Brian Wilson, 'That Lucky Old Sun' (Capitol)

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That Lucky Old Sun
Critical Mass
Label: Capital

by Stacey Anderson

Brian Wilson makes being the sun sound easy. But then, he always has. "That lucky old sun got nothin' to do / but roll around heaven all day," he croons on the title track, a plush, 57-second cover of Frankie Laine's 1949 standard.

As we know, it's not been easy being Brian Wilson; his lyrics about the warmth of the sun, and his isolation under it, long expressed his struggles and eventual collapse under his father's domineering hand. So it's heartening that his fifth solo album is the near equal of 1988's debut and a reprisal of the Beach Boys' brightest years. It's his first individual effort to rhapsodize about California, and though his tenor is rougher, the formula is as buoyant as ever -- "Morning Beat" purrs like his former band's "409,""Forever She'll Be My Surfer Girl" is everything the title implies, and "SouthernCalifornia" and "Midnight's Another Day" swell wistfully.

Spoken-word interludes, penned by longtime collaborator Van Dyke Parks, are odd little Faustian snapshots of SoCal life as narrated by the actual sun. And 40-plus years after leading the home team against the British Invasion, Wilson nudges Paul McCartney with all the subtlety of a wipeout: "Live let live, not die," he croons.

Sweetly and unmistakably, That Lucky Old Sun limns the sunset of Wilson's career, while still showing how California is at its most beautiful through his eyes.

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