George Starostin's Reviews 

THE BEACH BOYS

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Introduction

Scott Kohler <skohler@netcom.ca> (18.07.99)

I have to admit first of all that I definitely fall into the latter group of people who, as you say it, thinks of the Beach Boys as (one of) "the most profound and charming pop groups in the world". I don't own nearly everything yet, but I must argue with your 3 star band rating, or at least think you should listen to both All Summer Long and Today and see if you can change your mind. Considering that the only non-early-period (but pre-Pet Sounds) album that you review is Summer Days (And Summer Nights!), you're missing out on two great albums in the ones I just mentioned. You mention those two albums in your review for Summer Days, so maybe you have them, I don't know. All I know is that to rate them only 3 stars as a band because they were "never really a rock band" seems unjust, when that ends up making Pet Sounds seem like less of an achievement on your overall albums list than albums by the Beatles that possibly equal it (Revolver, Rubber Soul, Abbey Road) but don't better it.

[Special author note: I must make a remark here - Pet Sounds is lower than those Beatles albums on my overall albums list because I really like it less than these Beatles albums, not because the rating system in general, or my subjective rating of 3 for the Beach Boys, is incorrect. Whether anybody prefers Pet Sounds to these albums is another problem.]

Chris Blanchard <quadrophenic@hotmail.com> (03.02.2000)

I respect your opinion, but giving the Beach Boys an overall rating of 3 is a bit premature considering you seem to only be familiar with their work through 1966. Many fans (myself included) feel that, pound for pound, much of their best material was released from '66 to '71. And respectable albums followed up until '77.

True, the band were never really able to make a record as consistently strong as (insert favorite Beatles album here), but each album they made has high points.

Speaking as a Beatles fan, as well as a Beach Boys fan, I would say that the Beatles were the better band, because they were more consistent. They were always great. The Beach Boys...well, when they were bad, they were the worst musical presence on Earth, but when they were good, they were the greatest. The song "Surf's Up" far surpasses almost anything the Beatles did (exceptions being "A Day in the Life", and perhaps "Hey Jude" & "Strawberry Fields Forever"). In my opinion, at least.

The Swampler <rkeplar@norcom2000.com> (18.03.2000)

was there in those gruesome Top Forty radio days of the 1960s. Just a typical half-assed kid growing up in the Mississippi River bottoms of southern Illinois. The Beatles were foreigners, the Beach Boys were "real Rock'n'Roll".

But I wasn't really that stupid. Even I could tell at my tender age back then that something was going on here. I was being raised a semi-redneck dimwit and had a nasty habit of rebelling against the powers that be. The Fab Four were foreigners, but what the hell was that noise they were making. When a Beach Boys song came across that car radio you couldn't help but push the gas pedal a little harder. Something just grabbed you and said this is cool, go with it. But what were they saying? The Beatles damned near always said something. That was the difference. Behind Lennon's jangling Rickenbacker and George's Gretsch there was an ominous presence. That rarest of birds to be found in "pop" music...meaningful poetry of words and visions. Even the early stuff...boy meets girl stuff...had the clever twists and turns of real poetry and prose. Some Beatles songs are more similar to one another than others, but none are exactly the same. These were four individual young gentlemen from England (yes, Ringo does count) who each had something to say and had a particular way of saying it.

This brings me to the subject of Brian Wilson.

In my early twenties I took up guitar and started taking music seriously. I soon realized something. A "real" group is a rare thing. This is one of the principle reasons the Beatles are what they are. Musically speaking, Kieth Richards is the Rolling Stones, Eric Burdon was the Animals, Jimmy Page was Led Zeppellin, and the Beach Boys? What boys? That was Brian Wilson.

