The Beach Boys–Sloop John B

Everyone knows that what made The Beach Boys special was Brian Wilson’s arrangements.  That goes for songs that he composed, as well as songs that he adapted for the band.  Sloop John B is a Bahamian traditional that had been covered by American groups before, most notably The Kingston Trio.  But it came to life with Wilson’s sharp vocal harmonies and jangling instrumentation.  It’s a symphonic approach to what is normally an extremely simple song.  The mix is soft and warm, producing a blanket of sounds that can’t be picked apart, aside from the metallic march of the glockenspiel.  Most artists use the instrument more airily, but Wilson employs it in  a relatively unique, rhythmic fashion, almost like a child banging on the keys with two mallets.  In direct contrast to the way it often ices the top of a song, here it plays more like an anchor, grounding the piece with its uncomplicated part.  It’s a composition trick few others would have thought of, proving Wilson’s status as a rock ‘n’ roll visionary.

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