File Between: The Cake and the Carpenters
Comments: I was shocked when I found this in the local Half-Price Books, going cheap thanks to a clipped corner but otherwise pristine; I had been led to believe that it was one of the rarest of sunshine pop rarities, the low-selling and therefore low-print-run vanity project of Brian Wilson’s wife and sister-in-law, on which Brian and the boys helped out, just about the time the Beach Boys were running terminally out of steam themselves. A quick search later, and of course I had been overstating its rarity; but I’m still proud to own it. If you have an appreciation for the post-Smile Beach Boys, particularly as they start to drift into cosmic nothingness in the 70s, you should certainly hear this (more often reissued as American Spring, because I guess the UK already had a Spring and they’re the ones driving reissue sales, but I have a US printing, dammit). The arrangements are often startlingly beautiful, and the songs — if occasionally too sung-over to have much of value (Leon Russell’s “Superstar,” Carole King’s “Now That Everything’s Been Said,” Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz”) — are often quite good. This is especially true when a Wilson brother has a writing credit: some of Brian’s pet sounds are all over the record, and the lively, inventive vocal arrangements and sun-damaged chamber-pop are unmistakable marks of Brian, even a Brian on the wane. The outstanding highlight is probably Dennis’s “Forever,” which goes for hushed intimacy, leaning into the undeniable skid that is the fact that the Rovell sisters’ voices simply aren’t very good. They’re certainly no Wilsons; and the fact that the few dense harmonies we get were all provided by the Wilsons singing backup strikes me as a missed opportunity. Lovely of Brian to provide his then-wife the recording time, songs, and so forth, of course; but if he really wanted to create some deathless pop, a female version of the Beach Boys — with those dense, cut-glass harmonies — would have maybe brought about the end of the world, since nothing better could ever have happened.
A Keeper? No, really, it’s fine. It gets a little 70s Laurel Canyon soggy in spots, but the Beach-ier numbers make up for it.
Vinyl Rip: Thinkin’ Bout You Baby