Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Fresh, Up-To-Date Look At The Wrecking Crew and Love And Mercy

Vintage Vinyl News is reporting that due to the overwhelming success of Brian Wilson's movie 'Love and Mercy' which has opened in the US to critical acclaim, Brian has had to postpone his current UK tour planned for September 2015, due to commitments in the US. He will be back in the UK and Europe in 2016 with a string of concerts to mark the 50th Anniversary of his seminal album 'Pet Sounds', which will be his final European tour.     

Brian says:      

I'm sorry I won't be able to make these shows this year, but I look forward to seeing all my fans in 2016 to help me celebrate 50 years of 'Pet Sounds'. This will be my final European tour. I hope you all enjoy my movie when it opens in the UK on July 10th. 
I'll see you all soon.

Ironically, Denny Tedesco is in Great Britain right now, too, promoting (and preparing for British release) his "Wrecking Crew" documentary.  The popularity of this music is about to go through the roof again ... and yet less and less radio stations are programming the music of the '60's.  I'm telling you, you're missing out.  Instead of being on the LEADING edge, you're going to find yourself on the BLEEDING edge, once all the other stations on the dial beat you to the punch on this one!  The nearly 100% positive response to the Brian Wilson film "Love And Mercy" (yes, I know ... we were one of the few negative ones) will boost Beach Boys music as well.  A whole new generation is about to discover the exciting sounds of the '60's.  Don't Miss Out!!!  (kk)

Speaking of The Wrecking Crew (of which Glen Campbell was once a member), it was especially moving to see some of these original guys reunite to help Glen record his final single "I'm Not Gonna Miss You", the closing track to the excellent documentary film "I'll Be Me". The film finally aired on CNN over the weekend, breaking ALL ratings records for the network ... and deservedly so.  It is well worth seeking out .. a very moving, poignant look at a man once so dear to our hearts battling the latter stages of Alzheimers Disease. It is sad to watch Campbell's progression into darkness ... today his family is fighting over proper healthcare issue as Glen is basically incapacitated in virtually every way.  What started out as a five week farewell tour, grew to a year and a half on the road, clearly more than he was truly capable of at the time.  You see the whole stretch unfold (and fall apart) before your eyes and at times it's difficult to watch.  On the one hand, too many people wanted to see him perform one more time and say goodbye ... and to that extent, the fans remained faithful and supportive.  But on the other hand, it is now clear to see that this all became more than Glen ...  or his family ... could handle.  Check your local listings for repeat airings. (I believe it runs again Friday and Saturday night.)  kk

Friday, I went to the movie "The Wrecking Crew" and then today to "Love & Mercy."  It was interesting to see the REAL Wrecking Crew and then actors playing them in the Brian Wilson biographical movie.   It is kind of sad to watch the film, but it really showcases lots of things I had no idea really happened, as well as many I did know.  His current wife is portrayed as a HUGE role in his regaining his life, which I had never known.  Anyway, it was interesting to see both movies close together.  "The Wrecking Crew" TRULY brought tears to my eyes at the end, mainly due to all the incredible music I loved being done by so many uncredited players, I GUESS???  I still love all the acts and their groups, but gotta give props to the studio guys as well.  I remember a Grass Roots album back cover that actually listed the Wrecking Crew members as players on the LP!!  How cool!  
Clark Besch    

Not many of the artists wanted credit given to the guys who were actually making the music.  Some (like The Association in particular) did not want ANY reference to any outside source participating on their records ... they took the "smoke and mirrors" route, preferring instead that every single fan out there believed the band themselves were responsible for creating every single note.   

One of my favorite lines from the EXCELLENT Wrecking Crew book "Sound Explosion!" by Ken Sharp (a MUST HAVE if you're a fan of the film ... as you get TONS of exclusive photographs of artists and session logs ... along with comments from the recording artists, producers and studio musicians who were there creating all these classics") comes from Hal Blaine, who tells us: "Bruce Gary, the drummer for The Knack, came up to me once and said, 'The biggest disappointment I had in my life was finding out a dozen of my favorite drummers were you.'"  (LOL)  Crazy ... but true!!!  (kk) 

For my "amended" "Love And Mercy" review, see below.  If you're expecting a complete turn-around in my opinion, prepare to be disappointed ... just as I was when I saw the film again ...   

LOVE AND MERCY - Review, Part Deux 

As I promised I would, I went to go see "Love And Mercy" again. Honestly, the second viewing didn't change my opinion much ... I still don't like what I didn't like about the film ... but I DID come away with a greater appreciation for all the studio shots of The Beach Boys recording the "Pet Sounds" album ... but quite honestly that just reinforced in my mind all that this movie COULD have been had they spent the same attention to detail and passion used here elsewhere in the film.  

