ALBUMS REVIEWS I: 1961-1964
I - II - III - IV

NOTE: The story of the Beach Boys is the story of an extremely enthusiastic, likeable cadre of brothers, a cousin, and a school chum who made it very big.  The raw nature of their early albums quickly gives way to increasingly complex compositions, while lyrically digging deeper into the emotional psyche. Brian Wilson was the hardworking songwriter/producer/singer, Mike Love the rock-steady front man, Carl Wilson and Al Jardine provided the core lush harmonies, and Dennis Wilson was styled as the sex symbol and heart and soul of the band.  The Beach Boys: The Great American Band.

The Beach Boys Lost and Found: 1961-1962
DCC DZS-054 [CD]; Released February 1991
(out of five)

1. Luau [#](Morgan) 1:46
2. Surfin' [#] (Love, Wilson) 2:31
3. Studio Chatter :16
4. Surfin' [#] (Love, Wilson) 2:29
5. Studio Chatter :07
6. Surfin' [Master Take] (Love, Wilson) 2:21
7. Studio Chatter :23
8. Luau [#] (Morgan) 1:50
9. Luau [Master Take] (Morgan) 1:49
10. Barbie (Morgan) 2:23
11. What Is a Young Girl Made Of [#] (Morgan) 2:18
12. Surfin' Safari [#] (Love, Wilson) 2:06
13. Studio Chatter :20
14. Surfin' Safari [Master Take] (Love, Wilson) 2:05
15. Studio Chatter 1:00
16. Surfer Girl [Master] (Wilson) 2:26
17. Judy [#] (Wilson) 2:22
18. Judy [Master Take] (Wilson) 2:21
19. Beach Boys Stomp (A.K.A. Karate) [#] (Wilson) 2:15
20. Surfin' Safari [#] (Love, Wilson) 2:09
21. Lavender [#/demo version] (Morgan) 2:31

REVIEW: This interesting collection by DCC was like finding lost treasure for thousands of Beach Boys fans.  The band had recorded these selections as part of their first auditions for the small "Candix" label, but after the band broke with Candix, and were signed to Capitol, these original recordings were stuffed in a shoebox and later were assumed lost. After many years, the original master tapes were hunted down and found stashed in a closet and were soon remastered in sterling sound.  This album is historically vital, since it contains evidence of the Beach Boys fully-developed harmonic talents, and of the roles the band members were to play (Brian already taking the reigns as authoritive producer, Mike stepping up as lead voice/frontman, the rest of the band taking background positions, and occasionally piping in with a suggestion).  However, it is not essential listening, due to rather primitive songcraft, and the studio chatter and repeated takes can become tiresome after a couple of listens.  But listen to a Four Freshman-like homage on "Lavender," a tender, tentative "Surfer Girl" or the final, charged master take of "Surfin'" and you'll hear the group's potential already beginning to bloom.  "Lost and Found: 1961-62" is the first step in a long, distinguished career, and therefore is worth checking out, but should be bought only after hearing the rest of their albums.



The Beach Boys: Surfin'  Varese Sarabande 302 066 085 2 [CD Only] Released May, 2000

1. Surfin'
2. Surfin' Safari
3. Luau
4. Barbie
5. Beach Boy Stomp (AKA Karate) (Instrumental)
6. Surfer Girl
7. Judy
8. What Is A Young Girl Made Of?
9. Surfin' Safari (Alternate Version)
10. Lavender (Demo)
11. Surfin' (Demo)
12. Come And Get It
13. Like Chop
14. R.P.M.
15. My Sting Ray

REVIEW: I'm not really sure why Varese Sarabande decided to put this CD out, these tracks have been available, well, everywhere, (see above).  But if you've been looking for a "best-of" the Hite Morgan sessions, then this is the disc for you, since it's got fine liner notes by Brad Elliott, great sound (even better than the DCC version) and none of the unfinished takes or chatter which can become annoying after repeated listenings.  It also has cool retro graphics which I love.  The disc includes finished takes of Surfin', Surfin' Safarai, Luau, Barbie, Beach Boy Stomp (aka Karate), Surfer Girl, Judy, What is a Young Girl Made Of?, the alternate single version of "Surfin' Safari" that was released on the Ariola label, and demo versions of the lush "Lavender" and the very first take of "Surfin'."

