I have played a lot of Beach Boys music over the years but I can’t remember the last time I listened to Carl & The Passions – So Tough. I firmly believe, that for any individual, the albums that you actually listen too are the ones you consider to be the best; critical acclaim and commercial appeal aside.
Bruce Johnston left the Beach Boys in 1972 (he would return) and Dennis Wilson had severely injured his hand and could not play the drums. Carl Wilson recruited Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar from the South African group, Flame, as replacements.
Fataar and Chaplin were seasoned and capable musicians but their sound was far removed from that of the Beach Boys. These personal changes, just before the Beach Boys went into the studio to record their next album, resulted in a disjointed and jumbled release.
Carl & The Passions – So Tough took its name from a pre-Beach Boys Carl Wilson group or so the story goes.
It seems that the Beach Boys did not have a lot of confidence in Carl & The Passions – So Tough. In a very strange move the Beach Boys rented the rights to Pet Sounds from their former company Capital and released it as a double album with Carl & The Passions – So Tough. Maybe they though this would give their new album some extra commercial appeal. What happened was this new release paled next to the brilliance of Pet Sounds and did not sell well.
“Here She Comes” and “Hold On Dear Brothers” are about ten minutes of Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar. Again let me say that South African funk does not match what one would expect from the Beach Boys. While the songs are competent they are not outstanding. If I want this type of music I would not seek out a Beach Boys album.
The best song contained on Carl & The Passions – So Tough is "Marcella." It featured some excellent harmonies and an innovative do-wop type vocal.
Some other highlights from this album (and there are not many) are some excellent vocals by Dennis Wilson on “Cuddle Up” and “Make It Good.” Dennis co-wrote these two songs with Daryl Dragon who would go on to pop fame as half of the Captain & Tennille. Dragons influence takes Dennis’ writing in a pop direction and proves that he is better off writing alone. “You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone” features a fine Carl Wilson vocal of this Brian Wilson song. This was the only significant contribution that Brian made to this album.
Carl & The Passions – So Tough was not commercially successful and in this case probably deservedly so. The Beach Boys would rebound, however, but having reviewed this album it will now be returned to the shelf.