ALBUMS REVIEWS IV: 1981-PRESENT
I - II - III - IV

NOTE: The last two decades have been ones of slowdown for the Beach Boys.  With each new album announced, fans hopes rise in wild expectations, only to be disappointed with the released product.  In general, the new albums that have been recorded have been slick, commercial pieces, faintly echoing the earliest hits of the Beach Boys, but with none of the heart and soul of their first efforts.  There have also been notable reissues, and reverent box sets compiled, which testify of the enduring genius and quality of the body of work of the Beach Boys.


Rarities

Capitol ST 12293 [LP];
Released 1983

(out of five)
1. With a Little Help from My Friends [Lennon, McCartney] 2:25
2. The Letter [Thompson] 1:50
3. I Was Made to Love Her [Cosby, Hardaway, Moy, Wonder] 2:36
4. You're Welcome [Wilson] 1:09
5. The Lord's Prayer [Malotte] 2:34
6. Bluebirds over the Mountain [Hickey] 2:51
7. Celebrate the News [Jakobson, Wilson, Wilson] 3:06
8. Good Vibrations [Love, Wilson] 3:35
9. Land Ahoy [Wilson] 1:43
10. In My Room [German Version] [Usher, Wilson] 2:17
11. Cotton Fields (The Cotton Song) [Leadbelly] 3:01
12. All I Want to Do [Wilson] 1:39
13. Auld Lang Syne [Burns, Traditional] 1:21
14. Medley: Good Vibrations/Help Me, Rhonda/I Get Around/Little Deuce Coupe [Berry, Christian, Fassert ...] 6:50
15. Medley: Surfer Girl/Girls on the Beach/Ballad of Ole' Betsy/We'll Run A [Asher, Christian, Usher ...] 9:39
16. Beach Boys Medley: Good Vibrations/Help Me Rhonda/I Get Around/Shut Dow [Berry, Christian, Fassert ...] 4:09

REVIEW: Brad Elliott, acclaimed Beach Boys' discographer, helped put this intriguing package together seven years before the acclaimed Capitol "two-fer" series appeared with their wealth of unreleased tracks.  Recently re-released in Japan (with 20-bit remastering and "bonus" medley tracks), the album has become somewhat anachronistic for those who already own the two-fers, but there are still a few surprises to be found.  Studio renditions of "With A Little Help From My Friends" (with the odd sensation of hearing the Beach Boys sing Beatles harmonies) a cover of the Box Tops' "The Letter," (more subdued than I'd think a "Wild Honey" out-take would be) a slightly extended version of "Wild Honey," and an alternate two-track mix of "Bluebirds Over The Mountains" make this compilation a must for completists.  There is also an early, alternate version of "Good Vibrations" that differs from any other released version.  Unfortunately saddled with a K-TEL-like (but undeniably eye-catching) cover, and cursed with being a single album (frustratingly short for many fans), it also had the bad taste to disappear quickly after being released in 1983 due to ongoing contract negotiations with Capitol.  Most of the tracks reappeared on the two-fers, but since those are now out of print, you might want to seek this out. (The medley "bonus" tracks are those that were released in the mid-eighties, and have noticeably poorer sound than the other remastered tracks, and are useless overall.) To read more details about this interesting album, you can also check out this link



The Beach Boys (1985)

Caribou FZ 39946 [LP] CDCRB 26378 [CD]; 
Released May, 1985



1. "Getcha Back" (Mike Love/Terry Melcher) - 3:02
2. "It's Gettin' Late" (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith Schilling/Robert White Johnson) - 3:27
3. "Crack at Your Love" (Brian Wilson/Al Jardine) - 3:40
4. "Maybe I Don't Know" (Carl Wilson/Myrna Smith Schilling/Steve Levine/Julian Lindsay) - 3:54
5. "She Believes in Love Again" (Bruce Johnston) - 3:29
6. "California Calling" (Al Jardine/Brian Wilson) - 2:50
7. "Passing Friend" (George O'Dowd/Roy Hay) - 5:00
8. "I'm So Lonely" (Brian Wilson/Eugene E. Landy) - 2:52
9. "Where I Belong" (Carl Wilson/Robert White Johnson) - 2:58
10. "I Do Love You" (Stevie Wonder) - 4:20
11. "It's Just a Matter of Time" (Brian Wilson/Eugene E. Landy) - 2:23
12. "Male Ego" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love/Eugene E. Landy) - 2:32

REVIEW: This was a highly anticipated album by Beach Boys fans, being a reunion of the remaining members (Dennis having drowned in 1983), and their estranged leader, Brian Wilson.  It was also their first proper album in five years, and great things were expected.  And while it's a good album, it also shows immediately how much things had changed.  Ultra-slick production (courtesy of then-hot producer Steve Levine), digital sound, synthesizers galore, and faux 60's sensibility nestled uncomfortably against mid-80's pre-fabricated soundscapes.  The album begins with the wink-wink, nudge-nudge throwback of "Getcha Back," which to my ears sounds so contrived and calculated, it could run for public office.  Next comes a better song, Carl's "It's Getting Late" which showcases his amazing voice, and also a surprising pop sensibility that blends far better with contemporary tastes than anything else here.  In fact, I might as well say it now; Carl Wilson is the only reason to buy this album.  His singing, and the songs he sings are far and away the best assets here.  The bouncy "Maybe I Don't Know," a gorgeous "She Believes In Love Again" (penned and vocally shared with Bruce Johnston), and the shimmering "Where I Belong" shine brighter than any of Brian's contributions, which include the awful "Crack At Your Love," "I'm So Lonely," the gag-inducing "California Calling," and the unsubtle "Male Ego."




Still Cruisin'

Capitol C1 92639 [LP] CDP 7 92639 2 [CD];
Released August, 1989



1. "Still Cruisin'" (Mike Love/Terry Melcher) - 3:35
2. "Somewhere Near Japan" (Bruce Johnston/Mike Love/Terry Melcher/John Phillips) - 4:48
3. "Island Girl" (Al Jardine) - 3:49
4. "In My Car" (Brian Wilson/Eugene E. Landy/Alexandra Morgan) - 3:21
5. "Kokomo" (Mike Love/Scott McKenzie/Terry Melcher/John Phillips) - 3:35
6. "Wipe Out" (Bob Berryhill/Pat Connolly/Jim Fuller/Ron Wilson) - 4:00
7. "Make It Big" (Mike Love/Bob House/Terry Melcher) - 3:08
8. "I Get Around" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:09
9. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 2:22
10. "California Girls" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:35

REVIEW:
The Beach Boys slung out this cobbled-together piece of product after surprise success of "Kokomo" vaulted them to the top of the charts for one week.  Part soundtrack surplus, part recent originals, and part moldy-oldies, "Still Cruisin'" makes for one frightening Frankenstein creation.  The first cut, "Still Cruisin'," is a mid-tempo rocker that is of the same cloth as "Getcha Back" from their last album. (One big gripe I have about ALL recent Beach Boys albums is that the vocals are processed heavily, leaving a clean, tight harmony that destroys all distinction.  Compare real sharp cheddar with pre-wrapped American slices, and you'll get my drift.)  Next up is the instantly forgettable "Somewhere Near Japan," and the Al Jardine-penned "Island Girl," which has a catchy chorus, but is swamped with dopey Caribbean percussion.  Next comes Brian's only contribution, the heavily-produced "In My Car" (pulled from the "Sweet Insanity" sessions) which has it's great moments, but production is extremely cluttered and messy.  Next comes the popular favorite "Kokomo," which is a featherweight number cursed with sing-along cloyingness.  The next number, "Wipe Out" (with the Fat Boys) is interesting only because of it's similarity to "Stars and Stripes" in its Beach Boys-as-backup-group format; otherwise, it's awful.  My favorite song on the album is "Make It Big" with Carl's strong vocal lead and it's catchy hook redeeming it.  The final three songs are the original versions of "I Get Around," "California Girls," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice," all of which put the rest of the album to shame.



