Today’s album is an interesting selection. Imagine the Beach Boys doing Hall and Oates, or some beach-fried version of R&B. The album “Wild Honey” is #410 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time, but I have to say I’m not sure why. On this album, the band is partially escaping the creative controlling hands of Brian Wilson, and Carl Wilson and Mike Love had a much larger role in the writing and performing of these songs. A noble attempt to spread the wealth and the creative influence, but it is hard to match up to one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century.
Brian doesn’t completely vanish, he does take an active role in songwriting in more of a collaborative fashion, but he does turn a lot more of the lead vocals over to Carl. This works on a classic ballad like “God Only Knows” from “Pet Sounds”, but you can easily hear the strain in Carl’s voice on the first song and title track, “Wild Honey” as well as “I Was Made to Love Her”, which oddly sounds like an early Stevie Wonder tune. The next song “Country Air”, although a bit of an odd start, delivers the trademark beauty of the Beach Boys harmonies, so naturally this quirky song stands out as a favorite.
Brian takes more of a lead role on side two, singing lead on “I’d Love Just Once to See You” and “Here Comes the Night”. As gifted as Brian is, these songs don’t seem to have much of a hook, an issue that is pervasive across this otherwise nondescript album.
I have to come to realize I’m more likely to vocalize some unfavorable thoughts when it comes to my favorite bands. Perhaps I hold them to a higher standard, fairly or not, and while I don’t expect any band to stand still and I frequently celebrate success, it is more difficult for them to make a favorable impression on me once I have heard them at their very best. Definitely a transitional album for the Beach Boys as the musical world was rocking harder and still trying to keep pace with some of their previous work.