Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds Live

I expected this to suck. Given how disappointing and sterile Brian Wilson's various comeback recordings have been over the past 15 years, I assumed that his decision to record a complete live performance of Pet Sounds was probably hubristic and bound to be depressing. Instead, it caught me completely off guard; Brian's voice sounds amazing - quite often as strong as his voice was in his prime - and his ten-piece band nails the arrangements and the vocal harmonies from the original record almost perfectly. For Pet Sounds freaks and music geeks everywhere this is exciting news indeed, especially given that in the absence of the other Beach Boys, we get to hear Brian sing lead on the entire song sequence himself. At the same time, however, because the group aims for a note-perfect recreation of the original record (only one song - "Pet Sounds" itself - shows any real deviation from the studio album), in many ways the whole project seems to be totally redundant musically, however impressive it is as an accomplishment. The oddest part of the album is Brian's awkward man-child banter between songs - at one point he yells "Hooray... for the audience!" and at another he dares them to yell louder than he can - but these uncomfortable moments only helped me to appreciate Pet Sounds afresh, bringing it back down to earth and revealing the songs anew as the weird and often paradoxical creations of a weird and often paradoxical man. (EMI)