I - II - III - IV 

NOTE: As the Sixties continued, more and more sound-alike groups were created to try and capitalize on the Beach Boys particular brand of sunny California hamony.  Some groups, like the Sunrays, were direct copies of their predecessors, with none other than the Beach Boys disaffected father managing them!  But as the sixties progressed, groups synthesized the Beach Boys original templet, and came up with entirely new soundscapes, influenced by the rapidly expanding drug culture that had San Francisco at its core.

The Sunrays: The Very Best Of The Tower Recordings
Collectables 2731 [CD]; 
Released November 9, 1999

The Sunrays are often overlooked in the Beach Boys story, but were an uncomfortable sidenote for the band and their father for a time in the mid-sixties. The group consisted of singer/songwriter/drummer Rick Henn, guitarists Eddie Medora and Byron Case and keyboardist Marty DiGiovanni, all three of whom previously recorded as the Snowmen. Added to their group was bassist Vince Hozier, and the group was eventually signed to Capitol subsidiary Tower Records where they had a minor hit with "Outta Gas". But after Murray Wilson was unceremoniously dropped from being the Beach Boys manager, he turned around and talked himself into the role of the Sunrays manager/producer, proclaiming that they would be even bigger than the Beach Boys (spite is as good a reason as any to make music, right?) Of course, that simply wasn't going to happen, since The Sunrays didn't have a genius songwriter/producer in the group, and in 1965, when the group was putting out its first surf-inspired feelers, the trend was on the wane; but as this generous 27 track collection proves, Rick Henn and Co. could fashion perfectly respectable music on their own, from their earliest hot-rod leanings ("Outta Gas", "Car Party") to their biggest hits "I Live For The Sun" and "Andrea", which are credible Brian Wilson wanna-be's; to the lush "Still" and "Bye Baby, Bye" and the rock-a-billy rub of "Hi, How Are You?" and the straight ahead rock 'n' roll of "Loaded With Love" and "Tears In My Eyes". The Sunrays even dip their toes into gritty R&B on "Since My Findin' You". But for the most part, their sound is rooted somewhere between the pop of Burt Bacharach and the beach-party fun of Fabian - only with rich harmony backing vocals. Collectables also tacks on several bonus tracks of alternate mixes and previously unreleased takes. There is also an out-of-print comprehensive 3-CD box set of The Sunrays that Collectables put out a few years ago floating around that collects everything they ever recorded, but this single-disc set is far more palatable for casual listening.

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The Boys Next Door 
Sundazed SC 11061 [CD]; 
Released September 7, 1999

 The Boys Next Door were true contemporaries of the Beach Boys; not only did they perform around the same time (1964-1967), this Indianpolis group of friends patterned their entire sound and appearance around their west coast doppelgangers.  But The Boys Next Door weren't a simple cover band, they wrote and performed their own material, which payed obvious homage (and sometimes outright theft) to the Beach Boys' sound.  Just listen to the first cuts on the disc: "Cold 45," "Central High Playmate," and most especially "Mandy" which steals it's structure directly from The Beach Boys' "The Man With All The Toys!"  In fact, listening to the first three tracks, you might be hard-pressed to distinguish between this group and Brian Wilson's songs.  But then this group does a great thing - by track four you hear them begin to develop an individual sound, which although it keeps the four-part harmonies and songwriting prowess, but begins to stretch out past the cars and girls sensibilities of their early records.  "One Face In The Crowd," "Why Be Proud" and "See The Way She's Mine" all have a darker, more complex mood which fits the late-sixties experimentalism that was becoming more prevalent.  They still retain their clear Beach Boys sound - the thick harmonies, the high falsetto lead, but the rhythms become harder and more complex, the lyrics become more introspective, and their music takes on a folk-rock edge which is interesting.  Although The Boys Next Door never broke into national recognition, this CD makes a compelling argument that they were worthy of greater exposure.

