Got word this weekend of two 50th anniversary celebrations being planned for 2012 by major musical artists - Southern California surf rock (and beyond) icons The Beach Boys and the spiritual Godfathers of the Celtic music scene, The Chieftains. This coud be the start of something big - or dreadful.
The big deal with the Beach Boys is that creative genius Brian Wilson has finally agreed to rejoin the group for an album of new material (already partially cut) and a 50 date international tour beginning in April with a headlining gig at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. For way too long, Wilson sat on the sidelines and let his cousin Mike Love run the Beach as strictly an oldies act. Wilson told me (maybe a decade ago) he was grateful for the income such shows generated but, missing his late bros Carl and Dennis, didn't think he could ever tour under the Beach Boys name again.
Since then, though, Brian has put out several albums of new and cover material and supervised two treatments of his long-lost "Smile" album. He's also gotten his health in order and slowly ramped up his touring. To me, the big question now is can he and Love and the other BB troopers (Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marx) actually do justice in concert to the material new and old? On Brian's own, recent tours, he's relied heavily on much younger support singers.
Mike Love declares all will be copacetic. "We got together at Capitol Records and re-recorded 'Do It Again.' Brian and I wrote that song which went to number 1 in Great Britian, Australia and elsewhere some 44 years ago. Brian paid me a compliment saying, 'How can a guy sound that great so many years later?' Later on, while working out some harmonies on a new song Brian had written, I got a chance to return the compliment."
Chieftains Do It Again: As led by Paddy Maloney, The Chieftains have always been the most inclusive of traditional Celtic bands, bringing in to the fold the sounds (and fans) of guest artists as varied as Van Morrison, Luciano Pavorotti, Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson.
And they ain't done now. To celebrate the group's 2012 golden anniversary, Paddy and producer T-Bone Burnett have rustled up a very hip set of collaborators for the album "Voice of Ages," out Feb. 21 on Hear/Concord. We're talking indie rock stars Bon Iver (tops on many "best of the year" lists this year, though not mine). Maloney's spiritual kin The Decemberists and The Low Anthem, plus country and Americana acts Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert's hot side project), The Civil Wars, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Punch Brothers, as well as Irish/Scottish fusionaires Imelda May, Lisa Hannigan and Paolo Nutini. On paper, this all sounds very promising
My only concern - that this whole "Golden Anniversary" album/tour business could get out of hand. For sure a ton of great music sprung from the Sixties - tunes and and talents STILL getting play on the radio. But there was also plenty of flimsy, forgettable stuff. And if the aging artist roused to a celebratory tour and album is just trading on past accomplishments, not bringing new material to the party, I ain't buying. As Bob Dylan (who let his own 50th year as a professional pass without much fuss) would put it, "He not busy being born is busy dying."