Monday, 6 August 2018

The Beach Boys - Friends (1968)


Released June 1968

Recorded in Los Angeles

After a reasonably calm album in "Wild Honey" after a turbulent year prior to that, The Beach Boys seemed to have managed to get together again, in a reasonable state of mind.

In contrast to 1968's surfeit of psychedelic rock albums from the likes of Cream, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, the bluesy "Beggars' Banquet" from The Rolling Stones and student rebellions taking place and so on, The Beach Boys recorded this incredibly peaceful, airy, light and relaxing album round at Brian Wilson's house. All the nonsense from "Smiley Smile" seemed to have dissipated and the result was a very short, commercially very unsuccessful album. It seemed a complete cultural irrelevance. It is, however, an entirely pleasant listening experience. It must be noted, also, that Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Byrds released laid-back country-influenced at the same time. The problem with the album is that it was neither joyful, lively surf music nor inventive "Good Vibrations"-style works of genius. It was just peaceful and, to be blunt, just a bit ordinary. It is all tranquil and harmonious enough, however, with excellent sound quality, and is a gentle half hour's listen. A group other than The Beach Boys would probably not have got away with it. Actually, they didn't, particularly, either. It sold poorly and their stock fell considerably.


1. Meant For You
2. Friends
3. Wake The World
4. Be Here In The Mornin'
5. When A Man Needs A Woman
6. Passing By
7. Anna Lee, The Healer
8. Little Bird
9. Be Still
10. Busy Doin' Nothin'
11. Diamond Head
12. Transcendental Meditation

"Wake The World" is beautiful and tender, with some lovely background brass backing, but it ends far too soon. "Be Here In The Mornin'" is a fetchingly hippy-ish number, as indeed is the relaxing, melodic title track. "When A Man Needs A Woman" is a jaunty, pleasant little song about impending fatherhood. All very chilled-out, at one with the world. "Passing By" contains only backing vocals over an appealing, fairground-ish organ backing. "Anna Lee, The Healer" is obviously influenced by Mike Love's meditative experiences in Rishikesh, complete with some Eastern-sounding percussion. It also has an addictive bass sound and a rock'n'roll instrumental refrain (possibly from The Rascals' "Good Lovin'"). "Little Bird" has a sort of Beatles-style strings backing in places.

To be honest, the rest of the album is like that which has gone before - all very inoffensive, unthreatening, mature and quiet. The instrumental, "Diamond Head", notably, features the sounds of waves gently lapping against the shore. It acts as a symbol of the album. It gently washes over you.


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