RARITIES IV: SEA OF TUNES III
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.  These reviews are solely my opinion.

Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 13 (1965-66) The Alternate "Pet Sound" Album, Vol. 1
Sea Of Tunes C 9835/36/37/38 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • Several alternate and master takes of the entire Pet Sounds album
  • 3 takes of "Trombone Dixie"
  • 4 takes of "Pet Sounds"
  • 7 takes of "You Still Believe In Me"
  • 5 takes of "Caroline No"
  • 14 takes of "Wouldn't It Be Nice"
  • 5 takes of "Hang On To Your Ego"
  • 7 takes of "I Know There's An Answer"

To view complete track list click here.

REVIEW: The first of two box sets for the Pet Sounds sessions, Vol. 13 continues in the fine tradition of previous Sea of Tunes sets in sound and content.  For those who bought the Grammy-nominated 3-CD Capitol set, and were left craving more, this box is for you.  With this set, it's easy to see that the producers have judiciously edited these sessions, offering complete tracking sets up to a point, then switching to vocal sessions, so that a more complete portrait of each song in development is offered than was possible with the "Sessions" box.  Disc One contains an alternate version of the album, with stereo and mono master takes, overdubs, and alternate mixes, missing only the "Sloop John B" sessions, (which were anthologized on the last issue) but presented in clear, wide sonics.  Disc Two contains nine takes of "Trombone Dixie," tracking sessions for "Pet Sounds" and twenty instrumental and additional vocal inserts and mixes of "Wouldn't It Be Nice."  Disc Three chronicles the "You Still Believe in Me" sessions and also "Caroline, No" (although there are no vocal tracks for the latter).  The fourth disc is interesting, with first "Hang On To Your Ego" being cut, then Mike and Al alternating tries at the vocal inserts to the re-write of that song: "I Know There's An Answer."  Throughout the sessions, Brian is in complete control, searching for the "feel" of the backing tracks and the vocals until he's satisfied.  A wonderful, filling aural document of a seminal rock album.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 14 (1966) The Alternate "Pet Sound" Album, Vol. 2
Sea Of Tunes C 9839/40/41/42 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • 10 takes of "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"
  • 5 takes of "That's Not Me
  • 16 takes of "God Only Knows"
  • 6 takes of "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)"
  • 10 takes of "I'm Waiting For The Day"
  • 10 takes of "Here Today"
  • An "Unknown Piano Intermezzo"
  • 6 takes of "Wonderful K.O.M.A."
  • 10 takes of "Caroline No Radio Promo"
  • Bonus in-studio party, and more.

To view complete track list click here.

REVIEW: The second set of tracks for the Pet Sounds sessions continues with the tracking sessions for "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" and "That's Not Me" on Disc One, "I'm Waiting For The Day" and "Here Today" on Disc Two, "God Only Knows" and "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" filling up Disc Three.  Disc Four is the kicker, however:  beginning with an "Unknown Piano Intermezzo" (by Brian), its a slow, beautiful, rolling piece (incomplete) that is reminiscent of "The Lonely Sea" but with some surprising key changes that Brian is still working out at this point.  Following this, we are treated to a pulled apart, then put together full-harmony radio ad for "Wonderful K.O.M.A." then Mike, Carl, and Brian variously run through several radio spots promoting Brian's single "Caroline, No".  From here on, things get seriously weird.  First, Brian leads the Honeys through a multi-tracked vocal runthrough of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with Brian inserting a low, droning hum at the last.  nearly eight minutes of this song, repeated over and over.  Perhaps Brian was planning to tack it onto part of another song, but here, the effect is sheer stupor.  Next is the most curious section (for me): Brian leads some friends through some taped joke-and-response routines, beginning with a dirty joke that Brian thought up, (not funny) and then 'directing' each participant how they should laugh, much like he directs musicians how to play a line in a song.  Brian actually demonstrates to each person how he wants them to laugh, seemingly trying to create a palette of sound using laughter.  I am curious whether this was an off-the-cuff experiment, or whether Brian was beginning his "humor" album that has been mentioned in various biographies.  Finally, we are given seventeen minutes of a recorded snack party with Brian leading word-association games.  Although it's interesting listening for a glimpse of his life, once is about all you'll ever want to hear it. 



The Live Box (1965-1968) The Complete Michigan Concert Tapes and More...
Sea Of Tunes C 9843/44/45 [CD]; Released 1998

CD Features Include:

  • Complete first show recorded live at Michigan State University, Ann Arbor on October 22nd, 1966.
  • Radio Promo Spots recorded at Columbia Studios
  • Complete second show recorded at Michigan State University October 22nd, 1966.
  • 1968 London Rehearsals of "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations"
  • 1965 vocal overdubs for Chicago show
  • 1967 "Concert Rehearsals"

To view complete track list click here.