Was Bri a genius? Not in my opinion. Was he talented? Hell yes!  He had a helluva ear for his day. (No joke intended,I know he was deaf on one side) Brian wasn't that original, but he took what was already floating around out there and showed us how it could be done better musically. He took the simple 4/4, stomp-stomp-thump-thump of basic rock and fancied it up. Bits and pieces of grace everywhere.Very easily passed off as classy when compared with 'Good Golly Miss Molly' and the like. Hell yes you can dance to it, in fact it grabs you by the ass and gets your feet going. But what then? It grabs your feet but what about your brain? Did Brian or Mike Love ever say something to anyone? If they did, it sure went over my head. I've never heard a Beach Boy lyric that wasn't an inane piece of tripe. Even the serious later work Bri done while holed up with his acid and peanutbutter sandwiches in his purple mansion. That stuff has an almost hypnotic effect on the senses. The music keeps insisting that there's something serious in there, but if you try to hear it, it just floats away like a wayward surfboard. I'm a hard assed bass player and those jazz riffs in Good Vibrations blow me away, but that classic is just another "classic" Beach Boys song, it doesn't really do anything. It's just all these beautiful harmonies dancing around this one amazing bass line. The so-called Genius didn't even play the bass line himself. It was Carol Kaye, a woman who was one of, if not the, best session bassists of the 1960s. And another point I have to make here. Bri played bass with his thumb, that drives me nuts! Maybe that's why he needed Carol Kaye.

For me, comparing the Beatles with Brian's Bunch is the same old Apples and Oranges game. The Beach Boys where, and are, a terrific band. They earned their place in history. Their music was a clean version of what's so vaguely referred to as Rock'n'Roll. Nothing wrong with that. Brian Wilson's brain tapped into the mainstream and his talent was for revamping what he heard. And when you look across the board at music and all the arts in general, that's what it really is, the reshaping and adding on to all that came before. Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys did just that. Maybe it was just the desparation of the times that made them into the image they settled for. In my opinion it was Vietnam that forced the edge back into the music of the day. When the young people of the country demanded that edge be honed and brought to bear, Brian couldn't deliver. 'Fun, Fun, Fun', when you're laying around or cruising for chicks after school is one thing. But when you're pissed off and worried that your ass may be the next one to get shot off, those bouncy little ditties just don't cut it. The Rock'n'Roll audience of the late sixties needed to pick their next voice, and that voice had to be able to say something that meant something. Beach Boy tripe-exit-stage right.

Thanks for the memories. We'll always enjoy listening and remembering.

As for the Beatles...nothing like them before, or since. Probably never will be. Never again in our lifetimes anyway.

Jason Burggraaf <jburggraaf@hotmail.com> (22.04.2000)

I think that youíre absolutely right in saying that, for the most part, the Beach Boys are either overrated by their fans and underrated by their detractors. Iím going to try and spell out an unbiased view but I donít know if I can accomplish such a goal.

Probably the most significant aspect in the Beach Boys mythology is, in fact, The Beatles. No discussion of the Beach Boys can exclude them and in fact most will revolve around them. Letís try to set some groundwork: the Beach Boysí Today! is to Pet Sounds as Rubber Soul (or Revolver if you like, depending on what you think of Summer Days and Summer Nights!!) is to Sgt. Pepper. This part is obvious. Iím going to go try and stay away from the (perceived) "competition" between them as much as possible, but I will state, right off, that the equation of Pet Sounds = Sgt. Pepper is wrong. If you follow the linear progression of the two bands, Today is actually (musically) equal to Help!, which makes Pet Sounds equal to Rubber Soul/Revolver. At this point you have Sgt. Pepper equal to ÖÖ of course, "Smile."

I use quotation marks because at this point Smile is such an ambiguous thing that Iíd almost rather not talk about it. I think that itís actually Smileís legendary status as the great lost/unreleased album that allows the Beach Boys mythology to continue the way it has. If Smile had been released it would have either been praised or panned. If it was praised it probably would have been hailed as an equal to Sgt. Pepper and the two bands would have reviled in psychedelia for a couple of moments and then gone on to cut simpler records, as pretty much thatís what happened for the Beatles till the breakup and for the Beach Boys from 68-72. If it was panned it would have been dismissed as "psychedelic barbershop" (Jimi Hendrixís quote) and the Beach Boys fortunes would have plummeted much like they did in reality. If Smile had been released, this debate would not exist, and itís to Smileís very nature that we have idea that the Beach Boys were/could have been better then the Beatles. While Iíll move on in a moment, I would like to say a couple of final things about Smile: Being an enormous fan of the Beach Boys, I canít see that Smile could have been anything but fantastic. Listening to the pieces of Smile that are out there (mostly from the box set) it makes me want to give my left arm away to hear a completed Smile. And although it seems from bootlegs that perhaps Smile was pretty much ready anyway, but my conscience wonít let me pay for bootlegs so I havenít heard any yet.

