Dennis Wilson

Pacific Ocean Blue

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Though the roots of this 1977 album go back to the early '70s, Dennis Wilson's one issued solo project, Pacific Ocean Blue, is certainly a product of its time, both musically and texturally. The set's 12 songs reveal a songwriter who was looking to stretch out on his own and engage a vision of music that stood far outside what the Beach Boys were capable of handling or executing. Wilson himself panned the album, claiming it had no substance, and looked forward to the release of Bamboo, a record that remained unfinished and unreleased at the time of his death. (Brother Brian, however, loved the album and celebrated it with his usual childlike intensity.) Pacific Ocean Blue is a moody view of the SoCal landscape, and of Wilson's own interior life -- or his struggle to have one. From the environmental lament, "River Song," that opens the disc, we can hear a new kind of West Coast music emerging. It's not steeped in the weighty philosophical and political concerns that other Angelenos such as Jackson Browne were penning. Instead, it's a wispy rock tune revolving around a beautiful piano figure, shuffling guitars, and lyrics that take a personal concern for the state of the nature crumbling around it. "Dreamer" is a classic piece of '70s rock as it wound itself around the emerging R&B of the time, with interlaced horn lines, synths, and funky basslines cutting through the bridge and into the final verses; all steeped in a gorgeous, lush groove that even at this relaxed tempo won't quit. Mostly, however, Pacific Ocean Blue is a diary. Given that it was recorded over nearly seven years, the songs reflect the snapshot quality of Wilson's life in the studio: what he was capable of, what he learned, and how he stretched himself. Take, for example, the tender stoner balladry of "Thoughts of You" and "Time;" with their languid, echoing piano hovering in the mix with a shadow presence as Wilson sings with a longing that is true, yet muted by his seeming resignation to things being a total loss. The latter track also features a moody trumpet solo reminiscent of Chet Baker and transforms itself into a horn-driven anthem by its nadir. This album is a classic, blissed-out, coked-up slice of '70s rock and pop that is as essential as Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. [There is a bootleg version of Pacific Ocean Blue that contains -- besides a master that is every bit as good as the released version -- five bonus tracks (mostly backing vocal tracks) that may not be everybody's cup of tea, but fanatics will absolutely have to have them.]

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