The Beach Boys

Brother/Reprise, 1973


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


Few would have guessed, but 1973 saw the release of the last great Beach Boys album. From this point on, the group would experience diminishing returns, content to live off of their reputation as an oldies group, and releasing increasingly lackluster and disjointed records. Holland, at times, reminds the listener of just what made The Beach Boys special from every other group.

Continuing the trend set with their previous release, Carl And The Passion, Holland comes across as a decidedly earthy collection of tunes, some purposefully recalling the glory days and others providing a glimpse of what could have been. The addition of Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin lent a harder edge to the proceedings; they may not have been able to blend in with the group as well as men like Bruce Johnston, but with them present, The Beach Boys could experiment in ways they never could before.

The shining example of such a course is present with the lead track and lead single. “Sail On Sailor” remains one of the most underrated songs from the band’s catalogue and should have been a monster hit. Blondie Chaplin steps up to the mic for lead vocals and perfectly captures the rustic essence of the Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks partnership. The band’s famed love with the ocean is framed in a different light here; instead of reveling in the joys it has to offer, the narrator is beset on all sides by it. Despite all the trials faced, the narrator summons up the strength to “Sail On Sail On Sailor.” A powerful song, and the high point of the 1970’s output from The Beach Boys.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Having recorded the album in Holland, some of the members of the group felt a sense of longing for their home of California. Their emotions resulted in the mini suite “California Saga.” The first two offerings, “Big Sur” and “The Beaks Of Eagles,” suffer from the unfortunate hokeyness that affected many a latter day Beach Boys song. “…Eagles” features prominent spoken-word deliveries from Mike Love and Al Jardine that fail to connect. However, the third portion of the saga more than makes up for the shortcomings of the previous two tracks. Its infectious chorus, pulsating Moog bass and vintage Beach Boys harmonies aren’t the only aspects to the song that work well but actively bring memories to the surface of those storied Beach Boys albums of the past.

Side 2 (Yes, I have this album on vinyl) kicks off with another underrated Carl Wilson penned tune, “Trader.” His brother may have been the genius en vogue during the 1960’s, but Carl kept the band alive during the turbulent ‘70s and became one hell of a songwriter in the process. The multilayered, textured “Trader” describes the travels of an individual observing a world with both its beauty and corruption. Holding everything together is the voice that brought life to “God Only Knows,” a voice always welcome.

“Leaving This Town” allows Blondie Chaplin to once again move to center stage, and begs the question of just why he was removed from the band. His soulful vocals make the track, along with a ‘70s prog rock-esque synthesizer solo. “Only With You” has the making of a successful ballad, featuring a particularly pained vocal from Carl Wilson, yet it becomes a forgetful side-note. “Funky Pretty” went on to become one of the more recognized tracks from the album, but its status is unearned. Echoing the Wild Honey days, the R&B number never settles into a suitable groove, and it stalls out as the album’s closer.

The Beach Boys’ tailspin would shortly ensue after the release of Holland, with multiple attempts to drum up interest in the band (“Brian Is Back!” comes to mind.) Despite the firmest wishes of the members of the group, that sort of creative and financial success was not to be. Holland would not be the last gasp of a great band, but it would be their final, strong push towards the finish line.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Brother/Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.