What really baffles me about this release is the tacked on inclusion of four extremely rare Gary Usher songs, The fierce instrumental "Come and Get It" and the oddly-named "Like Chop" by the Tri-Five, and the dull "R.P.M" and "My Sting Ray" (reportedly written by Usher for Dennis Wilson) by The Four Speeds.  Although Beach Boys Carl and Dennis Wilson contribute studio help on the instrumental tracks, the songs themselves are rare for good reason: they're entirely forgettable.  In my mind, they would have been better placed on a Gary Usher compilation than here, but what the hey, eh?   What would have been interesting is two other unreleased Gary Usher productions: "The Beginning of the End" and "Visions", that were reportedly supposed to have included, but were pulled at the last minute. They both featured Brian Wilson lead vocals, and for that reason, would have been very welcome (to me at least).



Surfin' Safari
Capitol T-1808 [LP], CDP 7 93691 2 [CD]; Released October, 1962

1. "Surfin' Safari" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) – 2:05
2. "County Fair" (Brian Wilson/Gary Usher) – 2:15
3. "Ten Little Indians" (Brian Wilson/Gary Usher) – 1:26
4. "Chug-A-Lug" (Brian Wilson/Gary Usher/Mike Love) – 1:59
5. "Little Girl (You're My Miss America)" (Catalano/Herb Alpert) – 2:04
6. "409" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love/Gary Usher) – 1:59
7. "Surfin' " (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) – 2:10
8. "Heads You Win - Tails I Lose" (Brian Wilson/Gary Usher) – 2:17

9. "Summertime Blues" (Eddie Cochran/Jerry Capeheart) – 2:09
10. "Cuckoo Clock" (Brian Wilson/Gary Usher) – 2:08
11. "Moon Dawg" (Derry Weaver) – 2:00
12. "The Shift" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) – 1:52

REVIEW: This first effort from the Beach Boys is full of youthful charm, and contains a couple of surf-genre classics in the form of the boppin' "Surfin'," the revved-up racing sounds of "409" and the pure camp of "Surfin' Safari".  Other favorites of mine include "Little Girl (You're My Miss America)" (featuring an already soulful vocal by Denny), the sound-effects laden "County Fair," and the simple, yet catchy "Heads You Win, Tails I Lose".  The corn is plenty as well, with novelty numbers (Chug-A-Lug, Ten Little Indians, Cuckoo Clock) and a middling surf instrumental (Moon Dawg) pulling things down. Overall,  the album serves as an excellent reference point of how far and how fast the Beach Boys advanced in writing, production and performance techniques in a few short years.  In fact, the reason the album is enjoyable is that the playing (handled by the Beach Boys) and singing are so ragged, and the songs so naive, compared to the super-slick production of recent debuts, that it adds to the wonder of watching them progress on subsequent albums. And hey, I'll take the Beach Boys' fresh California sincerity over the pre-fab of "The New Kids on the Block" any day.  Clambake, anyone? 




Surfin' USA

Capitol ST-L890 [LP], CDP 7 93691 2 [CD]; Released March, 1963

1. Surfin' U.S.A. (Berry)
2. The Farmer's Daughter (Love, Wilson)
3. Misirlou (Leeds, Roubanis, Russell, Wise)
4. Stoked (Wilson)
5. Lonely Sea (Usher, Wilson)
6. Shut Down (Christian, Wilson)
7. Noble Surfer (Love, Wilson)
8. Honky Tonk (Butler, Doggett, Scott, Shepherd)
9. Lana (Wilson)
10. Surf Jam (Wilson)
11. Let's Go Trippin' (Dale)
12. Finders Keepers (Love, Wilson)
 

