Thursday, March 17, 2016

Review of California Feelin' 2 by Peter Reum

Stephen Kalinich has been a force in poetry, lyric writing, and numerous other art forms for almost 50 years. He has written with members of several groups, most notably The Beach Boys. Moreover, his ability to write with a wide variety of performers has been an amazing accomplishment matched by only a few other writers. To honor Stevie, a wonderful group of performers have come together again to honor him by recording his works.

Stevie's songs are in a way snapshots of his feelings at a given point in time, yet also have a quality of being outside of time. They are Zen-like in the insights they offer. Take Little Bird, for example ...the beautiful version on California Feelin' 2 by Steve Cropper highlights the lovely music composed by Dennis and Brian Wilson. Hopefully, hearing it will inspire listeners to go to the Friends album and listen to Stevie's marvelously spare and descriptive lyrics.

This album succeeds in its purpose, in that the songs and poetry amply demonstrate the imaginative manner in which Stevie approaches his art. The variety of emotions the 17 songs and poems express are remarkable. The album's prime weakness is the weakness that albums with many artists represented have, in that there is a bit of sonic discontinuity which can be jarring at times. There are a number of artists that have new songs on this album. David Marks offers a new tune that hearkens back to his times with The Beach Boys and Dave and  the Marksmen. P.F. Sloan is also here and brings a freshness to the album. Alan Boyd has a tune on this album, and it is excellent. Most moving are the tunes done by Dennis's sons. A version of Rainbows, my favorite Dennis Wilson and Stephen Kalinich  composition, is performed here with all of the intense energy and beauty that Dennis's original recording has.

Perhaps the most interesting song from a Beach Boys/Brian Wilson perspective is the original 1974 recording of  Lucy Jones. Brian counts off the tune and what sounds like Stevie sings the tune in a manner which recalls some of the humorous recordings of the Fifties by groups like The Coasters. This particular song appears to be a demo, and applying normal criteria of music criticism is not helpful. Suffice to say that the tune has that whacky melody and lyrics not unlike Brian and Stevie's Child of Winter, recorded around the same time.

If you love Stevie's poetry there are two spoken word poems on this album. The one that knocks me out is the Helen Keller tribute voiced by Stacy Keach. If you know Ms. Keller's story, you will smile when you hear this poem, as it is the first selection to be heard here. I recommend this album to listeners who have come to love Stephen's work. Long may he run...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Pieces of Peace: The Beach Boys as a Metaphor for Dysfunctional Dialogue

There is a strong current running through the United States of America that seems to be hard to overcome when consensus is required. For many years, people have believed that the liberals and conservatives are so divided that negotiation for resolving issues is considered to be a betrayal of principles both sides cling to, like a chicken in a piranha tank. That being the case, a practical approach to negotiating has been stigmatized as selling out sacred tenets that the other side considers pragmatic and negotiable.

In any oppositional dichotomy, each side postures, flinging inflammatory rhetoric that gets them coverage by broadcast media or high numbers of "likes and shares" on social media. Families are broken up, friendships end, name calling is vicious, and a certain group or population is stigmatized by the other, with enmity between two individuals, family members, groups, ethnic populations, organizations, and countries being the outcome, however much damage occurs.
There are several dynamics that are factors that influence how opposing groups implement a strategy to engage other groups. Often, the only reason for the broad disagreement is a failure to understand the values, fears, and motivation of the other side.

In the effort to overcome the views of the opposition, hopes to resolve disputes dry up. In the view of each group, the opposition is depersonalized, labeled as inferior, seen as intransigent, and the two sides attempt to convert those who are uninformed or are not as committed to the perceived problem as the two sides who have dehumanized each other's points of view.

Exposure to the arguments advanced by both sides toward the undecided group is thought to be a major method of persuasion that will advance the agenda of that group's power and goals. The sides believe that exposure to the undecided group that is neutral will persuade the neutral group and lead them to siding with the group that is advertising, educating, and desiring the advancement of their agenda and goals. Citizens United is often cited as a major influence advancing the outcomes desired by political parties or major corporations. Another major factor influencing agendas is the posturing a side puts forward to legitimize the goals of the group, no matter how outrageous such goals may be.

This toxic approach to resolving issues has emerged in the Beach Boy world as the debate between people who say Mike Love is the major reason the Beach Boys have been successful for 53 years because of his steadfast presence the entire time the group has been touring, and the positive upbeat lyrics he has contributed to Beach Boys songs. This point of view is often picked up in press interviews and tv appearances Mike participates in. There is also usually a reference to Brian's behavior in the late Sixties and Seventies being caused by use of controlled substances. Mike's backers usually do not see Mike's behaviors as harmful to the Beach Boys, instead pointing at Brian's use of mood altering chemicals as the main reason the group had periods of financial difficulty from 1967 through 1976.

Brian's backers say Mike's pushing for fun, upbeat lyrical content, blaming Brian for the group's growing pains and loss of popularity due to addictive behavior, and failure to support Brian when he recorded Pet Sounds and worked on Smile made Brian shelf Smile. They are chronically angry because Mike allegedly told Brian to "stop fu*king with the formula." There is also some fallout from Mike alleging that Brian's erratic behavior was caused by excessive use of drugs and alcohol in the Sixties and Seventies, which in turn led to fewer songs from Brian, with corresponding loss of record royalties and USA touring revenue. Brian's fans bristle whenever this viewpoint comes up.

In some strange way, Mike's cause has been championed by more socially conservative fans. Brian's fans, many of whom are more bohemian and liberal, are equally fervent in their support of Brian. Arguments over Beach Boys history seem to degenerate into arguments between these two factions quite often. The arguments  have surfaced in press coverage of the touring band of Mike Love, which has the license to be called The Beach Boys, and Brian Wilson's band, which has been touring since 1999, the last few years with Alan Jardine, a founding member of The Beach Boys.

The next public relations battle will be the publishing of autobiographies by Brian and Mike scheduled for print release in Fall of 2016.  Brian's previous autobiography, ghosted by Todd Gold, resulted in legal actions being taken by several group members, and some family members such as Audree Wilson. Autobiographies are a way of using books to spin public opinion about the Beach Boys' success being due to efforts by Brian and/or Mike. In this case, it was Eugene Landy who pushed for that book to be published.

The silliness of such motivation is amplified by the battles back and forth between fans of the group who attempt to initiate what they believe are new angles that will prove their points. In this microcosmic world, advocates for different Beach Boys become as intensely involved as sports fans, political parties, and nations. What has become somewhat frightening is that civil discourse has been lost.

My work in counseling therapy has taught me that fundamental civil discourse can only come from active listening. The relationship of two Beach Boys fans, political office holders, or nations begins with the realization that one's ego is not damaged by closely listening to people who have an opinion different than one's own.

Conservative & Progressive, Mike Lover & Brianista, Republican & Liberal, Dodgers & Giants, and all of the other competing interests that Humankind weighs and argues over are merely imagined. People who want to seek to sort out the disagreements they have and to move past the surface issues into threads of agreement using active listening. This helps in discernment as to what an agreement can become, by using other points of agreement to build mutual trust, a little at  a time.

Let's  try these simple methods of getting to yes. Both you and your disagreeing conversation partner will find that understanding your fellow human being's perceptions are the best way to build mutual trust. In the Beach Boys, family dynamics and systems are the key to the riddle of why the group became successful almost in spite of their own family unhealthiness.

Copyright 2016 by Peter Reum-  all rights preserved