The Complete Guide

I - II - III - IV - V

NOTE:  An interesting change has occured within the years 2009-2010, especially in regards to Beach Boys "tribute" albums - no longer can you find them in physical formats (so long, LP, Cassette, & CDs!) - now, anonymous companies (and artists) can simply record the odd tribute album in their basements, and sell them online via digital download!  Quick and easy.  Well, perhaps a bit TOO quick and easy for my tastes - many of these so-called tribute albums are nothing more than karaoke-level sound-alikes, with no effort made to reinvent or even sound slavishly like the orignals. Tread carefully.

The Beach Boys: Songs For Dancing - Klaus Hallen Tanzorchester
Pro Media [MP3]; 
Released January 1, 1996

1. Breakaway     3:27
2. Sloop John B.    3:03
3. Do It Again    2:20
4. California Dreaming    4:00
5. Kokomo    4:02
6. Then I Kissed Her    2:02
7. Surfin`usa    2:20
8. Barbara Ann    2:05
9. Full Sail    3:17
10. I Get Around    2:38
11. Slow Summer Dancing    3:25
12. California Girls    2:38
13. I Can Hear Music    3:27
14. Cotton Fields    2:11
15. Fun Fun Fun    2:25
16. Brautchor    2:33
17. Hochzeitsmarsch    2:09

REVIEW:  This German release certainly has a strange idea of which Beach Boys songs are good for dancing.  Have you ever tried to dance to "Sloop John B" with its mid-tempo Caribbean rhythms?  Or "Breakaway" with its odd thumping beat?  Besides those odd choices, there's nary a "Do You Wanna Dance" or "Dance Dance Dance" to be found.  There are a couple of good slow dance choices: from a dreamy "California Dreaming" to "Slow Summer Dancing"  - but what's "Then I Kissed Her" doing here? It's clip-clop castanets make it seem more attuned to clogging than club-mixes.  And dancing to the clumsy beat of "Barbara Ann?"  Oooooo-kay.  Getting away from the whole "dance" idea, however, this is a pretty good covers album of Beach Boys songs - Klaus Hallen possesses a good, "generic" sort of voice that doesn't attempt to ape Brian's or Mike's timbres, and his choice of tracks, although heavy on the standards, reveal a deeper knowledge of the Beach Boys canon; "Breakaway" "Full Sail" and "Slow Summer Dancing" not to mention "Cottonfields" are all interesting choices.  And although Hallen doesn't veer too far from the original arrangements, his tempos sometimes go haywire, as on the supercharged "Cottonfields" and "Fun Fun Fun" which close out the Beach Boys section of the album. Closing out the track listing are two very odd inclusions: the heavily synthesized "Brautchor" which you'll recognize as soon as you hear it, and the wedding-conscious "Hochzeitsmarsch" both of which seem to belong on a completely different album.  Good, but not essential.

The Beach Boys Gone Country - Time Pools
Disc Eyes Productions [CD, MP3]; 
Released June 10, 2008

1. Sloop John B     4:18
2. Help Me Rhonda    3:16
3. Kiss Me Baby    2:48
4. God Only Knows    2:34
5. Fun Fun Fun    2:40
6. In My Room    4:15
7. She Knows Me Too Well    3:11
8. Dance Dance Dance    2:00
9. Little Deuce Coupe    1:46
10. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)    3:21
11. Surfin' U. S. A.    2:37
12. Warmth Of The Sun    3:52

REVIEW:  I was hoping that this album (released on both CD and MP3 formats) would be akin to the curiously-refreshing Pickin' On The Beach Boys bluegrass tribute (which I reviewed earlier), but - no such luck.  This somber, sleepy album, instead of picking up on the good-times vibe present in the afore-mentioned disc, takes a traditional country-instrumental approach, with lots of electric slide guitar and dobro, but precious little in the way of hayseed chawin' foot-stompin good times.  I mean, great honk, there's even a saxophone blaring away during "Fun Fun Fun!" that's like, ANTI-country music, isn't it? Shouldn't the entire disc explode at that point?  Regardless, this is competent playing, but I found the program extraordinarily boring; more in line with elevator music than anything you'd find on a hot country radio station.  The only song approaching lively was the cover of "Dance Dance Dance" but even that felt restrained - more rehearsed than the wild free-for-all approach I wanted.  OK - I'll even give them a point for including "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)", a daring choice, but the entire album is so soporific, so lacking in any of the joyful abandon present in the Beach Boys own carefully crafted, but still primitive recordings, that I wanted to grab hold of these session players shoulders and physically shake them.  A good disc to put you to sleep on a drowsy country evening.

A Tribute To The Beach Boys - Academy Allstars
Ectypal Music OMP [MP3]; 
Released August 17, 2009

1. All Summer Long     4:56
2. God Only Knows    2:49
3. Don't Worry Baby    2:47
4. Ko Ko Mo (Kokomo)    3:41
5. Surfin' Safari    2:11
6. The Girls on the Beach    2:39
7. California Girls    2:50
8. Good Vibrations    3:56
9. I Get Around    2:21
10. Sloop John B    3:08
11. Surfin' Usa    2:29
12. In My Room    2:15  

REVIEW: This so-called "tribute" to The Beach Boys is one of the more painful ones I've had to endure for the sake of this site; performed by "The Academy Allstars" (AKA some Bryan Adams-soundalike plowing his way through the hits), you'll be favored to listen to the vaguely on-key ramblings of an anonymous hack singing along to tweaky synthesized backing tracks, adding nothing to the songs he's supposedly paying tribute to, and torturing the listener with his so-called "falsetto."   I'm pretty certain that most breeds of dogs, if exposed to this singer's whining, will howl along in sympathy (and the recording will be all the better for it).  OK, maybe I'm being a bit too harsh, but with so little to go on except what I hear, it's difficult to give this release some slack.  It's so heartless, so cold and robotic that I ached to hear the real thing when the playing was done.  Tribute is at its heart a cheap product, recorded with the sole intention of duping the public into buying what they think must be the songs they love, only to be flattened by the realization that they've downloaded a steaming heap of crap-o-la. Too bad it's only available in MP3 format - the disc would make a perfect drink coaster.

