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Lucky Old Sun
Artist: Brian Wilson
Label: Capital
 
Lucky Old Brian.....or Is It Luck?     An Opus to Southern California
 
In the world of Rock and Roll, Brian Wilson's name is synonymous with miracle.  In a culture and a time when many legendary and innovative artists tragically died, Wilson managed to hit a very rocky bottom and rise to the surface in a way that could soon land him a solo induction into the R&R Hall of Fame.  
 
After a nervous breakdown in the mid-60's resulted in a withdrawal from tours with The Beach Boys, Brian found himself in the studio writing and creating what would become not only the band's best work, but some of the most imaginative pop music of the last 40 years even leaving an envious Paul McCartney in his wake.  His Pet Sounds has still set the standard for cohesive pop art that transcends its own form in the world of contemporary music.  This reportedly inspired McCartney to begin work on Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band. The entire concept and execution was the influence of Wilson's post-65 studio work.   In response, Wilson started on his own masterpiece,Smile.  However, the weight of the work, his drug use and mental illness caught up with him and the project was abandoned.  Brian became a recluse suffering from chronic drug addiction and a serve form of mental illness making only occasional incoherent visits to Beach Boys concerts.  For 22 years, Wilson lived under the cloud of psychiatric illness.    
 
Finally in 1988, while beginning on the road to recovery, he began on a solo career that has resulted in several excellent solo efforts, a full international touring schedule and the re-recreation and the fulfillment of the dream of a completed Smile complete with command performances and international tours.
 
With the release of Lucky Old SunWilson has nothing left to prove.  His musical genius secure, his legacy extended beyond belief, this album finds him ready to bask in the sunshine of his own success.  And that he does by paying tribute to the land of his origins, Southern California and especially Los Angeles.  Working along side lyricist and band member, Scott Bennett and Van Dyke Parks, Lucky Old Sun also pays tribute to Wilson's studio skills in a fresh way reminding us of why we hear the frequent echo "Brian Wilson is a Genius,"  through the halls of pop music history.  With careful instrumental arrangements including horns, strings and even banjos, he has blended his trademark layered vocal harmonies into simple pop songs that have created just the right balance between music production and song purity.  
 
The songs follow along much of the same pattern as another extensive Van Dyke Parks/Brian Wilson collaboration from 1995, Orange Crate Art, which paid tribute to a nostalgic California.  Unfortunately, this project finds Parks writing sometimes incomprehensible bad poetry between songs.  The main lyrical collaborator on this album is Scott Bennett.  The tone of the songs are optimistic and reflective of the place where Wilson calls home.  There's even a bit of nostalgia for those bygone Beach Boys days by way of a song called, "Forever My Surfer Girl," singing as though he's addressing the personification of the classic song.  And lyrics like,"I had this dream/Singing with by brothers/In harmony/Supporting each other,"  show how Brian can look back on the past with a sense of peace and closure.  In other ways Brian shows he has made his peace with his troubled past as well.   "At 25 I turned out the light/'cus I couldn't handle the fear in my tired eyes."  This lyric then leads to a celebration of returning to home to oneself in the song, "Goin' Home." Other songs highlight subcultures of So Cal like Cinco De Mayo and Mexican Girl.  "Lucky Old Sun," reprises throughout the cycle of songs to bring them all together in the theme of two of California's most distinctive features, the sun and the beach.  
 
From a Christian perspective, Brian's current project and his career play out like a sweet song of redemption.  This is a man whose heart was locked inside of his disabled brain for decades, who abused drugs, was nearly held captive in abusive relationship and who many had long left for dead.  But, like so many seemingly failed lives and stories in the Bible and throughout history, Brian experienced God's grace and a Job-like redemption of his career and personal life.   Luck Old Sun reflects the grace and the celebration of this man's journey from a horrible darkness to a glorious light, only made possible(and I believe Brian would agree with this) by his Creator, the source of that Lucky Old Sun.  
 
Terry Roland
http://www.trippinthesixties.com
 
 
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