Mike Love had the idea for the Beach Boys to travel to Nashville and provide backing vocals for some of the leading country artists of the day. These country artists would of course sing classic Beach Boys songs.
I had doubts about this project before the album was released in 1996 but the results were not half bad. As with any album of this type the songs range from very good to below average depending on the right country artist being matched to an appropriate Beach Boys song. This was not an easy task at times as many of the Beach Boys songs are unique and ingrained into the American consciousness.
Mike Love, as the executive producer, had the good sense to ask Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas to co-produce the album. Brian was feeling well at this point in his career and the Beach Boys harmonies throughout the album are crisp and clear plus the production sounds very modern.
There were some excellent covers contained on Stars and Stripes Volume 1.
“Don’t Worry Baby” is the first track and leads off with beautiful Beach Boys harmonies. You immediately realize that Brian is back. It is interesting to hear a woman singing this love song. Lorrie Morgan’s clear voice rises above the harmonies. The beat has been changed a bit but it works well here.
“Sloop John B” by Colin Raye and “I Can Hear Music” by Kathy Troccoli both stick close to the originals. Both songs feature stellar harmonies in support of the good lead vocals. “I Can Hear Music” features a subtle sax throughout and a great Beach Boys a Capella sound near the end. Both songs benefit from modern production techniques.
Willie Nelson sings “The Warmth Of The Sun.” I could almost visualize this song without hearing it. This slow ballad was a good choice for Nelson. His rough understated delivery is a good counterpoint for subtle harmonies by the Beach Boys.
“Caroline No” by Timothy B. Schmidt is another perfect match of artist and song. His voice is very similar to Brian Wilson’s of the late 1960’s and this is a unique and excellent translation of a wonderful song from the Beach Boys past.
There are a few songs that just miss. Toby Keith tackles “Be True To Your School.” Listening to him sing this song today just goes against his bad boy image. It comes across as too cute for his style. “Little Deuce Coupe” features a James House vocal with some of the best harmonies on the album in support. They probably should have put the lead vocal within the harmonies as it cannot match their perfection. “Long Tall Texan” by Doug Supernaw is actually o.k. He takes the song into his country comfort zone and emerges with a credible effort on the weakest song contained on the album.
There are only a couple of real misses on Star and Stripes Volume 1. Junior Brown just does not have a voice to fit “409.” This problem is compounded with a steel guitar break in the middle. Sawyer Brown cannot pull off “I Get Around.” The vocals are strained to begin with and are eventually overwhelmed by the purity of the harmonies. “I Get Around” is a song that should remain the exclusive property of the Beach Boys.
Stars and Stripes Volume 1 is an album that I find pleasant. While it is labeled a Beach Boys album in their catalogue that really is not the case.
Nonetheless the harmonies and Brian Wilson’s production shine through. In the final analysis it is a fun listen and given the state of the Beach Boys career in 1996 that was enough.