Summer In Paradise

Brother Entertainment R 727-2 [CD Only]; Released August, 1992
EMI CDEMD 0777 7 81036 2 2; UK Revised Version - Released June, 1993

1. "Hot Fun in the Summertime" (Sylvester Stewart) - 3:29
2. "Surfin'" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:45
3. "Summer of Love" (Mike Love/Terry Melcher) - 2:51
4. "Island Fever" (Mike Love/Terry Melcher) - 3:27
5. "Still Surfin' " (Mike Love/Terry Melcher) - 4:03
6. "Slow Summer Dancin' (One Summer Night)" (Bruce Johnston/Danny Webb) - 3:23
7. "Strange Things Happen" (Mike Love/Terry Melcher) - 4:42
8. "Remember "Walking In The Sand" " (George Morton) - 3:31
9. "Lahaina Aloha" (Mike Love/Terry Melcher) - 3:44
10. "Under the Boardwalk" (Mike Love/Artie Resnick/Kenny Young) - 4:07
11. "Summer in Paradise" (Mike Love/Terry Melcher/Craig Fall) - 3:52
12. "Forever" (Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson) - 3:05

REVIEW: I give the Beach Boys a half-star for nice cover artwork, but had to remove all the others for sheer ineptitude.  The Beach Boys may think they're having a "Summer in Paradise," but true fans know this album is a one-way trip to hell.  Bad songwriting, lousy lyrics, ham-fisted production, clueless remakes, all of which make SIP a pinnacle of embarrassment for the band. The album begins with a thudding take on "Hot Fun In The Summertime,"  before skidding completely out of control with a 'updated' version of their first song ever, "Surfin'."   Screaming guitars and numbing drum tracks, anyone?  Following is a terrifying Melcher/Love trilogy, "Summer of Love," "Island Fever," and "Still Surfin'," which only goes to prove that bad things do come in threes.  Bruce Johnston writes the dullest song in his career with "Slow Summer Dancing (One Summer Night)" and Al Jardine wails out "Strange Things Happen" (which has a nice hook in the chorus, but terrible TM lyrics.)  The Beach Boys commence to destroy the classic "Remember (Walking In The Sand)," Van Dyke Parks plays accordion on "Lahina Aloha" (ouch!), even Carl's mellifluous pipes can't save the malnourished "Under The Boardwalk," and Mike love writes the worst lyrics in his life in the title track. The rest is simply not worth mentioning.  If anyone out there claims to like this album, they need to be strapped down, beaten senseless, and fed a daily diet of "Pet Sounds" and "Sunflower" until they recover.



Good Vibrations : Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys
Capitol C2 7 81294 2 [CD Only];
Released November, 1993


Good
                                                          Vibrations: 30
                                                          Years Of The
                                                          Beach Boys

Special Features:

  • Five CD box set featuring 118 digitally remastered songs.
  • Bonus 24-track CD of rarities, including sessions, vocal-only tracks, radio spots and live performances.
  • Full-color booklet with liner notes by David Leaf.
  • Color Beach Boys decal
  • For full track listing - click here

REVIEW:
It took Capitol Records nearly twenty-five years, but they finally do right by the Beach Boys.  "Good Vibrations : Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys" is essential listening for all music lovers, but especially for fans.  Tastefully done, both in song selection and presentation, this box set was obviously a labor of love for it's producers.  It succeeds on several counts: 1.) it provides a well balanced taste of all the Beach Boys albums, not only the hits, but important album tracks from every label they had recorded with. 2.) It includes many unreleased tracks for collectors, including thirty minutes of the pivotal Smile. and a bonus disc entirely of outtakes/unreleased material!  3.) It provides ample evidence that the Beach Boys' careers did not end with "Pet Sounds;" masterfully choosing the best tracks from the 70's and 80's.  In effect, "Good Vibrations" is the best overview of one of the best bands ever.  My only complaint would be that the early albums (Surfin' Safari to Today) seem to be slighted (just one disc) in favor of later years, but I imagine that was a conscious decision on the part of the producers.  They seem to not want to simply list the Beach Boys accomplishments, but reintroduce the public to an undeservedly forgotten force in rock music.  Listening to this set is a grand aural experience, and an education on how the Beach Boys really have been a Great American Band over all of these years.  Highly recommended.


The Pet Sounds Sessions
EMI/Capitol C2 7243 8 37662 2 2  [CD];
Released November, 1997


Special Features:

  • 3-CD box set featuring new stereo mix of Pet Sounds
  • Original studio tracking sessions with Brian Wilson
  • Vocals-only mix featuring The Beach Boys
  • Bonus disc featuring HDCD remastering of original mono LP
  • Liner notes by David Leaf, with an introduction by Brian Wilson
  • Extensive booklet with interviews with participating members/admirers.
  • For complete track listing - click here.

REVIEW: After a tumultuous period when it seemed the Beach Boys were going to add yet another "lost" album to their canon, The Pet Sounds Sessions were finally released, and well worth the wait.  More of a high-minded set than the "Good Vibrations" box, "The Pet Sounds Sessions" is an education on how what is considered to be one of the all-time best rock albums ever was made.  Taking a recording-booth view, a listener gets treated to several different versions of the album, pulled apart in different ways, hearing stereo versions, studio outtakes, backing tracks, vocal tracks, alternate takes, and a remixed mono version.  It can be daunting.  The booklet is even more comprehensive, listing interviews with everyone involved with the project, plus admirers like Sirs Paul McCartney and George Martin (it also includes a snide prologue by Mike Love, the inclusion of which was apparently the reason the set was delayed.)  At times, reading the booklet is a bit much, all the participants extensively laud Brian and Pet Sounds, it's easy to feel quickly jaded, (and creepily almost like reading a eulogy) but it's still very impressive.   But then sit back and listen to the depth and sparkle of the newly-mixed stereo version, or soak in the HDCD-mastered mono version, or wonder at the incredible blend of voices singing of bittersweet longing, or hear the alternating sigh and thunder of the unearthed orchestral tracks, and prepare to be... transported.



