I - II - III - IV - V

NOTE: The first "tribute" albums were really nothing more than shallow exploitation LPs, designed to lure buyers into thinking that these were Beach Boys albums.  They rarely aimed at true homages, being more content to simply ape the Beach Boys performances, and gain their share of the loot that Brian Wilson & Co. were pulling in.  As time went on, and the legacy of the Beach Boys became more and more prevalent, artists began to record truly reverent tributes, and finally began to reinvent and rethink these classic songs for a new audience.  Some of these attempts can be unintentionally hilarious, some, eye-opening, and others dreadful.  Hopefully this guide will help you glean the best of these wide-ranging albums.

The Hot Doggers: Surfin' USA
Epic Records 24054 [LP]; Released 1963; Sundazed Music 6232 [CD];
Released June 27, 2006

                                                    Doggers: Surfin'

Or Purchase from Surfin' USA
1. Surfin' U.S.A. [Berry, Wilson] 2:17
2. Let's Go Trippin'[Dale] 2:11
3. Balboa Blue [Daughtry, Saraceno] 2:28
4. Surfin' [Love, Wilson] 2:12
5. The Original Surfer's Stomp [Anderson, Schmidt] 2:03
6. Pipeline [Carman, Spickard] 2:23
7. Misirlou [Leeds, Roubanis, Russell] 2:21
8. Surfin' Safari [Love, Wilson] 2:13
9. Surfer's Stomp [Daughtry, Saraceno] 1:58
10. Walk, Don't Run [Smith] 2:03
11. Peppermint Man [Willis] 2:28
12. Quasimoto [Johnson] 2:15

REVIEW:  Sundazed Records, which specializes in all kinds of surf and drag music reissues has unearthed this extraordinarily early album which almost track-for-track recreates The Beach Boys' own Surfin' USA album, but uses studio musicians fronted by none other than future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and partner Terry Melchner, who would go on to form their own eponymous surf-music group The Rip Chords.  Bruce in fact, sings lead vocals on the album, as well as playing piano and bass, while Melchner joined a future who's-who of session players to recreate hits by The Beach Boys, The Ventures, Dick Dale, and others.  Among the musicians cutting their teeth here are Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Billy Strange, and Beach Boys familiars Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, and Tommy Tedesco. While this isn't a vocal album, (only four of the tracks have singing), it's fascinating to hear how the songs, while trying to be faithful to the originals in every respect, somehow get flattened out and pasteurized under the exacting eyes of Johnston and Melchner, there's precious little fire, or passion, in these clockwork recreations, and Bruce's voice sounds far to clean and mannered to ignite even the slightest spark of electricity.  Even Johnston's original composition, "Quasimoto", which closes out the album, sounds like shopping mall music, despite it's frenetic 'surf-lite' instrumentation.  Regardless of being played and sung virtually note-for-note from the originals, there's something vital lacking.  Still, its fascinating in its way to hear Bruce Johnston and Co. aping the very artists whom they would later be so closely identified, and in Bruce's case, ultimately join ranks with.  Not essential listening, but a curiousity that shows just how quickly musical trends were jumped on, and how easy it was to lay claim to someone else's artistry, all in the name of making a quick buck.

Rincon Surfside Band: The Surfing Song Book
Dunhill DS-50001 [LP] 1965;  Varese Sarabande 5481 [CD]
Released 1994

1. Surfin' Safari
2. Surfer Girl
3. Sidewalk Surfin'
4. Surfin' U.S.A.
5. Surfin'
6. Ride the Wild Surf
7. Hawaii
8. Drag City
9. Little Deuce Coupe
10. Honolulu Lulu
11. Surf City
12. Skateboard Craze

REVIEW:  Originally released in 1965, The Surfside Songbook was originally inspired by the popular Sing Along with Mitch Miller albums, and since this album predates The Beach Boys own Stack-O-Tracks by a couple of years, you could make the argument that this album was the first Beach Boys karaoke album!  Ostensibly a Beach Boys/Jan & Dean tribute album, the album has an impressive pedigree of talent behind the scenes: Engineered by Chuck Britz, who oversaw many of the Beach Boys original albums, with the "orchestra" presided over by session drummer Hal Blaine, and produced by Sloan & Barri (of Fantastic Baggys fame), it sounds more polished and has a tighter production than other instrumental albums of the same era.  Sloan & Barri provide exceptionally clean, sweet vocals backings throughout, and the songwriting credits, although stated as being songs by both the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, have Brian Wilson's compositional fingerprints all over them, with "Sidewalk Surfin'," "Ride The Wild Surf," "Drag City," and "Honolulu Lulu" all have Brian's name in the writing credits, along with Mike Love, Roger Christian, Jan Berry, and Lou Adler.  The one song not credited to any of them is the Sloan/Barri "Skateboard Craze" (which owes enough of a debt to Brian's melodies, that he easily deserved a co-credit anyway.)  Overall, it's an OK album, the harmonies are fun, but the album rarely takes off - none of the guitar solos, which take the place of a lead vocal, tear up the room.  In fact, "Surfin'" is taken at a leisurely tempo, which made me a little drowsy while listening.  And despite the credits claiming that this album was "an important milestone in the world of surf and drag music", I found it pretty sedate; good, competent, but not electrifying listening.

