Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue

  • KILLER sound for this cult classic with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades; the first copy this strong to ever hit the site!
  • It’s doing everything right — clean, clear and natural sounding with plenty of extension on both ends 
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The set’s 12 songs reveal a songwriter who was looking to stretch out on his own and engage a vision of music that stood far outside what the Beach Boys were capable of handling or executing… This album is a classic, blissed-out, coked-up slice of ’70s rock and pop that is as essential as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours…”

We recently discovered how amazing this fun album can sound when you have a good pressing, and this White Hot Stamper copy certainly qualifies. The sound is solid and lively with amazing immediacy. There’s lots of tubey magic and the vocals sound just right. Most copies we’ve played weren’t this clean, clear, open or transparent.

We thought the album kind of had an understated Harry Nilsson vibe, so if you’re a fan of his music and enjoy the Beach Boys, this one should be right up your alley.

This vintage Caribou pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1977
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Pacific Ocean Blue

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

River Song
What’s Wrong
Moonshine
Friday Night
Dreamer
Thoughts of You

Side Two

Time
You and I
Pacific Ocean Blues
Farewell My Friend
Rainbows
End of the Show

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Though the roots of this 1977 album go back to the early ’70s, Dennis Wilson’s one issued solo project, Pacific Ocean Blue, is certainly a product of its time, both musically and texturally.

The set’s 12 songs reveal a songwriter who was looking to stretch out on his own and engage a vision of music that stood far outside what the Beach Boys were capable of handling or executing. Wilson himself panned the album, claiming it had no substance, and looked forward to the release of Bamboo, a record that remained unfinished and unreleased at the time of his death. (Brother Brian, however, loved the album and celebrated it with his usual childlike intensity.)

Pacific Ocean Blue is a moody view of the SoCal landscape, and of Wilson’s own interior life — or his struggle to have one. From the environmental lament, “River Song,” that opens the disc, we can hear a new kind of West Coast music emerging. It’s not steeped in the weighty philosophical and political concerns that other Angelenos such as Jackson Browne were penning. Instead, it’s a wispy rock tune revolving around a beautiful piano figure, shuffling guitars, and lyrics that take a personal concern for the state of the nature crumbling around it. “Dreamer” is a classic piece of ’70s rock as it wound itself around the emerging R&B of the time, with interlaced horn lines, synths, and funky basslines cutting through the bridge and into the final verses; all steeped in a gorgeous, lush groove that even at this relaxed tempo won’t quit.

Mostly, however, Pacific Ocean Blue is a diary. Given that it was recorded over nearly seven years, the songs reflect the snapshot quality of Wilson’s life in the studio: what he was capable of, what he learned, and how he stretched himself.

Take, for example, the tender stoner balladry of “Thoughts of You” and “Time;” with their languid, echoing piano hovering in the mix with a shadow presence as Wilson sings with a longing that is true, yet muted by his seeming resignation to things being a total loss. The latter track also features a moody trumpet solo reminiscent of Chet Baker and transforms itself into a horn-driven anthem by its nadir.

This album is a classic, blissed-out, coked-up slice of ’70s rock and pop that is as essential as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours…

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