A Salute To The Beach Boys
- 60's Rock Heroes 
Big Eye Music [MP3]; 
Released November 1, 2009

1. Surfin' USA (as made famous by The Beach Boys)     2:29
2. Surfin' USA (Singalong Version)    2:29
3. Good Vibrations (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    3:56
4. Good Vibrations (Singalong Version)    3:39
5. Wouldn't It Be Nice (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:25
6. Wouldn't It Be Nice (Singalong Version)    2:21
7. Surfer Girl (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:30
8. Surfer Girl (Singalong Version)    2:30
9. California Girls (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:50
10. California Girls (Singalong Version)    2:39
11. Surfin' Safari (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:11
12. Surfin' Safari (Singalong Version)    2:16
13. Barbara Ann (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:08
14. Barbara Ann (Singalong Version)    2:15
15. I Get Around (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:21
16. I Get Around (Singalong Version)    2:11
17. Kokomo (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    3:41
18. Kokomo (Singalong Version)    3:37
19. Little Deuce Coupe (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    1:45
20. Little Deuce Coupe (Singalong Version)    1:45
21. Sloop John B (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    3:08
22. Sloop John B (Singalong Version)    3:01
23. Fun, Fun, Fun (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    1:56
24. Fun, Fun, Fun (Singalong Version)    2:19
25. In My Room (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:15
26. In My Room (Singalong Version)    2:15
27. Help Me Rhonda (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:56
28. Help Me Rhonda (Singalong Version)    2:58
29. Catch A Wave (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:21
30. Catch A Wave (Singalong Version)    2:22
31. Don't Worry Baby (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:47
32. Don't Worry Baby (Singalong Version)    2:47
33. Let Him Run Wild (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:19
34. Let Him Run Wild (Singalong Version)    2:19
35. Rock And Roll Music (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:29
36. Rock And Roll Music (Singalong Version)    2:28
37. Dance, Dance, Dance (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:02
38. Dance, Dance, Dance (Singalong Version)    2:02
39. All Summer Long (as made famous by The Beach Boys)    2:09
40. All Summer Long (Singalong Version)    2:09

REVIEW: From a "Tribute" to a "Salute", I was charmed by the hilarious cover image, which looks like Barry Gibb (circa 1979) dressed up as the leader of a biker gang on holiday in Malibu, to the processed vocals within that sounds as if The Rip Chords (circa 1964) had reformed, this is one trippy "tribute/karaoke" album.  Clocking in at a hefty one hour forty minutes, you get a lot of music here for the price, with forty tracks in total, but half of them are the instrumental backing tracks, (a so-called "sing-along" version) included for each of the vocal versions.  I have no problem with either the robotic, compressed vocals, or the thin, bloodless backing tracks, as they're about what you'd expect from a karaoke package, but the tempos, vocals, and playing are all competent, just stripped of any personality or spark.  The vocals sound as if they were thrown together by one guy, but he's good at apeing the specific harmonies of the Beach Boys - there are no obvious flubs or harmonic goofs; just the same cookie-cutter exactness song after song.  The track listing is fairly obvious as well, with a couple of surprises (for me, at least) - there's the expected hits, from "Kokomo" to "California Girls" with a large chunk of The Beach Boys "car songs" thrown in for the 'beer-and-babe' crowd.  You won't find any of Brian Wilson's introspective Pet Sounds songs here, although "Surfer Girl" and "In My Room" make an appearance; but I was surprised to see "Don't Worry Baby", "Let Him Run Wild" and the real odd-man-out: "Rock and Roll Music" (the Beach Boys sole representative song from the 1970s) making an appearance.    Other than those three, the rest of the track-listing could be taken from any of the Mike-and-Bruce truck shows.  Still, if you enjoy the basic Beach Boys bundle of songs present here, this is a pretty-good "sing-along" package for bedroom and shower warblers.  Also released as Singalong To The Beach Boys

The Rämouns: Rockaway Beach Boys
Wolverine/Soul Food [CD/MP3]; 
November 3, 2009
1. Surfin Safari
2. Shut Down
3. Surfin' USA
4. Little Honda
5. 409
6. In My Room
7. I Get Around
8. Little Deuce Coupe
9. Fun, Fun, Fun
10. Help Me Rhonda
11. Catch A Wave
12. Do It Again

REVIEW:  Somehow I missed hearing this album when it was first released (I think it's a German import, which is why it took awhile to make its way over to the States) but clued in by a good friend, I gave it a listen, and ...well, this album struck me as a perfect argument against the whole "punk" movement in music.  The Rämouns make every song here sound exactly the same.  In fact, one of the most inexplicable features of this album is a disconnect between the first ten tracks, and the last two, which seem to be performed by completely different bands.  The first ten tracks all start with a shouted count in, with so little variation between tempos and performances that it might as well be the same song sung over and over again.  Even the gentle introspection of "In My Room" is slathered over in the crush of thrashing guitars and unremitting drums; the lack of musical talent and imagination here is simply staggering - if the Rämouns really wanted to pay tribute to The Beach Boys, then they either don't understand the genius of Brian Wilson, or simply don't have the chops to pull it off.  Deadly dull stuff.  But then - the final two tracks take a different track - pulling off full harmonies and omitting (or at least delaying) the count-ins.  "Catch A Wave" and "Do It Again" are given more purely reverential treatments than all the previous tracks combined, although they still betray the lack of musical talent of the band on the one-note solos and numbing arrangements.  But the harmonies come back in, and the tempos are more in line with the original songs - why the switch?  Who knows, but at least the album ends on a happier note than it began, and if you enjoy fast and furious covers of the Beach Boys, then this is the album for you.

