Carl Wilson


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By the end of the '70s, the Beach Boys had seemingly run the course of their creative and commercial powers, and their relationships were at an all-time low (which is really saying something). Fed up with the situation, Carl Wilson decided it was time to try something different. Armed with a solo deal from his friend James Guercio's Caribou label, he put together a band and released his self-titled debut in 1981. While it wasn’t a hit, the album’s mix of easygoing rockers and tender ballads proved a decent platform for Carl’s still beautiful voice. The follow-up, 1983’s Youngblood, follows much the same format. Slick as you’d expect a record produced by the Doobie Brothers’ Jeff Baxter, the album is filled with synthesizers, sax solos, and massed backing vocals, and sounds like a carbon copy of a million records made during the era. In fact, it’s so pedestrian, you’d be hard-pressed to remember any of the songs once the album is over, which could explain why there were no hit singles taken from it, and the album itself made no commercial impression. Still, there’s a mitigating factor and that’s Carl's voice. While as a songwriter he (and lyricist Myrna Smith-Schilling) show no interest in revisiting the poetry and musical depths of his best work of the previous decade, as a vocalist he sounds just as wonderful as he did years earlier on “I Can Hear Music” or “God Only Knows.” Listening to him soulfully shout through “Of the Times,” soar like a sad angel through album highlight “Givin’ You Up,” or croon through “Too Early to Tell” is worth the price of admission. Sadly, nothing can save the hackneyed cover of the Coasters’ “Youngblood,” but the rest of the album is rescued from anonymity by Carl’s voice. In a long career of “if onlys” that he and his brothers and bandmates amassed, Carl’s solo career is one of the biggest. If only he’d found a more interesting songwriting partner. If only he’d worked with a more challenging producer. If only he’d kept his solo career going instead of crawling back to the Beach Boys, we might have been spared “Kokomo”! Long story short, much like his first solo album, Youngblood is for Carl Wilson completists only. [In 2010 the album was issued on CD with the addition of an extra song (the single edit of “Givin' You Up”) and detailed liner notes by Carl’s brother-in-law and longtime friend Billy Hinsche.]

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