I still cannot accept John Cusak in the older Brian Wilson role ... it just doesn't work for me ... and while it is THIS period that is supposed to be the central focus of the film, it simply isn't as interesting a story as everything else that came before it.  (I still don't like the way the film cuts back and forth between '60's Brian and '80's Brian either ... very annoying!)  I guess Cusak is supposed to represent the physically healthier Brian, older, thinner and more drawn ... but because the film never explores the UNHEALTHY period of Brian's life, showing him at his physical worst, the appearance of Cusack seems to come out of nowhere.  I'm just not convinced, in this day and age of technology, that they needed to double-cast the role.  A few readers have written in to say that they would have preferred Dano filling the role throughout the film.  On second viewing, I couldn't help but feeling the whole while that I was sitting there that if somebody would edit together ONLY the Paul Dano Brian portion of the film ... from start to finish ... that the results of THAT film would blow THIS film ... the film that actually got made ... away in spades.  

I just don't believe that you can show Brian's difficult period without showing all that led up to it ... Brian in bed for three years ... Brian in his blue bathrobe ... Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi hauling Brian to the beach  "Let's go surfin' now ... everybody's learning how ... come on a safari with us" ... because THAT is the Brian Wilson that is engrained in all of our minds.  (And you cannot help but smile, scratch your head and be entertained by those images ... if only because Brian SURVIVED it all and came out a stronger man.)  

Think about it ... Brian had a nervous breakdown on the plane and quit touring for YEARS ... yet today he flies all over the world, performing concert after concert with perhaps the most accomplished back-up band on the planet.  Who would have EVER thought this possible ... and yet he's been a vital musical force again for YEARS now.  While the film portrays Landy as an over-the-top villain, how else could ANY of this have been possible without his meddling and mentoring?  

Yes, Landy was a bully and his methods were unorthodox if not completely insane ... but a very large percentage of them worked.  Forgetting the control-freak part of the equation, Landy got Wilson healthy again ... knocking off 150 pounds and getting him on a work-out regimen and eating right ... got him writing, singing, performing and producing music again ... and probably saved his life.  (The film also fails to show a "healthy" Brian back out on the road performing again, other than a clip of the REAL Brian Wilson singing the film's title track "Love And Mercy" over the end credits.)  In the scheme of things that is a pretty remarkable accomplishment ... where it all went wrong is when he placed too a high a value on his services.  But quite honestly who else could have gotten through?  His entire family had already given up.  Even his bandmates abandoned him.  NOBODY thought Brian could be saved ... and, in effect, they left him to die.  NONE of that part of the story is even touched upon in this film.  Did he reach a point where Brian Wilson needed to break away from Dr. Landy?  Yes.  Did Brian Wilson need the services and guidance of Dr. Landy in order to survive?  Absolutely yes.  If we're all being honest, there probably isn't a single Beach Boys fan out there among us that in his truest heart of hearts doesn't believe that Brian Wilson would have been the LEAST likely Wilson brother to survive to this point in time ... and NONE of that would have been possible without the help and support ... unorthodox as it may have been ... of one Dr. Eugene Landy. 

My point here isn't to be pro-Landy ... but the film makes no bones about taking the opposite approach, showing only the controlling and abusive aspect of his relationship with Brian.  Had ANY attention been paid to how Brian got to the point of requiring the help and attention he needed, perhaps a truer picture could have been captured ... but that is clearly not this film's intent ... and to that degree, I feel they've rewritten an important chapter in Brian Wilson's story ... or, more accurately, simply left it out.  I couldn't help but feel that they went into this with a planned agenda ... and weren't going to let anything (like opposing considerations) stand in their way.  To that degree, I feel they have deceived the public.  There's not so much as a hint of how Landy improved Brian's health ... he is only portrayed as a vicious, controlling villain.  Isn't the truth somewhere in between?

Will I buy the DVD when it becomes available?  Yes ... it still has a place in my collection ... and I will dig it out from time to time to enjoy that which I like most about it.  (Today's theater had about eight people in it so it may have already run its course here in The States ... the novelty has already been seen by the die-hard fans, most of whom have universally praised the film.  Forgotten Hits seems to be the ONLY consistently negative review circulating out there.)
However, I should point out that this time the first thing we did when we got home from the theater was watch the incredible 1984 Beach Boys Documentary "America's Band", which DOES show Brian at his lowest point ... as well as his healthy rebound.  However, in hindsight, it also glosses over other aspects of The Beach Boys' lives that might otherwise portray them in a less-flattering light.  

Do I raise my rating of the film?  (Originally, we rated this film a "2" on a scale of 1 - 10.)  Ok, yes I will ... but in order to do so, I have to break the film down into three aspects, which, in all fairness, is not the way one should review a movie.  A 1-10 ranking should be based on the overall impression and not a good / bad "parts" evaluation.  However, I will admit on second viewing that all of the Pet Sounds studio footage now gets a "7" ... all of the other Paul Dano scenes rank a "5" ... anything pertaining to '80's Wilson, Melinda and Landy remains a "2" (although I still think Elizabeth Banks ... and her wardrobe ... look amazing in this film.  Like I said before, Melinda must have sold a WHOLE lotta cars to be able to dress the way she did!)  Taking all of these considerations into account, I guess that raises my overall rating to about a "4 - 4.5" ... but I still feel the need to qualify that by saying that I'm giving it a "generous 4.5" at best.  (kk)