The Beach Boys and The Mamas and The Papas were the quintessential California pop bands, melding rich harmonies and lush arrangements with as many sugary melodies as musically possible. And who better to record an entire album devoted to the sunshine pop of the ‘60s than the daughters of California pop themselves? Wilson Phillips, comprised of Brian Wilson’s daughters Carnie and Wendy and John and Michelle Phillips’s daughter Chynna, made their own mark with a string of hits in the early ‘90s but disbanded after only two albums. Despite the pedigree of the songs on the simply-titled California, the trio’s first album together in 12 years, many of these new recordings are surprisingly less durable than some of Wilson Phillips’s old material (their first single “Hold On” and the underrated “You Won’t See Me Cry” among them). The group just simply can’t pull off “ballsy,” as evidenced by “You’re No Good,” a sluggish and uninspired cover of the Betty Everett classic by way of Linda Ronstadt, while an arrangement of string quartet and electronic drum programming on “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” is, at best, an interesting exercise. Like the songs themselves (including Joni Mitchell’s “California” and the oft-covered Chet Powers tune “Get Together”), the mix of modern and classic is timely, and though there are countless other Fleetwood Mac songs they could have chosen (basically any Stevie Nicks-penned song would have made a better fit), their silky interpretation of the biting AOR track “Go Your Own Way” is admirable. And while the group’s rendition of “Old Man” is unlikely to win over any Neil Young purists, it’s one of the album’s best moments. As is The Beach Boys’ “In My Room,” where the girls’ signature golden harmonies are allowed to take center stage. Likewise, a hidden acoustic take of The Eagles’ “Already Gone” is far superior to the over-produced album version. Lesson learned: Let the vocals shine—guitar solos work for The Eagles, not three wispy-voiced Cali girls.
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