The Ultimate Beach Boys Cover Band: Beach Boys Gold

Gigatone Entertainment [MP3]; 
Released March 2, 2010

1. I Get Around      2:17
2. Catch A Wave     2:13
3. Little Deuce Coupe     1:45
4. Little Saint Nick     2:29

REVIEW:  A mini-review for a mini-EP.  The product of too much self-promotion, this four-track EP bills itself as being performed by "The Ultimate Beach Boys Cover Band" which I'll refrain from crowning them as until I hear them perform the entire Pet Sounds album live.  As to what's available here, these are certainly competent covers of "I Get Around", "Catch A Wave" and "Little Deuce Coupe" along with the bonus track of "Little Saint Nick" - but I seriously doubt that this is a legitimate "band" at all - the vocals all sound multi-tracked, and the final "Little Saint Nick" sounds more synth programmed than played.  Frankly, having seen a plethora of these cover bands pop us in the last dozen years, I fear very much for the future of the "live" Beach Boys experience.

Art Rush: Fresh Air / The Beach Boys Today Side 2
Get Poison Records [MP3]; 
Released July 15, 2010

1. Fresh Air       2:17
2. Your Owl     3:40
3. A Casual Thing     2:46
4. Life FTW IMO     4:01
5. Clear Sky And Flying Forward
   Few Words Between Us Are Needed
   Imaginary Friend     3:30
6. Something I Don't     2:25
7. A I U E O     2:39
8. Please Let Me Wonder     2:50
9. I'm So Young     2:22
10. Kiss Me, Baby     2:31
11. She Knows Me Too Well     2:29
12. In The Back of My Mind     2:05
13. Bull Session With The "Big Daddy"     2:03

REVIEW:  A bit too low-fi for my tastes, Art Rush's independent release Fresh Air / The Beach Boys Today Side 2 makes The Beach Boys own low-fi 1967 release Smiley Smile sound like a Phil Spector Wall Of Sound production in comparison.  The album is split into two halves, with the first half being Rush's own original compositions, which have little stylistic commonalities with The Beach Boys, but the reason to this include the album here is an odd conceit: Rush has recreated the entire original LP side two of The Beach Boys 1965 Today! album for the last six tracks - not only songs, but oddly enough the spoken "Bull Session With The "Big Daddy" track which was an interview segment the Beach Boys tacked on for their fans' enjoyment.  Rush's vocals are distinctly raw and unpolished - this sounds nothing like the heavily-produced, ultra-polished masterpieces that Brian Wilson carefully crafted - his vocals and playing (mostly on ukulele - curse you YouTube!) seem to have been recorded in his living room.  In fact, the half-assed way that Rush tackles these songs makes the entire thing seem to be more of a long, drunken joke that only he's in on; a vanity project that, instead of paying homage to the originals, sounds like an out-take from Brian & Dennis Wilson's infamous Cocaine Sessions.  It's sloppy, careless, and strangely enough, drags the album down a couple of notches.  His own songs, which form the bulk of the record, are light, jazzy mood pieces which settle well enough on their own with traces of rap and pop mixed easily together; but by paying so little reverence to The Beach Boys own meticulously produced songs, the album as a whole suffers.

The Tribute Co.: A Tribute To The Beach Boys
Planet Music [MP3]; 
Released September 21, 2010

Disc 1:
1. Barbara Ann       2:15
2. Good Vibrations     3:39
3. Help Me, Rhonda     2:57
4. I Get Around     2:11
5. Kokomo     3:37
6. Be True To Your School     2:11
7. California Girls     2:39
8. Dance, Dance, Dance     2:02
9. Fun, Fun, Fun     2:19
10. Wouldn't It Be Nice     2:21
11. Rock And Roll Music     2:28
12. Sloop John B.     3:01
13. Surfin' USA     2:29
14. Little Deuce Coupe     1:45   

Disc 2:      
1. In My Room     2:15
2. Don't Worry Baby     2:47
3. Catch A Wave     2:21
4. Surfer Girl     2:30
5. Warmth of the Sun     2:48
6. Let Him Run Wild     2:19
7. Girls On The Beach     2:39
8. Surfin' Safari     2:16
9. Girl Don't Tell Me     2:20
10. All Summer Long     2:09
11. Wendy     2:16
12. Little Saint Nick     1:58
13. God Only Knows     2:49

REVIEW:  Continuing what's become a disturbing trend in digital downloads, it now appears that any hack who has a karaoke machine and a microphone can record lifeless, robotic "tribute albums" to the band of their choice, and then sell them via the internet.  The Tribute Co.'s A Tribute To The Beach Boys is so cold, so utterly useless, and so banal, that it's hard to justify it's existence in any format.  This album literally sounds as if some cheap backing tracks were purchased, and then a single person multi-tracked his voice over and over again to come up with these one-size-fits-all copies of the originals.  It can't really be called a "tribute", since The Beach Boys would undoubtedly feel cheated by their music being counterfeited this way, and the anonymous artist, (who prefers to remain hidden), takes no pains to inject these songs with any heart, style or heat.  In fact, he sounds bored, and the tedium of his performance sours this entire album from beginning to end.  Another sham "tribute" album which I'm sure we'll see pop up in other guises.