Anyway, for most Beach Boys Fans, or at least what I understand to be fans, the cream of the crop really lies in the music made form 1968-1972. I mean, LPs like Wild Honey and Friends might not be critical darlings, but I listen to Wild Honey and I can hear the souls and hearts of these guys. Friends, while quiet, is immaculate in that lying-in-the-grass-on-a-summer-afternoon kind-of immaculate. The music from Sunflower, Holland, Surfís Up, and Carl and the Passions/So Tough (which arenít actually released on cd yet, damn Warner Bros., but are well represented on the previously mentioned box set) are so perfect in that beautifully harmonic and melodic way that only the Beach Boys could do, that it really takes away from their majesty to try and talk about them. I couldnít possibly describe them properly (Ah, thereís my bias shining through).

I hope this serves as helpful in an appreciation of the context of this music as I think that itís an essential element in understanding and appreciating the Beach Boys.

David Lyons <d.t.lyons@btinternet.com> (16.12.2000)

Damn you Jason Burggraaf, damn you. There I was, mentally preparing pretty much the entire same message, then I read that he has beaten me to it. I, too, would sacrifice a limb (or perhaps I'd tone that down to a non-vital organ) to have Smile as it was intended (that said, Smiley Smile is by no means without its moments, and features Sir Paul contributing to the sound via the incredibly musical means of crunching on a carrot). The only thing I can add is to mention The Beach Boys importance to The Beatles. Leaving aside the already covered issues, Brians prowess in sphere of production genuinely impressed La Beatles and indeed spurred them on, assisting in their own musical liberation. Unfortunately, the Beatles own concurrent prowess contributed in a not-insignificant way to Brians implosion - the pressure to keep up seems to have been too great. But then, the race was unfair on poor Brian - he was competing solo with four people (the fourth there being George Martin, not Ringo Starr. I'm with John Lennon on that one. Simian vibes indeed).

Based on the catalogue you review, I have no complaints over the rating whatsoever (I lean towards the opinion that Pet Sounds really isn't as good as it's cracked up to be. Important, yes. Brilliant, no). However, were the truly golden age of '68-'72 to be included, I'd favour a modest promotion of one point. Oh, and it would be criminal of me to neglect mentioning their superb Live in London album - Dennis could drum impressively, just not in the studio.

One last note, and one of joy for Jason. The albums he mentioned have finally been blessed with a CD reissue, and better still, it follows the 'two-albums-for-the-price-of-one' ethic of the earlier releases. Heartwarming news indeed.

Steve Hall <riseandshine99@hotmail.com> (26.01.2001)

Okay.....where do i start?First off i'm certain i've never read a review or opinion on "America's Band" without finding a comparison of some kind to the Beatles(in fact you would think both groups were joined at the abdomen),this i never fully understand.All of this is based upon Paul Mccartney's much publicized remarks about Pet Sounds and it's subsequent alleged effect on Pepper.The only links i can see are Mccartney's bass lines on Pepper and some of the Beatles vocal harmonies on songs like "Nowhere Man" and "Paperback Writer".But do these really justify such a perceived umbilical connection,i think not.The Beatles were influenced by many other artists as they in turn influenced others and this is widely acknowledged i.e The Byrd's,Rolling Stones,Dylan,The Who etc...i see no reason for musically putting The Beach Boys and The Beatles more under the microscope together than any of these others.(Even your review opens with the phrase"The American version of the Beatles")and this is where i think the connection mainly is.Musical criticism and comparisons should not be based upon national pride.Of course many groups write and should be appreciated for representing the life,concerns,issues,and fun of where they are from and The Beach Boys are a good example of a group that do this,but in fact they are often put forward(fairly or unfairly)as the epitome of the good,clean,wholesome all American band,and the comparison with The Beatles i often feel is based upon this and a USA vs Britain approach....this is not about music.From either viewpoint i think there is no comparison,California is likely a far nicer place to live than Liverpool(believe me i'm english and i've been to Liverpool)and The Beach Boys i'm sure were far less of a threat to wholesome "middle America" in the sixties than The Beatles were.However musically folks i don't see where people begin to make a comparison,it's a complete nonsense.I agree very much with George's appraisal of The Beach Boys work and i also think he might well view them better if he gets the chance to hear albums like Sunflower and Friends.Yes Pet Sounds is a great album,a true great,but even if it is on par with The Beatles finest work,it's only one album and nothing else of theirs EQUALS the Beatles relentless quality.I think the Beach Boys did a real big heap of really good songs,and their stuff is very listenable and has an enviable quality of making the listener "feel good",also they kick the Beatles butts(like the Americanism!!!)when it comes to vocal harmonies.But please,please,please humble reviewers and surfers i promise you'll enjoy The Beach Boys catalogue even more if you break the endless comparisons with the Beatles.

