Half Moon Bay: The Songs

As I’ve written in earlier blogs, once I heard the lovely instrumental, Half Moon Bay, from Brian Wilson’s 2015 album, No Pier Pressure, I knew what the theme & feel of my next album would be. I love the down-tempo, laid-back vibe of the song, which I basically adopted as the sound of my new album. Finding a beautiful graphic of a large half-moon rising out of blue water was a happy accident that yielded the album cover. All that remained was to write 7 new songs, choose 2 more Brian Wilson songs, then arrange & record the album. :)

  1. Sand and Stars. Prompted by the vision of a white sandy beach under a moonlit sky. I used alternating minor & major chords to establish ethereal beauty as the mood of the song. My solo piano plays the main theme, a simple melody which is then progressively enhanced by orchestral strings, electric guitar & angel voices. The middle bridge of tripled voice harmonies (called "angelic" by Brian in his Beach Boys vocal arrangements) floats over rhythmic piano & strings, and the ending repeats the beginning the song, with the addition of bells representing twinkling stars.
  2. Half Moon Bay. Brian Wilson’s lovely paean to inner peace, which he finally found in the latter part of his life. How natural for Brian to name the song after a little surfing community on the California coast. I started with the sustained sound of an electric piano,  joined by electric guitar, flute, strings & angel voices. The electric guitar suggested by Brian’s original recording would feature in several more songs on the album. Not only did the guitar give a contemporary vibe to the songs, but it was my homage to Brian’s Beach Boy days. The use of voices gives this and the other songs on the album significant added emotion.
  3. Sunlight In Her Hair. A finger-style acoustic guitar carries the song from start to finish, with chords alternating between minor/major and the addition of countermelody & harmonic strings. A laid-back, deeply romantic vibe suggested by the song title, probably on a beach past or present.
  4. You’re So Nice. An improvised, 1-take piano solo that reflects the feelings of first love - tender, innocent, trusting, beautiful. The brief arpeggiated 2-chord piano opening is a nice segue from the preceding minor/major chord songs to a sweet simple song of mostly major chords.
  5. Ocean Blue. The title was suggested by Dennis Wilson’s 1977 solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue. Framed by electric guitar as homage to the Beach Boys era, as well as evoking the grandeur, mystery and beauty of the sea. This is another song on the album alternating between minor & major chords, with strings & angelic voices adding emotion.
  6. First Light. The quietest song on the album, evoking the peace of sunrise. Simple use of underlying synth to establish chords, with single piano notes & angel voices defining the melody.
  7. Lonely Sea. Brian Wilson’s underappreciated Beach Boys’ masterpiece from 1962 used a pattern of repeating descending chords (which he used again in Good Vibrations). His plaintive vocal of lost love set the emotion for the song which I tried to capture with slow electric guitar, quiet harmony voices and a flute melody, with a brief vocal bridge. The sound of ocean surf frames the open & close of the song.
  8. Whisper In the Wind. In a noisy world, you can still hear the whisper of His still small voice. "He will bring you quietness with His love." -Zephaniah 3:17. Quiet piano, flute, voices & strings - magical.
  9. Sunset Dreams. As the end of the day (and the album) approaches, a piano-based song of memories and dreams at sunset. A piano solo for the first half, joined then by quiet strings.
  10. Summer’s Gone. Brian Wilson’s last song on the final Beach Boy album, 2012’s That’s Why God Made the Radio, is Brian’s perfect look back at his life. From the Endless Summer of the Beach Boys to Summer’s Gone & latter years, Brian comes to terms with both the peace he eventually found and the finality that all things must pass. It was my choice for the last song on Half Moon Bay, a gentle longing for the warmth of the sun from a golden past (or a heavenly future).

I couldn’t be happier with the finished album. As Brian Wilson would say, we put a lot of love in these songs. May they take you to the water’s edge on a warm summer evening of dreams and peace.

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