Ocean in a Box
Once upon a time... I dreamed I was playing the entire 'Pet Sounds' album as a guitar suite. Upon awaking, I thought 'What the hell....Why not?'. I got out of bed and started to work on 'Would't It Be Nice'. Unfortunately, the first section made a nifty little guitar rag, and I was already in too deep. Brian Wilson renders complex emotions with a palette of equally complex harmonic ideas. The sudden appearance of an unusual chord in a Beach Boys song is usually a tip-off that we are entering unusual psychic terrain. As a player versed in primarily traditional idioms, I found Brian's harmonically sophisticated and densely-layered music challenging to say the least. Consequently, I did not attempt to play these tunes the way a jazz or classical guitarist might. My interpretations are fairly literal; learning what Brian was up to was the challenge for me. I followed a wandering path of discovery through each tune, and there were some surprises along the way. Who would have guessed that 'California Girls' would become a country blues when played as a guitar solo, or that the emotional lift in the last verse of 'Warmth of the Sun' is provided by one of the most invisible half-step modulations in all of pop music? But, you may ask, a 'folk' record of Beach Boys tunes? As a Westcoaster, this is primal music to me, the music of my people. The first record to really impress my pre-teen self was my neighbor's copy of 'Surfin' U.S.A.' (Thanks, Randy!) My work with these tunes is probably most informed, however indirectly, by my experience with Hawai'ian slack-key music. In fact there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the big defining influence on west coast harmony singing (Hi-Los, Four Freshmen, Beach Boys) was Hawai'ian harmony singing. And I'm not even going to bring up the surfing connection! Sometimes the tunes have been transposed to new keys, allowing me to take full advantage of the guitar's open strings. The obsessive fan may notice that some arrangements incriminate me as an owner of bootlegs. I hope players and listeners alike will have some fun with this little record, and maybe hear these songs in a new way. Brian Wilson's music perfectly captures the vague melancholy of a cloud briefly passing in front of the sun on a bright spring day; that bittersweet feeling where joy and sadness are inextricably intertwined. To me, it expresses a hard-won peace and acceptance in the face of pain. My involvement with this music has helped me through some hard times, and I hope some of this uplifting beauty is reflected in these humble arrangements. The strengths are in the songs, the shortcomings are my own....Thanks, Brian !