The Hollyridge Strings Play The Beach Boys Song Book
Capitol T-2156 [LP];
Released 1964

1. I Get Around
2. Don't Worry, Baby
3. She Knows Me Too Well
4. Fun, Fun, Fun
5. In My Room
6. Little Saint Nick
7. Surfin' U.S.A.
8. The Warmth Of The Sun
9. Wendy
10. Shut Down
11. Girls On The Beach

arranged by Stu Phillips
piano by Lincoln Mayorga

REVIEW: The Hollyridge Strings, a group of anonymous and interchangeable studio musicians, gained fame when their 1965 debut album The Beatles Song Book went top ten in the United States, prompting a flood of similar albums by other "flash-in-the-pan" orchestras like "The Fantabulous Strings" and "The Sunset Strings." In fact, the Hollyridge strings had, at one time, three pop knock-off albums in the top twenty!  The man behind these albums was arranger/producer Stu Phillips, who produced several hit songs: The Marcels' "Blue Moon," Shelley Fabares' "Johnny Angel," Paul Petersen's "My Dad," and James Darren's "Goodbye, Cruel World." He's best known to me as the composer of much of the fantastic thematic music used in the original Battlestar Galactica television show, but here, he's the fiendish mastermind behind the first Hollyridge Strings salute to The Beach Boys.  The buyer's first clue that something may be desperately wrong is in the subtitle: "romantic instrumentals"... who would've thunk that "Surfin' USA," "Little Saint Nick," "I Get Around," and "Shut Down" could be arranged thusly?  The pleasant surprise is - they're NOT!  Stu Phillips actually gets rock music, and arranges many of these songs with a heavy rhythm sections, from "I Get Around" to the churning opening of "Surfin' USA" and the surprisingly rhythmic, vibe-accented opening of "Shut Down" (which also boasts an effective honky-tonk piano).  There's also a surprisingly rocking "Fun Fun Fun" and a bouncy, sleigh-bell take on "Little St. Nick."  And when the album isn't doing successful uptempo covers, it's tackling the complex chord changes on "She Knows Me Too Well," or giving lush, panoramic readings of "The Warmth Of The Sun," and even throws a melancholy light on "In My Room" (before spiraling into an ill-advised cresendo, a la' "Climb Ev'ry Mountain").  There are several cringe-worthy moments as well, from the incredibly bland arrangment of "Wendy" which nearly put me to sleep, to the aforementioned "She Knows Me Too Well" which contains some awful Ferrante & Teicher piano noodling, this is obviously an album that is not going to appeal to rock purists, but I found much to admire in the arrangements, which was, in itself, a pleasant surprise.

The Hollyridge Strings Play The Beach Boys Song Book - Vol. 2
Capitol T-2749 [LP];
Released 1967


1. Good Vibrations
2. Caroline No
3. Sloop John B
4. California Girls
5. Dance Dance Dance
6. Little Deuce Coupe
7. God Only Knows
8. Wouldn't It Be Nice
9. Surfer Girl
10. Help Me Rhonda
11. Be True To Your School

Arranged and conducted by Perry Botkin Jr. and Mort Garson.  Produced by Al De Lory

REVIEW:  After the high-charting success of the previous entry, what could be more inevitable than a sequel?  This second entry in the infamous Hollyridge Strings canon on the Beach Boys is a heinous assault on rock music lover's ears.  Listening to it is like hearing the cream of Brian Wilson's genius being pasturized and homogenized into skim milk.  The arrangers, Perry Botkin Jr. and Mort Garson, do their darndest to slap down any trace of rebellious attitude in these songs, and they succceed diabolically.  From the lounge-lizard saxophone found on "Caroline No" to the transformation of "California Girls" into a number that sounds as if it were pulled from a Rankin/Bass holiday special, the pillaging and raping of these songs is near epic in scale.  Take "Wouldn't It Be Nice," which is a yearning, heartfelt song of hope in its original form - here, the arrangement is so cute and busy, I expect cartoon animals to be cavorting in the background.  And "Surfer Girl" timeless melody is warped into a mawkish parody which sounds like one of Doris Day's girlish daydreams.  And perhaps the worst offender, "Help Me Rhonda" is completely unmanned in a sugary, high-stepping arrangement that pretty much rips the heart right out of it.  The best the album can offer is when it remains faithful to the original songs, as on "Good Vibrations" which benefits from buzzing bass drums and the pizzicato strings plucking out the back-beat; or the circular, looping arrangement of "Sloop John B" which hews closely to the original.  The best number is without doubt "God Only Knows" which treats the song with reverence, and is graced with French Horn, Dulcimer, and thick strings, elevating the melody into something more than a pop song.  The exceptions aside, the rule for this album is the complete emasculation of rock music, and an open door to future easy-listening copycats.

