The Many Moods of Murry Wilson
Are there any showbiz fathers more hated than Murry Wilson? Aside from Joseph Jackson, I would dare say no. His hard-ass nature was legendary, although there may be some question as to the level of abuse he levied towards his family, the main source of which, Brian’s “autobiography,” Wouldn’t It Be Nice—has largely been discredited by Brian and others as a largely Eugene Landy creation. A critical rethinking of Murry seems to be taking place as of late, thanks to a handful of new books that will be discussed here at a later date.
Far from the myth that Murry had zero musical talent, one must remember that he was a songwriter and arranger who had placed some of his music with a handful of national acts well before son Brian picked up his first guitar, and he was the one who worked with his boys to teach them the fundamentals of vocalizing. One should consider these facts when contemplating The Many Moods of Murry Wilson, perhaps one of the most derided albums to stem from rock music.
The Many Moods of Murry Wilson, appearing in 1967, feels anachronistic, but that’s simply a misconception. While the rock world might have been fawning over “Good Vibrations” and Sgt. Pepper, the market also bore fruits for Mantovani, Lawrence Welk, Herb Alpert, and Henry Mancini, all of whom were releasing music at that same time. The Many Moods Of… fits nicely into this category of easy listening “mood music,” as it was known at the time. Wilson’s originals are all rather lovely; “Leaves,” the album’s sole single, has a feel reminiscent of Hugo Winterhalter; “Heartbreak Lane” is a simple piano piece, with swashes of tasteful strings, as is “Betty’s Waltz,” co-written with wife Audree, while “Painting With Teardrops” has a country feel not unlike Floyd Cramer. The album’s two tracks written by plumber friend Eck Kynor, “The Happy Song” and “The Plumber’s Tune,” are more uptempo, and the organ work is reminiscent of Bent Fabric. The arrangements by orchestra leader Don Ralke are tasteful, and do a service to Murry’s mood and his mood music muse.
Three songs here, though, offer the only hints of his connection to his sons’ music. The first, “Italia,” is a song written by Al Jardine, and actually predates his work with The Beach Boys. It’s an interesting polka number, and with its percussive block pops, it becomes clear that it’s an homage to Lawrence Welk. The second number, “Islands In The Sky,” was written by The Sunrays’ Rick Henn, and has a melody that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Pet Sounds. Then there’s Murry’s take on “The Warmth Of The Sun,” which is simply spectacular.
If there’s one surprising thing about Murry Wilson’s album, it’s that he only made the one considering his stature and the influence of him and his sons. As unpopular as it might be to say it, I will say it: The Many Moods of Murry Wilson is not a bad record. It’s not a bad record at all. It’s simply too bad Murry hard-assed himself out of a career as an easy listening musician, because his work here is delightful, and proof that his sons were not the only source of talent in the Wilson household.