A Taste Of Honey: Beach Boys Songbook
Mood Media [MP3]; 
Released December 10, 2010

1. Barbara Ann     2:23
2. California Girls     2:49
3. Darlin'     2:14
4. Do It Again     2:55
5. Fun, Fun, Fun     2:15
6. God Only Knows     2:43
7. Help Me, Rhonda     3:21
8. I Can Hear Music     3:03
9. Sloop John B.     2:55
10. Then I Kissed Her     2:46
11. Why Do Fools Fall in Love     1:54
12. You're So Good to Me     2:29

  More lo-fi straight-to-mp3 cover albums by artists who apparently have little or no understanding of how to capture the wonder of the originals, but still manage to generate some charm.  Here, the band is A Taste Of Honey (no, not the 70s disco duo), whose sole intent is to take the Beach Boys back to their beginning "garage band" days, only with less originality.  Everything here is stripped down, cookie- cutter renditions of the original hits with odd little changes popping up here and there, such as a bent note (most jarringly on "God Only Knows") and chewing their words in a regional accent that I couldn't quite place (it changes the "Rhonda" in "Help Me Rhonda" into "RonDER"), and wispy falsetto vocals that make me ache for Al or Brian to come in and take charge.  Strangely, despite being so generally bland in the performance, A Taste Of Honey possesses a charming jangle-pop vibe, and they sound not unlike such lower-tier Sixties British Invasion imports, making this release a little more attractive than most of the sham cover bands that have been littering online stores with quickie mp3 releases.  Being on the grittier side of the sonic scale, tracks like "Darlin'", "Do It Again" and "Then I Kissed Her" are much more successful than the bare-to-the-bone attempts at the symphonic "California Girls" or "God Only Knows" - which are a sloppy and threadbare compared to the originals.  My strongest recommendation here is that it's a real band, with real honest-to-goodness playing and singing going on, and not just another "quickie" karaoke disc masquerading as a "tribute" album.

Various Artists: Still Smiling: A Tribute to the Genius of Brian Wilson
Uncut Magazine [CD];
Released October, 2011

Still Smiling 1. Panda Bear –  Surfer's Hymn
2. Grizzly Bear – Colorado
3. Girls – Honey Bunny
4. Ganglians – California
5. Mikal Cronin – Is It Alright?
6. Plush – Found A Little Baby
7. Pearlfishers, The – Go Away Boy
8. Caribou – Sun
9. Van Dyke Parks – Wall Street
10. Volcano Choir – Island, IS
11. Fennesz – Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
12. Gruff Rhys – Shark Ridden Waters
13. Ruby Suns, The – Kenya Dig It?
14. Sufjan Stevens – Now That I'm Older

REVIEW:  There are very few "tribute" albums out there that I can honestly say I've warmed up to.  The Beach Boys were such an iconic harmony band, whose songs were immediately relateable, that to hear other artists claim to be influenced by Brian Wilson, and yet to hear no discernible inspiration, is a little discouraging.  Granted, Brian Wilson has veered into experimental, even bizarre territory at times, but nothing here even begins to match his level of melodic craft or approachability.  The tracks on this release (which was included in the October 2011 issue of UNCUT magazine) are culled from mostly current artists, but some of the cuts are as old as 1994, and at least one (The Pearlfishers "Go Away Boy") has previously appeared on a Beach Boys tribute album (the spotty "Caroline Now!").  One of the few bands I've heard of, Grizzly Bear, is popular with some college crowds, but their "Colorado" is so murky and dull that it's only Wilson inspiration I can discern is to "A Day In The Life Of A Tree", except without the latter song's soaring melodicism.  Even Van Dyke Parks's contribution, the 1920's-pastiche "Wall Street" is far more cynical than anything Brian would put his stamp upon.  Of the two Wilson songs present, Fennesz's "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" is stripped down to an electronic catatonic dribble, leaving only the previously mentioned "Go Away Boy" as the sole track approaching the Beach Boys sweetness.  Everything else here seems to be missing the point: whereas Brian Wilson's music has been said to be melancholy songs that sound happy, most of UNCUT's choices sound dull and reconstructed to the point of incoherence, leaving the listener numb.  Is there no artist out there who TRULY understands the genius of Brian Wilson?

Wilson Phillips: Dedicated
Sony Masterworks 791425 [CD, MP3];
Released April 3, 2012

1. California Dreamin'    2:49
2. Wouldn't It Be Nice    2:45
3. Dedicated to the One I Love    3:07
4. Don't Worry Baby    3:31
5. Twelve-Thirty    3:37
6. I Can Hear Music    3:07
7. Monday Monday    4:17
8. Do It Again        2:51
9. Got A Feelin'    3:33
10. Fun, Fun, Fun    2:27
11. God Only Knows    3:49
12. Good Vibrations    3:45

REVIEW:  Wilson Phillips have always had the unenviable task of living up to their parent's legacies. Despite their early chart success with shiny-happy pop confections, their studio-made harmonies, (never recreatable on stage), reinforced the impression that these ladies were coasting on their famous names, and their quick popular descent only seemed to confirm their flash-in-the-pan status. Nevertheless, their friendship, and their group, has continued to soldier on, and on this, their first album to fully acknowledge their musical heritage, they embrace the harmonic California pop that spawned an entire genre.  Democratically bouncing between their famous families, and also including shared hits that both groups tackled, songs of The Beach Boys and The Mamas and The Papas are given faithful, polished readings that miraculously manage to recapture a great deal of the magic that originally made them hits.  It doesn't hurt that these are great songs, or that Wilson Phillips has fully embraced their own brand of impossibly clean harmonies and cheerful poppy personas, giving these songs not only sweetness and fresh new arrangements, but occasional grit which serves to propel songs like "Twelve-Thirty" and "Got A Feelin'" into new emotional territory that brings them to life.  And their acapella rendition of "Good Vibrations" is a real show stopper.  Of course, these girls still don't have the best pipes in the business, and some tracks, like "Fun, Fun, Fun" end up sounding a little like Betty Boop on a bender, but overall, this is a great album, with strong songs, great arrangements, and enough harmonies to make this release a top-down summer celebration.  Definitely worth checking out.

