Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: 'The Beach Boys with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra'

What does a record company issue when a valuable property’s back catalogue has already been remastered, remixed, repackaged, rereleased, and rejiggered more times than anyone could count? Something like The Beach Boys with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, I guess.

Superimposing Muzak strings onto a simple rocker like “Fun, Fun, Fun” or “Kokomo”, a song that no one but Mike Love remembers fondly, is a terrible idea. Productions such as those on Pet Sounds are already sufficiently orchestral. Yet there are possibilities. Some of The Beach Boys’ more unfinished-sounding tracks—say “Cool, Cool Water”, much of Smiley Smile, or oddities such as “Can’t Wait Too Long” –might have been interesting if finished off with arrangements more in the experimental spirit of such pieces. The fairly complementary and relatively dissonant orchestrations on “Heroes and Villains” (the only track exclusively recorded for Smiley Smile in the bunch) support this. The one other track that survives the orchestral treatment is “Darlin’”, which receives an understated bed of sweeping strings in the Philly Soul vein. However, by mostly playing it safe and only tampering with The Beach Boys’ most familiar tunes instead of seeking out oddities that might actually benefit from this concept, conductors/composers Steve Sidwell and Sally Herbert smear a layer of pap over some of the most perfect productions in pop.
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