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That's Why God Made the Radio ()

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Plans for the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary tour came together surprisingly quickly, but nothing prepared fans for a full studio album just six months after their official reunion. Further surprises included apparently cordial relations between all surviving members, Brian Wilson in the producer's booth, the presence of 12 original songs on the album, and the complete absence of any attempt to cash in on fond memories of "Kokomo" or Endless Summer or "Do It Again" or "Help Me, Rhonda" -- depending on which generation the band wanted to court. That's Why God Made the Radio is as good as it gets for those who love their Beach Boys. It includes frequently gorgeous charts from Wilson and just a little outside help fleshing out these songs (musically with help from Wilson's regular band and arranger Paul Mertens, lyrically with help from Joe Thomas and Jim Peterik). The album is a record of two halves -- or sides, in case the band was thinking back to famous side-by-side classics like 1966's Today! The first half is mostly upbeat, with highlights "Isn't It Time" and "That's Why God Made the Radio" evoking pleasant late-'60s curios from Wild Honey or Friends. The second half is more reflective, with songs led by Brian Wilson, most with strings by Mertens that reveal Wilson's and the band's feelings about time passing and careers coming to a close (much more than anything in their entire careers). "Daybreak Over the Ocean" could have come off as an update of "Kokomo"'s tropical motif with Mike Love crooning into your ear, but he treats it lightly and makes it ring true. These may not be the songs that ever light up their live sets, but together they form what is easily the best Beach Boys record in 35 years -- and a surprisingly cohesive, reflective, listenable one at that. ~ John Bush, Rovi Hide synopsis

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