Beach Boys Cover

The Beach Boys

Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969–1971 [UMe/Capitol]

The interesting period surrounding the Beach Boys’ 16th and 17th studio albums is thoroughly and effusively captured on Feel Flows, a massive five-CD/four-LP box set sporting 135 tracks (108 previously unreleased). According to Beach Boy historian Howie Edelson — whose excellent liner notes draw from new and archival interviews with each band member, and feature rare photos — this was a calm period in the often turbulent career of the band. Having ridden the wave of early surfing and hot rod hits, members Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and Dennis and Carl Wilson had settled down and started families, while troubled chief architect and musical genius Brian Wilson was able to take a step back and let the rest of the guys work their songwriting and producing chops — though often under his key guidance (especially when it came to his singular, unparalleled vocal arrangements).   

This is especially apparent on the 1970 album Sunflower, which was largely created and recorded in Brian’s Bel Air mansion, enabling him to move from his bedroom to the studio happenings downstairs, as he felt comfortable. Dennis Wilson’s written-and-sung ballad “Forever,” and Bruce Johnston’s written-and-sung waltz “Tears in the Morning,” are the standouts among the group member tunes. “This Whole World,” which deftly moves through a handful of key changes, “Our Sweet Love,” co-written with brother Carl and Al Jardine, and the shuffle “Deirdre,” written with Johnston, are the Brian Wilson highpoints — particularly the latter, which features Joe Osborn’s bluesy fill at 2:08 and a rousing woodwind and brass arrangement by Michel Colombier (best known to bassists for his self-titled 1979 solo album featuring Jaco Pastorius).

A note here about bass and the Beach Boys: While Brian Wilson’s groundbreaking use of non-root tones in his compositions’ bass lines influenced the Beatles on the way to changing pop music forever, the actual playing of said bass lines was shared by many. This includes Brian, who manned a P-Bass for the group’s early live shows, and L.A. studio veterans (collectively known as the Wrecking Crew) including Carol Kaye, Ray Pohlman, Jimmy Bond on electric and upright, Lyle Ritz on upright, and Osborn. On later recordings, the bass parts would be shared among members Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, and Al Jardine, plus Darryl Dragon (of Captain & Tennille fame), Motown/L.A. session bassist and Jamerson disciple Ron Brown, and ’70s group member Blondie Chaplin. Unfortunately, there aren’t track-specific musician credits, leading to some mysteries on the bass side of things.

Returning to Sunflower, Disc One’s extras include six live tracks and eight bonus tracks. Most notable of the former is a 1976 horn-laden version of “Susie Cincinnati” (originally on the 1976 Beach Boys album 15 Big Ones), which marked Brian’s return to live performance. Of the bonus tracks, “Break Away” stands out. Cut during the Sunflower sessions but released as a single, it was co-written by Brian and his dad, Murry Wilson, an often villainous figure in Brian’s life.

Disc Two contains the original 1971 Surf’s Up album, with Brian playing less of a role than on Sunflower (though almost all of the basic tracks were cut at his home studio) — save for the inclusion of his masterpiece title track, co-written with Van Dyke Parks. Hailed by Leonard Bernstein and intended for the band’s scrapped 1967 album Smile, Wilson consented to its use here. Of note amid the song’s three movements: Carol Kaye providing the dynamic pedal tones, Jimmy Bond’s descending upper-register upright pizzicato part, and the twisty closing piano-bass part. Elsewhere, Brian’s “Till I Die” resonates; Carl Wilson’s trippy “Feel Flows” sports a towering flute solo by jazz legend Charles Lloyd over a Cachao-like piano and bass ostinato; and Johnston — easily the band’s best composer after Brian (he penned “I Write the Songs” for Barry Manilow) — delivers the lovely look-back waltz, “Disney Girls (1957).”

Compelling among the disc’s 13 live or bonus tracks are an ambitious 1973 concert version of “Surf’s Up” sung by Carl; “My Solution,” a weird, sci-fi-ish half-spoken Brian creation; a cover of Rod McKuen’s “Seasons in the Sun” produced by Terry Jacks, who would later have a hit singing the song; and Dennis Wilson’s brilliant ode to Vietnam-era national disillusionment, “4th of July” — which should have made Surf’s Up over several inferior tracks.