REVIEW: Our boys are catapulted into the national spotlight with the title track, a re-working of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen".  Released only five months after their first album, Brian scrambled to find material to capitalize on the success of "Surfin' Safari," with predictable results. The title track is a rock and roll classic, setting the nation of fire to see and experience the mythical "California Dream," but the true gem on this album is the haunting, melancholy "Lonely Sea,"  with it's slow, rolling accompianment, and Brian's incredible solo vocal delivery giving fans the first glimpse of a budding auteur.  The remainder of the album is hot and cold, the only other high points being a wonderfully cocky "Shut Down" (continuing Brian's signature style of beginning the song with a catchy, full-group harmony tag, before launching into the verse), and the (eventual) Fleetwood Mac concert staple "Farmer's Daughter".  Five songs on the album are surf instrumentals, most of which are pale imitations of finer surf bands.  Overall, another stepping stone on the way to much better things, but worth hearing for "The Lonely Sea."



Surfer Girl
Capitol ST-1981 [LP], CDP 7 93692 2 [CD]; Released September, 1963

1 Surfer Girl (Wilson)
2 Catch a Wave (Wilson)
3 The Surfer Moon (Wilson)
4 South Bay Surfer (Foster, Jardine, Wilson)
5 The Rocking Surfer (Traditional, Wilson)
6 Little Deuce Coupe (Christian, Wilson)
7 In My Room (Usher, Wilson)
8 Hawaii (Wilson)
9 Surfer's Rule (Love, Wilson)
10 Our Car Club (Love, Wilson)
11 Your Summer Dream (Norberg, Wilson)
12 Boogie Woodie (Rimsky-Korsakov, Wilson)

REVIEW: With "Surfer Girl," the Beach Boys' second album of 1963, the band seemed to suddenly and effortlessly come of age.  This album is the first indispensible product in their catalog, containing several classic songs, and a giant leap forward in songwriting and producing skills by Brian Wilson, who was already beginning to stretch and break from the typical rock formula.  Besides the lovely title track (inspired by the Disney song "When You Wish Upon A Star"), there are the propulsive twins "Catch A Wave," and "Hawaii," the cocky swagger of "Little Deuce Coupe," and the shy, introspective "In My Room" ("In My Room" is an astoundingly personal composition, very unusual for rock albums at that time). Even the lesser  tracks are commendable, from the soaring "The Surfer Moon," and Brian soloing on a wistful "Your Summer Dream," to the testosterone retoric of "Our Car Club" (which has a difficult, sophisticated track, but is hampered by clumsy lyrics), and the bay-at-the-moon mentality of "Surfer's Rule."  The only real clunker is a shabby rewrite of "Swanee River" into the embarrassing "South Bay Surfer" which is sung with great, sloppy gusto, to little result.



Little Deuce Coupe
Capitol ST-1988 [LP], CDP 7 93693 2 [CD]; Released October, 1963

 
1. Little Deuce Coupe [Christian, Wilson]
2. Ballad of Ole' Betsy [Christian, Wilson] 2:14
3. Be True to Your School [Love, Wilson] 2:06
4. Car Crazy Cutie [Christian, Wilson] 2:47
5. Cherry, Cherry Coupe [Christian, Wilson] 1:47
6. 409 Love, [Usher, Wilson] 1:57
7. Shut Down [Christian, Wilson] 1:49
8. Spirit of America [Christian, Wilson] 2:22
9. Our Car Club [Love, Wilson] 2:20
10. No-Go Showboat [Christian, Wilson] 1:53
11. A Young Man Is Gone [Troup] 2:10
12. Custom Machine [Love, Wilson] 1:38

REVIEW: Arguably the first concept album in Rock 'N Roll, Little Deuce Coupe was Brian's attempt to tackle a new subject after three albums (!) mostly devoted to surfing (wait a minute... wouldn't that make them concept albums?). Released only thirty days (!!) after their last album, it contained two songs from their just released "Surfer Girl,"  ("Little Deuce Coupe" and the lyrically-challenged, but musically impressive "Our Car Club") plus one track each from their first two albums.  ("409" and "Shut Down," respectively) Despite this obvious padding, the album stands pretty well together, helped a great deal by the overriding theme, not to mention sumptuous full-group harmony vocals on "Ballad of Ole' Betsy, and "A Young Man is Gone," plus the newly written 'rah-rah' classic, "Be True To Your School."  There is also the very funny "No Go Showboat" about a gutless wonder, a song-documentary "Spirit of America" (detailing the new land speed record), and finishing up with one of my personal favorites, the album closes with the gutsy "Custom Machine." Not a first choice, but a good early Beach Boys album.



