track, it isn't suddenly up there with "Good Vibrations" etc. etc.

That being said, the final product does not sound true to Brian. Hal is right. The percussion ruins the latter version...but at the end of the day, it's a bland song.
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2021, 12:43:49 PM »

I'm a huge fan of the original "Everything I Need", one of my very favorite post-BW88 Brian songs. It has a bit of a Friends vibe about it.
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« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2021, 01:24:03 PM »

Yeah, the first version of Everything I Need was flat as a pancake. Lifeless and listless. Joe Thomas worked with Brian to make it somewhat releasable to mass audiences.

The truth hurts in this case, Iím afraid.

I don't think I've ever disagreed with an opinion more than this. The original's gotta be in my top 5 things Brian's done since the 70s! Meanwhile, Joe's version is essentially unlistenable for me.
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« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2021, 06:24:05 PM »

I don't know -- this strikes me as one of those situations where what fans want to hear and what's actually there is a bit different. The song is fairly pedestrian, Brian's arrangement is sparse and plodding, and it sounds more like a demo than a finished track. I mean, I read the coverage in the BW fan club when he recorded the tune. It was a Wrecking Crew reunion! Tony Asher was co-writing again! Blah, blah, blah. But it ultimately sounds like five or six people in a room, gritting their teeth through a song that hasn't set any of them on fire. I'm glad they had the opportunity to do it, but objectively speaking Joe Thomas turned the track into something far more sparkling and listenable. Was it pure, undiluted Brian Wilson? Nah. But it's still better than the original, and it features far more in the way of harmonies and vocal arrangements.

I know, I know, this isn't the consensus view. But how often has Brian worked with Tony Asher since 1996? How often did he record with Hal and Carol? On the other hand, how often did he work and record with Joe Thomas? Clearly, he preferred the later. And the recorded evidence suggests he got better results that way, too.
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« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2021, 06:37:27 PM »

Well, objectively, Brian's version is 17 musicians in a room, + 3 vocalists and an overdubbed 20-piece string section. It's no different from some of the bigger Pet Sounds tracks in that regard, and the instrumentation is similar too! And what's the argument about how long Brian worked with each collaborator? Is No Pier Pressure automatically better than Pet Sounds because Brian spent more time with Joe than Tony? Brian and Van Dyke have also barely worked together since Smile, besides a few songs here and there, and Brian singing all over the Orange Crate Art album - does that mean Smile is bad? It all comes down to personal taste, I suppose. I wasn't around for the hype about this track in the mid 90s, and Brian's original version still sounds miles ahead of the adult contemporary track that Joe produced to my ears.
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« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2021, 10:06:19 PM »

I've heard three versions of Everything I Need. The first has just Brian and Wendy singing - this sounded like a demo; a very good demo. The second version adds Carnie's voice. I loved both of these first time I heard them. Was very disappointed when I heard the released version. What we as Brianistas love to hear, though, does not line up with what record labels/management/Melinda want. They want stuff that sounds like stuff that is on the radio currently. Or at least they did back in 96-98. Brian was still talking about making hit records  back then - well, if you want hits, you have to play the game.
I don't hate Joe Thomas. Imagination is a very good album. That's Why God Made the Radio is a very good album. Stars and Stripes? It was another example of the group following Mike's lead, and he apparently found an ally in Joe. The Beach Boys of the 90's were not interested in anything fresh and creative; under Mike's leadership, they were just the Baywatch band, the Full House band; just crank out Kokoko Klones and other lowest common denominator stuff in some desperate hope of scoring another hit. I don't know what Al thought about this stuff; I don't know what Carl thought about it; but they went along with it. I suspect Carl had more pressing concerns on his mind - Brian's well being, Audree's health, his own battle against cancer.
I can find something of merit in every Beach Boys album up to Still Cruisin'. I really have to dig to find anything positive to say about SIP and S&S.
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« Reply #19 on: August 22, 2021, 11:53:20 PM »

What we as Brianistas love to hear, though, does not line up with what record labels/management/Melinda want. They want stuff that sounds like stuff that is on the radio currently. Or at least they did back in 96-98. Brian was still talking about making hit records  back then - well, if you want hits, you have to play the game.
...

