The Beach Boys

I Can Hear Music

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The linchpin of the Beach Boys, Carl Wilson not only voiced some of the group's most transcendent songs but was the lone member keeping various factions of the band together in the '70s, after brothers Brian and Dennis became erratic forces in the Beach Boys' fortunes. I Can Hear Music, a 2002 collection from Japanese Capitol, is the first disc to include only songs with lead vocals from Carl, and shows fans a portion of the Beach Boys' persona -- delicate, indecisive, continually swept away by the power of music and love -- they may not have realized was so strongly a function of Carl himself. Beginning with the title song, taken from 1969's 20/20, Wilson is revealed as the old soul of the group, a force that balanced the good-time fun of Mike Love with the adolescent yearning of Brian Wilson, with elements of the former ("Good Vibrations") and the latter ("Girl Don't Tell Me"). He was spiritual but never goofy, emotive but never hokey (a weakness both Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnston occasionally surrendered to), and the only member of the band with soul. His performances on "Long Promised Road" and "God Only Knows," to spotlight only two, didn't make the songs hits upon release, but allowed them a long shelf life that, decades later, made them more familiar for fans than Beach Boys hits of the surf-and-sun years. Along with Dennis and Brian, he created beautifully wracked ballads during the '70s; songs like "The Night Was So Young" and "I'll Bet He's Nice" that showed the Beach Boys aging very ungracefully, but honestly. Granted, the collected best performances of any individual Beach Boy would be an enlightening listen, but the power of Carl's artistic persona makes this one special.

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