Endless Harmony [Soundtrack]

EMD/Capitol 72434-96391-2-6 [CD Only];
Released August, 1998



1. "Soulful Old Man Sunshine" (Writing session excerpt) (Brian Wilson/Rick Henn) - 0:42
2. "Soulful Old Man Sunshine" (Brian Wilson/Rick Henn) - 3:25
3. "Radio Concert Promo 1" - 0:15
4. "Medley: Surfin' Safari/Fun, Fun, Fun/Shut Down/Little Deuce Coupe/Surfin' USA (live) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love/Roger Christian/Chuck Berry) - 3:33
5. "Surfer Girl" (Binaural mix) (Brian Wilson) - 2:27
6. "Help Me, Rhonda" (Alternate single version) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:50
7. "Kiss Me, Baby" (Stereo remix) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:42
8. "California Girls" (Stereo remix) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:44
9. "Good Vibrations" (Live) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:40
10. "Heroes And Villains" (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks) - 2:27
11. "Heroes And Villains" (Live) (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks) - 3:40
12. "God Only Knows" (Live) (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 2:45
13. "Radio Concert Promo 2" - 0:15
14. "Darlin' " (Live) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:26
15. "Wonderful/Don't Worry Bill" (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks/Ricky Fataar/Blondie Chaplin/Steve Fataar/Brother Fataar) - 5:52
16. "Do It Again" (Early version) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:30
17. "Break Away" (Demo) (Brian Wilson/Reggie Dunbar) - 2:38
18. "Sail Plane Song" (Brian Wilson/Carl Wilson) - 2:12
19. "Loop De Loop (Flip Flop Flyin' In An Aeroplane)" (Brian Wilson/Carl Wilson/Al Jardine) - 2:56
20. "Barbara" (Dennis Wilson) - 2:58
21. "Til I Die" (Alternate mix) (Brian Wilson) - 4:52
22. "Long Promised Road" (Live) (Carl Wilson/Jack Rieley) - 4:17
23. "All Alone" (Carli Munoz) - 3:36
24. "Brian's Back" (Mike Love) - 4:07
25. "Endless Harmony" (Bruce Johnston) - 3:29

REVIEW: Well, this disc takes the prize for best Beach Boys disc this year.  Even considering that this release was a rush job, I can't find one thing bad about it. The packaging, the liner notes (by wunderkind Brad Elliott) and the sonics (the sound on this package surpasses anything I've heard before.  Great kudos to Andrew Sandoval!) put this release head and shoulders above previous remasters.  If this is indeed the first volley in the new reissue series Capitol is planning, this is going to be one exciting year.  The real find on this disc is "Soulful Old Man Sunshine;" (you know, it really does sound like a shampoo commercial!) with it's jazzy, full-out production, it casts the Beach Boys in a whole new light; but to be fair, this disc is full of high points: electrifying live sets (Heroes and Villains, God Only Knows, Darlin', Long Promised Road), stunningly clear remixes (Kiss Me Baby, California Girls, Surfer Girl), and long-rumored surprises (Heroes and Villains Demo, Sail Plane Song, 'Til I Die-alternate mix).  And each of the Beach Boys gets a chance to shine as well:  Dennis with his two previously unreleased songs (Barbara, All Alone), Alan with his newly-finished tour-de-force "Loop de Loop," Carl's angel voice is everywhere and Mike pipes up with his uh, renowned "Brian's Back."  The alternate "Help Me Rhonda" is wonderful, and the two radio spots are fun, and I finally get to hear "Endless Harmony" without the mastering snafus found on my KTSA cd.  Everything here is interesting, each cut is fresh; this is a superlative compilation.  NOTE: After the rushed production of the first CD to coincide with the release of the documentary, the Beach Boys came around and asked that some remixing be done, which made subtle changes on several songs, plus one of the radio tracks, which was incorrectly placed on the CD in favor of another, was corrected.  The new CD illustration also was commissioned, which I feel is a big improvement.  The orange-colored CD is now out-of-print, and can be considered a collector's item.



The Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas

Capitol 95734 [CD];
Released September, 1998



1. "Little Saint Nick" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:01
2. "The Man With All The Toys" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 1:32
3. "Santa's Beard" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:00
4. "Merry Christmas, Baby" (Brian Wilson) - 2:21
5. "Christmas Day" (Brian Wilson) - 1:47
6. "Frosty The Snowman" (Steve Nelson/Jack Rollins) - 1:54
7. "We Three Kings Of Orient Are" (John Henry Hopkins) - 4:03
8. "Blue Christmas" (Billy Hayes/Jay W. Johnson) - 3:09
9. "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (J. Fred Coots/Haven Gillespie) - 2:20
10. "White Christmas" (Irving Berlin) - 2:29
11. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (Kim Gannon/Walter Kent/Buck Ram) - 2:44
12. "Auld Lang Syne" (Trad. Arr. Brian Wilson) - 1:19
13. "Little Saint Nick" (Single version) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:08
14. "Auld Lang Syne" (Alternate mix) (Trad. Arr. Brian Wilson) - 1:23
15. "Little Saint Nick" (Alternate version) (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:04
16. "Child Of Winter (Christmas Song)" (Brian Wilson/Stephen Kalinich) - 2:49
17. "Santa's Got An Airplane" (Alan Jardine/Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:09
18. "Christmas Time Is Here Again" (Buddy Holly/Norman Petty/Jerry Allison/new lyrics by Al Jardine) - 3:02
19. "Winter Symphony" (Brian Wilson) - 3:00
20. "(I Saw Santa) Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" (Brian Wilson/Al Jardine) - 2:23
21. "Melekalikimaka" (Alan Jardine/Mike Love) - 2:34
22. "Bells Of Christmas" (Alan Jardine/Ron Altbach/Mike Love) - 2:44
23. "Morning Christmas" (Dennis Wilson) - 3:22
24. "Toy Drive Public Service Announcement" - 1:23
25. "Dennis Wilson Christmas Message" - 0:31
26. "Brian Wilson Christmas Interview" - 2:35

REVIEW: As the final Beach Boys release of 1998, this upgraded CD of the 1964 Christmas album also signaled the beginning of the new reissue program that Capitol is planning for 1999-2000 of all the Beach Boys catalog.  I won't review the original album since I've done that already, but I will say that the sonics on this release easily surpass any previous issue, with Andrew Sandoval (and Steve Desper) once again providing the last word in clarity and brightness, as well as several sparkling stereo mixes, new for this release.  The booklet and notes by Brad Elliott are also notable for their high quality.  Of the several bonus tracks included, the best tracks from the aborted 1977 "Merry Christmas" album were chosen (including Dennis's slow, classically-tinged "Morning Christmas," Brian's "Winter Symphony" and ultra-rare 1974 single "Child of Winter" the MIU-related Melekalikimaka (Kona Coast), Bells of Christmas (Belles of Paris), and Christmas Time is Here Again (Peggy Sue), as well as yet another version of "Loop De Loop"; Santa's Got An Airplane.  While none of the mid-seventies tracks matches the charm or magic of the 1964 tracks, they are good, and an interesting comparison of how the Beach Boys' style changed over the course of a decade.  One minor gripe is the exclusion of the previously released "The Lord's Prayer," which fit in so nicely with the original Christmas album.  Overall, a noteworthy improvement of this seminal holiday album.