The Surfsiders Sing The Beach Boys Songbook
Design DPS-208 [LP];
Released 1965

1. Help Me, Rhonda
2. I Get Around
3. Little Honda
4. The Warmth of the Sun
5. When I Grow Up
6. California Girls
7. Little Deuce Coupe
8. Fun, Fun, Fun
9. Surfin'
10. 409

REVIEW: First of all, don't take my one-star rating above to mean that you should avoid this album - on the contrary, you should hot-foot it down to your nearest vinyl shop and dig around in the bargain bins until you unearth this incredible treasure, since one listen will have you rolling on the floor in hysterics.  Whoever the Surfsiders were, they have put together what is without doubt the most unintentionally inept, hysterically funny Beach Boys tribute album ever made.  I was clued into its presence by a wonderful little website: vinyl orphanage, which regularly posts mp3's of old vinyl records for public download.  This LP gem, which was originally released in 1965, is a hoot!  Ten songs, clocking in at a total of just over nineteen minutes, sung by what appears to be five guys from the local frat club who got together to sing their favorite Beach Boys songs.  These clean-cut renditions are sung with great gusto, little regard for the original keys or chord changes, and an astounding talent for chopping off chunks of the songs in order to make them all under two minutes in length.  The sheer audacity of the covers are breathtaking, and too numerous to list them all, but listen to the one-note organ that tries to fill in for the original opening tag of "California Girls", or the full-throated tenor who eschews the use of falsetto in the chorus of "I Get Around", or the saxophone which takes the bass line in "Surfin'" since it's apparent no one can sing it correctly.  It's as if the cast of Leave It To Beaver had decided to go pop!  A stupendous monument to bad taste and reeaalllllly poor judgement, The Surfsiders have gained my vote to join Rhino's Golden Throats club.  (Rhino, are you listening?)  I love this album in the same way I love William Shatner's Transformed Man and Leonard Nimoy's version of "Proud Mary".  It's a classic. If you'd like to hear this rare gem, check out this RealAudio link where a radio DJ discusses and plays the entire album.

101 Strings Orchestra Plus The Alshire Singers Play And Sing The Songs Of The Beach Boys
Alshire International S-5342 [LP, CD-R];
Released 1976

1. California Girls
2. Help Me Ronda
3. I Get Around
4. Goodtime Feelin'
5. Good Vibrations
6. Fun Fun Fun
7. Don't Worry Baby
8. Goodbye Baby
9. Wouldn't It Be Nice
10. Darlin'

REVIEW: After hearing the Surfsiders, I had to have more.  This is a little album I picked up in a local record shop, and immediately fell in love with.  Not as bad as the Surfsiders platter above, but about ten times as corny, I was immediately drawn to the fact that this album featured not only the ultra-schmaltzy 101 Strings Orchestra, but a 16-member choral group known as "The Alshire Singers" who - according to the sleeve notes - are "each capable of stardom as a soloist".  Well, how could I resist a hook with that kind of bait?  The opening track, "California Girls" immediately tipped me off to the tone of this album, as swirling strings made me think I'd been transported to Shangri-La with the singers sounding as if they were smiling at each other with perfectly coiffed hair , big smiles with Osmond-like white teeth and sipping iced tea around the pool.  It was Lawrence Welk reborn!  But it got better - "Help Me Ronda" (their spelling) becomes the true fireside sing-along song it was always meant to be, while "I Get Around" has the added bonus of rewritten lyrics!  That's right, now we have a verse that begins the song with: "Well, there's a million little girls just waitin' around, but there's only so much to do in one little town" - it would make Mike Love proud.  Besides the Beach Boys songs, there are also two original numbers that have been included, the first being "Goodtime Feelin'" which sounds like a cross between The Brady Bunch's "Keep On" and one of Bruce Johnston's more syrupy numbers.  The highlight of side one however, is the re-thinking of "Good Vibrations", which adds some Psycho-like strings and a menacing undercurrent to create a bi-polar masterpiece of chipper singing blended with disturbing subtext (with the added bonus of a wah-wah guitar!).  Side two kicks off with "Fun Fun Fun" being arranged with a country roots-rock guitar tied to some sugary-sweet vocals, "Don't Worry Baby" is recast as a lounge act with more rewritten lyrics (!) this time about waking up and seeing the morning sunlight shining on his girlfriend's hair. Ugh. The next song is also an original - "Goodbye Baby" which combines chirpy harmonies over a lyric about breaking up with your girlfriend. Think Frankie Vallie and the 4 Seasons on Prozac and you've got it. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" is transformed into a chipper, angst-free piece with bouncy Burt Bacharach-style trumpets, while the final song, "Darlin'" is stripped of all heat and chilled down into a chaste declaration of love, with a light disco backing beat.  An amazingly dysfunctional experience, you'll want to put this album high on your list of aromatic cheeses.