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The Tony Rivers Collection Volume 1: "Castaways"
RPM Records UK 193 [CD];
Released January 17, 2000

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1. Shake Shake Shake - Tony Rivers, Stevenson
2. Row Row Row - Tony Rivers, Vann
3. The Happy Song - Tony Rivers, Coakes, Michael
4. I Love the Way You Walk - Tony Rivers, Smith
5. I Love You - Tony Rivers, Thorpe
6. Life's Too Short - Tony Rivers, Bonner
7. Don't You Ever Tell on Me - Tony Rivers, Rivers, Tony
8. She - Tony Rivers, Jones, P.
9. 'Til We Get Home - Tony Rivers, Rivers, Tony
10. Come Back Baby - Tony Rivers, Newell
11. What to Do - Tony Rivers, Rivers, Tony
12. Come on and Love Me Too - Tony Rivers,
13. Pretend - Tony Rivers,
14. Nowhere Man - Tony Rivers, Lennon, John
15. Baby, What You Want Me to Do - Tony Rivers, Bullock, Aillene
16. The Girl from New York City - Tony Rivers, Wilson, Brian
17. Love You Baby - Tony Rivers,
18. Girl Don't Tell Me - Tony Rivers, Wilson, Brian
19. Girl from Salt Lake City - Tony Rivers, Wilson, Brian
20. God Only Knows - Tony Rivers, Asher, Tony [Rock]
21. Charade - Tony Rivers, Mancini, Henry
22. Einer Kleiner Miser Musik - Tony Rivers, Rivers, Tony
23. Graduation Day - Tony Rivers, Sherman, Joe
24. Summer Dreaming - Tony Rivers, Rivers, Tony
25. The Grass (Will Sing for You) - Tony Rivers, Brino, Madame
26. Can't Make It Without You Baby - Tony Rivers,
27. Mr. Sun - Tony Rivers, Rivers
28. For Once in My Life - Tony Rivers

REVIEW:  This album falls somewhere halfway between a related artist and a tribute act, since Tony Rivers and the Castaways started out as British contemporaries of The Beach Boys, sounding very much like the Merseybeat acts they were emulating.  But by the mid-60s, The Castaways had discovered the west-coast music of Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys, and fall head over heels for the reverb-drenched guitar and sweet vocal harmonies of those groups. By track nine on this excellent compilation, the group morphs into California Ho dads, and this, years before The Beach Boys appeal had crossed over the Atlantic.  And so you have the hot-rod anthem "'Til We Get Home" and the harmony tag of "Come Back Baby" beginning their love-affair with The Beach Boys.   But the real copying comes later on, when Tony Rivers and The Castaways cover a near half-dozen Beach Boys songs, often with stellar results: "Girl Don't Tell Me" marries the Beatles-cum-Brian Wilson song craft with thick, Spector-like production, and "Salt Lake City" (titled here "Girl From Salt Lake City") is given a faithful, quicker rendition.  Perhaps most intriguing is "Einer Kleiner Miser Musik" which is an odd, almost "Smile"-like composition, which is different than anything else here.  Most disappointing for me is Tony Rivers cover of "God Only Knows" from Pet Sounds, which unaccountably has a note change in the melody, tweaking my ear in an unpleasant way.  The Castaways also cover "The Girl From New York City" and the Four Freshman's "Graduation Day" making this disc an interesting look at how British "Beach Boys" might sound.  Beach Boys affectiando and author Kingsley Abbott contributes excellent liner notes, and the sound is on par with other RPM releases, which is very good.

The Yellow Balloon
Canterbury CTS-1502 [LP],
Sundazed SC 11069 [CD]; 
Released 1967, CD Release February 10, 1998

Sort of a lighter, wackier version of the sun and fun sound that The Beach Boys pioneered, The Yellow Balloon was sort of a bubble-gum psychedelia that could only spring up during the late-1960s.  Although the cover shows a five-man group hanging around the beach, The YB was actually the creation of wanna-be-impresario Gary Zekley, who got his break in the music business by none other than Jan Berry of Jan & Dean fame.  The Yellow Balloon sound is the sort of simplistic, yet charming light fluff you might find on a Saturday morning cartoon in the late '60s, with light, twinkling numbers like "Yellow Balloon," "Pajama Red" "Good Feelin' Time" "Follow the Sunshine," and "Springtime Girl" giving you a pretty good impression of the tone of the album.  When it comes to simple feel-good music, no one could touch these guys.  There are occasional Beach Boys influences around, with jumps into falsetto in the lead vocal, or amazing Beach Boys-like harmonies (especially on "Good Feelin' Time") but mostly it's just track after track of sunny summer songs and good vibrations in abundance.  Sundazed, one of the premier independent release labels out there has added seven bonus tracks of alternate mixes, additional songs and the like, but the last cut is a hysterical interview with a not-too-modest Gary Zekley.  Great fun for those who don't take their pop music too seriously.