Hawthorne, CA. -  Birthplace of a Musical Legacy

Capitol 72435 31583 2 3 [CD];
Released May 21, 2001



Special Features:

  • 57-tracks of rare and unreleased Beach Boys outtakes including:
  • Raw studio sessions
  • New stereo mixes
  • Vocal-only tracks
  • Instrumental backing tracks
  • Unreleased songs
  • Live performances
  • Demo tapes
  • and much more!

to see complete track list - click here.

REVIEW: Is it just me, or are official releases looking more and more like bootlegs?  Gone are the days when only finished products were the only things the big labels would release, now, anything goes.  A shotgun blast of odds and ends that fans should joyfully snap up, "Hawthorne, CA" has something for everyone, although casual fans will likely not be enticed by the potpourri blend of rough demos, backing tracks, live cuts, stereo remixes and a couple of previously unreleased songs.  Highlights include sparkling stereo mixes of "Dance, Dance, Dance," "Heroes and Villains," "The Lord's Prayer" and "Vegetables," vocal-only mixes of "Kiss Me Baby," "Been Way Too Long," and "Forever," the lovely "A Time To Live In Dreams" and much, much more.  This collection does contain a couple of "huh?" moments, such as the backing tracks to "Surfin' USA" and "Fun, Fun, Fun" (who's been screaming for those?) and even some redundancies with the previously released "Happy Birthday Four Freshman," and "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring."  But overall this set is great fun, high nostalgia, and a loving look at what makes the Beach Boys a high-water mark in American music.



Live at Knebworth 1980
Eagle EAGCD155 [CD Only];
Released October 14, 2002



1. "Intro" - 0:49
2. "California Girls" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:10
3. "Sloop John B" (Trad. Arr. Brian Wilson) - 3:04
4. "Darlin' " (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:37
5. "School Days" (Chuck Berry) - 3:26
6. "God Only Knows" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 2:51
7. "Be True To Your School" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:27
8. "Do It Again" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:08
9. "Little Deuce Coupe" (Brian Wilson/Roger Christian) - 2:14
10. "Cotton Fields"/"Heroes And Villains" (Huddie Ledbetter/Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks) - 5:19
11. "Happy Birthday Brian" - 1:25
12. "Keepin' The Summer Alive (Carl Wilson/Randy Bachman) - 3:42
13. "Lady Lynda" (Al Jardine/Ron Altbach) - 5:01
14. "Surfer Girl" (Brian Wilson) - 2:39
15. "Help Me, Rhonda" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 4:05
16. "Rock And Roll Music" (Chuck Berry) - 2:22
17. "I Get Around" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:14
18. "Surfin' USA" (Brian Wilson/Chuck Berry) - 2:54
19. "You're So Beautiful" (Billy Preston/Fisher) - 3:13
20. "Good Vibrations" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 6:03
21. "Barbara Ann" (Fred Fassert) - 2:46
22. "Fun, Fun, Fun" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 4:49

REVIEW:  Here you have it, the final stage of the Beach Boys live in concert.  Fans can now choose between four different entities the band evolved from: the early, rough charm of Concert! (1964); the confident, popular polish of Live in London (1968); the down-but-not-out daring of In Concert (1974); and now the ultra-professional, somewhat heartless finality of Live at Knebworth (1980).  The real drawing point for fans here is the presence of all five Beach Boys: Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine, performing in what is billed as their last time playing together in the UK.  How is it as a listening experience?  About what you'd expect from this time in their careers: carefully programmed audience entertainment, only one step removed from present-day tours.  The Beach Boys still try out new material on the audience, including then-current singles (an electrifying School Days, which sounds ten times better here than on the studio version), and up-and-coming songs (Keepin' The Summer Alive), but rely heavily on the tried-and-true hits, with each band member getting their place in the spotlight.  Brian sings "Sloop John B," Al transitions somewhat awkwardly from "Cotton Fields" to "Heroes and Villains," Mike owns "Be True To Your School," Carl rips into "Darlin'," and Dennis tackles an abbreviated "You Are So Beautiful."  The dialogue feels well-rehearsed (even the "impromptu" audience sing-along of 'Happy Birthday' to Brian), but every number rips along confidently, the playing and harmony vocals are tighter than ever, and the band seems to be having a genuinely good time.   It's bittersweet to hear Carl and Dennis's voices again come out of the speakers, and sad to have Brian's vocals pushed to the background during most of the concert, but as history it's good to have, and overall an worthwhile CD.



Songs From Here & Back: Unreleased Live Recordings - 3 New Solo Tracks 
Hallmark Licensing, Inc./Brother Records XPR3940 [CD];
Released May, 2006
1. Intro
2. Dance, Dance, Dance
3. Wouldn't It Be Nice*
4. Surfer Girl
5. Kokomo
6. Car Medley Intro
7. Little Deuce Coupe
8. I Get Around
9. Good Vibrations*
10. The Spirit of Rock & Roll (Brian Wilson)
11. PT Cruiser (Al Jardine)
12. Cool Head, Warm Heart (Mike Love)


* = recorded live 1974

REVIEW:  Available exclusively through Hallmark Gold Crown stores for a limited time, Songs From Here & Back is quite different from other discs which Hallmark has commissioned; having achieved gold-selling success from their Christmas releases (with artists like James Taylor, Michael MacDonald, and Amy Grant), the company decided to branch out into other holiday offerings, beginning with a Valentine's Day release from Michael Buble, and now comes The Beach Boys in time for Father's Day.  But whereas other artists had all recorded new albums for the company, The Beach Boys, split into three factions at the time of this release, could only manage to scrape up some odds and ends live recordings, and throw in three solo tracks for good measure.  Running just over 34 minutes in length, this CD really can't be considered essential, but at only $7.95 (with the purchase of three greeting cards), it's still a good deal.  Most of the live performances are all taken from a single show recorded at the Universal Amphitheater in California in front of an appreciative crowd (the exceptions being "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Good Vibrations" which are from 1974).  Carl's and Al's voices are present, and Mike is in the forefront of the performances.  The songs are all good, with tight harmonies, and a good time being had by all - the seven songs aren't particularly electrifying, (two of the tracks are merely spoken introductions) but they're professional and satisfying, and it's nice to have them.  The solo tracks, one each by Brian, Al and Mike, are also nice to have, but again, aren't the highlights you might expect them to be.  "The Spirit Of Rock & Roll" is a song originally written for Brian's second solo album, Sweet Insanity, and is found here in a new recording that unfortunately strips it of it's strong rock 'n' roll genesis, and is lessened by a clunky arrangement that makes it sound more like a polka than a rock song.  Al Jardine's "PT Cruiser" has the distinction of sounding exactly like a 'car song' circa 1963, in the mold of The Rip Chords "Hey Little Cobra" - but doesn't rise above the limitations of that genre.  And Mike's "Cool Head, Warm Heart" is swirling with Wilson-esque harmonies (courtesy of Adrian Baker) but is saddled with TM-'lite' lyrics and a similarly unchallenging melody.  Nice, but forgettable, which is a good way to describe the entire album.



