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A Tribute to Brian Wilson

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Album Review

Cameron Michael Parkes, the one-man studio band behind A Tribute to Brian Wilson, has a list of Southern California music credentials that make him a natural for this project. Besides a long history of Beach Boys fandom, he's a musician and television/film composer, plays in a band (Box o' Clox) that enjoyed enough familiarity with Wilson to record one of his unreleased compositions, and also had the high honor of recording at Brother Studios in 1977 alongside Wilson himself (although Parkes' photographic evidence of such, in the liner notes, has him holding only a tambourine). It may have benefited this recording, though, if Parkes could claim some distance from the Beach Boys; his tribute to Wilson is faithful to the point of reverence, with arrangements that are mostly re-creations of the originals (with a fine layer of digital studio gloss added onto the top). Nonetheless, Parkes makes the disc interesting for Brian Wilson fans by using his knowledge — and connections — to dig up some of the rarest songs in the Wilson canon. Early on in this chronological program, Parkes performs a trio of Wilson's outside productions from 1962-1964 — "Gonna Hustle You" for Jan & Dean, "Number One" for Rachel & the Revolvers, and "She Rides With Me" for Paul Peterson. The focus on Beach Boys arcana continues throughout the rest of the record. Parkes skips over nearly every one of the group's Top 40 hits to concentrate on songs of interest to the hardcore fan — three of the tracks from the aborted Smile project and a few of Wilson's endearingly eccentric Beach Boys tunes from the late '60s and '70s ("I Went to Sleep," "I'll Bet He's Nice," "I Wanna Pick You Up," even "A Day in the Life of a Tree"). Parkes doesn't even stop there, dredging up a track from Mike Love's group Celebration ("Almost Summer") and one produced by Wilson for his wife and her sister's group Spring ("Sweet Mountain"). Multi-tracking his vocals and instruments, Parkes proves almost as competent at recreating Beach Boys harmonies as the Wondermints, and though his drumming especially is rudimentary, he does vary the arrangements in some cases, reimagining the Wilson solo number "Little Children" as a variation of "California Girls." Although this labor of love will never be as rewarding for listeners as it was for Parkes, it's an intriguing exercise in fan devotion.

A Tribute to Brian Wilson, Cameron Michael Parkes
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