Recorded: 26 September - 15 November 1967
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Bruce Beatlefan (July 29, 2008)
The two most noteworthy features about Wild Honey are its dazzling album cover, my favorite of all Beach Boys covers with the bee grinnin' that grin, and the Carl Wilson vocal performances. He has already shown a flawless vocal in songs like "God Only Knows" from Pet Sounds and "Good Vibrations" from Smiley Smile, but here Carl dominates the vocals, singing with an abandon uncharacteristic of other Beach Boys vocalists, and a willingness to stretch his voice to sound melodramatic and even soulful.
Wild Honey was issued only three months after the startlingly un-Beach Boy-like Smiley Smile album, and bears characteristics of both that album and the albums to follow (Friends, 20/20), but it stands alone, not really fitting neatly into any other recognizable Beach Boys sound. Nine of the eleven songs were B.Wilson/M.Love collaborations, but certainly nothing in Wild Honey sounds anything like the other great Wilson/Love songs from All Summer Long or Summer Days (& Summer Nights). These songs are more basic in construction ("Country Air" and "Mama Says" are little more than chants) and designed to sound more soulful ("Wild Honey", "Darlin' ", Here Comes the Night", and "Let The Wind Blow" -- all sung by Carl). One cover song, Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her", reinforces the R&B tendencies of the album, and the one remaining track, the rocking "How She Boogalooed It" looks to the future by being the first Beach Boys original which did not involve Brian Wilson at all (being credited to Love, Jardine, C. Wilson, and D. Wilson)--and oh, by the way, this is the first album in which Bruce Johnston is officially recognized as a sixth member of the group.
There are a few changes to get used to in this album, but there are some classic Beach Boys moments. "Wild Honey" and "Darlin'" are superb Carl Wilson vocals which became hit singles. "Country Air" is a lovely upbeat offering, you can almost feel and smell the country air while listening. "Let the Wind Blow" is another remarkable Carl Wilson vocal which became a concert favorite through the 1970's. Mike Love is heard far less than in previous Beach Boys albums, but serves up one of his finest moments trading vocals with Brian in the excellent song "Aren't You Glad", and the album concludes in humorous fashion with the minute-long extract from the Smile project, "Mama Says".
Most reviewers regard Wild Honey as the Beach Boys' "R & B album" and they are not wrong. It is definitely different from the Beach Boys California Dream sound of years past and is a rewardingly new cup of tea.
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