Pet Sounds Revisited
MOJO Magazine [CD];
Released June, 2012

1. Saint Etienne – Wouldn’t It Be Nice
2. Magnetic North – You Still Believe in Me
3. The Sand Band – That’s Not Me
4. Tim Burgess – Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
5. Jeffrey Lewis (w/Wooden Wand & Janet Simpson of Delicate Cutters) – I’m Waiting for the Day
6. Neil Cowley Trio – Let’s Go Away for Awhile
7. Tom McRae & the Standing Band – Sloop John B
8. The Flaming Lips – God Only Knows
9. Les Limananas – I Know There’s an Answer
10. Jodie Marie – Here Today
11. Gaz Coombes – I Just Wasn’t Made for These…
12. Human Don’t Be Angry – Pet Sounds
13. Here We Go Magic – Caroline No
14. Superimposers – Trombone Dixie

REVIEW:  I really just have one question after hearing MOJO's latest Beach Boys-inspired CD (following the previous In My Room); when did sloppy Sixties psychedelia become the go-to model for today's indie artists?  Virtually every cut here, from the loopy, detached "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by Saint Etienne to the extremely lo-fi cover of "Sloop John B" by Tom McRae & the Standing Band to the fuzzy haze of The Flaming Lips' "God Only Knows" feels like an exercise in sleepwalking, with drowsy tempos, half-hearted vocals, and production values that definitely feel "home cooked."  A few tracks I thought captured some of the spirit of the original: Tim Burgess' lovely take on "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)" showcases his effortless tenor vocals, and Here We Go Magic's "Caroline, No" puts a subtle trance beat beneath the melody, giving it a welcome propulsive beat, and Les Limananas's "I Know There's An Answer" adds a strong bass groove to the only upbeat song found on the album, even though the singer's accent turns every "th" into a "z" which sounds affected and strange.  I also enjoyed the Neil Cowley Trio's piano-driven take on "Let's Go Away For Awhile" and found strange charms in the Superimposers "Trombone Dixie" which closes out the album.  But, as with most projects of this ilk, for every track that intrigued, there was an magnetic opposite, such as the freak-out interpretation of "That's Not Me" by The Sand Band or Gaz Coombes lazy "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" or the plain offensive "I'm Waiting For The Day" by Jeffrey Lewis, whose lack of talent doesn't deserve recognition of this sort.  So, all in all, another middling collection by a group of artists who will most likely fade from memory, while the genius of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys will continue to shine.

The New Surfsiders: Kokomo/Good Vibrations; The Smile Medley/Never Learn Not To Love; Little Saint Nick/Tie I Die
Norton Records "Popular Demand Series" 1401-1; 1402; 1404 [45 RPM];
Released 2012


REVIEW:  You will either completely love the sly, knowing humor that is part and parcel of The New Surfsiders homage to the 1965 album The Surfsiders Sing The Beach Boys Songbook, or you will curse the God that caused them to crawl back from the cut-out label sludge from which the original group was spawned.  Who is the audience for this?  Think about it - only a very small group of Beach Boys fans have heard of the original Surfsiders; and a smaller contingent loves and appreciates the naivety which made the original album such a unintentional comedic masterpiece.  But here, with all the reverential care that is usually reserved for Frank Sinatra and Elvis impersonators, comes a tribute band to a tribute band - and a BAD tribute band at that!  If anything, The New Surfsiders are - yes, it must be admitted - even worse than the original band.  Their lead singer goes purposefully, and enthusiastically off-key several times; the same backing track is used for ALL the covers here, with the same blatting saxophone doing the same riff over and over again.  And - horror of horrors - The New Surfsiders aren't content to cover the same pre-1965 "surf and cars" songs which the original group had to work with - no - this band takes on several post '65 songs, including some of the most-loved art songs the Beach Boys ever produced!  Imagine a bad 1950s frat band covering the celestial "'Til I Die", or trying to compress the odd, complex Smile album into a chugging two-minute thirty-second medley!  It's almost beyond comprehension, and yet, here they are, along with the creepy Dennis Wilson/Charlie Manson-composed "Never Learn Not To Love" and a (literally) off-beat "Kokomo!"  Oh.  The.  Humanity.  It's all sung with the same hoo-rah gusto usually reserved for college fight songs, and is easily the most surreal, hilarious thing I've heard in years.  God bless The New Surfsiders - may they live and prosper for many years.  To read my exclusive interview with The New Surfsiders - click here.  And if you're in the mood for a chuckle, head on over to Norton Records and spend a few bucks on these guys.  They are pure geniuses.

Portland Smiles: A Tribute To The Beach Boys (A Tribute To The Beach Boys' "Smiley Smile")
TenderLovingEmpire TLE-044 [MP3];
Released October, 2013

1. Collin Jenkins - Heroes and Villains
2. New Move - Vegetables
3. Turbo Perfecto feat. Operation Mission - Fall Breaks and Back to Winter
4. Porches - She's Goin' Bald
5. Radiation City - Little Pad
6. Adam Brock - Good Vibrations
7. Jared Mees & The Grown Children - With Me Tonight
8. Dave Depper - Wind Chimes
9. Seth Mankowski - Gettin' Hungry
10. Alison Ables - Wonderful
11. Typhoon - Whistle In

  Anybody who knows me through my reviews knows that I have a love-it/hate-it relationship with tribute albums by various artists.  There's so much that can go wrong, with the percentage of hits-to-misses usually weighted towards the latter.  But the producers at Tender Loving Empire have had a stroke of genius with Portland Smiles - instead of trying to cover one of the Beach Boys classic albums (like Pet Sounds) and inevitably screwing with perfection, they've chosen one of the band's black sheep Smiley Smile, which crashed into the Beach Boys fans like a lead brick and precipitated the band's descent into a years-long critical and commercial spiral.  I was feeling trepidations about the album anyway - didn't the artistic merits of Portland rise and fall with their lamented native sons Nirvana in the 90s?  Anyway - putting that aside - I found this to be a fine, and occasionally stunning reminder of how brilliant the songs of the Beach Boys could be, even as shattered and broken as they were.  It's a squirrely album from beginning to end - with tripped out covers of songs that were trippy to begin with - so nothing is lost, and much is gained by the obvious fun these artists had in scrambling up these ditties - lots of high points - from Adam Brock's groovy lo-fi "Good Vibrations" to the cool and jazzy "Whistle In" outro.  In fact, the only song that really grated was Collin Jenkins' crass take on "Heroes and Villains" which unfortunately opens the album - but once that was past, the album improved track by track.  Available through their website.