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Sagittarius: Present Tense
Columbia 9644 [LP], Sundazed Music [CD]; 
Released 1967, CD Release October 28, 1997

Sagittarius was the brain-child of 60's wunderkinds Gary Usher and Curt Boettcher.  Although they only released this one album under the Sagittarius moniker (a second album was released with an increased presence by Gary Usher) it was this first album that captured perfectly the delicate, melodic psychedelic pop perfection that Brian Wilson was also experimenting with the original incarnation of Smile.  Curt Boettcher had, if anything, an even purer, sweeter tenor voice than Brian, and it saturates this album with an etherial mood that I find very beguiling.  The songs themselves are beautiful little pop gems as well, from the catchy "Another Time" to the oddly-named-but-beautiful "Song To The Magic Frog (Will You Ever Know)"; or the middle-eastern influence that dominates "The Keeper Of The Games" to the devestatingly mournful loss of innocence found in "Musty Dusty."  There's another Beach Boys connection here besides Usher as well - Beach Boy Bruce Johnston lent his distinctive vocals to the one hit single this album produced: "My World Fell Down" which is a tour-de-force of pop songwriting that featured practically the entire "Wrecking Crew" on backup.  Reportedly, Brian Wilson and Usher were both knocked out by Boettcher's voice, and after one listen to this remarkable album, I can see why.  I consider it an almost perfect pop album.

The Zombies: Odessey & Oracle (30th Anniversary) 
Big Beat UK 181 [CD]; 
Released 1968

I discovered this album when reading the AllMusic Guide to Rock years ago and noting that the authors of that book strongly compared the singing of The Zombies to the Beach Boys.  I tracked down this album and was blown away.  Of course, one listen proved that The Zombies sound was nothing like the Beach Boys' harmonies or style; it's British through and through, yet this album, their final attempt at recording together as a group before breaking up, is a slice of pop experimentalism that ranks right up there with Brian's SMiLE!  Colin Blunstone leads the way with his etheral, whispery voice, and the songwriting, but Rod Argent and Chris White, and the jazz-inflected instrumentation and tight, high harmonies are unlike anything I'd ever heard before.  This album spawned the smash hit single "Time Of The Season" with its cool, distant rhythms, and while there's nothing else like that single here, the rest of the songs are just as good in their own way.  From the wrenching World War One lament "Butchers Tale" to the twisted-around narration of "Care Of Cell 44" to the sprightly "I Want Her She Wants Me" this album has a poetry and style about it that gave me chills the first time I heard it, and it's haunted me ever since.  Big Beat Records has single-handedly resurrected the Zombies catalog on CD, with fine remastering, liner notes, and a plethora of bonus tracks and new stereo mixes, and this classic album (a la' Pet Sounds) has both the original mono and stereo mixes included on a single disc, plus bonus tracks.  I love this album, and heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone who's interested.

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Van Dyke Parks: Song Cycle
Warner Brothers/ADA 25856 [CD]; Released 1968,
CD Release May 18, 1990

1. Vine Street
2. Palm Desert
3. Widow's Walk
4. Laurel Canyon Blvd
5. All Golden
6. Van Dyke Parks
7. Public Domain
8. Donovan's Colours
9. Attic
10. Laurel Canyon Blvd
11. By the People 
12. Pot Pourri

REVIEW:  Van Dyke Parks has long been known as a respected composer and arranger, working in such diverse fields as soundtracks, pop, and of course as lyricist to the Beach Boys aborted Smile album in 1966-67.  In fact, in for this latter event that Van Dyke has been notorious for his entire adult life.  But he's also an extraordinarily diverse songwriter, and it's on this, his first album, that you can hear the full flower of his explosive genius.  As a listening experience, Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle is nearly undefinable, a hazy collage of influences and soundscapes tied together with lyrics that are easily as trippy as anything that appeared on Smile.  Comparisons abound: Gershwin, tin-pan alley, country-western, theater music, pop and any other sound that he can image make their way into Song Cycle, unified by Parks' loopy lyrics which may include double-entendres, puns, allusions, hyperbole, and sarcasm, sung with his heavily processed light tenor voice, which has always sounded fey, rather than pop.  This is an album which is more likely to be admired or studied than enjoyed, and the closest parallel I can give you is to The Monkees' similarly bizaree (but much more accessable) HEAD.  But Song Cycle is achingly smart; it catered to Parks' crowd in 1968, the intellectual avant-garde who Brian Wilson was attempting to cater to with Smile, and this album, despite its thick wordplay and manic shifts in tone and style, is a fascinating document of the times, and utterly unique both in sound and sensibility - and how many albums can you say that about?  Parks revisited this style in his somewhat more cohesive albums Discover America and The Clang of the Yankee Reaper.  Check him out - you might be surprised just how diverse and whimiscal his sound is, and realize just how much Van Dyke Parks influenced Brian Wilson's Smile.

