Of the uncountable number of albums that have been released by artists since the advent of rock ’n’ roll, only a handful can truly be called a classic. The term may get thrown around a lot (often undeservedly), but when it comes to an album like The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” it’s hard to come up with a more fitting adjective.
Considered to be band leader Brian Wilson’s ultimate masterpiece, “Pet Sounds” was released in May 1966 — during the height of Beatlemania. Rife with soaring soundscapes and nontraditional instrumentation, along with the lush vocal harmonies the band was known for, “Pet Sounds” was an album that could simply not be ignored. But in order to create it, Wilson needed to convince his bandmates to let him skip touring and instead spend his time writing and working in the studio. His cousin and bandmate Mike Love was not on board at first.
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“I told Mike and the guys that I wanted to go off tour so I could continue writing songs,” Wilson says. “And Mike got a little emotional (about the idea). I said ‘I promise you I’ll write you some really good material.’”
Clearly, Wilson kept his promise. And now, more than 50 years later, he comes to Golden Nugget Atlantic City Saturday, Sept. 30, for what he is insisting will be part of the final performances of this album in its entirety.
“It’s one of my favorite albums that we did,” he says.
For the record, even though the group that will perform “Pet Sounds” on Saturday contains both Wilson and Al Jardine (two original members of The Beach Boys), technically speaking, the band is considered a solo project. The actual Beach Boys name is owned by Love, who is currently touring with his version of the act.
It’s all pretty confusing, but that has been the state of The Beach Boys for some time now, although the band did manage to pull off a unified tour in 2012 supporting the album “That’s Why God Made The Radio.” Fans at that point were hopeful of the band sticking together and putting out more material, but ultimately, it was not to be.
“We discussed possibly making another album after the tour, but I didn’t discuss it with Mike (Love). I only discussed it with Al Jardine,” Wilson says.
Instead, the band went their separate ways once again, but Wilson seems OK with that fact today.
“I wanted to go back to touring solo,” he says, matter-of-factly.
And so he did, heading out on the road with his half of the surviving Beach Boys. They began performing full albums, first with the legendary unreleased “Smile,” which led to the current “Pet Sounds” tour. And while “Pet Sounds” may be one of the most widely acclaimed albums ever recorded, Wilson isn’t just playing these songs because they were popular; he plays them out of a deep love and pride for the music he created.
“‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ off of ‘Pet Sounds’ is the best vocal and overall song that we ever did,” he states.
You could make that case for many of the songs that the band recorded over the course of its career, but there certainly seems to be magic embedded in the tracks that appear on “Pet Sounds.” Those lucky enough to score tickets to the show will be in for a real treat.
Three standout tracks from ‘Pet Sounds’
While the album was meant to be listened to as a whole, one can’t help but notice that certain songs on this classic album are classics themselves.
1. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
The first song on any album is always crucial, and Brian Wilson and the boys knocked it out of the park on this upbeat ode to the things that seem unfairly out of reach when you’re young and in love.
2. “Sloop John B”
The only song on the record not penned by Wilson himself, “Sloop John B” is a reimagining of a traditional Bahamian folk song about a doomed sailing venture. Originally inspired by a version done by The Kingston Trio in 1958, The Beach Boys version somehow manages to make the song seem like their own, with shimmering guitar lines and double-tracked basses blending seamlessly into the mix.
3. “God Only Knows”
Often considered one of the greatest love songs ever written, “God Only Knows” is a melodic, breathtaking ode to the power of love and the ability of one partner to elevate the other as a human being as simply stated in the song’s chorus, “God only knows what I’d be without you.” Sung by Wilson’s younger brother Carl, the vocal and instrumentation work together to create a wistful and slightly melancholic atmosphere that is only brightened by the beauty of the song’s sentiment. Rolling Stone ranked “God Only Knows” as No. 25 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs Ever Written.”