But of course none of this stuff got any significant radio airplay. It's the same with Beach Boys albums like M.I.U. or Summer in Paradise, all super slick productions where they were attempting to give their audience some new hit songs about summer and fun; the public wasn't interested at all. But I understand the approach. The Beach Boys don't have the same priorities as their hardcore fans and - maybe to a slightly lesser degree - the same is true for Brian the solo artist. In my earlier days of fandom I found this really confusing: Why is this man, free from the pressures of being a Beach Boy so to speak, putting out stuff like Imagination instead of Smiley Smile part 2? The answer is simple, because that's what he and his management want. You can tell Brian was very proud of Imagination when it came out. Did it stand the test of time the way that All Summer Long or Today or Love You did? That's an entirely different story.
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« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2021, 10:10:12 AM »

I'm in the camp that can appreciate both versions of Everything I Need.

- The original Brian produced version has that great 60's "wall of sound" type of feel which is spectacular. Great echo-filled Hal Blaine drum hits.

- I also dig the Thomas reworking because of it grooves a little better compared to what others described as Brian's 'plodding' version.

Both are very nice productions. Brian's is a tribute to his 60's sound and collaborators, and Thomas' is a phenomenal few minutes of A/C pop.

I don't mind Joe Thomas and his work with BW as much as many diehard fans do.

Brian has almost always seemed to need/want a partner to achieve his goals and stay productive. Whether it was the hit years with Mike Love, the experimental era with Tony Asher & VDP's avant-garde co-writes, Brian's time as a writer for Jan Berry, the Gary Usher sessions, TLOS with Scott, '04 SMiLE with Darian,  the FF era with Carl facilitating, etc etc... That's not to say Brian can't be incredible on his own (Much of Love You for example), he just isn't as productive and doesn't seem to get the same enjoyment out of working alone. I feel the same way! I'm a producer and I like to have a co-producer if it's a project I really care about --- and I don't think that diminishes my (or anyone's) skills to prefer to work with others --- it's just that, fundamentally, for many, including myself and I assume BW, regular social interaction can be incredibly difficult, and a much more anxiety-free, relaxing, and healthy way of having social interaction is in the producer's chair, than in a party or social event. I can only speak for myself and we can take whatever we can from it, but I feel very anxious and doubtful in regular conversations, but in the producer's chair I'm self assured and can make real relationships with people. I think it's the same for Brian. That's a big source of his connections with people. With his cousins, his brothers, and many more people.

In many years of collaboration, you get to the point where you can finish eachother's musical sentences. I have co-writers/co-producers that can start or  finish tracks of mine, and they know how to make it sound like me. You learn eachother's musical motifs and accents. And that's not to say you completely sacrifice your own sensibilities. We can all agree that Thomas hasn't sacrificed his A/c sensibilities on Brian's music. Yet, it still has Brian's soul in the music, and there are so many unmistakable BW moments in the arrangements and songs. You give and take. We don't know what chord progressions Thomas wrote and which Brian wrote. For all we know, the closing tracks of TWGMTR  which we all adore could've been primarily musically composed by Joe Thomas. 99% of us here weren't in the room when Brian and Joe wrote these songs so we'd never know.

But does it f*cking matter?? No!!!

If Brian likes the music he's making. Perfect. No more needs to be said. And he's fulfilling his dreams by doing so. If he genuinely didn't want these records out, they wouldn't be. With possibly the exception of Imagination, BW has always stood by everything he's released and there's been nothing to indicate in recent years that this isn't the kind of music he wants to be making. At some point, people will have to look back and reflect/accept that that slick sound *IS* Brian's sound of the 2000's. Every record he's put out, with the exception of GIOMH, has a distinct perfection and slickness. They all, yes even SMiLE, use pitch correction to varying degrees (except GIOMH, which for the love of god could've used a little bit LOL).  People want to point the finger here and there to blame as for why Brian's music has sounded the way it has? Well, from a broad lens, most of the solo albums sound very similar and all of the material pretty much lives in the same sonic universe. As the BB music from each era kind of does. To an uninformed listener the TLOS, Gerswish album, Disney album, TWGMTR, and NPP would all sound very similar. Ok, under a microscopic lens, the Thomas-less albums might sound a bit more dynamic and have more quirkiness. But if you take a step back, and analyze his solo career overall, each album has sounded very slick and clean, and there's in many instances another collaborater behind some of the music. Take Mertens' contributions to Gershwin and Disney. He did a lot of the arranging, while Brian was producer. A Jack Nitzche to Phil Spector kinda relationship. Does the fact that Nitzche arranged most of the Philles hits make Spector less brilliant? No. They had a collaboration where Nitzche knew how to express through notes what Spector was feeling. I think there's definitely a similar relationship with Wilson and Thomas. I think if that wasn't the case, Brian wouldn't have continued to work with him through the years.
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« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2021, 11:36:17 AM »