Little Joe Shaver and Devil Dog Sing the Hits of The Beach Boys (AKA Country Surfin')
Chelsea Records CHL-529 [LP]
Released 1976

Side One
Fun, Fun, Fun (3:11)
California Girls (2:47)
Surfin' USA (2:11)
Good Vibrations (3:54)
Be True To Your School (2:36)

Side Two
Sloop John B (3:56)
Barbara Ann (3:16)
Surfer Girl (2:31)
I Get Around (2:27)
Help Me Rhonda (2:31

REVIEW:  The first I heard about this obscure 1976 country album was when I saw it paired with The Surfsiders album on a bootleg CD.  I tried to research it online, but haven't been able to find out much, either about the artists or the defunct Chelsea label it was released on.  I suspect that "Little Joe Shaver" is an early moniker of minor artist Billy Joe Shaver, but this album isn't listed on his official website, and neither could I find any information on the co-credited "Devil Dog" - and besides this album and a handful of singles, there is no other discography I could find.  It's a completely innocuous album, with a standard collection of Beach Boys singles re-recorded in 'country-lite" mode, with the occasional slide guitar piping in to sell it to the middle-America AM radio audience it seems to be aiming for.  In fact, the arrangements are decidedly middle-of-the-road, with the psychedelic "Good Vibrations" recast as a safe, stilted acoustic ballad, and "Surfin USA" employing faceless girl backup singers, all in full "rah-rah" mode.  Even when things pick up, such as the full-on bluegrass recasting of "Be True To Your School" are hampered by the white-bread singing.  Little Joe Shaver has a pleasant, completely forgettable light baritone voice, devoid of any distinctive quirks, and coming off at times as mechanical and emotionally uninvolved with the songs he's singing.  Side two starts off a little better, with Shaver taking a more grounded reading of "Sloop John B" with some deeper, more distinctive styling in  his singing.  And things take off with a high-energy "Barbara Ann", before sinking with a turgid "Surfer Girl," then finishing off with the twang-tastic "I Get Around" and the best cover here - "Help Me Rhonda" which adopts an easy, rocking-chair tempo, and the most accomplished vocal performance on the album.  It's a strangely uneven album - a couple of stand-out performances buried underneath an avalanche of faceless, churned out covers, and mechanical arrangements.  Not what I expected from the usual heart-on-your-sleeve pose adopted by most country artists.

The Beach Boys Songbook as sung by P.K. And The Sound Explosion
Pickwick Records SPC-3579 [LP];
Released 1977

Side 1
1. Surfin' U.S.A. 2:22
2. California Girls 2:33
3. Little Deuce Coupe 1:42
4. Help Me, Rhonda 3:04
5. Sloop John B 3:01

Side 2
1. Good Vibrations 3:33
2. Fun, Fun, Fun 2:07
3. Barbara Ann 2:03
4. I Get Around 2:13
5. Be True To Your School 2:15

REVIEW: I'd heard rumors that this album might be a "disco" version of Beach Boys hits, which actually would have been entertaining, in a kitsch sort of way, but no such luck. The Pickwick label was famous for putting out quickly recorded copycat albums during the 1970s in an effort to fool the public into thinking that this was a Beach Boys record, when it's nothing more than a collection of paint-by-number rote recreations.  P.K. Thompson, the leader of the "Sound Explosion" (who recorded similar albums dedicated to The Bee Gees and Donny and Marie Osmond) has a pleasantly generic voice which, although consistently failing to generate any sparks, is inoffensive, and the covers themselves are played competently, although for some strange reason, every song seems to be taken at a slightly slower tempo than the originals, giving every number a slightly soporific, lackadaisical feeling.  But every song is lacking in the spark of rock energy that The Beach Boys were able to create; in fact, I don't believe I've ever heard a more indifferent reading of "Barbara Ann" than the drowsy version found here.  The howlingly bad liner notes (by a schlepping Ellis Nassour, who has since gone on to better things) are dreadful, with paragraphs like "The Beach Boys have not been around forever.  It just seems that way.  But, in fact, they have been around almost forever.  The super groups come and they go the but Beach Boys came and they're still here."  Or the final paragraph, which sounds like it could have been lifted from the prologue to Plan 9 From Outer Space: "So settle down to the fond memories - smile, laugh, dance, sing along, or even, should you so desire, cry - of a place and time that was not quite yesterday but which is surely not today or tomorrow..."  Whew!  Run those sentences by your English teacher and see what grade they get!  But the music is just as half-hearted as everything else found here, and the entire production, from the artwork, to the low-grade vinyl, smacks of cheapness.

