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Cover art included, liner notes not included
Carl & The Passions was supposedly an early band name possiblity before the once and future Beach Boys became the California-inspired group known the world over.
The would-be name's usage in the title intimates a surfeit of songs that deal with hanging out at malt shops and cruising the strip. But there's nothing of the kind anywhere on this record. And the phrase "so tough" couldn't describe with any less accuracy the sounds found within. But that's okay, because it's all part of the album's unintentionally crazed charm, writes reviewer Dave Gebroe.
Where there was a cohesive direction in their artistic arc under Brian Wilson's direction, once he dropped out everyone saw the band as something other than the next guy, and So Tough illustrates quite clearly that there were now four very, very separate and distinct visions of what the Beach Boys should be. Mike Love saw it as a mouthpiece for the Maharishi Yogi's teachings, Dennis as a showcase for his newly burgeoning talents as a string-drenched balladeer, new members Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar as a smooth, hip R&B unit, and Brian...well, Brian did what he could, which at that time was by all accounts pretty limited.
"There are eight tracks on the record, with two examples each of the record's four totally unrelated styles. The weakest of the batch is "Here She Comes" and "Hold On Dear Brother", the Blondie/Ricky cuts. But I happen to love their inclusion on the record for two reasons: they sound absolutely nothing like the Beach Boys in any of their various guises; and the latter track has the gall to seem to be striking a position of brotherly concern for Brian's mental health, coming from what amounted to nothing more than two peripheral neophytes on the scene.
"Then comes the duo of TM tunes. 'He Come Down' is their stab at a Baptismal, testimonial-style gospel belter, an interesting addition to the Boys' canon. 'All This Is That' is something else entirely, one of the most gentle, ethereally beautiful, and underrated Beach Boys songs in their entire catalog. With its soft, billowing harmonies, beds of pulsating keyboards, and burbling, percolating bass supporting the band's most eloquent description of the Transcendental Meditation experience (many others of which stands as awkward or just plain embarrassing), "All This Is That" is a contender for the best song on the album.
"Dennis's pair of ballads is a real surprise, both astoundingly vulnerable and so heavily orchestrated as to seem eager to edge over into Disney-style bombast, stopping just short of being ludicrously over the top. 'Make It Good' is the superior of the two, a heartbreaking love song with Dennis's croak of a vocal selling the honesty behind the sentiment without a speck of doubt. 'Cuddle Up' isn't too shabby, either. Both songs wind up swelling to such melodramatically intense emotional peaks that it almost inspires laughter. The guy was obviously in a lot of pain, and nowhere is this more apparent than on his contributions to So Tough.
"Somehow, even in the depths of battle with his inner demons, Brian pulled a couple of classics out of his ass. 'You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone' kicks off the record with a throaty, gut-bucket growl of a Carl vocal that renders him virtually unrecognizable. This track feels like the most apt application of what were then contemporary tics to the Beach Boys formula. There's just enough classic harmony and structural touches to make it obvious which band was behind the thing, but then it's also something of an R&B ass-kicker with unique dabs of banjo and violin thrown in for good measure. Brian's other contribution, 'Marcella,' is a stone-cold classic, and the most Beach Boys-sounding track of the bunch." — Dave Gebroe, The International Review of Music
|1. You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone|
|2. Here She Comes|
|3. He Come Down|
|5. Hold On, Dear Brother|
|6. Make It Good|
|7. All This Is That|
|8. Cuddle Up|