Regarding the "Stars and Stripes" project, I don't think a positive reappraisal from the masses is happening. It was a copycat idea (other bands had done the theme before), with a few folks who may have been A-listers in the country world in the 90s, and otherwise it was b-listers, and often bland at that. I can't think of something exceptionally more bland than those takes on "Sloop John B" or "I Get Around" from that album.

The project was almost worth it just to have film of Mike Love trying to tell Willie Nelson how to sing. Other than that, it was kinda nice to see Brian and the guys together, and it appears they generally had enough basic fun making the album. It's fun to watch Junior Brown's playing crack them up.

But as a musical project, it's awful. Take those new, exquisite "Caroline, No" backing vocals, and toss the rest. Sure, some of the album is listenable. But it's all either awful or bland, or occasionally kinda good-but-inconsequential (thinking mainly the singers least-associated with 90s country music: Willie Nelson and Timothy Schmidt).

There are dozens of threads on this album going back years, so I won't belabor the point too much.
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« Reply #22 on: August 23, 2021, 11:46:13 AM »

On the topic of "Everything I Need", I have to say, those two early version are more enjoyable, but certainly *less* releasable and commercial than Thomas's version.

Now, one might argue that a "The Wilsons" album in 1997 isn't going to exactly burn up the charts or Grammy nominations, so I'm not sure how "commercial" every track needed to be.

I can understand some incredulous reactions from fans to the assertion that the Thomas version is better across the board. While the early versions sound sparse and possibly somewhat unfinished (and certainly a final mix was needed; and also of course the extant versions sound like an 8th generation cassette dub), its overall sound and vibe isn't *that* far off from some of the Paley material. It has that "live in the studio demo with some amount of overdubs, but still sounding slightly unfinished" sound of stuff like "Slightly American Music" or "Chain Reaction", etc.

As for the song itself, it's not bad. It ain't "Pet Sounds", but I'd say the *composition* is above-average for 1990s Brian.

I guess my thinking is that Thomas's version is cleaner, and it's not a bad tradeoff to have Thomas's slick mid-late 90s production sound when you also get a more polished, finished track. But ultimately, the only angle where the Thomas version is undeniably better is under the scenario where we're trying to get "The Wilsons" good reviews and AC/AOR radio airplay in 1997 or something.

In 2021, the tradeoff is pretty near a wash to me. The early versions sound like crap sonically due to the the sketchy nature of how they surfaced, and they sound a bit stilted and awkward and unfinished. Thomas's version sound much better sound quality-wise (of course), and is more finished and polished, and also fits in better to the hodge podge or producers used on that "Wilsons" album. But it also definitely has that Joe Thomas/Imagination sheen that is sometimes pretty annoying and hack.
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maggie
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« Reply #23 on: August 23, 2021, 02:16:26 PM »

Regarding the "Stars and Stripes" project, I don't think a positive reappraisal from the masses is happening. It was a copycat idea (other bands had done the theme before), with a few folks who may have been A-listers in the country world in the 90s, and otherwise it was b-listers, and often bland at that. I can't think of something exceptionally more bland than those takes on "Sloop John B" or "I Get Around" from that album.

I'm curious about the context for Stars & Stripes -- it seemed to come out of nowhere (other than the unprecedentedly gigantic sales country-pop CDs were enjoying at that time). What were the comparable projects by other bands that you're referring to? These might help me understand what they were trying to achieve a little more clearly.
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« Reply #24 on: August 23, 2021, 03:50:34 PM »

as I said it was mainly done in the same vein as Common Thread, a country tribute to The Eagles done a couple years earlier which was quite successful.

the BBs even went so far to include an actual Eagle on their project.
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