The New Surfsiders: Luau/Dance, Dance, Dance
Norton Records "Popular Demand Series" 1405 [45 RPM];
Released 2013

Side A - Luau ("Party" style)
Side B - Dance, Dance, Dance ("Live")

  Great honk!  It's the return of The New Surfsiders with a special release single just in time for the holidays!  OK, honestly, if this were a z-grade movie, I'd expect there to be a cheesy poster included, ("The Retuuuuuurn of the New Surfsiders!") but for now, we just have the warped sensibilities of this wisely-anonymous group who take great glee in butchering beloved Beach Boys classics.  On their latest single, The New Surfies pay homage to two iconic moments from Beach Boys albums of the past.  On side A, we have "Luau" which is given a Party-style treatment, complete with clinking glasses, background chatter, and various non-sequiturs (you can hear an infamous Murray Wilson line spoken by a woman in the outro), and although everything's a little more laid back tempo-wise, it's still the same monotonous, chugging backing track that graced their previously-released singles.  And on side B, you have a "live" rendition of "Dance, Dance, Dance" which uses the same "build-a-song" technique which Mike Love used to introduce "Little Deuce Coupe." with each instrument being played individually, then the entire song coming together in inglorious fashion.  Recommended for fans who are a little twisted - everyone else should run away!  Run away!

Here Today!  The Songs Of Brian Wilson
Ace Records CDCHD 1445 (UK) [CD]
Released July 24, 2015

1. Do You Have Any Regrets? - Darian Sahanaja
2. Here Today - Bobby Vee
3. Guess I'm Dumb - Johnny Wells
4. Don't Worry Baby - The Tokens
5. Farmer's Daughter - Basil Swift & The Seagrams
6. Help Me Rhonda - Bruce & Terry
7. I Do - The Castells
8. The New Girl In School - Jan & Dean
9. Time To Get Alone - Redwood
10. Don't Hurt My Little Sister - The Surfaris
11. My Buddy Seat - The Hondells
12. Move Out, Little Mustang - Rally-Packs
13. She Rides With Me - Joey & The Continentals
14. The Girl From New York City - Tony Rivers & The Castaways
15. Surf City - The Tymes
16. My First Love - The Super Stocks
17. Things Are Changing - Jay & The Americans
18. Girl Don't Tell Me - Keith Green
19. Aren't You Glad - Peggy March
20. God Only Knows - Betty Everett
21. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) - Carmen Mcrae
22. Good Vibrations - Hugo Montenegro, His Orchestra & Chorus
23. Caroline, No - Nick Decaro
24. I Just Wasn't Made For These Times - Louis Philippe With Dean Brodrick
25. You Still Believe In Me - Kirsty Maccoll

REVIEW:  Brian Wilson has long been lauded as one of America's great songwriters, up there with Gershwin, Bacharach, and McCartney - but with a notable caveat: rarely have his songs been hits for others.  With one notable exception (Jan & Dean's number one smash "Surf City"), Brian's efforts to pen songs for artists other than The Beach Boys  have, for the most part, met with a resounding "thud" on Billboard's charts, this, despite their apparent quality.  Which brings us to Ace Records latest entry in their fantastic "Songwriter" series, which previously has released compilations based around the unquestionable talents of Goffin/King, Leiber/Stoller, Greenwich/Barry, Mann/Weil, and the aforementioned Bacharach/David.  Digging deep into various labels vaults, the producers have compiled a deep-cuts argument supporting Brian's unique place in this lofty songwriters cabal.  It's a fun listen, with a couple of nits - the set begins with a modern track, Darian Sahanaja's thickly produced cover of "Do You Have Any Regrets?", a modern-day nod which, although excellent, is out-of-step with the retro approach taken by the rest of the album.  Sixties artists form the bulk of the remainder, with familiar tracks ("The New Girl In School", "I Do", "Time To Get Alone", "My Buddy Seat" "Help Me Rhonda") wedged in between tracks which are far rarer - The Tymes take on "Surf City" or Johnny Wells cover of Glen Campbell's well-anthologized "Guess I'm Dumb" - and in place of  Fleetwood Mac, here we have Basil Swift and the Seagrams version of "Farmer's Daughter."  It's all good listening, and good fun, with plenty of great production, and clean, clear sound (a hallmark of Ace Records).  But the mood of the album shifts in the last third, moving from bouncy rock 'n' roll to atmospheric lounge music, beginning with Betty Everett's moody take on "God Only Knows" (if so inclined, Ace could easily mount a multi-volume covers compilation of that one song), and Nick Decaro's past-midnight rumination on "Caroline, No," through Kristy MacColl's lo-fi take on "You Still Believe In Me", leaving the listener with a bit of a melancholy aftertaste on what had begun so cheerfully.  Still - if you enjoyed discs like Guess I'm  Dumb and Still I Dream Of You, then Ace's fine Here Today should please as well.