Disc Three contains previously unreleased material from the Sunflower sessions, mostly instrumental tracks with background vocals (including four songs that didn’t make the record) and ten acappella tracks, both with interesting bits of studio banter. The lack of lead vocals allows for a clearer access to Osborn’s performance on “Deidre” and Ray Pohlman’s cool hammer-ons in a later verse of “Tears in the Morning” (at 1:55). Similarly, Disc Four has unreleased instrumental/backing vocal tracks and a cappella tracks from the Surf’s Up sessions. There, you’ll find a front-and-center-mixed, picked bass performance on “Till I Die,” bassist unknown; some cool, syncopated support on “It’s a New Day — probably played by Blondie Chaplin, who sings lead on the track; and an all-out jam in the back half of Dennis Wilson’s “(Wouldn’t It Be Nice to) Live Again,” boasting more Lloyd flute improvisation backed by an uncredited bassist bodaciously boogeying in support. 

Finally, Disc Five has more bonus material in the form of alternate tracks and additional songs. This includes Darryl Dragon’s bumpin’ bass on a slower, funkier, down-a-half-step early version of “Slip on Through” (the Motown-y Dennis-written opener from Sunflower) and an uncredited pick-toting bassist stretching and filling throughout the basic session outtake of Dennis Wilson’s and Mike Love’s “Settle Down/Sound of Free.” Unlike the Beatles, the Beach Boys didn’t have a Paul McCartney reinventing rock bass on every record, but between Brian Wilson’s landmark composing in the bass clef and the wide range of pros manning electric, upright, keyboard, Moog, and 6-string tic-tac bass, the band’s catalog represents a cornerstone when it comes to the role of the bass in popular music. –Chris Jisi

Motorhead Cover

Motörhead

Ace of Spades Box Set [BMG]

Upon its release in 1980, Motörhead’s Ace of Spades album was nothing short of a gamechanger. It perfectly melded everything great about hard rock, heavy metal, and punk; at the time, nothingwas harder, faster, or louder. And perhaps no one lived up to the “sex, drugs, and rock & roll” credo more truthfully than Lemmy Kilmister. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this milestone recording, which features the trailblazing, and now-iconic title track, Ace of Spades is being released in multiple format deluxe editions, featuring previously unheard concerts, unseen photos, and 42 previously unreleased tracks. The Ace of Spades box set reaffirms Motörhead’s influence on the musical genre that would eventually be dubbed “thrash,” and firmly entrenches Lemmy’s gravelly voice and bombastic, overdriven bass guitar playing at the center of the hard rock and heavy metal universe. –Freddy Villano

Lefebvre Album Cover

Tim Lefebvre & Rachel Eckroth

The Blackbird Sessions [2021]

The highly prolific and remarkably talented duo of Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie, Black Crowes, Wayne Krantz, Tedeschi Trucks Band) and Rachel Eckroth (St. Vincent, Rufus Wainwright, Chris Botti, KT Tunstall) have stripped down their sound for their latest release of jazz standards, The Blackbird Sessions Vol. 1. With Lefebvre on upright and Eckroth on piano and vocals, the couple take on seven jazz classics, including “Mood Indigo,” “Body and Soul,” and “You’ve Changed.” They're joined by David Garza (Fiona Apple), who plays acoustic guitar on “Prelude to a Kiss” and “Fly Me to the Moon,” adding his unique and authentic sound to the material. This album is a must-listen for long-time jazz fans, or those who want to dip their toes into the genre for the first time. While countless artists have recorded these tunes before them, Lefebvre and Eckroth shed anew light on the material, displaying both their mastery as musicians and their tasteful subtlety and nuance. From a bass standpoint, this album serves as a master class on tone, articulation, soloing, rhythm, and melody. –Jon D'Auria

Dead Daisies Cover

The Dead Daisies

Holy Ground [SPV]

