By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch
The Critic: For his first CD of new material in six years, the resurgent Brian Wilson has produced a collection that die-hard Wilson and Beach Boys fans will embrace. For more casual fans, the magnificent music will be marred somewhat by Wilson's career-long Achilles' heel: trite, wince-inducing lyrics.
The Fan: C'mon! At this point, any new Brian Wilson music is welcome. After all of his emotional and physical trials, he still writes with a childlike innocence. That's not trite.
The Critic: Sorry, but in "City Blues" he sings: "In the city/The sirens are hummin', everything's so gritty/It's a pity, it's a pity." It isn't just childlike, it's been done before. And even some of the music is a rerun. "Desert Drive" is a melding of "Catch a Wave" and "409" . . . or is it "Shut Down." Maybe both.
The Fan: And I'll bet you were slapping the dash and yelping out those falsetto choruses right along with him, too!
The Critic: Well, uh, you got me there. Anyway, Wilson has a little help on this CD, including Elton John's lead vocal on "How Could We Still be Dancin'" -- how, indeed -- to ex-Beatle Paul McCartney on -- wince again -- "A Friend Like You" to Eric Clapton's scorching guitar solos on "City Blues."
The Fan: Isn't it great that Brian and McCartney, two old rivals and friends and the bass players of the two best bands of the '60s, finally got to work together?
The Critic: Yes, it's nice for them, just wish it had turned out nicer for us. Paul could have contributed to some of the better songs, such as the title song, or "Rainbow Eyes," or "Don't Let Her Know She's an Angel."
The Fan: But, look, this CD is the work of a great artist. Brian's gift of beautiful melody, genius for harmony and layered production, his sense of nuance and dynamics -- it's all here. Much of this CD is . . . I'll just say it: It's thrilling.
The Critic: Well, nothing is more thrilling than "Soul Searchin'," which features Brian's late brother Carl Wilson on vocals. Carl's vocal was cut initially in the mid-'90s and intended as a new Beach Boys song. Hearing Brian and Carl sing such a strong song together again is truly emotional. And just imagine what might have been: If Carl, who held the Beach Boys together, had lived, we might be debating the merits of one of the most incredible comeback albums in rock history. God only knows . . .
The Fan: Amen to that.