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Sunday, March 4, 2012

"River Song"

Dennis Wilson - "River Song" (1977)

Well, he nails it sounding like a river, I'll give him that.

What sounds like an enormous Gospel choir backs up this Beach Boys sometime lead singer on his opening track from his only solo album. I don't know if Wilson or Carli Muñoz played piano on this track, both are credited on the album. Whoever it is really sells the river sound, even as the rest of the track gets bigger and louder, as long as I can hear that piano, it sounds like a river to me. There are also several drummers listed on the liner notes, including Wilson so I'm not sure who to praise for playing such tight simple beats. When a song gets this big there is a tendency among some to keep playing your part bigger and louder to compete. The drummer here just keeps things together while a string section, several horns, a gospel choir, other backing vocalists and a ringing electric bass all build up.

Lyrically it's kind of unexpected. The only member of the Beach Boys that actually surfed, and a man who loved the hard drinking and drugging lifestyle that being in such a popular band can bring, wrote a song about wanting to get away from the city and reconnect with nature. But not the nature of the ocean, the nature found on a mountainside. It's a nice enough sentiment, just not one you expect from Dennis Wilson. The coolest effect on the whole track is the use of the low bass singers in the choir doubling the low brass and electric bass guitar. It's easiest to hear at the end around 3:10 and onward to the end.

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