RARITIES III: SEA OF TUNES II
I - II - III - IV - V
 
NOTE:
In November of 1997, A new label, "Sea Of Tunes" began releasing high-quality studio out-takes from all of the early Beach Boys albums.  Copied onto digital video tape during the making of the An American Band video in 1984, it took nearly 14 years before these tapes were bootlegged. Presented in chronological order, with session dates and photos appropriate to each album, these CD's are perhaps the most important ever released for scholars and serious fans of The Beach Boys.

Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 7 (1964) The Alternate "Today" Album, Vol. 1
Sea Of Tunes C 9819/20/21/22 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • 7 takes of "She Knows Me Too Well"
  • 11 takes of "Don't Hurt My Little Sister"
  • 14 takes of "When I Grow Up To Be A Man"
  • 6 takes of "I'm So Young"
  • 6 takes of "Guess I'm Dumb"
  • 7 takes of "All Dressed UP For School"
  • 17 takes of "Dance Dance Dance"
  • 6 takes of "Kiss Me, Baby"

For complete track listing: click here.

REVIEW:  Oh my.  Four CD's, the first of two box sets for the Today album.  Is this overkill or what?  Somebody pinch me.  A whole disc devoted to "When I Grow Up To Be A Man" sessions (with a very tired, and uptight group trying to lay down the track at 11:00 pm), including outtakes of "I'm Dumb" (a fabulous "lost" song of Brian's, given away to Glen Campbell), large chunks of outtakes for "Dance, Dance, Dance," (including tense, argumentative vocal sessions) "She Knows Me Too Well," " Don't Hurt My Little Sister," "All Dressed Up For School," and the heavenly "Kiss Me Baby."  Have I mentioned that these tracks are almost ALL in true stereo?    Whoops!  I'm drooling all over my keyboard... but again, a reminder that these are, for the most part, studio outtakes, and your enjoyment of them depends entirely on whether you like listening to rough, unfinished, works-in-progress.  In particular, you can hear how Brian constructed the recordings, layering the basic tracks with vocal and instrumental overdubs with astonishing skill and foresight.  This set is simply being able to hear Brian Wilson in his prime, constructing timeless, heartfelt music.  Unmissable.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 8 (1965) The Alternate "Today" Album, Vol. 2
Sea Of Tunes C 9819/20/21/22 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • 16 takes of "Please Let Me Wonder"
  • 8 takes of "Help Me Ronda" 
  • 7 takes of "Good To My Baby"
  • 4 takes of "Do You Wanna Dance?"
  • 18 takes of "In The Back Of My Mind" 
  • 8 takes of "I'm So Young" 
  • 20-minute long "Bull Session With "Big Daddy"

For complete track listing: click here.

REVIEW:  The second set of four CD's (!) dedicated to The Beach Boys Today! album, this box containins tracking and vocal sessions for "Please Let Me Wonder" (filling a whole disc), "Help Me, Ronda," (the album version, not the single version, which is why you won't find the infamous "Murray/Brian argument" here) the superlative and very listenable backing tracks to "Good To My Baby," sessions for "Do You Wanna Dance?" [needed more vocal sessions], "In The Back Of My Mind," and "I'm So Young," and to top it all off... a 20-minute "Bull Session with Big Daddy."  This in-studio interview with well-known biographer-to-the-stars Earl Leaf, is completely different from what eventually got put out (not surprising--this first interview seems experimental, with the boys not quite sure how the interview will be edited) and contains rather candid remarks from the band about the Beach Boys recent European tour;  (re: Brian: "I don't like France.  I like their bread, though." and an embarrased Mike Love's run-in with the law in Germany) and of course, there's LOTS of first-time stereo for ardent fans.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 9 (1965) The Alternate "Summer Days (and Summer Nights!)" Album
Sea Of Tunes C 98023/24/25/26 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • 5 takes of "Help Me, Rhonda" 
  • 8 takes of "Sandy"
  • 6 takes of "Let Him Run Wild" 
  • 5 takes of "Salt Lake City"
  • 9 takes of "California Girls" 
  • 8 takes of "Girl Don't Tell Me"
  • 9 takes of "Then I Kissed Her"
  • 4 takes of "Graduation Day"
  • 3 takes of "Amusement Park USA"
  • 9 takes of "You're So Good To Me"
  • 8 takes of "The Girl From New York City"

For complete track listing: click here.

