Brian Wilson – Yes, The Brian Wilson – founding member and main songwriter and eventually producer of The Beach Boys (see B). What a guy, and what a life. In 1964 he had a nervous breakdown and stopped performing live with the band, though he continued writing and producing, including the wonderful ‘Good Vibrations’ in 1966. However increasing drug use took its toll and by ’68 he was in a mental institution. Recovering slightly, he continued writing and producing – but less and less. He became a recluse for a few years but has gradually rehabilitated himself and started making solo albums again in the 90s. My few albums of his start with Imagination (1998). Well, it is very Beach Boy sounding, but the songs are really not so great – which is to be expected I suppose. The production is very middle of the road and a bit saccharine – but Brian’s voice is still pretty good; lots of stacked vocals – but mostly lacking that excitement of the Sixties. Best songs – ‘Your Imagination’, ‘She says She Needs Me’ and ‘Sunshine’. I also have That Lucky Old Sun (2008). Quite a pleasant record – apparently, a concept album, though it sounded like a bunch of songs, mostly about California. Brian’s voice is noticeably lower bur still good. Best songs – the title song, ‘Mexican Girl’ and ‘Southern California’. I also have s freebie given away with one of the Sundays, misleadingly titled Good Vibrations – it is basically live versions by Brian of old Beachboy numbers. A strange listen; the songs of course are brilliant – and even these slightly weak interpretations cheer you up and you find yourself humming along to them – but then again, realising what a great little group they used to be.
Dennis Wilson – After ‘Holland’, in which the Beachboys, mostly minus Brian, took a remarkable new direction, Dennis released a solo album called Pacific Ocean Blue. I missed it at the time, and long after Dennis had died it was released along with some demo’s as a double album earlier this century. The music press raved about it, and I bought it. Only to be largely disappointed. Really nothing to say about this record – it left me cold when I bought it and again on re-listening. A pity, as with better production it could have been at least a nice sequel to his life. I think he was trying too hard to move out of the shadows of the band without really having the voice or songs to change enough. Oh well.
Cassandra Wilson – I don’t really know much about this cool American jazzy blues singer. Only the one record New Moon Daughter (1995), and quite listenable it is – though this is not my usual genre at all. Quite pleasant really, though too slow in many places. Best tracks – ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ and ‘Harvest moon’ – but that’s because I know the original versions.
Mari Wilson – I first heard her on a Radio 1 live concert, singing with the Fabulous Poodles. I fell in love with her voice. She sung very shiny pop songs with great choruses. Two albums; Rhythm Romance (1991). She sings great cover versions of ‘Cry Me A River’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’, but I really love ‘Someone To Watch Over me’ and ‘Lover Man’. A really good record. Only bettered by her greatest hits Platinum Collection. Big Hits include ‘Just What I Always Wanted’ and ‘Wonderful To Be With You’, but I also really like ‘Dr. Love’ – and really all the other tracks too. Great singer.
Amy Winehouse – Never a huge fan, though this tragic lady had a very good voice, quite similar to a lot of early soul singers. Just the one album Back To Black. Best songs – ‘You Know I’m No Good’ and ‘Me and Mr. Jones.’ But the rest just passed me by.
Steve Winwood – Loved him in Spencer Davis and Traffic and I did have Arc of A Diver on Vinyl and now only on Cassette. I bought a later solo effort ‘Junction 7’ from a charity shop and wished I hadn’t wasted the pound. Very boring…I also have Revolutions – a greatest hits, which is fab. Love most of it (except Blind Faith) even the solo stuff is pretty good. Best are the early Spence David and Traffic songs and ‘Valerie’.