Billy Nicholls: Would You Believe 
Immediate NEM 414 [LP],
Sequel 414 [CD]; 
Released 1968, CD Reissue April 19, 1999

I'd forgotten all about Billy Nicholls' fine album until a fellow Beach Boys fan reminded me of it.  Considered one of the great "lost" pop psychedelia albums of the late Sixties, Would You Believe has obvious Beach Boys influences, not only with the fine, shifting musical lines and high vocals of Mr. Nicholls, the album is also drenched in harmonies and was produced by Andrew Oldham, who was a huge fan of both Phil Spector and of Pet Sounds.  But don't listen expecting to hear west coast influences here; Would You Believe is firmly footed in England in both sensibilty and style, but manages to sidestep comparisons with the Beatles.  It's easy to hear echoes of Smile on tracks like "Life Is Short" and "Come Again," while songs like "It Brings Me Down" and "Life Is Short" reveal a bleakness in the lyrics that is offset by the almost relentlessly upbeat music and cheery harmonies.  The album is nowhere near as emotionally complex as Brian's same work during this period, but remains a compelling listening experice due to the fascinating, complex melodies, occasionally biting lyrical content (like the tongue-in-cheekiness of "London Social Degree") and the high quality of the production.  Worthy of repeated listenings.

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Stephen John Kalinich: A World Of Peace Must Come
Light In The Attic 039 [CD], 
Released September 23, 2008
                                                      of peace must
Product Description
A World Of Peace Must Come was recorded at Brian's house in Bel-Air in 1969. The tapes were promptly lost, not to be heard again until now. For the first time this truly timeless snapshot of an era and an ethos are available nationally. "A World of Peace Must Come", an album recorded by Brian Wilson in 1969 based on the poetry of Stephen John Kalinich, will finally have an official release September 23, 2008. The album has been recorded most of it at Brian Wilson's house and in other studios like Wally Heider and Sunset Sound.

A World Of Peace Must Come will feature these tracks: A World Of Peace Must Come ; Candy Face Lane ; I Am Waiting/The Birth Of God ; The Deer, The Elk, The Raven ; The Magic Hand ; Lonely Man ; Be Still ; Walk Along With Love ; A World Of Peace Must Come ; If You Knew ; America I Know You ; A World Of Peace Must Come (outro) ; Leaves Of Grass.

REVIEW:  When I mentioned on this site's message board that I was going to be including this album in the site reviews, one fan asked me why?  Well, for a couple of reasons: first of all, Stephen John Kalinich was an inside member of the Beach Boys circle in the late 60s, writing songs with Dennis, Brian and others; and this particular album was recorded at Brian's house during that period.  In fact, it was long rumored that Brian had provided music and vocals for the album, which is, literally, true.  In fact, Light In The Attic Records, which has released this long-thought-lost album, lists Brian Wilson as co-producer, and the lengthy liner notes state that Brian wrote music for five of the album's 13 tracks.  He also plays organ, and provides vocals for "Lonely Man" (more about that later).  So, from a cursory glance at the credits, you might think that this album contains some lost songs of Brian Wilson; but sadly, that's not the case.  This is in every way a poetry album, with a smattering of songs in the mix, but the songs are all by Stephen Kalinich, and the music that Brian provides for the other tracks are simply ambient sounds; subtle and unintrusive.  For example, the track "Be Still" (not the Beach Boys song) says that music is by Brian Wilson, and that he plays the organ.  Yes, but it's not a song - it's just Brian noodling in the background while Stephen reads his poem - some vaguely church-like chords that fill in the space and create a reverent atmosphere.  On "The Magic Hand" Brian (as well as Marilyn Wilson his wife) are credited with background vocals, but that entails Brian wailing like a incoherent siren, while Marilyn (and unnamed friends) chanting out some sloppy, sing-song melody towards the end of the piece.  As for the poems themselves?  Well, they're certainly performed with great earnestness, with lots of simplistic rhymes and idealistic imagery which speaks more about the times than about Stephen's talent, which has grown more mature than what you'll hear on this album.  And as far as Stephen's songwriting here -- well, there's a reason he's a poet, not a musicmaker.  There's some token curiosity to hearing A World Of Peace Must Come, since you get a (very) small idea about what Brian was doing during his "lost years" - but the pleasures are thin indeed.

