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A Beach Boys Classic Gets an Soulful Makeover

Danish musicians Philip Owusu and Robin Hannibal re-work The Beach Boys' "Caroline, No."
Danish musicians Philip Owusu and Robin Hannibal re-work The Beach Boys' "Caroline, No."

Not many contemporary R&B artists explore The Beach Boys' catalog for material. But while the band's sweet pop music and meek looks seem incongruent with R&B's blues-based sentiments and urban perspectives, there's something undeniably soulful about its lush harmonies and rich melodies. When it's as sensual and melancholy as Pet Sounds' "Caroline No," the group's music fits comfortably alongside the best ballads by Smokey Robinson or Prince.

Danish musicians Philip Owusu and Robin Hannibal bring that point home with their entrancing makeover of "Caroline No." Aligned with other forward-thinking R&B acts — Spacek, SA-RA Creative Partners, Platinum Pied Pipers — Owusu & Hannibal captures Wilson's doleful melody and a gentle acoustic-guitar accompaniment in a cavernous electronic whirlwind, with stargazing bleeps intensifying the song's sense of isolation and grief.

Owusu and Hannibal both handle the vocals admirably, showing great respect for Wilson's lush and sonically inventive arrangement. By sneaking in an effective electric-bass bump beneath the soaring vocals and an implied backbeat, the duo may well turn The Beach Boys into the R&B hitmaker few knew it could be.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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John Murph
John Murph writes about music and culture and works as a web producer for BETJazz.com. He also contributes regularly to The Washington Post Express, JazzTimes, Down Beat, and JazzWise magazines.