Glenn Hughes has supercharged the Dead Daisies on their latest release, Holy Ground. With heaping spoonfuls of sinewy bass lines and his uncanny “voice of rock,” Glenn’s imprint on the Daisies’ sound is immediate, identifiable, and irrefutable. High-voltage rock songs like “Holy Ground,” “Unspoken,” and “Bustle and Flow” lean heavily into Glenn’s indomitable grooves, which often showcase that unmistakable left-hand vibrato, and his deeply personal lyrics, which touch on 30 years of sobriety, and convey universal themes of life and death, love and hate, and fear and faith. –Freddy Villano

Adi Meyerson Cover

Adi Meyerson

I Want to Sing My Heart Out in Praise of Life [2021]

Returning with her sophomore album, New York bassist Adi Meyerson offers a six-song journey that was inspired by the work of avant-garde visual artist Yayoi Kusama. Matching the ambition and energy of Kusama, Meyerson’s compositions are ambitious and fearless, which suits her bold bass playing in the best way possible. From being delicate and reflective on tracks like “Part I – Prelude” and “Part VI – Title Track” to stepping out and showing her swinging prowess on “Part III – Follow the Red Dot” and “Part V – Infinity,” this body of work showcases Meyerson’s tremendous range as both a bassist and arranger. Joined by Marquis Hill on trumpet, Anne Drummond on flute, Lucas Pino on bass clarinet and saxophone, Sam Towseon on keys, Kush Abadey on drums, spoken-word artist Eden Girma, and vocalists Sabeth Perez and Camille Thurman, this album makes us excited to see what Meyerson creates next. –Jon D'Auria

Evan MArien Cover

Evan Marien x Dana Hawkins

Parallels [2021]

Rhythm-section power duo Evan Marien and Dana Hawkins are back with a genre-hopping, virtuosic new album that continues to push the boundaries of drum and bass in the most danceable way possible. Parallels mixes fusion with funk, neo-soul, and touches of ’80s influence to deliver a groove-packed ride that will keep you moving from start to finish. The duo welcomes guitarist Cory Wong (Vulfpeck), Mario Camarena (Chon), Aaron Marshall (Intervals), Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (Thundercat, Flying Lotus), and keyboardists Julian "J3PO" Pollack (Marcus Miller) and Steve Hunt (Allan Holdsworth), who each bring their own unique styles to the record. Beyond the composition, time-signature changes, and wild fills, the most impressive feat of Parallels is the way that Marien and Hawkins pack so much technicality and musicianship into a feel-good experience that even a non-savvy listener will deeply appreciate. –Jon D'Auria

Al Reshard Cover

Al Reshard

Behind Bars [Segue Entertainment]

The Reshards have long been a first family of bass, with Jon Reshard making his mark as a solo artist and thumper for guitarist Greg Howe, and as a composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. The latter role is what he takes on here for the debut disc by his dad, Al Reshard, an unsung anchor on the Jacksonville scene. The senior Reshard comes heavy out of the gate with his “Brazil,” a Latin fusion romp featuring Chick Corea guitarist Frank Gambale and Yellowjackets drummer Will Kennedy. Elsewhere, Jon’s “Millerized” and “Tucci” allow Al to give a potent nod to Marcus Miller and John Patitucci respectively, via his Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass and Michael Norwood custom 6-string. And Al’s fretless prowess (via a Fender Squire) is on ample display for a cover of James Moody’s “Moody’s Mood for Love” (with Jon on upright) and “Kinda Yellow,” co-written by father and son. He may be Behind Bars by album name, but this is Al Reshard’s breakout. –Chris Jisi

Jim Ward Cover

Jim Ward

Daggers [2021]

When ex-At The Drive In and Sparta guitarist and vocalist Jim Ward set out to create his fifth solo album, he decided to enlist a couple of friends to handle the rhythm-section duties. Luckily for him, those friends happen to be bassist Ben Kenney (Incubus, the Roots) and drummer Tucker Rule (Thursday). Having composed the emotionally driven material for Daggers during the 2020 lockdown, Ward sent the tracks back and forth with Kenney, who helped sculpt the songs and laid down his powerful and often-gritty bass work. Kenney’s lines add a whole new level of depth to Ward’s music and especially shine in powerful moments on “Blink Twice,” “Electric Life,” “King Yourself,” and “Polygraph,” where his overdriven riffs lock together the playing of Ward and Rule. –Jon D'Auria

Issue 8 Reviews