Good Vibrations 40th Anniversary [CD Single]
Capitol/EMI 09463 44962 2 3 [CD]; Released July 26, 2006


1. Good Vibrations [original 45 rpm single version] - 3:37
2. Good Vibrations [various sessions] - 6:56
3. Good Vibrations [alternate take unreleased in the U.S.] - 3:34
4. Good Vibrations [instrumental - stereo] - 3:53
5. Good Vibrations [live concert rehearsal 8/25/67] - 4:09
6. Let's Go Away For Awhile [original b-side] - 2:22

REVIEW:  A 40th Anniversary single (originally released October 10, 1966), that's nice to have, if somewhat anticlimactic.  For those of us who've been in the know, it was rumored at one point that Capitol was thinking of putting out a "Good Vibrations" sessions set, with two-or-three CD's filled with vocal and instrumental takes on this revolutionary single.  Instead, what fans receive is this CD-Single, which collects bits and pieces, all of which have been released before in some form, and throws in the original b-side as well, the instrumental "Let's Go Away for Awhile" from Pet Sounds.  I imagine that the only people who will want to purchase this new release is fans who've missed out on other compilations, like the very rare Beach Boys Rarities album, which was where the "alternate take" was originally found (here, it's listed as 'previously unreleased in the U.S., which is a mistake), or for those who've not heard the various snippets of sessions that have been previously released on the Good Vibrations box set, or the live concert rehearsal, which showed up previously on the Hawthorne, CA double CD.  All of which I have to give a great big "eh" to, since I've obviously heard all of this before.  Still, for fans of this album, it's nice to have all these versions in the same place, and collectors will snap this up.  It's nice that Capitol Records have put this much effort into the Beach Boys catalog, and nice to have it all in HDCD sound.  The packaging is also nice, with the original sleeve art used on the front, and pictures of various international releases of the single on the interior;  but it would've been nicer if something new besides the stereo mixes had actually been added, as well.


Pet Sounds 40th Anniversary CD+DVD [LIMITED EDITION]
Capitol Records 69940 [CD]; Released August 29, 2006



Also available in standard jewel-case packaging.

CD
Features both Mono and Stereo mixes of Pet Sounds with a mono bonus track: "Hang On To Your Ego"

DVD
1. THE MAKING OF PET SOUNDS (behind-the-scenes documentary featuring interviews with Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston and Tony Asher)
2. PET STORIES (Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Don Randi, Frankie Capp and Tommy Morgan reflect on the Pet Sounds sessions and songs, the album’s original release and its legacy)
- The Greatest Album Of All Time…
- The Songs
- 'Caroline, No'
- 'Wouldn't It Be Nice'
- 'God Only Knows'
- 'Sloop John B'
- 'I Know There's An Answer'
- 'You Still Believe In Me'
- On All 8 Cylinders…
- The Vocals
- Competition With The Beatles
3. RHYTHM OF LIFE: Sir George Martin & Brian Wilson in the Studio (never-before-released BBC TV documentary excerpt)
4. GOOD VIBRATIONS (unreleased 1966 color ‘firehouse’ promo film)
5. SLOOP JOHN B (1966 black & white promo film)
6. PET SOUNDS (1966 black & white promo film)
7. PHOTO GALLERY (“God Only Knows” audio synched to photo gallery)
* DVD also contains Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Hi-Res 96 kHz/24-bit PCM Stereo audio mixes of Pet Sounds + Hi-Res 96 kHz/24-bit PCM Mono audio mix of bonus track “Hang On To Your Ego”

REVIEW:  Even for long-time fans, this is a release that should get the some attention.  For the 40th Anniversary of the release of one of rock music's seminal albums, Capitol Records has lavished this set with a lot of love - and no album deserves it more.  For audiophiles, there are four, count 'em, four different mixes of this song on this set: the original mono mix, remastered in HDCD sound, the new stereo mix, also here in sparkling HDCD, and a new remastered mono mix of "Hang On To Your Ego" - which was the original version of "I Know There's An Answer".  The two new mixes for Pet Sounds fans are found on the bonus DVD included, with a Hi-Res 96 dHz/24-bit PCM stereo mix, and an incredible Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix that give a whole new way to appreciate the subtle nuances of each song's arrangement.  In short, it sounds fabulous, no matter how you slice it.

Also of interest is the extended video portion of the DVD, with lots of new, extended footage of all of the Beach Boys, including rare footage of Carl and Dennis, talking about their feelings towards Pet Sounds, and the effect its had on their career.  Much of this footage was available earlier on the Endless Harmony DVD, but here there's more of each interview, and it's all been re-edited into a very pleasing whole.  Bruce, Mike, Al, Carl, Dennis, and Brian all give very clear-eyed accounts of their initial reaction to hearing the tracks Brian had prepared, while they were on tour in Japan, and the tortuous process of recording the vocal tracks under Brian's exacting eye.  Tony Asher, Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, and others who contributed to the tracking sessions are all on hand as well, in extended interview segments that fill out and compliment previous incarnations.  There are complete promotional videos included for "Sloop John B," "Good Vibrations," and a "Pet Sounds Promotional Film" which are bizarre and fun to watch.  And there is a brief meeting of Beatles' producer Sir George Martin as he and Brian sit in Brian's home and studio reminiscing about the far-reaching impact of Pet Sounds on popular music.  In short, even if you have the Pet Sounds box set, and the mono/stereo releases on CD, there is still more here for fans, which, after all these years, is a pleasant surprise.


Smile Sessions [LIMITED EDITION]
Capitol/EMI Records 27663 [CD]; 
Released November 1, 2011

Smile
                                                      Sessions   2CD Edition contains:

  • Lift top box measures 5.5" x 5.5" x 1"
  • Features original cover art designed by Frank Holmes
  • 2 CD wallets
  • 14.5" x 20" poster of Frank Holmes cover art
  • 1" Smile button
  • 36 page booklet featuring:
  • Liner notes by Brian Wilson and more.
  • Previously unseen photos
  • Click here for track listing

Also available:

“For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.”
 John Greenleaf Whittier (American Writer, 1807-1892)

REVIEW:  There are a lot of mixed feelings over the nearly forty-five-year-late release of what had become the most famous unreleased album in history.  Listening to Smile, after decades of songs dribbling out on Beach Boys album, legions of bootlegs, the thirty-minutes of excerpts which were released in 1991 on the Good Vibrations box set, and finally with Brian's 2004 reconstruction/completion of the album, all of which has diminished the impact of this release to a large degree.  First, the good things: the presentation is everything that fans, both casual and manic, should herald - much love and attention has been put into the packaging and remastering of Smile, and at least one of the plethora of various releases should find a place in every music lover's libraries.  The remastered sound of Smile far surpasses any previous release, (including Brian's version) with amazing clarity and depth of sound, as well as that indefinable Brian Wilson production sound that has never been equalled, putting a final coffin nail in what has been an endless flood of bootlegs. And the music is glorious, with Brian Wilson stretching the boundaries of sonic possibilities far beyond where any producer had gone before, with songs that were both strange and riveting in their naif-like innocence.  The liner notes, which are copious, reinforce everything that has been said about the album's dissolution, accompanied with the hilarious back-pedaling of long-time critic Mike Love, who has politically repositioned himself to now rave about the music he once helped drive a knife into. 

