Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week we take a look at The Beach Boys, Barclay James Harvest, Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring.
The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra:
The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
There are few catalogues more beloved than that of The Beach Boys, and subjecting their iconic songs to symphonic makeovers adding new arrangements from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – conducted by Steve Sidwell & Sally Herbert under the production of Don Reedman & Nick Patrick – is a bold move, even though it has paid off handsomely for similar projects revitalising the catalogues of Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison. 17 tracks are included, spanning the years 1964 to 1988, and they have won the unanimous approval of The Beach Boys themselves, with Brian Wilson ‘proud and humbled’, Mike Love judging the project ‘a phenomenal thing’ and Bruce Johnston complementing ‘the beautiful fairy dust of the orchestra’. As one who came to the project with mixed feelings, I am pleased to report that overall, it seems to have worked well. I particularly enjoyed the treatment given to the collection’s earliest song Fun Fun Fun, whose original surf guitar intro now follows a lush orchestral intro, which then melts into it. 1968 hit Darlin’ is also given extra depth and resonance by an intelligent and sweeping arrangement that envelops the band’s classic harmonies and adds extra sparkle. The already symphonic elegance of God Only Knows and Good Vibrations is probably less well served, especially the latter, whose instant familiarity is held at bay by a superfluous 25 second intro, and whose textured soundscape is a little compromised. I would personally rather hear the tracks as originally recorded but as an alternative it’s fine – and anything that brings new converts to the music of The Beach Boys has to be good.
Barclay James Harvest:
Barclay James Harvest
(Esoteric PECLEC 42627)
Barclay James Harvest developed into one of The UK’s most prolific, melodic and symphonic progressive rock bands – and it all started here, with their eponymous debut, which is now the subject of a deluxe four disc limited edition box set, newly remastered from the original multi-track masters, with 33 additional bonus tracks, including demos, radio sessions and stereo mixes; a DVD featuring new 5.1 surround stereo mixes and a short promotional film; and a 68 page booklet. Sadly, only the simultaneously released expanded single CD (PECLEC 2628) was serviced but even this is a significant upgrade on the original seven song album, with nine bonus tracks. As the initial signings to EMI’s Harvest label – which took its name from the band – BJH took nearly two years to perfect the grandiose but accessible fusion of rock and orchestra, which made the album a cult success, with the late Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman one of its biggest fans. It failed to chart at the time but is one of the band’s best albums, with a great production from Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith, and an intelligent selection of songs. It gets off to a flyer with Taking Some Time On, an insidious pop/psych track that rattles along at a fair old rate. The shortest track, The Iron Maiden, sounds like a Moody Blues outtake, while the longest track – the 12m closer, Dark Now My Sky – is wonderfully bloated and episodic with a theatrical spoken word intro giving way to a lengthy instrumental passage, then a brief vocal interlude thereafter building to a climax, before ending on a more sublime, pastoral note.
Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present Paris In The Spring
(Ace CDCHD 1525)
St. Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs have put together a number of excellent releases over the past few years, and the latest is a continental cousin to their 2017 Ace compilation, English Weather. France has always marched to the beat of its own drum – tambour – musically, and the previously dominant ye-ye style was almost played out by the time the country was riven with by civil unrest in 1968. A picture from the time makes an unappetising but evocative cover image for Paris In The Spring which documents the simultaneous cultural revolution, which as Bob Stanley observes, ‘allowed the previously separate worlds of chanson, jazz, pop and film soundtracks to blend into each other’. More serious and complex than ye-ye, it is illustrated by 23 recordings here, dating from 1967 to 1976. Typical of the new breed, Triangle’s ethereal, slightly progressive Litanies is a distinctly Gallic piece of mood music, as is Serge Gainsbourg’s filmic Evelyn, while Encore Lui is a perfect vehicle he wrote for Jane Birkin at a time their personal relationship was very strong. Ye-ye graduate Francoise Hardy offers the enigmatic Viens, while Janko Nilovic’s Roses And Revolvers in an impressive and at times pretty, wigged-out instrumental. Overall, it is a musically introspective but compelling look at what many regard as the golden age of French pop.