Tuesday, August 1, 2017
The Beach Boys - Wild Honey (Alternate) AUGUST 1st UPDATE
On June 30th, the Beach Boys released their fantastic compilation 1967 - Sunshine Tomorrow, featuring the first-ever stereo remix of the Wild Honey album. Also included were various outtakes and unheard tracks, including the long-fabled songs "Honey Get Home" and "Game of Love". While I have recently gone back to make slight updates to the majority of my posts here, I decided two new posts had to be made for both Wild Honey and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, thanks to their recent stereo remixes. Here, the focus is solely on Wild Honey, though Sgt. Pepper will be coming right after. My updated version of Lei'd in Hawaii will also follow shortly after as well.
After the release of Smiley Smile and the cancellation of the Lei'd in Hawaii live album, the Beach Boys had to figure out where to head to next, musically speaking. The resulting album was Wild Honey, a lo-fi mix of R&B, psychedelic pop, and rock & roll. The album spawned the hits "Wild Honey" and "Darlin'", the latter gaining a recent surge of popularity after it's usage in the television show The Big Bang Theory. The album was released on December 18th, 1967, eventually reaching a fair #24 spot on the US charts, certainly better than Smiley Smile, but a far cry from the group's golden years of chart domination. The album was however a success in the UK, reaching as high as #7. Unfortunately, recent unfairly negative reviews of the group by highly-revered music critics left the group practically deserted by the US public. The group had yet to see the worst yet however. It's really unfortunate actually, because the music on this album is actually really good! It might be way too short for a conventional album, but it's just a really fun, high energy album that helped cool the group down after the whole SMiLE incident. But like with all of my other alternate albums, I gotta ask myself: What can I do to make this great album even greater?
First off, we gotta look at all the tracks/outtakes and decide what and what not to use on the remix. "Mama Says", while fun and catchy, feels pretty irrelevant to the rest of the music of the album, so I'm chucking it. With the release of Sunshine Tomorrow, we now have the following outtakes to work with: "Lonely Days", "Cool Cool Water", "Time to Get Alone", "Can't Wait Too Long" (Early Version), "Hide Go Seek", "Honey Get Home", "With a Little Help from My Friends", "The Letter", "Game of Love", "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring", and "Surf's Up" (1967 Version). Of these tracks, I consider "Can't Wait Too Long" (Early Version), "Lonely Days", "Hide Go Seek", and "Honey Get Home" to be just too unfinished for serious consideration for inclusion. "Cool Cool Water" and "Time to Get Alone" are fantastic tracks, but are already included in completed form on my alternate versions of 20/20 and Sunflower. "Surf's Up" (1967 Version) is merely Brian tooling around with the track, and wouldn't fit with the relaxed, R&B theme of Wild Honey at all. "With a Little Help from My Friends", "Game of Love", and "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring" were intended for the Lei'd in Hawaii project, and so will appear there instead. The same goes for "The Letter", but since two separate versions were recorded during this time, I'll make an exception here! Anyways, let's check it out!
Side A kicks off with the hard-hitting title track "Wild Honey". The track is heard here in it's latest 2017 stereo remix, easily trumping the earlier 2012 mix found off of Made in California. Following that is the fantastic "Aren't You Glad", heard here in its first-ever stereo remix. And WOW, does it sound fantastic! Hearing tracks like "Aren't You Glad" in this new light is certainly like hearing the Beach Boys for the first time again. The group's cover of "I Was Made to Love Her" follows next, heard here in it's 2017 stereo remix. My own edit of this track tacks on the extended coda, found off of the alternate mono version of the track. It's unfortunate that this section isn't available in stereo, but hey - if it's the best we got, it's the best we got! The beautiful "Country Air" comes next, heard here in the fantastic stereo remix found on the 2012 Made in California box set. Personally, I find this remix superior to the latest 2017 mix. This latest mix features the infamous "buzzing" sound, of which was digitally removed from the track for its 2012 mix. In addition, the backing vocals are more widely panned in the 2012 mix. Definitely one of my favorite songs on the album, the rooster sounds made using a mellotron was a pretty unique idea for 1967. The R&B flavored "A Thing or Two" comes after, of course heard here in its 2017 stereo remix. Not the most famous track on the album, but I think it's really fun actually, the melodies and lead vocal parts by Brian really make the song for me. Carl's gruff vocals are also pretty cool-sounding, of which would later be used again for the group's 1972 cut "You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone". Side A then closes out with the fantastic "Darlin'", a song enjoying a recent surge in popularity. This unique mix was made possible thanks to the inclusion of the stereo instrumental backing track on the compilation album. I extended the track after the bridge section, adding an instrumental passing-by of the verse, before leading into a final chorus. The song also ends on a final sustained note, as opposed to the abruptly-quick fade-out. Quite a unique listen I'd say, let me know what you think! A fantastic end to the first side.
