The first time Brian Wilson heard Jeff Beck play was in 2005.
This may be surprising, considering the two influential musicians’ histories. They were contemporaries, albeit on opposite ends of the musical spectrum, and the world — in 1965, when young hotshot English guitarist Beck replaced Eric Clapton in British Invasion band The Yardbirds, California-born Wilson had already found surf rock success with The Beach Boys.
Wilson and The Beach Boys moved away from their early surf rock sound to the cinematic pop of “Pet Sounds” in 1966 and, later in the decade, the troubled and eventually abandoned “SMiLE.” These sessions, which were finally released in 2011, were infamous for the toll they took on Wilson’s already deteriorated mental health. By the end of the 1960s, he suffered a nervous breakdown.
Beck, meanwhile, spent a scant 20 months with The Yardbirds and was featured on one album, “Roger the Engineer,” in 1966. He went on to form The Jeff Beck Group and have a lengthy solo career as an instrumental guitarist, performing with the likes of Clapton, Sting, Phil Collins, Mick Jagger and more through the years.
Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck
WITH: Al Jardine and David Marks
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Palace Theatre, 19 Clinton Ave., Albany
HOW MUCH: $115, $75, $55, $45
MORE INFO: 465-3334, www.palacealbany.com
Their paths finally crossed in 2005, when Beck performed at a concert naming Wilson the MusiCares Person of the Year.
“He played ‘Surf’s Up,’ ” Wilson said recently from his home in Los Angeles. “I remembered how great he was at guitar, so I called him up a few months ago and had him come down to the studio and play on my album.”
Wilson has been working on the follow-up — or follow-ups — to 2008’s “That Lucky Old Sun” since last year’s Beach Boys reunion ended with some controversy, with co-leader Mike Love reverting back to the previous touring version of the band. This month, Wilson, Beck and fellow ousted Beach Boys original members Al Jardine and David Marks are taking a break from the studio to tour throughout the U.S. The show will be at the Palace Theatre on Tuesday.
Don’t expect too much new material. Wilson will play a set with Jardine and Marks that will consist of “mostly Beach Boy classics, and some Beach Boy songs that aren’t as well known — just a lot of Brian Wilson songs,” according to the singer. Beck will play a set of his songs, and the two will share the stage for some numbers as well.
While Wilson may be a new convert to Beck, he can’t say enough good things about his playing.
“He adds energy and love,” he said. “He’s the greatest . . . guitar player I’ve ever heard. I thought Les Paul — I thought he was good. He was nowhere as good as Jeff Beck. Jeff Beck is the top-notch guitar player.”
Famously a recluse throughout much of the ’70s and ’80s, Wilson has been extremely prolific following a resurgence in the ’90s. The past decade in particular has been extremely busy for the singer-songwriter, with the release (as a Wilson solo album) of a reimagined “SMiLE” in 2004; “That Lucky Old Sun” in 2008; a tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin,” in 2010; and a collection of Disney songs, “In the Key of Disney,” in 2011.
Also in 2011, Love and Wilson began writing songs for what would be the first Beach Boys album featuring original material in 20 years, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” The album and subsequent reunion tour, which coincided with the band’s 50th anniversary and made a stop at Saratoga Performing Arts Center last summer, were both successes.
Love and Bruce Johnston ended up pulling the plug on the reunion in a roundabout way, booking shows with the previous touring incarnation of the group without telling Wilson. But Wilson was quick to move on, and began collaborating once again with producer Joe Thomas on a new batch of songs. He’s content to once again be working on his own material.
“It’s a little easier to record on my own stuff than with The Beach Boys,” Wilson said. “I have a tough time getting along with The Beach Boys, you know.”
Having Jardine and Marks on board has been a way for Wilson to keep the Beach Boys flavor on the new material, without working with the rest of the band.
“They’re both great singers too, especially Al — Al Jardine is a really wonderful singer, a great singer,” Wilson said. “It gave me a chance to work with Al and David and not have to work with Mike and Bruce. I don’t even want to talk about Mike and Bruce.”
Beck joined the sessions later on, and has been an integral part of shaping the songs.
“He came in with so many original ideas,” Wilson said. “We said, ‘Look, play in this section here,’ and he took off on a tangent and played his head off. I couldn’t believe it.”
Thomas and Wilson actually began working on the songs in 1998, but set them aside until this year. At this point, Wilson is hoping to release two albums next year, on Capitol Records.
“This one we’re doing now will be our sweet, mellow, pretty album,” he said. “The one after this is gonna be rock ’n’ roll, I guarantee it. It will be a great rock ’n’ roll album.”
After the tour, everyone will go back into the studio.
“We’re working slow; we’re taking it slow and we’re doing it very well,” Wilson said. “We’re not making any bad mistakes. We’re doing our best.”