In short, it's everything I have been hoping for.

But I have a lot of questions about the impact this release will have; it certainly won't turn the world on its ear the way it would have back in the Sixties, but will it surprise anyone today? Will it blow the minds of any young, new artists?  Will anyone even care?  Finally - and this is a big one - the release doesn't answer the big question which is - was this what Smile would have been back in 1967?  I doubt that even Brian Wilson could answer that one now, with the long passage of years and mountains of substance abuse standing in the way.  The present track configuration is based upon Brian's 2004 album, but the assemblage of that album is a long way from the Brian of 1966.  We'll never know.  For those who have been waiting, or have been curious, or who have never heard it - get it now.  It's a rare musical gift that has been lost for a long, long time, from one of the premiere musical geniuses of our age, and the talents of a sublime vocal group that, in truth, no longer exists.  Smile is from a happier time, a more innocent time, an adventuresome time in popular culture; and it's possible to feel that spirit again in these remarkable, ghostly pieces of music.


That's Why God Made The Radio
Capitol Records [CD/VINYL/MP3];
Released June 5, 2012

1. Think About The Days
2. That's Why God Made The Radio
3. Isn't It Time
4. Spring Vacation
5. The Private Life Of Bill And Sue
6. Shelter
7. Daybreak Over The Ocean
8. Beaches In Mind
9. Strange World
10. From There To Back Again
11. Pacific Coast Highway
12. Summer's Gone

REVIEW:  An astounding album, for several reasons: first, that it ever happened at all, bringing together five of the remaining earliest Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, David Marks, Alan Jardine and Bruce Johnston) after years of acrimony, splits, lawsuits, and more lawsuits, and everyone seems to be on their best behavior; second, that it's not a cheezy "Kokomo"-type "Do It Again" rehash that has plagued their work since the late Seventies; and finally - that it's just so full of heart.  Not what I was expecting, but most everything I was hoping for; a mature, grown-up album that's chock-full of complex melodies and soaring harmonies, beautiful, touching, and often elegiac.  Part of the surprise here is just how balanced the album is, with each member of the band getting a chance to shine; and shine they do, with Mike Love getting in some lovely vocals on "Spring Vacation" and "Daybreak Over The Ocean", Al absolutely stunning on "From There To Back Again" Bruce Johnston piping in with his pure clear vocals throughout, David Marks bringing expert guitar work to the songs, and Brian Wilson contributing his most complex songwriting in thirty years.  Helped by lyricists Joe Thomas and Jim Peterick, the format hearkens back most strongly to the Today! album, with the second half veering strongly into more melancholy, introspective ballads, and even more illuminating, the wintry September Of My Years approach that the Beach Boys embrace.  One of the biggest criticisms of the band over the past twenty years was how they seemed locked away in an Endless Summer, ignoring changes in musical styles and emotional depths that they had explored so effortlessly on their early albums; but now, with That's Why God Made The Radio, The Beach Boys musically grow up and become men.  The album is not completely without faults, but they're ones which long-time fans will easily forgive: Mike Love still seems to want to be nineteen with "Spring Vacation" (although it's not anywhere near as creepy as his "Hey Little Tomboy" of the late-70s), and Brian Wilson continues to court oddball subjects with "The Private Life Of Bill And Sue" which is a paean to reality television - but it wouldn't be a Beach Boys album without a couple of oddball moments, would it?  This is a tremendously surprising album - full of emotional resonance, beautifully produced and sung, it reminds me why I fell in love with the Beach Boys in the first place.


Live: The 50th Anniversary Tour
Capitol Records [CD/MP3];
Released May 21, 2013


Disc 1:

1. Do It Again (Live)     3:38   
2. Little Honda (Live)     2:06   
3. Catch A Wave (Live)     2:09   
4. Hawaii (Live)     1:46   
5. Don't Back Down (Live)     1:45   
6. Surfin' Safari (Live)     2:48   
7. Surfer Girl (Live)     2:29   
8. The Little Girl I Once Knew (Live)     3:09   
9. Wendy (Live)     2:25   
10. Getcha Back (Live)     2:42   
11. Then I Kissed Her (Live)     2:17   
12. Marcella (Live)     3:23   
13. Isn't It Time (Live)     4:01   
14. Why Do Fools Fall In Love (Live)     2:30   
15. When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) (Live)     2:55   
16. Disney Girls (Live)     5:33   
17. Be True To Your School (Live)     3:06   
18. Little Deuce Coupe (Live)     1:50   
19. 409 (Live)     1:52   
20. Shut Down (Live)     1:46   
21. I Get Around (Live)     2:46   

Disc 2:
     
1. Pet Sounds (Live)     3:45   
2. Add Some Music To Your Day (Live)     3:49   
3. Heroes And Villains (Live)     3:54   
4. Sail On, Sailor (Live)     3:45   
5. California Saga: California (Live)     3:09   
6. In My Room (Live)     2:53   
7. All This Is That (Live)     3:38   
8. That's Why God Made The Radio (Live)     4:27   
9. Forever (Live)     2:57   
10. God Only Knows (Live)     2:39   
11. Sloop John B (Live)     3:07   
12. Wouldn't It Be Nice (Live)     2:41   
13. Good Vibrations (Live)     4:14   
14. California Girls (Live)     3:15   
15. Help Me, Rhonda (Live)     3:19   
16. Rock And Roll Music (Live)     2:48   
17. Surfin' U.S.A. (Live)     3:00   
18. Kokomo (Live)     4:00
19. Barbara Ann (Live)     2:33   
20. Fun, Fun, Fun (Live)     3:29

REVIEW:  After the near-unanimous animosity the Beach Boys generated over the unnecessarily truncated DVD of their 2012 reunion concert, which pared down the fifty-song sets they had been playing to sell-out crowds to less than half that number, The Beach Boys dip into the well again (and their fan’s pockets) with this double CD set, which substantially fills out the picture of what their 50th Anniversary Concerts set lists were like, even if there are still several songs which they performed live which aren’t included here. And, like the DVD experience, there is substantial evidence of studio sweetening, on both lead vocals, and all background vocs, which may or may not interfere with your memories of the concert, and with your definition of what a “live” recording should be. Suffice to say this isn’t a “live” concert experience by any stretch of the imagination, but it is what it is, the (safe to say) FINAL live concert document we’ll ever get from the gathered surviving members of The Beach Boys. It’s a strange experience, to say the least; the band sounds alternately old and invigorated - detached and involved, from moment to moment, song to song. Brian Wilson sounds twenty years younger on a fiery “Sail On Sailor” on disc two, but barely there on other songs, while Mike Love is practically mummified on “Be True To Your School” with his cheezy strung-out opening “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen” but then is a consummate professional on the propulsive car medley. Bruce Johnston sounds a little more out-of-breath on “Disney Girls” but shows that his voice still has his beguiling youthfulness it has always possessed, while Al Jardine gets chances to show his powerful vocal chops on “Then I Kissed Her” and “Help Me Rhonda” - and back-in-the-fold David Marks reveals why he wasn’t allowed many vocal moments in his time with the Beach Boys during flat, uninspiring solos on “Getcha Back” (???) and “Shut Down”. Basically, this was the best the band could do - democratically handing out solos and songs to each member, and even “ghosting in” Carl and Dennis for sublime solo moments on “God Only Knows” and “Forever”, respectively. The harmonies, with all the studio scrubbing that’s been done, sounds excessively clean and polished, while the instrumental backing is tucked somewhat further back in the mix, making me miss Dennis’s powerful drum beat, or the raw rhythm section that you’d hear at a real live concert experience. The Beach Boys proved they could still spin magic in the studio, and I’m sure that the thrill of seeing the combined members on stage added a hefty amount of fuel to the concerts themselves, but this aural document is more removed, and therefore, less exciting.


