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Articles Home » 1977 Articles » Wilson, Dennis - 1977 Pacific Ocean Blue
Wilson, Dennis - 1977 Pacific Ocean Blue

ARTIST: Wilson, Dennis
ALBUM: Pacific Ocean Blue
LABEL: Caribou
SERIAL: PZ 34354
YEAR: 1977
CD REISSUE: 1991, Caribou, ZK 34354 * 2008, Caribou, 88697 31711 2 (with bonus CD)


LINEUP: Dennis Wilson - vocals, drums, keyboards * Ed Carter - guitars, bass * Ed Tuleja, Earle Mankey, John Hanlon - guitars * Jamie Jamerson, Chuck Domanico - bass * Hal Blaine, Bobby Figueroa, Ricky Fataar - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 River Song * 02 What's Wrong * 03 Moonshine * 04 Friday Night * 05 Dreamer * 06 Thoughts Of You * 07 Time * 08 You And I * 09 Pacific Ocean Blues * 10 Farewell My Friend * 11 Rainbows * 12 End Of The Show

Sometimes you find you bite off more than you can chew, and this is probably the case with me in selecting this album by Dennis Wilson to pass comment on, of course one of the Wilson dynasty. So what do I know about the Beach Boys, let alone Dennis. Well not a lot, other than those numerous hit singles. I understand that Dennis was the 'real' Beach Boy, being the only surfer also they were Keith Moon's favourite group which he even tried to join temporarily while Dennis was injured. I suppose in the UK, Brian Wilson has always been held in high regard, even performing for the Queen, although so has Ozzy Osbourne. I'll get back to this release, which I have only been acquainted with recently and while not my usual listening I found myself being drawn to it many times. I'm not sure why because many tracks are not outstanding, many seem half finished, some amount to musical doodles, ideas, thoughts but held together. I very much enjoy it, discovering new aspects and beginning to predict the next line and the next verse with more regularity, which means they are becoming more memorable. Some more facts, Dennis was the first Beach Boy to release a solo album, bear in mind he was the drummer and not the most productive of the group. At the time of release it did receive encouraging reviews, saying that, it only peaked at number 96 in an 8 week run in 1977. Unfortunately Dennis died in December 1983 accidentally from a swimming incident. This album was never officially followed up, however in 2008 when 'Pacific Ocean Blue' was re-released it contained an extra disc which essentially was the lost follow up, 'Bambu (The Caribou Sessions)'. If you are interested the re-issue is well worth purchasing for the extra tracks and extensive liner notes, which tell Dennis's story much better than I could ever attempt.

The Songs
What you get is a great collection of tunes, sometimes mellow, but enough grit not to send you to sleep. In fact 'River Song' reminds me of early Journey when Gregg Rolie would swap lines with Steve Perry, even though we don't get the great Mr Perry, but definitely a Mr Rolie style. It's probably the best tune on offer, choirs assisting the 'honest' vocals of Dennis.

Of course some tracks are just no thing, the likes of 'What's Wrong', has too much honky tonk piano and as such just doesn't cut it, I enjoy the ones that follow more of a rock path. What's noticeable is that most tracks are pretty short, in fact the majority don't even hit the 3 minute mark, is it a case of brilliant ideas, but not the courage to follow through?

'Moonshine' has some great keyboard stringing it along and Dennis is using a more lower register which is effective, and does have a reflective even a touch depressive feel, but gets the message across. This vibe is continued with 'Friday Night', an eerie guitar opening that seems to have been swiped from a 70's film soundtrack. I would imagine the film would be following a saloon car crossing the desert, with no storyline in sight, but you watch it nevertheless and like the song just as it gets interesting it finishes.

'Dreamer' is the longest track and benefits from the odd blast of horns, mixing laid back ZZ Top, before it stops and begins a second personality with light piano, before regaining the groove. What I find with parts of this tune and 'Thoughts Of You' is the similarities to Pink Floyd. Yes unexpected, but it's when the vocals seem pushed back in the mix and the music has a slow momentum that builds up and then the vocals reappear and blast out of the speakers.

'Time' has some beautiful clarinet and like much of the songs they seem to merge into one another, again laid back but the vocals are 'real', powerful and meaningful, yes I agree he would never win a Grammy for the best vocal performance, but that's not important. I enjoy them and it's good to hear a guy excelling at something he doesn't always sound totally comfortable with.

'You And I', has a Judd opening and continues to fall into the same bracket as one of my perennial favourites and as such is an easy going number that even nicks bits out of Santana. A relaxed, summer breeze condition.

Swiftly moving on to the title track (although it's 'blues' rather than 'blue') which sounds like a collaboration of David Essex and Dave Edmunds putting together a lost track that never appeared on one of the best film soundtracks of all time, in 'Stardust'. Spaced out, rock strained delight.

'Farewell To My Friend' is probably the first indicator of Dennis's past, with the vocals very much having a Beach Boys air about them, really can be classed as a short ditty.

With 'Rainbow' the second co-write with brother Carl (I have heard it said, that his two solo releases in the 80's are worth looking out for, can anybody confirm?), it's a lively track, but again soon ends, which just leaves 'End Of The Show', with Dennis sounding breathless, again the return of some classic backing vocals, more bite to the guitars, a fitting end and left on a somewhat contemplative and sombre moment.

In Summary
Look, I don't want to get too excited and class this as a classic, just because of what was to befall Dennis in his life. But I do enjoy this recording even though there are no outstanding tracks that I would need to take with me on a desert island, but it does have a 'special' appeal. Maybe it's the 'nearly' factor and what could have been achieved by Dennis if he had been more industrious. It's worth a listen but it's an album you will either enjoy or wonder what all the fuss is about, which I quite understand.

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#1 | Eric on August 10 2010 13:03:06
This album always ends up on 'best records of all time' lists by those in the know. It never did much for me. The Beach Boys have always been hit or miss, but I do very much like the groundbreaking 'Pet Sounds' from 1966 (Eric Carmen ripped some things from this album on his debut), the tripped out 'Friends' from 1968 and 'Sunflower' from 1970. The 'Sail On, Sailor' single from '73 and 'Good Timin'' from 1979 were nice as well. Stick with these and you can't go wrong.
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