A Tribute To Pet Sounds
The Reverberation Appreciation Society [Vinyl/MP3]
Released May 27, 2016

1. “Good Vibrations” – The Black Angels
2. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – Indian Jewelry
3. “You Still Believe In Me” – The She’s
4. “That’s Not Me” – Holy Wave
5. “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” – Morgan Delt
6. “I’m Waiting For The Day” – The Shivas
7. “Let’s Go Away For A While” – Boogarins
8. “Sloop John B” – Night Beats
9. “God Only Knows” – Chris Catalena
10. “I Know There’s An Answer” – Christian Bland & The Revelators
11. “Here Today” – Cool Ghouls
12. “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” – Shannon & The Clams
13. “Pet Sounds” – Burnt Ones
14. “Caroline, No” – Cosmonauts
15. “Hang On To Your Ego” – The UFO Club

I totally forgot about this tribute album after I posted it, mainly since it was only available on vinyl at the outset, and I swore off vinyl years ago - never mind what the 'hipsters' think.  Anyhoo - The Reverberation Appreciation Society is a psychedelic umbrella under which a trunk-load of obscure artists record under, and this release corrals a bunch of them to pay tribute to Pet Sounds.  You get fuzzy emo with The Black Angels cover of "Good Vibrations," hazy garage-rock in Indian Jewelry's "Wouldn't It Be Nice," minimalist sleep-pop with The She's "You Still Believe In Me," smokey ambient echoes in Holy Wave's "That's Not Me" and so on.  The entire album sounds like it was recorded under the influence of Mary Jane, and befitting the RAS's moniker, there is tons of reverb slathered on most every instrument and vocal.  There's some nice melodic singing going on, which is nice, but it all comes across as so somnambulant and sleepy that it strips most of the emotional angst from Brian Wilson's brilliantly melancholic original.  I mean, when you take a tight little pop gem like "I Know There's An Answer" and sing it like you're stoned on Ambien, it's bound to seem a little pointless, right?  And it's not like there's a lot of variance in the various band's takes: it's all slow, distant, and listless.  A shame.

YYY Presents A Tribute To The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds
Released July 12, 2017

1.  Wouldn't It Be Nice (feat. deM atlaS) 03:43   
2.  You Still Believe In Me (feat. City Counselor) 02:56   
3.  That's Not Me 03:35   
4.  Don't Talk (feat. Elle PF) 03:19   
5.  I'm Waiting For The Day (feat. LOTT + Zinnia) 03:05   
6.  Let's Go Away For Awhile 03:19   
7.  Sloop John B (feat. Al Church) 03:45   
8.  God Only Knows (feat. Matthew Jon) 03:13   
9.  Hang On To Your Ego (feat. Lydia Liza + Cool Moon) 02:42   
10.  Here Today (feat. P.O.S) 03:24   
11.  I Just Wasn't Made For These Times (feat. Devata Daun + C.Kostra) 04:02   
12.  Pet Sounds (feat. Wealthy Relative) 02:15   
13.  Caroline No (feat. Jenessa LaSota) 02:40   
14.  Good Vibrations (feat. Fort Wilson Riot) 05:47

REVIEW:  And now... for something completely different.  YYY is one of those bandcamp bands that you've never heard of, but you wish more people really should check them out.  Mainly because there's a whole junk pile of invention and weirdness to be found in this whole-album recasting of Pet Sounds.  I think what makes this tribute album more successful than some others I've heard (or even some Beach Boys solo albums), is that in this labor of love, there's a real sense of love and fun in each track.  There's toy pianos parked next to synthesizer loops, and a circus car filled with friends and guests who make each track sound unique - hand crafted in a way that defies categorization and yet feels special for each track.  I think Brian would find this tribute really trippy, and I really dig  what the producers and writers have done - the way "That's Not Me" keeps its pop core, , but marries it to a "Quadrophenia"-like rhythm track is hot, and the entire album sounds young and fresh and alive.  The tracks literally melt into each other, effortlessly segueing, turning Pet Sounds into a whole piece, and being able to hear something so old and familiar cast into something new and amazing is what makes the best tribute albums worth hearing.  It won't be to everyone's tastes, but to my ears, this album's heart is in the right place.

JEM Records Celebrates Brian Wilson
Released May 6, 2021

Jem Records
                                                        Celebrates Brian
“The Warmth of the Sun,” The Weeklings
“Help Me, Rhonda,” The Weeklings
“You’re So Good to Me,” The Grip Weeds
“Hang On to Your Ego,” Nick Piunti
“Love & Mercy,” The Gold Needles”
“Girl Don’t Tell Me,” The Anderson Council
“Dance, Dance, Dance,” Johnathan Pushkar
“Don’t Worry Baby,” Lisa Mychols & Super 8
“Heroes and Villains/Roll Plymouth Rock,” The Grip Weeds
“In My Room,” Richard Barone
“Do It Again,” The Midnight Callers
“I Get Around,” Richard Barone and Johnathan Pushkar
“I’d Love Just to See You,” The Anderson Council
“Please Let Me Wonder,” Johnathan Pushkar
“Pet Sounds (Story),” Lisa Mychols & Super 8

  The best "tribute" albums are ones that are true to the 'soul' of the original, while still mixing it up enough to make the music sound fresh and new.  In this sense, JEM Records Celebrates Brian Wilson is a runaway success.  Despite the presence of only one band that I'm familiar with (The Grip Weeds) the label has assembled a great bunch of modern-day popsters who all possess a strong melodic core while still sounding edgy and modern.  The Weeklings start things off with a short intro "The Warmth Of The Sun" before winding up for their main event - "Help Me Ronda" which they've imbued with a crunchy guitar line and powerful rhythmic track.  The Grip Weeds "You're So Good To Me" is even stronger, while Nick Piunti's "Hang On To Your Ego" is full of hard-rocking guitar and sweet harmony backing.  Johnathan Pushkar's "Dance, Dance, Dance" is a revved-up homage to the original, cannily cribbing "Do You Wanna Dance" into it's bridge, and The Gold Needles' take on "Love and Mercy" also pumps up the adrenaline with synthesizers, electric guitar and processed vocals.  I love the chiming guitar and weird, Beatles-like backing track that's been applied to "Girl Don't Tell Me" by The Anderson Council,  Lisa Mychols & Super 8's first cut, "Don't Worry Baby" has a Ronettes-style beat tied to really lush vocals that are on point, and The Grip Weeds second entry, "Heroes and Villains/Roll Plymouth Rock" is another super-charged update that manages to still keep the complexity and odd touches of the original songs.  Richard Barone's "In My Room" electrifies the song, while still keeping the lush (occasionally re-thought) harmonies, There's not a weak track here - with the overall vibe one of lushly produced studio recordings, all of which are pumped up to eleven in energy and good vibrations.  Crank this one up loud - it's a keeper.

