With 2004’s Smile, Brian Wilson finally released rock’s most famous “lost album” to much acclaim. Also, after years of battling a number of mental illnesses for years, it saw Wilson displaying a newfound confidence not seen since his days with The Beach Boys. With That Lucky Old Sun, an album based around Wilson’s love for the sights and sounds of Southern California, Wilson creates another late career triumph.
The album starts with the title track, a cover of the old standard “That Lucky Old Sun”, and the album is filled with different variations of the song throughout the album. The songs are also linked together with passages of poetry spoken by Brian Wilson, and although they certainly add some resonant imagery to the whole “Southern California” feel of the album, in the end they seem a little unnecessary. That Lucky Old Sun also features basically what was the same group of musicians that recorded Smile, and their complex vocal harmonies and instrumental arrangements once again complement Wilson’s soaring melodies quite nicely.
Most of the songs like “Good Kind of Love” and “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl”, a supposed sequel to the 1963 Beach Boys hit “Surfer Girl”, have a sound that recalls the best of Wilson’s mid-sixties output with The Beach Boys. And then there are also songs like “Oxygen to the Brain” and “Going Home” in which Brian Wilson confronts some of the less glamorous parts of his life. But above all, the songs (whose lyrics were co-written by Smile collaborator Van Dyke Parks) are brimming with the kind of sunny optimism that we’ve come to expect from Brian Wilson over the years.
Considering I didn’t even know Brian Wilson had a new album coming out until about two weeks before it came out, this has been a very pleasant surprise. It’s definitely nice to see one of rock’s greatest songwriters finally writing and recording great music once again after so many years of personal problems left him unable to reach his full potential as an artist.
Favorite Tracks: “Good Kind of Love”, “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl”, “Southern California”