Various Artists

Making God Smile

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A gaggle of alternative CCM artists cover the music of the Beach Boys -- that sunniest of pop groups -- with unpredictable results that, surprisingly, tend toward the tastes of record collectors, as well as inspirational audiences. For one thing, executive producers Steve West and Tony Shore amply display their familiarity with what made the Beach Boys special artistically, remaking the projected cover of the legendary Smile album for their cover and directing the artists toward material from the late '60s or later. There's also a conscious focus away from the hits; other than "Good Vibrations," "Help Me Rhonda," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," and "In My Room," any listeners who know the Beach Boys mostly from oldies radio won't recognize many of these inclusions. That leaves plenty of choices for solid inspirational material, though: "Add Some Music to Your Day," "Lay Down Burden," "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times," and a pair of later Brian Wilson solo songs ("Your Imagination," "Love and Mercy"). Unfortunately, the performances vary wildly; Sixpence None the Richer and Aaron Sprinkle re-create -- and add to -- the originals with their excellent covers of songs from the classic Pet Sounds LP, but Phil Madeira's "Heroes and Villains" instrumental barely rises to the level of elevator music. Derrick Harris is feeling it just a bit too much for a twangy cover of the juvenalia anthem "Don't Worry, Baby," while overproduction mars several other versions. Doug Powell summons the lonely sense of melancholy necessary for 1971's "'Til I Die," though it's unclear why such a hymn to fatalism is even included here. (One of the more superficially obvious choices for a song on a CCM Beach Boys tribute -- 1966's "God Only Knows," regularly attributed to be the first popular song title to mention the deity -- isn't included; though the liners never state why, the likely reason is that it isn't really a song about God [the full line reads "God only knows how much I love you"].)

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