REVIEW: This four disc box set devoted to outtakes from Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) was a disappointment to me, but others may enjoy it.  There is actually very little of the Beach Boys on these discs, since apparently most of the vocal sessions were not in Capitols vaults when these copies were made, so often there is only one or two "finalized" vocal sessions (and sometimes no vocals at all) leaving many of the tracks with only Brian and the studio band slugging out the backing tracks.  Perhaps this collection should have been called "The Wrecking Crew -- Unsurpassed Masters", since there is far more of them than there is of the Beach Boys.  Another gripe is that although the front of the box prominently says "Stereo," over half of the tracks are actually in mono, a bit of a letdown after past Sea of Tunes stereo masters.  But there are some nice moments as well; during the vocal rehearsals for "Graduation Day", Dennis (who is not singing, but is listening from the booth) comes on tape just gushing over how wonderful the track is, and you can hear his absolute wonder and awe at what he is hearing... and there are a couple of moments where you can hear Brian singing out the parts to the Wrecking Crew, directing them in his unique, commanding style.  There is also the rare backing track (with very different backing vocals) to "Sandy" (the original version of "Sherry She Needs Me" aka "She Says That She Needs Me" which eventually appeared on Brian's solo album Imagination) which is plodding and under-tempo -- it seems like Brian hadn't quite gotten the "feel" for the arrangement yet.  An OK, but not great entry in the SOT canon.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 10 (1965) The Alternate "Beach Boys Party!" Album
Sea Of Tunes C 98027/28/29/30 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • Over three and a half hours of the Beach Boys live and in the studio. 
  • Unreleased takes of "Riot In Cell Block #9," "The Diary," "California Girls," "Satisfaction," "Heart And Soul," and "Smoky Joe's Cafe"
  • Lots of In-Studio Chatter between the Beach Boys.
  • A complete Party Sessions Stereo Mix

For complete track listing: click here.

REVIEW: In direct contrast to the absence of the Beach Boys in the Summer Days sessions, here comes Vol. 10, which documents the easy-going Party! album and contains nothing BUT the Beach Boys in all their familial glory.  Call this set: "All Beach Boys -- All The Time."  And also, unlike the previous album, every single track here is in stereo, including a first-time EVER stereo mix of the entire album, which comprises the fourth disc.  Now, granted, the Party! album is never going to make anyone's top ten list of great albums, but it sure is fun to strip away the later-overdubbed "chit-chat" and hear the Beach Boys just trying out song after song in the studio, bantering back and forth, being themselves.  Even more than the original album, this is the real party where I would like to be.  Additionally, there are several songs attempted that never made it onto the final album, including a fine version of the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction," (!) Al Jardine tackling a soft, guitar-accompanied version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," Mike mumbling through Leiber/Stoller's "One Kiss Led To Another," Neil Sedaka's "The Diary" makes a brief appearance, (in which Bruce Johnston wails out an extremely tasteless ad-lib) and more.  Also included is lots of studio chatter, and huge chunks of  time when the tape was just left running, so every snort, cough, whistle, laugh and jibe is captured.   There isn't much progressive studio-craft going on here, but with all the band in such a good mood, it's nice to just hang out with them for a while.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 11 (1965) Miscellaneous Trax Vol. 3
Sea Of Tunes C 9831/32 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • Unknown Instrumental
  • 14 takes of "The Little Girl" (I Once Knew)
  • 3 takes of "Stella By Starlight"
  • 4 takes of "How Deep Is The Ocean"
  • 1 take of "Three Blind Mice"
  • 7 takes of "Let's Live Before We Die"

For complete track listing: click here.

REVIEW: The first truly missable entry in the Sea Of Tunes canon, Miscellaneous Trax vol. 3 contains several rare titles that collectors have heard about, including "Stella By Starlight," "How Deep Is the Ocean?," "Three Blind Mice," and "Let's Live Before We Die" as well as the sessions for "The Little Girl I Once Knew".  With the exception of "Little Girl" nothing else on here is worth searching out.  "Stella..." and "How Deep..." are particularly cringe-worthy, neither of them featuring the Beach Boys, but rather the fingernails on a chalkboard voice of Dick Reynolds (who arranged the Four Freshman's voices, and also did the orchestral arrangements on the Beach Boys Christmas album).  Apparently, Brian oversaw the vocal sessions of these heavily-orchestrated clunkers, and didn't have the nerve to tell Mr. Reynolds that his voice sounds like a warbling parody of Nelson Eddy.  "Three Blind Mice" is interesting only because it sounds vaguely "Smile"-ish in it's composition, but otherwise, it's droning and unfinished.  The final tracks are devoted to the instrumental backing track "Let's Live Before We Die" and are nowhere near the inventiveness of Brian's best efforts of this period.  And a warning... the only vocal work found on "Little Girl" is a finished group vocal with Mike trying to overdub his spoken parts, and continually screwing up.  Let this one pass you by.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 12 (1965) "Sloop John B" Sessions and Radio Spots
Sea Of Tunes C 9833/34 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • 19 takes of "Sloop John B"
  • 24 Promotional Radio Spots featuring Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine live in the studio.

For complete track listing: click here.

REVIEW:  Another "iffy" entry in the SOT lineup, I recommend this only if you enjoy "Sloop John B" as much as I do.  A whole disc devoted to the backing and vocal tracks to this song, it adds up to over 62 minutes of quality "Sloopy" time.  The second disc is the big disappointment.  I was hoping for a collected works disc, with spoken and sung radio spots intertwined, but this recording is taken from a single days session, all spoken, with just Brian, Mike and Al running through a series of spots, all of them very similar in tone and style, occasionally trying to be funny, (and occasionally succeeding) but after a few minutes, they get bored and begin to run through the spots quickly, trying to get this promotional chore over with.  Most of this CD is Mike and Brian and Chuck Britz (who's in the booth), and very little of Al Jardine. There is some interest in how they try and tailor-make each spot for certain disc jockeys (including a tortuous run of over 25 takes for friend and former writing partner Roger Christian), and at how well Mike and Brian are interacting with each other in the studio, but it's not enough to recommend this disc. 


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