Former Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson, backed by a symphony orchestra, will play the group's groundbreaking 1966 album, Pet Sounds, from start to finish on tour this summer.
"Brian always has new and interesting ideas, and I think it's a great time for it," said saxophonist Jay Migliori, who played on Pet Sounds and currently is working on a new album with his jazz group, Supersax. "The original Pet Sounds is so strong that the symphony will just embellish that."
The yet-to-be-announced orchestra will begin each show by playing a set of Beach Boys classics, according to Wilson's publicist, Jean Sievers.
Then Wilson will take the stage with his band, which includes the Los Angeles power-pop combo the Wondermints, for an acoustic set of non-Pet Sounds Beach Boys songs and tunes from his solo career. The orchestra will join them for the finale, featuring the influential LP's songs in order.
The 57-year-old Wilson, who toured for the first time in 34 years last year, wanted to go out again this year because he enjoyed last year's tour so much, according to Sievers.
"They've always talked about him doing something with the symphony, because his music marries with it very well," she said. "He thought this was a cool thing to do, so they started putting the wheels in motion."
Sievers estimated that the show will last about 2-1/2 hours. The tour, which likely will hit amphitheaters, is expected to run from June 27 through Labor Day.
David Leaf, who wrote the liner notes for the 1996 Pet Sounds box set, said he hopes the tour will expose the album to an audience that may have missed it the first time, including some symphony fans and younger rock fans.
"One of the things that we thought we'd never see is Brian Wilson playing Pet Sounds with a symphony orchestra," Leaf said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience ... I can't wait to hear it."
Leaf and Wilson have been friends since Leaf began writing the 1978 biography "The Beach Boys and the California Myth."
"With Pet Sounds, Brian was able to create arrangements that were symphonic in scope with relatively few musicians," Leaf said. "There's just an awful lot happening. ... There's no question that the arrangements with the symphony will be spectacular and fascinating to hear."
Carol Kaye, who played bass on Pet Sounds, said Wilson has his work cut out for him. "There are so many different songs and so many different tempos that they're going to have to arrange it in a suite of sorts," said Kaye, who plays in the jazz act Thumbs Up. "That should be a joy for him to do, because it's his greatest album."
Kaye said Wilson has talked frequently about touring with a symphony in the past few years.
"It's about time," she said. "I'm thrilled to death for him."
Founded in 1961 in Hawthorne, Calif., the Beach Boys redefined California rock with songs that celebrated fun in the sun and a sound distinguished by the bandmembers' intricate harmonies and Wilson's studio prowess. Though coolly received in the U.S., at the time of its release, Pet Sounds is considered one of the most influential rock albums in history. It yielded such singles as "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (RealAudio excerpt) and "God Only Knows" (RealAudio excerpt), but it has sold relatively poorly, going gold only this year.
"We were so engrossed in the music at the time, we didn't know how great it was going to be," said Migliori, who began working with Wilson in the early '60s. "We didn't know it was going to influence generations."
Wilson has been rehearsing for his April 7 and 8 shows at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, which will be taped for a live CD. The album will draw from the gig's acoustic and electric sets of songs throughout his career, including a couple of new tunes. The disc also will include two bonus studio tracks of previously unreleased material.
The album will be available first on Wilson's new Web site (www.brianwilson.com) in late April or early May. Later it will hit record-store shelves.