Holland was the Beach Boys fourth 1970’s album release in four years. Sunflower and Surf’s Up were technically complex and musically superior releases while Carl and The Passions – So Tough was essentially a clunker. Holland would be a lot smoother and joyful than any of them. Holland may not have had the consistent musical brilliance of the first two releases of the 1970’s but when it was good it was very good.
Jack Rieley, the Beach Boys manager at the time, decided that a change of recording atmosphere was in order for the group. So he packed up everyone and carted them all off to Holland to record this album.
Rieley is an interesting person in Beach Boys history. He would discharge Bruce Johnston from the group, sing on some songs, write a number of lyrics, and oversee the production of several brilliant albums before being unceremoniously dumped by the group.
Having traveled thousands of miles to record the album, the best known song on Holland would be recorded in the USA and added as a late addition. “Sail On Sailor” featured a Blondie Chaplin lead vocal in what may have been his finest hour as a Beach Boy. The harmonies and rhythms plus the uncomplicated instrumental backing harped back to a simpler Beach Boy time even if the song’s topic was more serious.
I have found the three part “California Saga” to range from excellent to pretentious. This was a Mike Love and Al Jardine salute to their native state of California. Seeing these two Beach Boys combining on any project is a remarkable thing given what the future would hold.
“California Saga/Big Sur” was written and sung by Mike Love. The song features excellent lyrics set against an understated song structure. It is Mike Love’s vocals that cause a problem for this song, as he is more nasal than usual. Mike Love was always on safer ground vocally when surrounded by harmonies and a lot of instrumental sound.
The poetry in “California Saga/The Beaks Of Eagles” is the pretentious part and goes on much to long for a bad idea. The song was written by Al Jardine and sung by Mike Love. It was a superior, joyful musical romp for the Beach Boys. It featured good vocals and simple lyrics with harmonies underpinning everything all of which added up to a listening treat.
“Trader” was a superior effort by Carl Wilson. Carl’s gritty vocals and Rieley’s sophisticated lyrics give it a unique but substantial feel.
Dennis Wilson wrote the beautiful love song “Only With You” and then let Mike Love sing the vocals. This song was made for Dennis Wilson’s voice. Holland suffers from the fact that there were no Dennis Wilson lead vocals.
“Mount Vernon and Fairway (A Fairy Tale),” made up of six songs, is just too simplistic and childish. Brian Wilson created this project which was then rejected for the album. Carl Wilson resurrected the project and it was included on the album as a bonus 7” extra play record. By the time the decision was made to actually issue “Mount Vernon and Fairway” Brian Wilson had moved on so it was pressed as is which gives it an unfinished feeling. Later CD’s would include “Mount Vernon and Fairway” at the end of the CD which throws the musical vision of the album a little off kilter.
Holland was a very good effort for the Beach Boys and produced three superior songs; “Sail On Sailor, “Trader” and “California.” It still remains a pleasurable listening experience.