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Music Review: Beach Boys – Wild Honey

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Wild Honey may not be the most listenable album by the Beach Boys, but it is certainly one of the most interesting. At the time of its release, it seemed as if the Beach Boys had developed a new musical vision that pointed toward the future. Wild Honey was a statement that said the Beach Boys were moving in a different direction. There was now a rhythm & blues element contained in there layered harmonies and impeccable production. Wild Honey was an album that was well thought out beforehand. Unfortunately these themes were never explored beyond this one album. Thus Wild Honey remains a unique album, thematically, within the Beach Boys catalogue. 

Wild Honey is also significant for the fact it is here that Carl Wilson began to assert himself as an emerging, creative leader of the Beach Boys. The confidence gained on Smiley Smile begins to flower on Wild Honey. Carl Sings lead on “Wild Honey,” “I Was Made To Love Her,” “Darlin” and “How She Boogalooed It.” This quartet of varied songs put Carl Wilson’s hitherto underused voice at the center of the Beach Boys sound. As Brian Wilson’s input and direction gradually waned, Carl would fill some of the void.

The title song, "Wild Honey" and "I Was Made To Love Her" set the tone for the album. “Wild Honey” is a layered R & B song. Carl Wilson’s funky vocal rests on the layered harmonies of the other group members. The Stevie Wonder song, “I Was Made To Love Her,” receives a fairly straightforward treatment. The Beach Boys remain loyal to the songs structure but layer in some vocals to make it unique.

“Darlin” would become a top twenty hit for the Beach Boys and a concert staple for years.  There is a subtle rhythm and blues feel but the song has more rhythm and bass than the aforementioned songs. The harmonies provide a foundation for the lead vocal to rise out of and then settle back into.

Two traditional Beach Boy songs provide a good counterpoint to the rhythm and blues explorations that dominate the album. “Let The Four Winds Blow” is a Brian Wilson love song. Written against the psychedelic and protest music of the day, it is a return to a simpler and in many ways better time. It also shows that when Brian Wilson was healthy and motivated he could still produce beautiful music. “There Hearts Were Full Of Spring” is an a capella version of this old Four Freshmen tune. Many Beach Boys albums contain a song without instrumental backing. They always serve as a reminder that no matter what else the Beach Boys may do the purity of their voices are always present as the underpinning of their sound. 

Wild Honey continues to be interesting four decades after its initial release. The Beach Boys harmonies and song structures, when moved in this rhythm and blues direction, make it an interesting listen.

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About David Bowling

  • http://www.grayflannelsuit.net/ Chris

    I love this album. It’s done in mostly by rather substandard production values, but there are some really good songs here. This and Sunflower are far and away the best albums the band produced after Pet Sounds.

  • petsoundss66

    David, I commend you on a very concise and dedicated review!

    The elements of your so true spoken words are evidenced immediately at first glimpse of the album cover!!

    Keep up the good work!!

    Cheers,
    Larry!

  • Gordon Ovenshine

    I like this album. It’s funky and fun. One aspect of the Beach Boys that is overlooked is they tried different approaches with every album.