"Have You Ever Been Up Salinas Way?"
It's hard to deny that the Beach Boys hit their stride on masterful Pet Sounds, but I'd like to argue that that peak merely plateaued around Pet Sounds, breeding the lovely Sunflower & Surfs Up and the majestic Holland, which was recorded in Baambrugge, The Netherlands. In a classic case of the record industry making ludicrous financial decisions, Warner Brothers allowed the Beach Boys to build a new "Clover Systems custom quadrophonic console: 30 input channels, 1000 position patch bay, 20 Dolby noise reduction units," a wide variety of microphones, custom monitoring system and a boat load of custom JBL speakers. "All equipment was designed specifically for this project by Brother Records (The Beach Boys label) in Los Angeles, then flown to Holland for this recording." Must've been sweet to be a rockstar in the '70s, when rock stars still existed.
Technically, Holland is one and a half long playing records, as Brian Wilson's bewildered "Mount Vernon and Fairway: A Fairy Tale" is included as a 7" record separate from the 12" LP. Why? Probably because Warner Bros. was freaked out by Brian's monotone spoken word about a magical transistor radio that comes alive at night and awakens teenage rock fans. The 7" is weird, and I say this as someone who eats weird for breakfast, and comes with instructions: "Please listen in the dark." Needless to say, it's a stoner's delight and one of the most fascinating, albeit bizarre, Wilson compositions.
Holland kicks off with the funky, piano driven "Sail On Sailor", a Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks collaboration with lyrics by Jack Rieley and Ray Kennedy, a bit of a departure from the usual BB's penned tunes. (You may know the song from Martin Scorcese's "The Departed".) While "Sail On Sailor" is all harmonies and pop and everything you've come to love and respect about the Boys, the real highlight here is Mike Love's mini-opera "The California Saga" made up of "Big Sur", "The Beak of Eages" and "California." It's the type of mini-epic you can't really explain, so take a listen below and enjoy the wonder that is post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys- Big Sur (Part 1 of The California Saga)
The Beach Boys- The Beak of Eagles (Part 2 of The California Saga)
The Beach Boys- California (Part 3 of The California Saga)