Tatsuro Yamashita: Big Wave (Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [30th Anniversary Edition]
WEA Japan [CD];
Released 1984; CD released July 30, 2014

1. "The Theme from Big Wave" - 3:39
2. "Jody" - 3:51
3. "Only with You" - 3:43
4. "Magic Ways" - 4:48
5. "Your Eyes" - 3:14
6. "I Love You... Part II" - 2:07
7. "Girls on the Beach" (Brian Wilson) - 2:45
8. "Please Let Me Wonder" (Wilson, Mike Love) - 3:10
9. "Darlin'" (Wilson, Love) - 3:29
10. "Guess I'm Dumb" (Wilson, Russ Titelman) - 3:14
11. "This Could Be the Night" (Harry Nilsson) - 4:03
12. "I Love You... (Part I)" (Yamashita) - 2:04

REVIEW: Thanks to good friend and Beach Boys fan Alexis DeBaets, I was clued in to this 1984 soundtrack album to the film "Big Wave" which I'd never heard of.  But regardless of whether you are interested in the movie, this soundtrack album, by Japanese artist Tatsuro Yamashita is a must for Beach Boys fans.  Half of the album tracks are original songs, while on side two, four of the songs are fully-produced Brian Wilson compositions - "Girls On The Beach," "Please Let Me Wonder," "Darlin'," and "Guess I'm Dumb" - all of which have sterling production values, but the big draw here is Tatsuro Yamashita, who possesses a stunning, powerful, and brilliant falsetto voice which he uses to full effect.  He has a GREAT pop voice, and even on his non-Wilson tracks, his clear love of The Beach Boys comes out strong and clear with his prodigious use of falsetto, thick backing harmonies, and dreamy melody lines - tied with power-pop-like production values that make this album one of the hidden treasures of the Eighties.  Re-released in 2014 by WEA Japan, the 30th Anniversary reissue boasts seven bonus tracks and new liner notes written by Tatsuro himself.

Papa Doo Run Run : California Project 
Telarc Digital, DG 20501 [LP];  85501 [CD]; 
Released 1985

1. I Get Around
2. Wouldn't It Be Nice
3. Don't Worry Baby
4. California Girls
5. Help Me, Rhonda
6. Surfer Girl
7. Good Vibrations
8. Fun, Fun, Fun
9. Surfin' U.S.A.
10. Warmth Of The Sun
11. Let Him Run Wild
12. In My Room
13. Sloop John B.
14. God Only Knows
15. Barabara Ann

REVIEW: I'd heard this disc several years ago, but hesitated to pick up a copy for myself, simply because I remembered it being so sterile in its execution.  I mean, WHY buy a disc full of songs I already had, especially when the originals are so great?  But now, since I've picked up the entire BB catalog, as well as the discs on this page, I couldn't say nay any longer.  The whole purpose of this disc was to bring the lush harmonies of the Beach Boys into the digital era, and so Papa Doo Run Run (a long-running tribute band and side project of Jeffrey Foskett who does some backing vocals here) along with guests Mike Love (vocals on two songs), Dean Torrence, and John Stamos, went into the studio and painstakingly re-created the songs and harmonies of the originals, with professional results.  For years, this disc was used as a showcase model for stereo systems due to it's sonics, but to me, it still sounds dry, without any of the studio wizardry or presence that Brian was able to achieve using four-track analogue equipment.  The performances are tight, clean and chock-full of harmonies that few can navigate.  It's a very strange sensation to hear these songs so faithfully recreated, but with unfamiliar voices; in particular, to hear Brian's high harmonies hit spot on, but without the brilliant quality that Brian's voice had.  Overall, I would compare this disc to the NASCAR CD in both style and execution, giving the slight edge to NASCAR for performance and sound.

Smiles, Vibes & Harmony
DeMilo DM00041 [LP], DM0004-4 [CASS];
Released 1990

1. Dance, Dance, Dance - Handsome Dick Manitoba
2. This Car of Mine - World Famous Blue Jays
3. Johnny Carson - Das Damen
4. Darlin' - The Records
5. Gonna Hustle You - Peter Stampfel & the Bottle Caps
6. Chug-A-Lug - The Untamed Youth
7. Wind Chimes - Mooseheart Faith
8. Pet Sounds - Dos Dragsters
9. I Know There's an Answer - Sonic Youth
10. Drive-In - The A-Bones
11. 409 - Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats
12. Be True to Your School - The Cynics
13. Help Me, Rhonda - The Original Sins
14. I Wanna Pick You Up - Sharky's Machine
15. Meet Me in My Dreams Tonight - The Vacant Lot
16. Wonderful/Whistle In - Nikki Sudden & the Mermaids