Mark Eric (Malmborg): A Midsummer's Day Dream 
Revue 7210 [LP], Rev-Ola CR-REV 18 [CD]; 
Released 1969, CD Release December 10, 2002

I was recommended this CD by another Beach Boys fan who felt it would fit nicely on this page.  Originally released in 1969, the album was a huge flop, but has since gained a reputation as being a "lost classic."  I've gained a healthy cynicism for anything labelled a "lost classic," since most albums with that moniker deserve to stay lost, but this album has a definite charm, and it also carries some markedly Brian Wilson-ish/Burt Bacharach sensibilities. Written and sung by Mark Eric, the album is a dreamy paean to California and romance, with a sweet wistfulness in the lyrics and melodies that harken back to the sweeter moments on the Beach Boys Today! and Pet Sounds albums.  To my ears, it's a little too sweet, and certainly would have been out of step in the turbulent era of the late 1960s, with songs like "Where Do The Girls Of Summer Go" and "California Home" all evoking a rosy nostalgia for the innocence of past times.  But there are a bunch of good songs here, from the upbeat "I'd Like To Talk To You" to the melancholic "Sad Is The Way I Feel" and the fantastic "Take Me With You" (which would fit perfectly on Pet Sounds).  Other songs lean towards a too-slick sound that would be prevalent in the Seventies, like the almost-disco of "Night Of The Lions" or the shovelled-on sentimentality of "Lynn's Baby."  I'm also not sold on Mark Eric's voice, which is multi-tracked thorughout, and a little whiny for my tastes, but on repeated listenings, this album's definitely growing on me. Rev-Ola has stuffed the CD with seven bonus tracks from several subsequent singles and alternate 45 mono mixes.

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The Flame
Brother BR-2500 [LP]; Released January 1, 1970
Fallout 2006 [CD]; Released August 8, 2006

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1. See the Light 3:06
2. Make It Easy 3:06
3. Hey Lord 3:49
4. Lady 3:28
5. Don't Worry, Bill 3:17
6. Get Your Mind Made Up 4:10
7. Highs and Lows 4:49
8. I'm So Happy 3:17
9. Dove 2:18
10. Another Day Like Heaven 5:42
11. See the Light (Reprise) 1:28

All songs written by Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar

REVIEW: This album, produced by Carl Wilson and engineered by Steve Desper, was a direct result of the acclaimed South African band being spotted in a London nightclub by Al Jardine, who mentioned them to Carl, and who subsequently signed them to The Beach Boys' fledgling Brother label. Released in 1970, the album flopped, despite a minor hit single ("See The Light/Better Get Your Mind Made Up" - #95).  After the failure of the album, the band broke up, and two of the members, Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar went on to serve as supporting players, then active contributors to The Beach Boys in the early part of the 1970s. The album's first three songs are strongly reminiscent of the songs which transformed the sound of the Beach Boys on their albums Carl & The Passions: So Tough and Holland, with a rough-and-ready R & B hybrid with touches of psychedelia thrown in.  In fact, after beginnning this album, I think it's impossible to understate just how much The Flame's influence permeated The Beach Boys own sound between 1972-1974; it's obvious that The Beach Boys ingested the vibe of The Flames almost whole.  And although the sound is more akin to a free-form jam at times, there are also indefinable blendings, like the Beatle-esque/Southern-comfort swinger "Lady" or the similarly John-Lennon-ish composition "Don't Worry Bill" (which would later be played at Beach Boys concerts during the Chaplin/Fataar era).  "Better Get Your Mind Made Up" is also memorable, sounding not unlike a White Album outtake.  In fact, it's pretty apparent that The Beatles influence is heavy throughout the album, with songs like the haunting "Highs And Lows" and the similar "Dove" both sounding a bit like McCartney throwaways, but blended with The Flames own peculiar brand of South African high-octane fuel.  The jumpy "I'm So Happy" is a perfect example, with it's gospel-revival vibe skewed with a world-music drone that sets it apart from typical American rock music, and "Another Day Like Heaven" sounding like The Beatles' "A Day In The Life" turned on its head.  A great lost slice of late-60s psychedelic pop - worth checking out.