Made In California
Capitol Records 2323452 [CD/MP3]
Released August 27, 2013



A career spanning six-CD box set tracing the Beach Boys career from their beginnings up through their triumphant 50th Anniversary reunion.  Featuring sixty unreleased recordings, as well as greatest hits, and a yearbook-style book filled with information.

For complete track listing, click here.

REVIEW:  Part of the problem of being a long-time Beach Boys fan is that you end up buying the same songs over and over again, as reissues, remasters, and general jiggering with the band’s catalog leads to a lot (A LOT) of repetitive buying.  Exhibit A: the new Made In California box set, which replaces the definitive 1993 Good Vibrations box set, which has fallen out of print.  OK, fine.  Never mind that the band just released a two-CD greatest hits box, which is duplicated here in toto; never mind that this set, selling at $130 retail is far pricier than what a casual fan will want to dish out; and never mind that for most of the running time (four of the six discs) are simply album and single cuts with small changes in mixes, lead-in's, or alternate hoo-haws; Made In California is designed to be THE compendium of the Beach Boys catalog – the whole enchilada, as it were, the final word in presenting the sum of The Beach Boys legacy to the world.  Well, at least for this year. 

For the first four discs, it does an admirable job of gathering the highlights from the band’s first half-century of hit-making - gathering singles, important album cuts, and a few rarities that tickle the ears – an early take of Al’s “Sail Plane Song” makes its first appearance, as well as a couple of divine Dennis Wilson tracks inexcusably having their debut here: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice (To Live Again)” and “My Love Lives On” both showing how under appreciated Dennis continues to be as a composer of stark, raw emotional depth.  A rare Brian Wilson track, “Where Is She?” makes its soggy debut, as well as a couple of tracks from the ill-advised aborted Don Was-produced sessions from the early 90’s (“Soul Searchin’” and “She’s A Mystery”).  Seventeen live tracks all show up here, the best being three 1964 live BBC appearances, which showcase just how tight the band’s harmonies were in a live setting, especially when compared to the “what-were-they-thinking” inclusion of some 1993 concert appearances of “Vegetables” and “Wonderful” which sound just as out-of-place and momentum-stopping as you could possibly imagine.  

What a career-spanning collection like this almost always reveals for any artist is the creative peak, followed by the long decline. Proving yet again just how vital Brian Wilson was to the Beach Boys sound and career – once the hits stop, the box set starts to falter as the material becomes much more scatter-shot – for all the wonderful Dennis and Carl moments that pepper the tracks, you have equally dumb-bell moments like the wretched “Brian Is Back” which remains a completely lame song, even in an alternate mix.  And despite the producer’s claim that this box should be snapped up due to the sixty unreleased tracks, most of these are minor-league alternate takes, backing tracks, vocal-only dubs, and live recordings, only a smattering of which I would label essential listening.  I mean, we get a vocals-only dub of “Pom-Pom Playgirl” which only goes to show that Brian could work his harmony magic on songs which were then, and now, bottom-of-the-barrel pieces (there’s a reason this song doesn’t show up on Greatest Hits collections, guys!) while more worthy tracks (where are the Holland outtakes?) still remain locked in the vault (no doubt held back for next year's Greatest Hits package).  For my money, the previous box set was a far better representation of The Beach Boys career than this mammoth beast, which feels like it’s gone back to the well one too many times.



Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Capitol Records  [CD/Blu-Ray/MP3]
Released June 10, 2016


DESCRIPTION:
4CD/Blu-ray Audio collector's edition presented in a hardbound book, featuring the remastered original album in stereo and mono, plus a new hi res instrumental mix, as well as session outtakes, alternate mixes, previously unreleased live recordings and hi res stereo and mono and 5.1 surround mixes.  For complete track listing, click here.

REVIEW:  OK, first of all, I'm not going to review Pet Sounds, the album, which I've already done.  Nor am I going to compare this release to the previous box set or deluxe stereo 40th Anniversary edition - you can look up those reviews above.  This release - commemorating the big five-oh birthday of Pet Sounds, attempts to give fans a sprinkling of new stuff not found on those other releases, while still making you buy the album again.  Actually, three times, with the newly remastered mono, stereo, and Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound Blu-Ray audio versions all included for audiophiles.  For those counting, this officially makes this the gazillionth time Pet Sounds has been released.  OK, whatever.  I imagine you could get really excited about the previously unreleased alternate instrumental/vocal tracks littered throughout, or get all tingly over the live versions from the late 60s/early 70s (which sound severely stripped down from their celestial studio versions, and are nearly ruined by Mike Love's tone-deaf 'comedic' banter), or you may wonder why the producers felt they needed to include "Good Vibrations" which isn't even on Pet Sounds (!!!), but from my point of view, this release is just a big ol' fat cash grab by Capitol, and even with the sterling sound, unwieldy packaging, reverent notes, and glossy pics, I can't in good conscience recommend running out and purchasing this box, ...unless you've NEVER heard Pet Sounds before.  Even then, I would suggest getting the solo album before shelling out your money for this behemoth; it's just too much.  Too much of a good thing is still... too much.  Happy Birthday, Pet Sounds - sorry we had to publicly dissect you and put you on display in order to enjoy you.



1967 - Sunshine Tomorrow
Capitol Records [CD/MP3]
Release Date: June 30, 2017



The Beach Boys have announced they will offer new archival release, 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow, on June 30 via Capitol/UMe. The collection will include the first-ever stereo recording of Wild Honey, along with over 50 previously unreleased studio and live recording from that year.

The release celebrates the 50th anniversary of Wild Honey and the 1967 studio sessions for that album along with Smiley Smile and the surrounding live dates around the US from which Sunshine Tomorrow draws.


See the complete track listing here.