REVIEW: I had heard of this rare tribute album floating around, but only recently found a mint cassette of it on eBay.  Released by Venus Records on the DeMilo label, this limited-run tribute album to the music of Brian Wilson is both blessed and cursed by the roster of artists who've gathered to participate, with the usual blend of hits and misses.  Kicking off the project with "Handsome" Dick Manitoba snarling out: "Brian Wilson!  You ROCK, Baby!" he then unfortunately shouts out the lead vocal on an otherwise straightforward cover of "Dance Dance Dance."  The World Famous Blue Jays provide a whiny vocal and some crunchy guitar breaks during "This Car of Mine," and Das Damen gives a strange, lurching take on the already warped "Johnny Carson" (even sampling Ed McMahon's famous 'heeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!).  The Records give a pile-driving performance of the brilliant pop song "Darlin'," and Peter Stampfel is hilarious in his Tiny Tim-like take on "Gonna Hustle You" (a song Brian gave to Jan & Dean) - listen especially to the very funny ad-libbed fade out.  "Chug-A-Lug" is given a manic, straightforward reading, and then Mooseheart Faith completely transforms "Wind Chimes" into a bass/snare driven basement rocker which sounds like it's been mixed with the theme music from Doctor Who, and which ends in a cacophony of backwards tape loops.  Dos Dragsters take of the instrumental "Pet Sounds" sounds like it's going to be a cover of Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" at first, but then moves into a reverent cover, nicely closing out Side A.  Side B is far less interesting, with The Sonic Youth (the only band I'd heard of here) using buzz-saw guitars and heavily layered vocals to give a laconic, passionless reading of "I Know There's An Answer," followed by a frenetic, garage-rock take on "Drive In" by the A-Bones.  Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats do "409" as a distorted head-banger, very lo-fi, and The Cynics replace the innocent sentiment of "Be True To Your School" with charmless sturm and drang.  "Help Me Rhonda" gains nothing by the ferocious singing of The Original Sins (although I like their atypical use of organ in the track), but Sharky's Machine does a lazy, innocent, and happy cover of "I Wanna Pick You Up", and The Vacant Lot performs a wondrous wall-of-sound cover of "Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight" with full harmonies on the ringing chorus.  The final track has the distinction of featuring the only female vocalist, Nikki Sudden, but the combination of "Wonderful/Whistle In" is an echo-laden, schizophrenic mess, with little to recommend it.  Weird, with an interesting track lineup, Smiles, Vibes & Harmony is worth looking for if you're into something a little different.

Muppet Beach Party
Zoom Express 35027 [CD];
Released May 25, 1993

                                                    Beach Party 1. Surfin' USA Sung by; Kermit The Frog & Clifford 3:11
2. Wooly Bully - The Muppets 2:18
3. Under The Boardwalk - Clifford & The Surf Rats 3:24
4. Sugar Shack - Gonzo & Rizzo 2:31
5. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini - Kermit The Frog & Miss Piggy 2:36
6. Limbo Rock - Fozzie Bear 2:27
7. Papa Oom Mow Mow - Kermit, Clifford & The Muppet Clams 3:14
8. Kokomo - Kermit The Frog 3:36
9. Surfin' - Rizzo & The Surf Rats 2:48
10. Walkin' On Sunshine - Clifford, Rizzo & Gonzo 2:41
11. Fun Fun Fun - Robin & The Frog Scouts 2:19
12. Wipe Out - Animal 2:23

REVIEW:  You know, I grew up watching the Muppet Show (dates me, I know), but with their family-friendly antics, and often absurd humor, I have many fond memories of them.  And although this CD was produced after the death of Muppet creator and Kermit alter-ego Jim Henson, it still carries his gentle spirit in the execution.  Beach Party owes a great debt in its song selection to The Beach Boys, with four of its songs coming directly from the Beach Boys catalog (Surfin' USA, Kokomo, Surfin', and Fun, Fun, Fun) and four more of its songs covered by the Beach Boys at some points in their career: (Wooly Bully, Under the Boardwalk, Papa Ooh Mow Mow, and Wipe Out).  This is acquired taste stuff, kids, with the listener either grinning at the absurdity of having clams accompany Kermit for "Papa Oom Mow Mow" or with the sycophantic Miss Piggy squealing her way through "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini" - I especially love Rizzo and the Surf Rats gnarly take on "Surfin'," - or you'll roll you eyes at having to listen to the corny cover of "Limbo Rock" with Fozzie Bear and the cutesie antics of Robin & The Frog Scouts warbling through "Fun, Fun, Fun."   If you're not familiar with the Muppets, or simply don't care about the characters, you won't find much here to light your fires, and the album, out-of-print and demanding serious dollars from baby-boomer collectors, is aimed squarely at their demographic (as well as trying to corral their kids).  I enjoy it, but then, it's my era: the era of Sesame Street, not Fraggle Rock, but I dare you not to smile as Animal chews his way through the oh-so-appropriate "Wipe Out."

Camp California: Where the Music Never Ends
Sony Kids' Music LK 53944 [CD];
Released June 15, 1993

1. Surfin' U.S.A.
2. Camp California (Where The Music Never Ends)
3. Be True To Your School
4. Surfer Girl
5. Dance Dance Dance
6. Wipe Out
7. Yo Lil' Bro
8. Little Old Lady From Pasadena
9. Surfin' Bird 
10. Kelly's Song
11. Fun Fun Fun