American Spring: Spring 
United Artists 5577 [LP], Released 1972; 
Rhino R21S-75762 [CD], Released 1989;
See For Miles SEE CD 269 [IMPORT CD], Released December 16, 1994

1. Tennessee Waltz [King, Stewart]  
2. Thinkin' 'Bout You Baby [Love, Wilson]  
3. Mama Said [Denson, Dixon]  
4. Superstar [Bramlett, Russell]  
5. Awake [Tucker]  
6. Sweet Mountain [Sandler, Wilson]  
7. Everybody [Roe]  
8. This Whole World [Wilson]  
9. Forever [Jakobsen, Wilson]  
10. Good Time [Jardine, Wilson]  
11. Now That Everything's Been Said [King, Stern]  
12. Down Home [Goffin, King]  
13. Shyin' Away [Rovell, Sandler, Wilson]  
14. Fallin' in Love [Wilson]  
15. It's Like Heaven [Rovell, Wilson]  
16. Had to Phone Ya [Rovell, Wilson]

REVIEW:  American Spring, an offshoot of failed 1960s girl group The Honeys, was formed by two of the three members of that group:Diane and Marilyn Rovell (aka Mrs. Brian Wilson).  The original album Spring, was released in 1972, and has a lot of interest for fans of the Beach Boys, since not only was it co-produced by Brian Wilson (along with David Sandler and engineer Stephen Desper), and contains several covers of songs the Beach Boys (including "Thinkin' 'Bout you Baby" (aka "Darlin'"), "This Whole World," "Forever," "Good Time" and "Had To Phone Ya"), plus it features several of the Beach Boys on backing vocals, with Carl, Mike and Brian's voice prominantly displayed at regular intervals.  But for all that, the album feels under-done, and despite the best efforts of all the talent involved, is flat.  Most of the blame lies with the Rovell sisters, who, without lead voice Ginger Blake (who had broken away to pursue a solo career), is left to their own shallow voices, which really only worked when couched in the thick, wall-of-sound production values that Brian brought to their best efforts as the Honeys.  Here though, their voices sound thin and unremarkable, much like two housewives singing in the kitchen - there's not a lot of natural talent in either of their voices, and with the production similarly lacking in the richness that would support them.  Particularly painful is the cover of The Carpenter's "Superstar" which is hammered to death by their wooden, bland singing.  Also hampering the album are the tempos, all of which seem deliberately slow, turning sparkly songs like The Shirelles' "Mama Said" into half-hearted exercises in redundancy.   But for fanatics, here's where you'll find the only version of the Brian Wilson/David Sandler song "Sweet Mountain" which, with its druggy, psychedelic feel, sounds like a refugee off of The Beach Boys' Smiley Smile.  The best moments are the ones which take some chances: the R&B swing of "Everybody" or the interesting remake of "This Whole World" which transforms the song into a country swinger.  Also nice is "Down Home" which is one of Carol King's better compositions.  But I'll take Dennis's original take of "Forever" over the version here, and "Good Time" merely tracks the girl's voices over the original backing track, and their lyric changes sound creepy.  Overall, this is a quirky, uncomfortable album which will appeal to Beach Boys' collectors, but few others.  Out of print and very hard to find.

