Sunflower attempted to relaunch The Beach Boys to commercial success on a new record label. The attempt failed, as the group failed to reenter the mainstream, but it’s not due to the quality of the music, which is strong. The group is more democratic than ever with all of the members contributing material and taking lead vocals. Don’t go in expecting the same depth of emotion as Pet Sounds – perhaps Sunflower‘s greatest flaw is a lightweight aura – but it’s consistently well crafted pop music.
‘Forever’ is a gorgeous Dennis Wilson contribution, a dramatic contrast with the gritty and insincere seduction of ‘Gotta Know The Woman’, laden with those trademark harmonies. ‘All I Wanna Do’ is another beautiful piece, with vocals floating amidst a dense bed of organ. Bruce Johnston turns up the melodrama too far with ‘Tears In The Morning’, but his collaboration with Brian on ‘Deidre’ might be the best song on the entire album, a fifties throwback that effortlessly flows into a lilting chorus. Dennis provides the counterpoint with more soulful, less profound efforts; ‘Slip On Through’, ‘Gotta Know The Woman’ and ‘It’s About Time’ all provide energy and even occasional humour. The only significant misstep is ‘At My Window’, with sappy lyrics and a Spanish spoken interlude. Brian’s material doesn’t rank with his very best, but it’s still worthwhile; the multi-part ‘This Whole World’ and the soothing closer ‘Cool, Cool Water’ are both intriguing.
It might not be the Beach Boys’ most profound statement, and you need to leave your cynicism at the door, but Sunflower is always heart warming and pleasurable.