REVIEW:  Ah, 1967... what must Beach Boys fans must have been going through that year - 1966 had brought the glories of Pet Sounds and the omnipresent teasings of Smile, the album that was to catapult the band into Beatles-like stratospheres.  Instead, here came two albums which threw out nearly everything fans loved about them, and presented a stripped-down, intensely psychedelic Smiley Smile followed by the blindingly white soul of Wild Honey.  Now, on 1967: Sunshine tomorrow, Capitol continues it's series of copyright-protecting releases by releasing the original Wild Honey in it's glorious, first-ever stereo mix, along with Smiley Smile outtakes, live and studio "concert" performances, and odds and ends, which, belying its title, reach into 1970.  First of all, is it worth purchasing?  Oh, yeah.  This is where things start to get reallllly interesting with the Beach Boys.  If the band had splinted during the combustion of Smile, The Beach Boys would have secured their place as one of the great bands of all time, but with the weirdness of 1967 foisted upon the public, they became much more - they became fascinating; you don't know what's going to come next - a musical mystery who's chameleon-like gyrations wouldn't subside until 1974's Endless Summer reinstated their surf/car/girls default setting in the public's eyes.  But for several years, during Brian's increasing withdrawal and the Beach Boys desperation to remain relevant, the band became their most experimental, their most daring, and their most raw.  Carl Wilson stepped in to become the ad hoc leader, and and both he and Dennis Wilson began to stretch their compositional wings.  This music isn't the stuff of commercial success - it seems that the band isn't even trying to write a hit single at this point - they're simply in the birthing metamorphosis stage - and musically, it's the beginning of one of the most interesting phases of their career.


1967 - Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions
Capitol Records [MP3]
Release Date: December 29, 2017


1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions includes 29 studio session recordings.  Highlights from the Studio Sessions set include an a cappella version of "Heroes and Villains," the previously unreleased "Tune L" and outtake "Good News."

For complete track listing click here.


REVIEW:
  It's the end of another year, and that signals another catalog-clearing release from The Beach Boys vaults in order to protect their copyrights!  Heartwarming, I know.  And unlike the physical release which Sunshine Tomorrow merited, these next two releases apparently rate much lower on The Beach Boys opinion-scale, since they have only digital and streaming platform releases, with all their compressed audio and lack of notation to frustrate you.  That said, this is actually a pretty fun release; The Beach Boys were forced into a highly-experimental state with Brian's slow withdrawal, but that doesn't mean that what's here is not worthwhile - the Beach Boys are vocally at their peak here, and Brian's weird-out experimentation is absolutely fascinating, from the polished vocal miniatures to stripped-down versions of SMiLE songs, the chance to peek behind the scenes of these controversial sessions is both enlightening on how unified they sound in the studio, and how, removed from the acid-trip that is Smiley Smile or the white soul freak-out that is Wild Honey, how truly lovely these fragments are.  The Beach Boys could SING, gosh-darn it - and anyone who doubts it should listen to the gorgous harmonies on display here in "With Me Tonight" or peek into the backing tracks and vocals for "I Was Made To Love Her" and "Darlin'."  In my opinion, Capitol was remiss in not including this as a bonus disc on the previous Sunshine Tomorrow set, since everything here is worth hearing, and fascinating in its own right.  As a bonus, two unreleased tracks, the jam session "Tune L" and the short fragment "Good News" receive their first outing here.


1967 - Live Sunshine
Capitol Records [MP3]
Release Date: December 29, 2017


On August 25 and 26, 1967, The Beach Boys (absent Bruce Johnston, but with Brian Wilson on organ for his first concert appearances with the band in more than two years) recorded two concerts and rehearsals in Honolulu for a prospective live album to be titled Lei'd In Hawaii, applying a new Smiley Smile-inspired aesthetic to the performances. Just over two weeks later, the band (with both Brian and Bruce participating) began re-recording the live set in-studio at Brian's house and at Wally Heider Recording in Hollywood, after the Honolulu concert tapes were deemed unusable. Although completed and mixed, the final planned audio element of a canned concert audience was not added and the Lei'd In Hawaii project was canceled. Those live, in-studio performances morphed into sessions for the Wild Honey album, primarily comprised of original Brian Wilson/Mike Love compositions.  For a complete track listing, click here

REVIEW:
  OKaaaaaay.  And so, here we go - in the latest dump of copyright-dodging releases, which should both please and infuriate fans, Capitol Records has released this 109-track behemoth, consisting of the multi-bootlegged "Lei'd In Hawaii" rehearsals and concert, which, for reasons which become instantly apparent, were shelved for good reason.  Brian Wilson, who by this time was taking everything LO-fi, decided to do this concert the same way, making every song sound threadbare, and slightly "off" on tempos (meaning slow).  The Beach Boys don't just sound dis-engaged, they sound slightly stoned, which is a huge pity, since vocally, there would rarely sound this good again.  Brian is present, and in control, Bruce Johnston is elsewhere, and the band noodles around, and Mike continues to "entertain" the crowd between numbers as only he can.  A couple of months later, another concert in Detroit was captured, which featured the band's first live performance of "Darlin'," "Country Air," and "How She Boogalood It" - which, as you can imagine, didn't exactly set the audiences on fire.  It's amazing how amateur they sound here; for a band that has topped the charts several times, they have a raggedness and immaturity that sounds like a college band at times.  Carl Wilson sounds on fire, however.  Two nights later, they had dropped each of those songs in a White Plains, New York date, sticking mostly with the tried-and-true, with only "Wild Honey" and "Darlin'" remaining in the set list.  The album closes with a Boston show, which is almost identical to the White Plains show.  Honestly, there are bright spots throughout the set for true fans, but it's a chore to get through the whole set, and with lots of repetition, and the performances rarely rising above the competent, I think this release is a low priority purchase.


The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Capitol Records [CD/VINYL/MP3]
Release Date: June 8, 2018


1. California Suite
2. California Girls
3. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
4. Fun, Fun, Fun
5. Don’t Worry Baby
6. God Only Knows
7. Sloop John B
8. Heroes And Villains
9. Disney Girls
10. Here Today
11. In My Room
12. Kokomo
13. The Warmth Of The Sun
14. Darlin’
15. Help Me, Rhonda
16. You Still Believe In Me
17. Good Vibrations


REVIEW: There's really no getting around it - a tiny "trend" in classic pop music these days is to take recordings by older (often "dead") artists, strip the vocals from multi-track masters, and re-set them to new orchestral backing in order to give them a "freshening up" as it were.  It's been done with Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and others.  It's not a bad idea, when done tastefully, but as has been noted before, song selection is key.  The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra again goes back to the Beach Boys well, and this time, marries their thick orchestral sound to original vocals - with limited results.  There are several basic problems with this album, which nobody seems to have thought of - first and foremost being: do these songs benefit from having a symphony orchestra tied to them?  For the most part - nope.  Rock music is 'rock' music partially because it's stripped down and "tight" - "Fun Fun Fun," "Darlin'," "Help Me Rhonda" and others sound like they're being played by a college marching band.  Yecch.  And other songs which might have benefited from the presence of an orchestra, like say, "Surf's Up" or "'Til I Die" aren't included.  Which leaves mostly big hits, played straight, without an ounce of invention or creativity in sight.  Sigh.  There's a lot you can do with just vocals and a little imagination (see The Beatles "Love" album) - but not here - it's just the same songs played with a thicker backing track which neither illuminates the music, nor, arguably, makes them sound ANY better - in fact, just the opposite - the songs sound clunkier, squarer, and more MOR than they ever used to.  Nothing more than another soulless cash grab by the Powers-That-Be.



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