Produced by Ted King
Arranged by Godon & Lisa Goodwin and Ted King

REVIEW:  I'm not quite sure about the genesis of this project - although it looks to be a tie-in to a campcalgamePC-based video game of the same name put out by ICOM Simulations, and which contained actual Beach Boys songs as part of the soundtrack.  This CD, put out by Sony Kids, doesn't feature any actual Beach Boys on the soundtrack, but it does have several "cute" covers of their songs, as well as several original cuts, (the most grating being a toss-up between "Surfin' Bird" by Al Frazier, Carl White, Tuner Wilson. Jr., and John Harris or the Beach Boy/Rap music hybrid "Yo, Lil' Bro'") and a couple of other related artists covers.  The singers, who are all performing as various animal counterparts are pretty annoying, and the covers are filled with scripted asides which are pretty much guaranteed to make any fans' teeth gnash together.  In many ways, it's similar to Disney's own Beach Party disc, but without the benefit of beloved characters to carry it off.  These characters are a bunch of anthropomorphic slackers who sling off terms like "dude" and "whoa" with all the charm of an 80's-era Valley Girl, and the songs are pretty heavily synthesized reproductions which are slick, but empty-headed.  Before hearing this, I had assumed that the "Camp California" track was the same as found on Mike Love's own "Camp California" which showed up on his Summertime Cruisin' CD, but they're completely different compositions - although very similar in content and feel.  And the Beach Boys must've made some cash off of the project, since these characters are prominently advertized as "Official Mascots of The Beach Boys" (did they dance with the cheerleaders onstage?)  Anywho - this is a pretty lame entry in the tribute canon, and "official" or not - I've heard better cover artists.  Out of print, but found cheaply on eBay or online stores.  This one is for collector's only.

Stars and Stripes, Vol. 1 
River North Nashville 51416 1205 2 [CD Only];
Released August, 1996

   1. "Don't Worry Baby" (Brian Wilson/Roger Christian) - 3:16
          * with Lorrie Morgan
   2. "Little Deuce Coupe" (Brian Wilson/Roger Christian) - 2:50
          * with James House
   3. "409" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love/Gary Usher) - 2:20
          * with Junior Brown
   4. "Long Tall Texan" (Henry Strzelecki) - 4:02
          * with Doug Supernaw
   5. "I Get Around" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:29
          * with Sawyer Brown
   6. "Be True To Your School" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:18
          * with Toby Keith
   7. "Fun Fun Fun" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:20
          * with Ricky Van Shelton
   8. "Help Me Rhonda" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:10
          * with T. Graham Brown
   9. "The Warmth Of The Sun" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:18
          * with Willie Nelson
  10. "Sloop John B" (Trad. Arr. Brian Wilson) - 3:45
          * with Collin Raye
  11. "I Can Hear Music" (J. Barry/E. Greenwich/P. Spector) - 3:14
          * with Kathy Troccoli
  12. "Caroline, No" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 3:19
          * with Timothy B. Schmit

REVIEW: This is not a "Beach Boys" album, per se, but a tribute album, which the Beach Boys put together to try and jump on the cooling trend of popular country music, with themselves singing the backup vocals while country 'stars' take the lead singing old Beach Boys chestnuts.  It's an almost complete disaster.  Three songs stand out, thanks to the sympathetic readings of the artists involved: Lorrie Morgan's sweet reinterpretation of "Don't Worry Baby" is heart-rending, Ricky Van Shelton tears through a ebullient version of "Fun, Fun, Fun," and Timothy B.. Schmit lends his beautiful tenor to "Caroline, No,"  but two deep problems pervade the album.  First, the Beach Boys add no distinction to the backup vocals.  They could be any hack group of studio singers for all we can tell, and in fact, that is exactly what they are at this point.  Second, none of the featured artists seem to feel any connection to the material, often bawling out their renditions to fit the thumping drum tracks and twanging guitars of the reworked material, to no avail.  There's no revelations in the new arrangements, and no chances taken on the material.  Even Willie Nelson seems to be singing from rote, which is a little disturbing.  A mismatched muddle of opportunity and talent, and a waste of money and time.  One thing to be grateful for: there will be no Vol. 2.

Wouldn't It Be Nice: A Jazz Portrait of Brian Wilson
Blue Note Contemporary 
CDP 7243 8 33092 2 1 [CD Only];
Released August, 1997

Wouldn't It Be
                                                    Nice: A Jazz
                                                    Portrait of BW
1. Surfer Girl (Prelude) - Don Grusin
2. Surfer Girl (Track) - Clark Burroughs Group
3. Can't Wait Too Long - Jeffrey Osborne
4. Wouldn't It Be Nice - Elements
5. 'Til I Die - Tim Weston And Shelby Flint
6. The Warmth Of The Sun - Larry Carlton
7. I Just Wasn't Made For These Times - Marilyn Scott
8. In My Room - Clark Burroughs Group  
9. I Went To Sleep - I Want To Sleep
10. Caroline No - Dori Caymmi  Listen  
11. Our Sweet Love/Friends - Elaine Elias 
12. Cabinessence - Clark Burroughs Group
13. Don't Worry Baby ('No Te Preocupes Nena') - Steve Khan with Gabriela Anders
14. God Only Knows - Yellowjackets 
15. Surf's Up - Clark Burroughs Group 
16. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) - Vince Mendoza (featuring John Abercrombie)
17. 'Til I Die - Clark Burroughs Group

