'Tuned In' review: South Carolina’s Explorers Club shows 'Grand' style

'Grand Hotel' by The Explorers Club

"Grand Hotel" by The Explorers Club

'Grand Hotel' by The Explorers Club

"Grand Hotel" by The Explorers Club

It’s difficult for performers in 2012 to replicate the pop-culture sweetness of the 1960s, but it happens — and not just on the Disney Channel.

South Carolina sextet the Explorers Club tantalizes with such retro-innocence on its new “Grand Hotel,” a long-overdue follow-up to its 2008 debut, “Freedom Wind.”

Mixed by Mark Linett, who has work on Brian Wilson material and reissues of Beach Boys releases, “Grand Hotel” is not coincidentally rich in harmonies that harken California pop-rock from half a century ago. But the Explorers Club is more than a resurrection of the Beach Boys: The group also brings to mind everyone from Neil Diamond and Tom Jones to Burt Bacharach and Herb Alpert.

“Grand Hotel” opens with the surf sounds and brushed rhythm of “Acapulco (Sunrise),” an exotica-flavored instrumental that is later reprised, with added vocals, as “Acapulco (Sunset).” Frontman/producer Jason Brewer and his crew often present such a bright sound that you can envision the horns shimmering in the sun as they sway in rhythm to the cooing vocals, but the Explorers Club also charms with flute (“Any Little Way”), whistling (“Sweet Delights”) and marimba (“Weight of the World”). The nuances create a hint of a timeless country ditty here (“Bluebird”) and a little tangy R&B there (“Anticipatin’”), and the earnestly upbeat tone would translate well to a big band or orchestral setting.

But it also works well in the context of a six-man group, even if “Grand Hotel” could do with a bit more instrumental polish and more commanding lead vocals to elevate it out of occasional dips into goofy hokum.

Still, since all those predecessors got away with blatant cheese, there’s no point in holding it against the Explorers Club.

Rating: 4 stars (out of five)

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