The first Beach Boys album release of the 1970’s was Sunflower. Just by looking at the cover you could tell that change was in the air. The Beach Boys were dressed differently and surrounded by their children. The Beach Boys, for better or worse, had left the surf and cars behind. The exception to all this was Bruce Johnston who was wearing a sweater that looked like it had been recycled from the Beach Boys Today cover shoot.
As Brian Wilson reduced his commitment and participation in the creation of the Beach Boys sound, the other members of the group began to step forward. While the commercial sales from the early '70’s albums were minimal, the creative level was excellent. The Beach Boys would produce two excellent albums (Sunflower and Surf’s Up), one very good album (Holland) and one album that almost defies description (Carl and The Passions).
The first four songs from Sunflower were wonderfully written and produced and when taken as a collective unit are one of the best creations the Beach Boys ever produced.
“Slip On Through” features a good Dennis Wilson vocal but it is the production that shines. Dennis’s voice rides over some complex harmonies and numerous chord changes. This may have been one of Dennis Wilson’s finest hours in the studio. He proves here that he could not only write but also produce quality songs in the Beach Boys style and tradition.
“This Whole World” features the voices of Carl and Brian Wilson. Just the brief harmonies at the end of the song are worth the price of admission.
I have always considered “Add Some Music To Your Day’ as one of the elite songs by the Beach Boys. This group effort is a celebration of music. The harmonies build, ebb and flow with surprises at every turn. It has a symphonic feel without all the instruments. I have always wondered what this song would sound like live.
“Got To Know The Woman” is the vehicle for one of Dennis Wilson’s finest vocals. It has a gritty soul vocal laid against a pop background. A honky tonk piano forms the instrumental foundation of the song. All these elements combine to make this song memorable.
“Deirdre” is the first of three Bruce Johnston songs. “Tears In The Morning” and “At My Window” will follow. Johnston has a nice voice but his songs, while pleasant, tend to be more light weight pop than the other songs contained on Sunflower.
“Forever” is the third Dennis Wilson song on the album. Here we have Dennis’ solo vocal while harmonies continue to build around it. Given Dennis Wilson’s future I always remember the line “I’m going away but not forever.”
“Cool Cool Water” is a song that has somewhat of an odd structure. It never quite gets going despite tantalizing the listener right up to its conclusion.
Sunflower, for the most part, is a wonderfully creative album. While its reception by buying public was less than stellar, Rolling Stone magazine rated it the 380th best album of all time on their top 500 list.
Sunflower remains an excellent listening experience as it takes the listener on a journey of sound and song as presented by the maturing Beach Boys.