Shut Down Volume 2
Capitol ST- 2027 [LP], CDP 7 93692 2 [CD]; Released March, 1964

1. Fun, Fun, Fun [Love, Wilson]
2. Don't Worry Baby [Christian, Wilson]
3. In the Parkin' Lot [Christian, Wilson]
4. "Cassius" Love Vs. "Sonny" Wilson [Love, Wilson]
5. The Warmth of the Sun [Love, Wilson]
6. This Car of Mine [Love, Wilson]
7. Why Do Fools Fall in Love? [Levy, Lymon]
8. Pom Pom Play Girl [Usher, Wilson]
9. Keep an Eye on Summer [Norman, Wilson]
10. Shut Down, Pt. 2 [Wilson]
11. Louie, Louie [Berry]
12. Denny's Drums [Wilson]

REVIEW: Upset at Capitol Records filching two of their songs to push a shoddy compilation album (entitled "Shut Down," it had 'stars' like Robert Mitchum singing...(shudder)), The Beach Boys turned around and released Shut Down Vol. 2, which contained some of the best rock 'n roll ever written.  "Fun, Fun, Fun," with it's great lyric and supercharged delivery, is the Beach Boys at their care-free best.  Add to this a knockout drag-racing classic "Don't Worry Baby," and the heavenly sentiment of "Warmth of the Sun" (written shortly after JFK had been asassinated), and you have an album that is sure to be potent.  Other 'good' tracks include a fine cover of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," and a gorgeous vocal workout on "Keep an Eye on Summer."  Unfortunately, the rushed pace at which Brian was cranking out product made the lesser numbers pale in comparison.  "In the Parking Lot" is forgettable, "Louie Louie" is white-bread (but you can understand all of the words!), a lurching "This Car of Mine" goes absolutely nowhere, and "Pom Pom Playgirl" is just juvenile.  As far as the instrumental title track is concerned... I never listened to the Beach Boys for their instrumentals.  (Well, not until Pet Sounds.)



All Summer Long
Capitol ST- 2110 [LP], CDP 7 93693 2 [CD]; Released July, 1964

1. I Get Around [Love, Wilson]
2. All Summer Long [Love, Wilson]
3. Hushabye [Pomus, Shuman]
4. Little Honda [Love, Wilson]
5. We'll Run Away [Usher, Wilson]
6. Carl's Big Chance [Wilson, Wilson]
7. Wendy [Wilson]
8. Do You Remember? [Love, Wilson]
9. Girls on the Beach [Love, Wilson]
10. Drive-In [Love, Wilson]
11. Don't Back Down [Wilson]

REVIEW: Oh, this is a great album.  When casual fans think of the Beach Boys, these are the songs they hear in their minds.  "All Summer Long" is a  timeless soundtrack for summer.  Count the hits: a punchy "I Get Around" (the band's first #1 single), the bouncing-xylophone introduction of "All Summer Long," (featured in the closing credits of "American Grafitti" years down the road),  a superlative cover of "Hushabye," the insistant "faster, faster" thrum of "Little Honda," an aching lyric on "Wendy," also "Girls on the Beach" (with another inspired, soaring  melody), the juvenile delinquent mentality of "Drive In," and the super-cool peer pressure of "Don't Back Down."  What sparked such fine songcraft is the sudden wake-up call of The Beatles, who were taking America by storm.  Brian Wilson felt an immediate and lasting rivalry between the Beach Boys and the lads from Liverpool, and in typical 'Brian' fashion, he rose to the challenge, with stunning results.  Even the filler was good, with a wistful "We'll Run Away" and the nostalgic (?) rock and roll homage "Do You Remember?" easy on the ear.  The only tracks I tend to skip over are the instrumental (of course) "Carl's Big Chance," and the blooper reel "Our Favorite Recording Sessions."



