I first bought Brian Wilson’s debut solo album by mistake. I read Rolling Stone’s review and they gave it a rare five star rating so I bought that record instead of Endless Summer or whatever Beach Boys compilation was popular at the time. I didn’t get it, why this was a critical masterpiece it sounded like somebody from the 60’s trying to make an 80’s record. Although I was a teenager who listened to Simon & Garfunkel during the birth of MTV, so what did I know? The album didn’t fit in neatly in either category and there was an abundance of sleigh bells in certain places. Plus I had heard many times about the genius of Brian Wilson, I naturally assumed I would hear it right from the first note, it had to be that obvious with all the clout behind it. Love and Mercy was the most accessible song on the record, a nice ballad that seemed appropriate for a man who had been through the ringer but from that point on I was lost in a “what is this?” haze. Melt Away and Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long were from another planet since they just didn’t sound like anything else that was coming out at that time. Now those songs flow together to make up a favorite one-two punch on any album I’ve ever heard. I now see Brian Wilson as an incredible overview of everything that happened musically in his life in one nice listenable package. The only weak moment is Little Children which sounds a little like the sequel or maybe cousin to When I Grow Up but I usually skip it to get to the beautiful harmonies that follow it. Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight feels like an underrated classic and Rio Grande is a sprawling mess like Smile was carved down to one song, but it holds my attention. The album also felt like a nice transition, closure to his roller coaster past with the possibility that his future as a solo artist might be just as rewarding. Since this album came out in 1988, the year I graduated high school I can easily identify how important it is to move on. In my case it was moving on to the real world beyond public school and constant parental supervision. That wasn’t nearly as dramatic an experience as Brian was coming from but his music opened the door just a little bit further and let me take a look at the world while still in a safe environment. I place a lot of memories with this record which is one of the reasons I keep coming back to it. But the other reason is that it may sound dated, a little off the beaten path from most popular music but now what I considered a weakness may actually be its strength. That realization, if not quite an epiphany, is as good a lesson as any to grow up on.