REVIEW: I was surprised by this album in a very nice way.  I'm not a fan of jazz music or stylings in general, and so my expectations were perhaps a little low, but "A Jazz Portrait..." is an eclectic, fully-realized project, and extremely enjoyable.  Most people have heard these songs so many times, that to hear them melted down, unwound, re-thought, and reinvented as they are on this disc is pure pleasure.  The arrangements are low-key, very thoughtful and dreamy, and it's interesting to hear a melody that is so familiar to suddenly take a left turn, or be turned inside out, and performed with such good taste, style and talent.  Highlights for me: the cool vocals on "Can't Wait Too Long," the sweet-hot guitar work on "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times,"  Shelby Flint's thoughtful vocals on "The Warmth of the Sun", the off-beat rhythms of "In My Room" subtle doo-wop on "I Went To Sleep" and the list goes on and on.  There are times when the treatment seems detached, as on the spanish-language take of "Don't Worry Baby," which almost sounds like a completely different song, but on the whole, this album radiates warmth.  What also makes this disc so successful is the chances it takes with the material.  While Mike Love might be content to rehash the same old songs with rubber-stamp arrangements, these jazz artists are able to dissect the songs with diamond scalpels and have found inside them the soul of Brian Wilson.  Encore!

Mike Love, Bruce Johnston & David Marks of the Beach Boys salute NASCAR

M.E.L.E. Co., Tosco Marketing Co., [CD Only];
Released February, 1998

The Beach Boys
                                                  salute NASCAR 1. I Get Around (B. Wilson/M. Love)
2. Little Deuce Coupe (B. Wilson/R. Christian)
3. Little Old Lady From Pasadena (D. Altfeld/R. Christian)
4. 409 (B. Wilson/G. Usher/M. Love)
5. Shut Down (B. Wilson/R. Christian)
6. Little GTO (J. Wilkin)
7. Ballad Of Ole' Betsy (B. Wilson/R. Christian)
8. Little Honda (B Wilson/M. Love)
9. Fun, Fun, Fun (B. Wilson/M. Love)
10. Don't Worry Baby (B. Wilson/R. Christian/M. Love)

REVIEW: This disc, which was only available for a limited time through Union 76 gas stations, is a decent album, although the packaging can lead one to believe it's the Beach Boys performing, when actually it's mostly just Mike Love. The CD is comprised of  remakes of classic Beach Boys tracks, along with a couple of other choices.  It begins with Mike Love and Bruce Johnston doing a spoken-word plug for Union 76 gasoline and NASCAR over a "Good Vibrations" backing track.  (and any sense of artistry goes out the window!)  Then it tears into high-energy, faithful versions of "Little Deuce Coupe," "Little Old Lady From Pasadena," "409," "Shut Down," "Little GTO," "Ballad Of Ole' Betsy" (the one surprise for me), a tear-it-up version of "Little Honda," "Fun, Fun, Fun," and "Don't Worry Baby."  (Let's see, five of the ten tracks also appear on "Stars and Stripes," was this really necessary?)  Call this album Shut Down Volume 3.  Mike takes lead vocal on almost every track,  producer Adrian Baker and Paul Bergerot create some memorably intricate harmonies, David Marks handles the guitar duties with his usual expertise; Bruce Johnston is vocally non-existant, and it's all very professional and nice and plastic.

Symphonic Sounds: Music of the Beach Boys
Intersound 9343 [CD Only];
Released August, 1998

                                                          Sounds of the
                                                          Beach Boys
1. Overture
2. Kokomo
3. God Only Knows
4. Wouldn't It Be Nice?
5. Disney Girls
6. Darlin'
7. (Just for fun) All Surf!
8. The Warmth of the Sun
9. The Water Planet Suite

REVIEW: I wanted so much more from this album.  It seemed to be the perfect idea; take the wonderfully complex melodies of Brian Wilson, and explode them with a full symphony orchestra.  I was actually hoping for a 'classical' treatment of the BB cataloge, but instead what we get is cheesy "Hollywood-ized" orchestrations that somehow manage to completely miss the power and heart of the original songs, and the disc is also hampered by a  spineless song selection (the "surf-medley" reduces the RPO to sounding like a high school marching band).  Mike Love's retread of Kokomo is virtually identical with the original version, sans the very-much missed contributions of Carl Wilson.  The arrangements of God Only Knows (with an thinly-voiced Tammy Trent guesting) doesn't come close to the aching Pet Sounds version, and Wouldn't It Be Nice, with it's annoying electric guitar lead and prominent drums, sounds more like a dance band than a world-renowned symphony.  Bruce Johnston does a very nice take of "Disney Girls", but again, the addition of the orchestra is so subdued as to be almost moot.  Matt Jardine tackles a competent, if unelectrifying take on Darlin', and Adrian Baker creates some Four-Freshman like harmonies for an accapella (?) Warmth of the Sun.  The final 23-minute long "Water Planet Suite" is strangely unmemorable, when it should be ringing with power and grandeur.  Top it off with the lamest album cover of recent history (concept by Bruce Johnston -- Yeesh!) and you can kiss this album goodbye.

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