Side B begins with the flat-out amazing "Can't Wait Too Long", a SMiLE-esque track that was similarly abandoned by Brian after June of 1968. The version of the song recorded during the Wild Honey sessions was included on the Sunshine Tomorrow collection, but I saw it as too simplistic for inclusion, even by Wild Honey's standards! Here, the second, much more experimental version from the Friends-era is used in its place. I remixed the song using the 1993 stereo mix as a basis. The structure wasn't changed at all from this source, I think the way the track is put together here is a very concise and even listening experience. A Cappella vocal overdubs (sourced from Made in California) were laid down on top of the beautiful intro to give the track a richer, fuller sound. I also "un-faded" the track at the very end, as the last segment I added myself, that being the fade segment. I'm upset that the fade segment wasn't included on the original 1993 remix, it's a very unique and cool-sounding piece of music. I find it really interesting that the group (sans Brian) revisited the track in 1980 to lay down new additional overdubs. It's cool to know that they really liked the song and were considering on finishing and releasing it at another point. Similar to how the group planned on recording "Do You Like Worms" during the sessions for 1979's LA (Light Album). Following that is Brian's amazingly-humorous and entertaining "I'd Love Just Once to See You", presented here in the new 2017 stereo mix. This is one of my personal favorites by Brian, the lyrics are totally him, and the melody is so fun to play and sing along to. One of the highlights of the album in my opinion. It's also my favorite Beach Boys song to sing to my girlfriend! ;) Up next is the group's fantastic cover of the Box Tops' hit "The Letter", originally rehearsed and played for during the Lei'd in Hawaii performances. The song was originally going to be featured on the album, but was removed once all plans for Lei'd in Hawaii came to an end (the group was apparently still considering releasing the album after the release of Wild Honey). I guess that explains why the first side only has five songs, my best bet is that "The Letter" would've appeared somewhere on Side A. The mix heard here is the remastered stereo mix heard on Made in California, oddly found on the "Live" section of the compilation. It doesn't sound live to me at all, live in the studio maybe, but not in front of an audience. After that is "Here Comes the Night", featured here (of course) in its 2017 stereo remix. For me, the new stereo mix of "Here Comes the Night" was probably the biggest musical revelation for me for this album. What was once a pretty cool R&B track has been opened up to me in a way I never thought possible. Suffice to say, this is now my favorite track off of the Wild Honey album. The rock number "How She Boogalooed It" is next, and although the lyrics leave a lot to be desired, the track is pretty damn fun for what it is. Definitely my least favorite song on the album though (aside from the cut "Mama Says"), it just feels a little too "safe" for me. The worst song on Wild Honey is still better than a lot of other Beach Boys songs though, so I guess that says a lot about the quality of the album! The track is also heard here in the 2017 stereo remix. But here comes a pretty glaring issue. For the original recording sessions for the track, the organ solo heard during the second half of the track was recorded directly on top of the mixed-down mono track. Because of that, the stem track for this organ overdub isn't obtainable by any means (aside from digital extraction). Faced with this issue during the mixing of the new stereo mix, Alan Boyd and Mark Linett decided to present the first half of the track in true stereo, while the second half is entirely in mono. I can understand though why they would've been hesitant to digitally extract the organ overdub, as it can sound pretty robotic at times. However, a proper solution would have been to use this "half stereo/half mono" remix for the stereo mix of Wild Honey, while offering an alternate, complete stereo mix of the track, without the organ overdub present. If they did that, then I could have been able to carefully synch the stereo and mono tracks together, and BAM - full stereo mix. But I guess it just wasn't meant to be! So here, I use the 2017 stereo mix for the first half, before switching to a duophonic stereo mix for the second half. This duophonic mix comes from Memory Man's great, yet-now obsolete stereo mix of Wild Honey. Overall, I guess we won't ever have a "definitive" stereo mix of "How She Boogalooed It", but like I said earlier: If it's the best we got, it's the best we got! The album closes out with the beautiful, yet slightly eerie "Let the Wind Blow", another fantastic piece written by Brian for the album. The lovely-sounding stereo remix found on the Hawthorne, CA compilation is used here. Like with "Country Air", the new 2017 mix sounds a bit too dry for my taste. Overall, this is a great, complex way to end out an album.
Wild Honey should've been the Beach Boys' comeback album after their bad luck of 1967. The album should've have made up for the shelving of SMiLE, the Monterey Pop Festival cancellation, the disappointing commercial performance of "Heroes and Villains" and Smiley Smile, the declining popularity of the group, the harsh Rolling Stone Reviews, the shelving of the Lei'd in Hawaii album, etc, etc. The list goes on and on! Sure, a #24 placement on the charts is definitely better than Smiley Smile's #41, but it definitely had the potential to reach a higher placement, given the high quality material found on the album. Fans had always been dreaming of a true stereo mix of this fantastic album, and thanks to the collaborative efforts of Alan and Mark, we've finally gotten what we've been asking so long for. Here's to a potential 1968 collection in the future! But for now, sit back, relax, and take a taste of that sweet wild honey...
1. Wild Honey (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
2. Aren't You Glad (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
3. I Was Made to Love Her (Henry Cosby/Sylvia Moy/Lula May Hardaway/Stevie Wonder)
4. Country Air (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
5. A Thing or Two (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
6. Darlin' (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
1. Can't Wait Too Long (Brian Wilson)
2. I'd Love Just Once to See You (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
3. The Letter (Wayne Carson Thompson)
4. Here Comes the Night (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
5. How She Boogalooed It (Mike Love/Bruce Johnston/Al Jardine/Carl Wilson)
6. Let the Wind Blow (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)