Review Summary: Promising collection of demos from great band.
It is really hard year for you when in January everyone wants to be your friend and in December you are forced to release something-anything just to grab some attention. That happened to Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys in 1967. And it was gonna be worse, due to bad marketing, drugs, lack of focus, and internal bickering.
After shock therapy called "Smiley Smile" the Boys fell into the hole. It was clear that their new, post "Pet Sounds" sound wasn't popular as albums "Today!", "Summer Days" or "Pet Sounds". And one more thing, return to the old sound would have meant commercial suicide. By the end of 1967, hippie revolution was in full blossom and things were different than one or two years before.
So what to do? Just do what you like. "Wild Honey was music for Brian to cool out by" - Carl Wilson once mentioned. And the Boys just did that. They recorded album in Brian's house, inspired by Motown sound, put some left overs, and hoped that the album would make the charts. And it did, although overall success was worse than "Smiley Smile".
"Wild Honey" is truly Do It Yourself album. The band played on it (no super sessioneers like on "Pet Sounds"), the band produced, Brian wrote the tunes, there are some nice tries from others (check out "How She Boogalooed It"), sound is rough, and singing is by turns stellar and workmanlike, and playing is mostly good but not faultless and pretty raw - it seems that they had to do more practice. And notice the group harmonies - they are not so sweet and complex, but simple and maybe sometimes cliche. "Wild Honey" shows signs that Brian was not sure what to do next, he was not anymore creator of fads, but follower. The best song on "Wild Honey" is (in my opinion) "Can't Wait Too Long", that very song didn't appear on original album, and it was shelved instead (why?) and saw the light of the day on CD reissue and "Good Vibrations" Box Set. Maybe that jazzy and vibraphone fuelled track had the answer on the question "which way to go after "Pet sounds" and "Smiley Smile".
The rest of the album is sometimes successful, sometimes poor. In the first cathegory there are title track, TOP 20 single "Darlin" (an energetic song from 1963 bolstered by some horns), slow psychedelic waltz "Let The Wind Blow", funky "Here Comes The Night", psychedelic mantra "Country Air", and perky McCartney-esque "Aren't You Glad". The rest of the album isn't bad, it is just underproduced ("I Just Love Once To See You") or just unnecessary (a painless cover "I Was Made To Love Her", average "A Thing Or Two", "How She Boogalooed It" or well-sung one minute "Smile" vocal exercise "Mama Says").
The Beach Boys had exploring new territory with "Wild Honey", and that must be appreciated. These were uneasy but necessary steps in their evolution.