Monday, March 30, 2020

The Albums of 1970: The Beach Boys: Sunflower

Release Date: August 31, 1970

Personnel: Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson

Produced by The Beach Boys

Side 1: Slip on Through; This Whole World; Add Some Music To Your Day; Got to Know the Woman; Deirdre; It's About Time

Side 2: Tears in the Morning; All I Wanna Do; Forever; Our Sweet Love; At My Window; Cool, Cool Water

Recorded during a tumultuous time for The Beach Boys, Sunflower proved a critical success but a commercial failure. In addition to some business and financial issues, the dynamics of the band were changing with Brian Wilson stepping away as the central songwriter, resulting in a record with all members making strong contributions. 

"Slip on Through" with Dennis Wilson on lead vocal opens the record on a cool 70s groove, expressing a new maturity from their earlier music. "This Whole World" continues riding the good vibes with its dreamy visions of world harmony, California pop taken to perfection. The good tidings keep rolling with "Add Some Music To Your Day" with the lyric "The World Come Together As One/If everybody under the sun/add some music to your day." 

Dennis Wilson's "Got To Know the Woman" features a Dixieland piano and a soulful vocal. "Deirdre" is a quirky track about a California girl, melancholy in its portrait of an on and off relationship but still dreamlike. Side one ends with "It's About Time", song about an artist having an epiphany borders on cliche rock and roll, but it's still well produced.

Side two opens with Bruce Johnston's "Tears in the Morning," a musing on the aftermath of a relationship. "All I Wanna Do" moves with lots of reverb (adds a calming effect) with Mike Love on vocals is the type of song suitable to be put on a repeating loop. Dennis contributed "Forever," in Brian's words a rock and roll prayer. It's got the directness of a James Taylor song with Paul McCartney's sense for structure, a standout track on Sunflower. "Our Sweet Love" from Brian continues theme of salvation through love. "At My WIndow" by Al Jardine and Brian muses on bird watching and transcendence with the sly lyric, "From Their Eyes/The People Must look like miniature toys."

Sunflower concludes with Brian's "Cool Cool Water," a song intended for the Smiley Smile album. The longest track on the album at five minutes,it moves along like a spaced out reflection at the end of a long peaceful day in the sunshine. That sentiment sums up Sunflower well enough, it's a spirited mature album from The Beach Boys deserving of a wider audience. 

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