The Beach Boys' Christmas Album
Capitol ST- 2164 [LP], CDP 7 91008 2 [CD]; Released October, 1964

1 Little Saint Nick [Wilson]
2 The Man With All the Toys [Wilson]
3 Santa's Beard [Love, Wilson]
4 Merry Christmas, Baby [Love, Wilson]
5 Christmas Day [Wilson]
6 Frosty the Snowman [Nelson, Rollins]
7 We Three Kings of Orient Are [Hopkins]
8 Blue Christmas [Hayes, Johnson]
9 Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town [Coots, Gillespie]
10 White Christmas [Berlin]
11 I'll Be Home for Christmas [Gannon, Kent, Ram]
12 Auld Lang Syne [Burns, Traditional]
13 Little Saint Nick
[Wilson]
14 The Lord's Prayer
[Malotte]
15 Little Saint Nick [alternate take/*] [Wilson]
16 Auld Lang Syne [alternate take/*]

REVIEW: The Beach Boys were on a very tight schedule to put out product by this time, and the success of their Christmas single, "Little Saint Nick" meant that a full-blown album was needed to be ready for the holidays.  Not surprisingly (to this fan at least), the band was able to pull it off with eggnog to spare, creating a timeless holiday classic.  Blending new rock originals (most of which reflect the rushed nature of their creation), with lush, orchestrated arrangements of familiar classics, "Christmas Album" manages to have something to please everyone.  My personal favorites are the classic "Little Saint Nick" (and the alternate version sung to the tune of "Drive In"), The lush and slightly off-key "We Three Kings of Orient Are," an atypical religious number; "The Lord's Prayer," a truly lovely "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and the traditional "Auld Lang Syne" (in both the original version, which has Dennis stuttering through a spoken holiday greeting, and on a CD bonus track, without Dennis.)  Now, rock purists may balk at the use of a 40-piece orchestra to back up the boys on the ballads, but I've always thought the Beach Boys' shimmering vocal blend and the dense orchestrations compliment each other well.  The Beach Boys also perform my favorite version of the bouncy "Frosty the Snowman."



The Beach Boys' Concert
Capitol STAO 2198 [LP], CDP 7 935695 2 [CD]; Released October, 1964

1. Fun, Fun, Fun Love, [Wilson] 2:26
2. The Little Old Lady from Pasadena [Altfeld, Christian] 3:01
3. Little Deuce Coupe [Christian, Wilson] 2:27
4. Long, Tall Texan [Strzelecki] 2:31
5. In My Room [Usher, Wilson] 2:25
6. Monster Mash [Capizzi, Pickett] 2:27
7. Let's Go Trippin' [Dale] 2:34
8. Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow [Frazier, Harris, White, Wilson] 2:18
9. The Wanderer [Maresca] 1:59
10. Hawaii [Wilson] 1:51
11. Graduation Day [Sherman, Sherman] 3:28
12. I Get Around [Love, Wilson] 2:42
13. Johnny B. Goode [Berry] 1:54

REVIEW: Ok, ok, I know this was the first Beach Boys album to go to number one, but that doesn't mean it's the first album you should rush out and buy, or even their first concert album you should listen to.  Six of the tracks are cover versions of other hit songs of the day, and I honestly don't like any of them.  "Long Tall Texan?"  "Monster Mash?"  "The Wanderer?"  "Little Old Lady From Pasadena?"  Ugh.  I could've handled much more material from their recently released "All Summer Long" album, rather than listening to Mike Love cheese his way through the introduction to "Little Deuce Coupe."  This album, despite it's popular success, was an artistic leap backwards for the Beach Boys, whose studio albums were beginning to take long strides forward in sophistication and songcraft.  A similar slide would occur two years later, when the caveman-like grunting of "Barbara-Ann" would commercially out-shine the brilliance of "Pet Sounds."


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