Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the Beach Boys’ classics, released his 11th solo album, “No Pier Pressure,” this week.
Wilson’s golden back pages include the 1966 Beach Boys masterpiece, “Pet Sounds,” and the hit songs “California Girls,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Good Vibrations” and “God Only Knows.”
True to his legacy, “No Pier Pressure” glows with lush vocal and instrumental arrangements and intricate sonic details that reflect the best of the Beach Boys. An autumnal tone also colors this nostalgic, sometimes melancholy, Wilson opus.
Wilson’s many guests for the album include singer-actress Zooey Deschanel; ex-Beach Boys Al Jardine, David Marks and Blondie Chaplin; Nate Ruess from the pop trio fun.; young country star Kacey Musgraves; and trumpeter Mark Isham.
An orchestra’s worth of musicians participated in the recording sessions, bassist Don Was and drummers Kenny Aronoff and Jim Keltner among them.
“Yeah, I thought my guest artists really performed well,” an upbeat Wilson, 72, said during a recent interview with The Advocate. “And I produced the album and I think I did good.”
Jardine sings lead and Marks plays guitar for “The Right Time.” That adds up to three former Beach Boys being heard in the smoothly rolling pop gem.
Chaplin, a full-time Beach Boy in the early ’70s who sang lead for the classic “Sail on Sailor,” joins Wilson and Jardine for “No Pier Pressure’s” “Sail Away.”
Getting his old band mates to join him at Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood was easy, Wilson said.
“I just said, ‘Would you like to work with me on my album?’ And they said, ‘Sure.’ So they came down to the studio and we sang all together. … I feel at home in the studio. It’s a good place to be.”
When ex-Beach Boys sing together, even though they’re in their 60s and 70s, it’s a special sound.
“We (tried) to recapture the feeling of Beach Boy harmonies in the 1960s,” Wilson, speaking of “Sail Away,” told Stereogum. “We overdubbed five times, which gave us 20 voices. That’s a small choir.”
“Al Jardine is a great singer,” Wilson said later. “Yeah, we go back to 1962 or ’63, so I’ve been working with him for more than a half-century. We’re music friends.”
Wilson co-wrote and co-produced “No Pier Pressure” with Joe Thomas. He and Thomas have been working together since the late 1990s. Thomas also co-produced the Beach Boys’ 2012 50th anniversary reunion album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
Wilson originally intended songs that appear on “No Pier Pressure” for the follow-up to “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” The Beach Boys reunion, however, didn’t last.
“I decided to use the leftover songs for my own album,” he said matter-of-factly.
Thomas and Wilson picked the “No Pier Pressure” guests from an obvious source.
“We knew them from the radio,” Wilson said. “We knew all about them for, like, a few years. So when we called them up, they were thrilled, happy to come down to the studio and sing.”
Deschanel sings lead for the laid-back “On the Island.” The song features her partner in the duo She & Him, M. Ward, and Wilson’s background vocals.
“Zooey Deschanel is a great singer,” Wilson said. “They’re all really good singers.”
Wilson likes to custom-write for the vocalists he’s working with. He also gives his musicians creative freedom.
“I let them do their thing, the way they want to do it,” he said. “And I just make sure the singers don’t sing off-key.”
Wilson will follow “No Pier Pressure” with a North American summer tour featuring Jardine and Chaplin. He’ll tour the U.K. in September.
The Wilson biopic, “Love & Mercy,” will be released June 5. He’s written a ballad, “One Kind of Love,” for the film.
“I’ve seen it,” he said. “It’s a wonderful movie.” And factual, he added.
Before the releases of “Love & Mercy” and “No Pier Pressure” and the touring, Wilson, Norah Jones, Jardine, Chaplin, Boz Scaggs, The Flaming Lips, Heart’s Ann Wilson, Wilson daughters Carnie and Wendy, Kesha and more performed his songs on March 30 at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. The occasion? “Brian Fest: A Night to Celebrate the Music of Brian Wilson.”
“It’s quite a thrill,” the music maestro said in characteristically few words.