REVIEW:  A superb box set, documenting two fine shows at Michigan State on October 22nd, 1966 (one of which was previously booted with poorer sound on Mike Love, Not War), plus rehearsals for the 1968 London show, vocal overdubs for a 1965 concert in Chicago, and the faux-performance rehearsals for Lei'd In Hawaii, which took place in Wally Heider's Studio, in September of 1967.  The two Michigan shows are fine showcases for the band, with everyone is good voice, Mike filling in the spaces between songs with jokes and audience-pleasing chatter.  Following the show on Disc One, the producers have added several fun radio spots, including both that have shown up on the Endless Harmony disc of 1998, and an extended recording of Mike Love and Derek Taylor bantering back and forth.  The second show takes up most of disc two, and tagged on the end are two wonderful run-throughs ("God Only Knows", with Carl in fine voice, and a confident "Good Vibrations"), from London.  Disc three is the real find, with Brian and the band doing vocal overdubs for a Chicago concert that contains the best playing I've ever heard from the band.  They rip through five songs (with repeats of Johnny B Goode and I Get Around) with high enthusiasm and ferocious playing.  Honestly, it's the best early live set I've heard, putting their 1964 Concert album to shame.  Finally, at the end of disc three, we have the 1967 "Concert rehearsals" which were to make up the Lei'd In Hawaii album.  These rehearsals, with all six members of the band, are extremely laconic, with Brian messing around a bit with tempos (all of them slow, much to the engineers dismay), and even experimenting on the vocal line of "Surfer Girl."  There is little chatter, and not much fun here.  Everyone seems pensive, (or more likely stoned) and it gives the sessions an eerie, dark feeling.  A haunting end to a otherwise joyous set.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 15 (1966) Good Vibrations
Sea Of Tunes C 9946/47/48 [CD]; Released 1999

CD Features Include:

  • Over three hours of tracking and vocal sessions for "Good Vibrations"

To view complete track list click here.

REVIEW:  Spanning seventy-two tracks and running over three hours, this is undoubtedly the most agonizingly complete anthology devoted to a single song ever put out.  But hey!  It's for "Good Vibrations" which is probably the most agonizingly produced single ever, so it's kind of fitting, eh?  Over the three discs you have take after take of what Brian was obviously trying to beat out of his brain, and having a hard time figuring out what this song was supposed to be.  One can imagine that whatever Brian first heard in his head (probably just a snippet of song) was not complete, which may be why it took six months to eventually pound out onto tape.  The album is divided up into nine "sessions"  including rehearsals, improvisations, various and sundry overdubs, and bits and pieces.  Since we know the actual sessions ran for over sixty hours, this is still just a small piece of the Good Vibrations puzzle, and it's impossible to get a clear picture of how the song actually progressed, but it's nice to hear Brian still in control and trying new things in the studio.  Whether you should spend seventy-five dollars or more for this set is entirely debatable.  Most fans will find themselves listening just once to it all, then hocking it on eBAY for a tidy profit.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 16 (1966-1967) Smile
Sea Of Tunes C 9949 [CD]; Released 1999

All tracks are stereo, except * indicated are mono.

1.   Prayer 1:05
2.   Heroes And Villains 2:55 *
3.   Barnyard fake stereo 0:54
4.   Do You Like Worms 4:04
5.   The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine 1:10
6.   He Gives Speeches 0:54
7.   Wonderful 2:05
8.   Child Is Father Of The Man 1:52
9.   Cabin Essence 3:30
10. Look 2:39
11. Good Vibrations 3:39 *
12. I Wanna Be Around / Friday Night 1:35
13. Vega-Tables 3:27 *
14. Wind Chimes stereo/mono 2:26
15. Mrs. O'Leary's Cow 2:34
16. I Love To Say Da Da (part 1) stereo/mono 2:24
17. You're Welcome 1:05 *
18. Surf's Up stereo/mono 5:15

REVIEW: The Sea Of Tunes producers evidently felt the need to throw together their version of Smile, even though they didn't have access to the wealth of tapes that they did for other sessions.  So although their packaging is attractive, with a thick booklet, the track line-up and sound (many of the tracks of which they swiped from other bootlegs, and also from "official" releases) are no more remarkable than most other Smile bootlegs, and the sequencing and questionable inclusion of some tracks make this particular entry in the Sea Of Tunes canon less desirable than other sets.  That said, it's nice to have this CD as it fills out the 3-CD box set of Smile sessions which they released on the heels of this one.



Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 17 (1966-1967) Smile Sessions
Sea Of Tunes C 9950/51/52 [CD]; Released 1999

CD Features Include:

  • 19 takes of "Heroes and Villains"
  • 3 takes of "Bicycle Rider"
  • 6 takes of "Do You Like Worms"
  • 5 takes of "The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine"
  • 3 takes of "He Gives Speeches"
  • 10 takes of "Wonderful"
  • 3 takes of "Child Is Father Of The Man"
  • 5 takes of "Look"
  • 26 takes of "Vega-Tables"
  • 9 takes of "Wind Chimes"
  • 7 takes of Mrs O'Leary's Cow"
  • 3 takes of "Friday Night"
  • 6 takes of "Water"
  • Vega-Tables Radio Spot Rehearsals

To view complete track list click here.

REVIEW:  The only complaint for this set is what's not here.  A three-CD box that covers 13 tracks, the most noticable absences are "Surf's Up," "Our Prayer," and "Cabinessence," none of which are represented.  Also, Heroes and Villains gets short-shrifted in it's representation, with parts one and two getting some coverage, but much, much more is simply AWOL.  But enough complaining.  Giving the fans far more Smile than has ever been available before, and in such good sound and layout (forget the booklet, it's filled with errors and sloppy writing), this is a collectors dream.  Containing tracks for "H&V", "Bicycle Rider," "Do You Like Worms," "The Old Master Painter," "You Are My Sunshine," "He Gives Speeches," "Wonderful," "Child is Father of the Man," "Look," "Vege-Tables" (the track with the most representation), "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," "Friday Night," and "Water," there are no 'lost' songs here, meaning that all of the tracks have at least in part been on other boots, but this collection simply has more of the sessions that has ever been previously available.  There are no overt signs that Brian is near a state of collapse, (although compared with previous sessions, he appears more impatient, and more prone to change his mind) and the sheer musical invention found here is worth the cost of acquisition.


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