The Dixie Chicks did such a bang-up job covering Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," The Amplifier was momentarily delighted to learn Natalie Maines recorded a version of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" for the March 20th finale of HBO's Big Love (hear a snippet above and the full track at People). But "God Only Knows" is a pretty heavy-duty track. It's Paul McCartney's favorite song. It's one of Brian Wilson's moments of simple genius: " 'God Only Knows' took about a half hour to write," he told American Songwriter in 2009. "I started playing chords and knew it was going to be a good song. I knew it was special when it was done." So did Maines do the 1966 Pet Sounds masterpiece any justice?
• Maines' crystal-clear vocals sound pretty much amazing on anything, and she easily slides around the octave-jumping melody of the song with beautiful precision.
• Um... Rick Rubin produced the track and Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith played drums on it.
But Mostly No!
• Twang-ifying this symphonic-pop classic doesn't really do it any good. The twinkles of slide guitar are jarring and weirdly thin in the mix.
• The original song, recorded using an adaptation of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound technique, sounds grandiose and massive (which befits its lyrical theme), but Maines' version is claustrophobic and little over-crisp.
• From about the 3:00 mark on, when the backing vocals and doodly keyboards take over, we are in what Simon Cowell would call "cruse ship" territory.
Would Shazam Recognize It?
Yes. And then retreat into its room for a decade.
Is There a Better Version?
We're kind of partial to Mandy Moore and Michael Stipe's version from the soundtrack to "Saved." Sue us!
Here's the Beach Boys performing "God Only Knows" in 1969: