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678323 Posts in 27401 Topics by 4045 Members - Latest Member: reecemorgan January 27, 2023, 01:01:38 PM
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Author Topic: Questions about the writing of Rio Grande  (Read 2364 times)
Zenobi
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« Reply #25 on: January 12, 2023, 12:48:37 PM »

I agree absolutely. When I listened to NPP, my longing for some solo, uncut, unfiltered Brian, untouched by others, reached the maximum. Yes, I'd eat up a hundred discs of that stuff, myself.
The reason the LPR soundtrack was so refreshing for me. Not exactly "that stuff", but much nearer to it than NPP...
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HeyJude
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« Reply #26 on: January 12, 2023, 01:38:08 PM »

While I think unfiltered Brian is always fascinating on some level, and I would love more of it (vintage, recent, or current), as I alluded to in talking about "Let It Shine", I also feel that a good song is a good song, and having the best songs regardless of who writes it is also a valid way to work/program an album.

The Beach Boys for instance would have been way better off using outside writers in hunks of the 80s and 90s if they weren't able to or inclined to work with Brian. Imagine the great voice of "Summer in Paradise" era Al and Carl, but with better songs and solid production.
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Wirestone
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« Reply #27 on: January 12, 2023, 09:11:36 PM »

As so often when talking about this subject, though, it's complicated! I have about five points to make here.

1.) Another writing method. I left out a fifth type of BW composition, and that's the one where he's essentially Ringo in the Beatles. That is, he says something wild and appealing (Eight Days a Week!) and someone else writes the song around that. Scott Bennett gave him a credit on the song "No Wrong Notes in Heaven" because that's a Brian line, for instance. I'm pretty sure that's how "That's Why God Made the Radio" was produced, too. Brian offers a small kernel that others develop. You can scarcely call this songwriting, but still. Miracle on the Wilsons album was also developed this way.

2.) The Usher accounts. I think too much can be made of these. Not because Gary was saying anything untrue, but just because however well-intentioned people are, Brian has a disease (and in the 80s a parasitic support system) that leads to wildly different outcomes at different times. There are times -- years, even -- when I suspect Brian can't really pull himself together to do much creatively. Then he gets on a wild tear and writes 20 songs in a month with Scott in the old-fashioned way -- bringing finished melodies for lyrics and arrangement ideas. His story isn't linear. He's with it sometimes and way out of it at other times. Sometimes he pushes through, sometimes he doesn't care.

3.) Collaboration issues. Brian's people shoved so many folks at him in the '90s as potential collaborators. The Jellyfish guys. Carole King. David Foster. Sean O'Hagan. Several of them would have created kickass music with Brian. But the truth of the matter is, BW only vibes with certain guys, and they're not the most obvious ones. Joe Thomas and Scott Bennett, for whatever reason, stick. Burt Bacharach didn't. I would love to hear a lot of guys write and record with Brian. But I suspect the alternative in many cases would be not getting the albums at all.

4.) Lack of information. For better or worse, Melinda has protected Brian's privacy and session tapes much better than folks did before. So while we have a fairly good idea of what BW created before 1996 or so, after that it all gets murky. He apparently wrote a bunch of songs with Tony Asher and later with Steve Kalinich. What do they sound like? Who knows. In the late 2000s, he recorded a couple of albums' worth of covers at Gary Griffin's studio. We have no idea what they sound like. Within the last five years, apparently he recorded over at Carnie's house with Rob Bonfiglio. Who knows what came of that. The point is, he's likely recorded many albums' worth of material, dozens upon dozens of songs, within the last quarter century that no one outside a small inner circle has heard. In the same way that Feel Flows and Sail on Sailor have reframed our understanding of Brian's creativity during that time, perhaps in five to 10 years we will learn that while No Pier Pressure was being recorded, Brian was sneaking off to Carnie's house and recorded endless variations of Shortnin' Bread with lyrics about Pizza Hut. We don't know!

Critically, I don't think anyone can be comfortable saying precisely what Brian was capable of in his later career without hearing much more of it. Session tapes, home demos, interviews with all the parties, you name it. (I suspect some ironclad NDAs have been signed.) I mean, who would have expected the Sunshine demo that showed up on his website sounding like a Paley sessions track! And that's a single tune.

5.) Everyone's intentions. Those around Brian want to protect him. That means, for better or worse, that they can smooth over these subtleties and knowledge voids. I know that some band members laughed at the Griffin sessions because they were so peculiar. They wouldn't dream of releasing the material. The Bennett TLOS demos sound perfectly fine, but the band added a lot of spit and polish to make them sound far glossier. The effect is make BW's latter-day creativity seem kind of distant, as though preserved in amber. But the man can't help but make music, one way or another. Someday, I hope, we'll have a fuller picture and appreciate the subtleties more.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2023, 09:21:44 PM by Wirestone » Logged
Wirestone
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« Reply #28 on: January 12, 2023, 09:30:29 PM »

A key point, and worthy of its own post.

In the last 30+ years, we've likely heard less than a third of what Brian has written with collaborators and recorded in the studio. Officially, at least.

Sweet Insanity, Paley sessions, Was sessions, Asher material, Thomas sessions (both late 90s and early 2010s), Kalinich material, Bennett sessions (pre and post TLOS), Griffin sessions, Bonfiglio sessions. These likely total more than 100 unreleased tracks (not all originals, of course, and some duplicates of material that was re-recorded and then released). Also, probably a couple dozen are versions of Proud Mary.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2023, 09:35:04 PM by Wirestone » Logged
HeyJude
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« Reply #29 on: January 13, 2023, 12:08:56 PM »

It's true, the Usher era shouldn't be overstated. I'm sure it's just because it's documented in *so much* detail compared to most other points of his career.

I agree Brian's story isn't linear, and Usher clearly caught him during a downturn. But I do think his "condition" during the Usher sessions was part of a trajectory as well, a sort of mean line running through all of those unpredictable ups and downs. This was not simply the same on-and-off writing situation Brian had in later years. Landy's "treatment", the weird psychological stuff going on, the overmedication, and Brian still learning to wind his way out of the non-social/anti-social tendencies he had picked up in his darkest days of the late 70s and early 80s (even if we make plenty of room for simply "eccentric" behavior), while simultaneously having Landy imprint other bad social tendencies in their place, those all impacted that particular era as well. The era that led up to multiple folks going to the courts to turn Landy in definitely had Brian in shape that dictated that others (both well-intentioned and not) had to have a stronger hand in his musical work.

Regarding Brian's stuff in the vaults, there surely is a ton, definitely. I'm kind of surprised, considering how patchwork some of his albums (e.g. GIOMH) have been, that they haven't just pieced together a "new" album from previous solo sessions. Obviously, Brian (and the BBs before him) have often grabbed old stuff to work on a new album. But I mean something that would ostensibly not involve any new Brian involvement. This is obviously not ideal, but I suspect the "Long Promised Road" soundtrack kind of ended up being such an item to some degree because it took long enough to come out. There's pretty old stuff on there, and the "new" stuff was several years old by the time it came out. I'm not suggesting a bunch of weird smoke and mirrors, and I know we're all kind of in a holding pattern as far as what Brian is up to these days or able to do.

But it is weird they haven't mind solo outtakes even more, either presented as  "new album", or an "archival" package. I mean, while a few of the bits are pretty unfinished and rough, they easily could have taken the album's worth of tracks put up on Brian's website in the last year or two and made that some sort of "From the Vaults, Vol. 1" and presented it as an archival album.

But who knows, that may be something we'll see later.
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