Nu Deco Ensemble: Still Cuisin' : An Orchestral Tribute To The Beach Boys
Nu Deco Ensemble ]STREAMING]
Released November 2021

Heroes and Villains
I Get Around
Sloop John B
You Still Believe In Me
Pet Sounds
Good Vibrations
God Only Knows
Wouldn't It Be Nice

REVIEW: Before the Nu Deco Ensemble EP (the whole program runs about twenty minutes), Beach Boys fans had to suffer through two "Symphonic Tribute" albums which tried to distill the Beach Boys hits that had no classical pretensions into symphonic monstrosities which were more akin to marching bands than world class symphonies.  But the Nu Deco Ensemble is more adventurous; and they're not strictly a classical music ensemble - more of a jazz-classical-fusion group, which automatically means that the song choices, and arrangements, are more adventurous, and more interesting than what's come before.  Time signatures shift wildly, electric guitar and drums weave in and out of more traditional symphonic instruments, and orchestral colors shift and blend in fascinating ways.  (Which begs the question: why is "Misirlou"  here???)  So, while this still doesn't do a deep dive into the complex compositional melodic and harmonic masterpieces that made Brian Wilson's songs so elemental, it's a big creative step up from previous efforts. Not released in traditional physical formats, it's available to stream on major music platforms, and as an added bonus, a complete live concert was made available on YouTube as a fund-raising platform for the group.  Check it out - it's an amazingly fresh presentation of these old songs.

The Seven Symphonies: A Classical Tribute To Beach Boys Music
Antwerp Philharmonic Orchestra, Conducted by Alexandra Arrieche
Wedgeview Music ]STREAMING]
Released March 2022

7symphonies I. Capella 13:19
II. Room For Nature 09:44
III. Beach Waltz 07:15
IV. The Nearest Faraway Symphony 09:21
V. Symphony Of The Unknown 08:14
VI. Symphony Of The Little Bird 08:48
VII. Pet Symphony 20:08

Total Runtime 01:16:49

REVIEW: Leave it to the Europeans to do what we Americans could not.  Namely, create a true, classically-inspired suite of music based on the music of The Beach Boys, regardless of chart success or name recognition.  After working on an album of lesser-known melodies by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, arranger Roeland Jacobs, along with producer Rob van Weelde, decided to next tackle an album of music featuring thirty-three melodies of Brian Wilson & Co., laboriously woven into complex movements - which would eventually grow into over seventy-six minutes long!  As detailed in this making-of video, the creators took carte blanche with the song selections, looking for beautiful or interesting melodic and harmonic qualities instead of the simple "just the hits" formula which previous symphonic albums had adhered to.  The result is quite, quite lovely, with unexpected choices and frankly gorgeous playing by the Belgian-based Antwep Philharmonic Orchestra, sensitively led by conductor Alexandra Arrieche.  Listen to the lush string arrangement of the opening 'Capella' where "Our Prayer"  interweaves with "There To Back Again" with haunting effect.  And 'Room For Nature' ties "The Warmth Of The Sun" with "In My Room" with beautifully re-harmonized arrangements.  It's clear that Roeland Jacobs has a great ear for what makes Brian Wilson's music so timeless, and yet, inserts enough quirkiness to keep everything light and airy, as shown in the 'Beach Waltz' which begins with "Friends," slips into "Time To Get Alone" (played by a beautifully restrained trumpet and oboe solos), before easing into "I Went To Sleep."  It's all so tasteful and full of love and emotion that it almost makes me forget those "other" symphonic tribute albums.

She & Him: Melt Away: A Tribute To Brian Wilson
Fantasy ]MP3/CD/Vinyl]
Released May 18, 2022

1. Darlin’
2. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
3. Til I Die
4. Deirdre
5. Melt Away
6. Good To My Baby
7. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
8. Don’t Worry Baby
9. This Whole World
10. Kiss Me, Baby
11. Do It Again ft. Brian Wilson
12. Heads You Win, Tails I Lose
13. Please Let Me Wonder
14. Meant For You

I've never been much of a fan of She & Him; they're low-fi style of music-making sounds a little twee and lazy for my tastes.  But both M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel grew up in Southern California, and so were probably influenced somewhat by The Beach Boys ethos, even if they both were too young to grow up during the group's heyday, or even its aftermath; but here, they've decided to commit an entire platter to Brian Wilson, even getting the man himself to make an appearance on "Do It Again."  Throughout the 14-track album, there's little that disturbs the laid-back home-studio vibe, nothing much jumps out - you get a clue about it when a straight up rocker like "Darlin'" tends to sigh and shimmy rather than cut loose.  In a way, the whole album feels like it was recorded while in a marijuana haze - I"ve always considered She & Him to be a vanity project, since neither Ward nor Deschanel have impressive vocal ranges; and so the album lingers in this mid-range netherworld which is pleasant, but never, ever exciting.  Ward's voice in particular seems stuck in a grizzled low-end, leaving Deschanel to work all of the harmonies in her sweet, non-committal, slightly bored tones, which don't exactly speak of commitment or passion, but rather a lazy Sunday afternoon.  On more challenging vocal parts, like the scatty "Dierdre," pitches go definitely astray, but no one seems to care too much.  It's OK, and if you're OK with that, you will probably enjoy it.

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