The Watergates: Play and Sing the Best of Beach Boys
Auditon 909-2-121101 [LP]
Released 1973

Side A
1. Surfing Music 2:37
2. I'm Looking Over My Shoulder 2:32
3. High School Leaver 2:23
4. Let's Talk 3:09
5. In a Whirl 3:20
6. Sloop John B. 2:47

Side B
1. Hot-Rod 2:56
2. People Tell Me 2:36
3. I'm Not Going to Camp This Year 2:15
4. Surfing '73 4:10
5. Lazy Day 2:10
6. Show Me the Way to California 3:13

Total length: 34:08

REVIEW:  This is one of those releases which is shrouded in mystery - a German-pressed album, released in 1973, under the moniker of "The Watergates" (get it?) - the cover would make you think that this album is replete with covers of  Beach Boys hits, when in reality, it's almost entirely original compositions, written (and performed?) by John O'Brien-Docker, an Irishman living in Germany at the time.  It's mostly slick pop, highly reminiscent of the lesser stuff Ron Dante of The Archies was putting out at the time.  John O'Brien-Docker possesses a pleasant, slightly nasal tenor voice, and the themes of the music, from "High School Leaver" to "I'm Not Goin' To Camp This Year" to "Lazy Day" all point to a slacker mentality which alternates with California-leaning titles such as "Surfing Music" "Hot-Rod" "Surfing '73" and "Show Me The Way To California".  Although the songs are vaguely similar to Beach Boys style, and there is a lot of harmonic overdubbing present - nothing here really sticks in your mind - this is classic AM radio fodder; any of the melodies could have easily been converted to a hamburger jingle, and have as much impact.  Notable only for its rarity, this one is a pleasant, forgettable way to kill a half-hour of your time.

Raspberries: Greatest 
Captiol  [CD]; Released May 24, 2005

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1. Go All The Way
2. Come Around And See Me
3. Don't Want To Say Goodbye
4. I Saw The Light
5. I Can Remember
6. I Wanna Be With You
7. Drivin' Around
8. Let's Pretend
9. I Reach For The Light
10. Nobody Knows
11. If You Change Your Mind
12. Tonight
13. I'm A Rocker
14. Ecstasy
15. Last Dance
16. I Don't Know What I Want
17. Cruisin' Music
18. Starting Over
19. Party's Over
20. Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)

REVIEW:  The Raspberries were one of the premier power-pop bands of the Seventies, and owed much of their style and success to the Beatles, and ordinarily a band like this wouldn't show up here but for one undeniable fact: their leader, Eric Carmen is a huge Beach Boys fan, and not only that, he has an incredible knack for writing uncanny pastiches that mimic classic Brian Wilson songs. Listen to the two examples on this collection: "Driving Around" and "Cruisin' Music" - you'll have to agree that he's captured something of the classic vibe that Mike Love continues to preach today. And not only that, but after the Raspberries broke up, Eric Carmen continued to write amazing pop ditties that echo the California sound: check out his solo works like "She Did It" and "Top Down Summer;" the melancholy mood that drenches "Boats Against The Current" or even the acapella harmony lead-in on "Hey Deanie" or "Make Me Lose Control" and you'll hear Brian Wilson's stylistic fingerprints all over them. Eric doesn't simply write Beach Boys pastiches because he can, he writes them because he loves the music, and it shows. While the over-the-top bombast or unabashed romanticism of their other works might not appeal to all Beach Boys fans, but for a quick flash-back to the endless days of Summer, you could do worse than popping some Raspberries or Eric Carmen into your music player.

The First Class: Summer Sound Sensations - A First Class Top 20  
RPM Records UK [CD];  Released August 23, 2005

I know countless casual Beach Boys fans who have asked repeatedly which album the song "Beach Baby" is on.  For those uninformed, it's here.  That paean to the summer of 1974 was sung not by the Beach Boys, not even by native Californians, but by a group of British studio musicians and singers who managed to capture something of the Beach Boys' vibe in that impossibly catchy single.  Call it a guilty pleasure, but "Beach Baby" is a great sing-a-long song.  The single can be credited to songwriter John Carter, who enlisted singer Tony Burrows and several other musicians to cut the track.  Once it became a hit, Carter, Burrows, and group quickly recorded several other songs to try and capture lightning in a bottle again, and released these songs under the name "The First Class."  This CD collects these recordings and others by the group into what I consider to be one of the hidden shames of my CD collection, but which I'll throw into my player now and again to enjoy.  Other songs which I enjoy are: "Old Time Love," "Smiles On A Summer Night," "Life Is Whatever You Want It To Be," and "Seven-Ten To Nowhere."  Also on this album are such '70s throwaways as "The Disco Kid," "Surfer Queen" and "Bobby Dazzler" - so you've been warned; if you don't mind hiding this particular title when your friends come over for dinner, you might just find yourself slipping it into your CD player (after you've shooed away the guests and shut the blinds.)

Or purchase from First Class

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