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Beach Boys

Stars and Stripes, Vol. 1 – 1996 (River North)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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This is, to say the least, an odd career move for the Beach Boys - an album of remakes of 12 Beach Boys classics, sung by some of Nashville's biggest acts, with typically gorgeous vocal backing by the Beach Boys, and the musical end of things handled by experienced Nashville pros. The big news for longtime fans is that this album marks Brian Wilson's return to studio work with the group following a decade-long absence. But if fans were expecting to hear a return to the group's salad days - a follow-up to their 1966 masterpiece "Pet Sounds" or completing the long-shelved "Smile" project -look elsewhere. This ain't it.

On the other hand, if the group has to tread water, they might as well be treading water while in Brian Wilson's hands. There's no new ground broken here, but considering the Beach Boys' absolute and utter lack of any experience whatsoever in playing country and western, this is actually a pretty fun record.

Highlights include Lorrie Morgan's "Don't Worry Baby," Junior Brown's version of "409" and Willie Nelson's terrific "Warmth of the Sun," which is the album's high point in many respects. Special mention should also be made of Kathy Troccoli's "I Can Hear Music" and Timothy B. Schmit's "Caroline, No," both nearly indistinguishable from the original versions.

One can only hope that Vol. 2 tackles some of the group's thornier material. The possibilities are limitless! Emmylou Harris crooning "Cabinessence?" Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt tackling "Heroes and Villains?" Dwight Yoakam giving the Bakersfield treatment to "Girl Don't Tell Me?" God only knows....