Elizabeth Batish <Dudefile@aol.com> (12.03.2001)

Hmmm... I like your assessment of the Beach Boys material by and large. However, I too disagree with the rating of three you assigned them. Here's why (I'll use your own artist rating system. I'm also going to take the liberty of excluding all albums after L.A. being that both Dennis and Brian were permanently out of the band by this time and whatever compositions of their's appeared were mere throwaways from earlier albums. This may seem like fan indulgence, but think about it. If the Rolling Stones had somehow lost their song writing identity (i.e. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger) would you still refer to them as the Stones?)

Listenability 5/5: The 15 Big Ones fiasco aside, the Beach Boys music was among the most eminently listenable and accessible stuff out there. They haven't been refered to as "America's Greatest Pop Band" all these years for nothing.

Resonance 4/5: I can see how the early teen idol stuff would drag this one down a little bit. However, the Beach Boys could really resonate when they chose to, and on albums like Today!, Wild Honey, Friends, Love You, and of course Pet Sounds, they achieved a sort of emotional nakedness and vulnerability rarely seen in pop music. At the very least they were usually very exciting and humorously eccentric.

Originality 4/5: Were the Beach Boys actually original? Well, they only gave birth to the California Surf sound as we know it while teenagers in their living room, wrote some of the first genuinely introspective teen pop ever, came up with the first album ever to contain an organized song cycle (I'm refering to Today! which came out a few months before Rubber Soul), helped the Beatles launch the era of studio experimentation, and used the studio to invent a new genre of Baroque orchestral pop within the first concept album. But wait! They also experimented with minimalistic record production, "mosaic method" song construction, blank verse and stream of consciousness lyrics, freaky tape effects, unusual time signatures such as waltz and bossa nova, electronic instruments such as the theremin, moog synthesizers, environmental and social concerns, rock and role "fairy tales", songs about the solar system and Johnnie Carlson, and an infinite array of dazzling array of harmonies and instrumental arrangements. Were they original? Hell yes!

Adequacy 3/5: Ok, I'll admit this is the place where The Beach Boys usually get hit hardest. Unfortunately, their career was a long roller coaster which swerved continually between utter crap and utter genius. However, the brilliant or at least decent material definitely outnumbered the crap considerably , and for that I am very grateful.

(I hope you consider my opinion in your future assessment of this band as well as your future listening. Thank you very much for your time.)

Palash Ghosh <palash7@hotmail.com> (15.03.2001)

While I would hardly label them 'the American version of the Beatles,' the Beach Boys were indeed a great pop group who reached a creative peak with Brian Wilson's immaculate Pet Sounds albums, one of the finest pop records of all-time.

I enjoy The Beach Boys, I always have, but I always regarded them as an 'unfinished product' (as exemplified by the failure of the group to ever complete the legendary Smile album). I admit I know little or nothing about their career post-Pet Sounds, but I am intrigued by it and will soon explore their music from the late 1960's and 1970's. But I get confused: after Brian went off the deep end, was he still a significant participant in the band? And what about all those bewildering changes in personnel? And now that two of the Brothers Wilson are deceased, just what in hell is Mike Love doing carrying on a dilute and falsified version of the group these days? Their earliest songs (except for when they were ripping off Chuck Berry's riffs note-by-note) were a triumph in melody, harmony and sweetness. I don't know how well known The Beach Boys were in Britain in the early 1960's, but whenever I hear The Beatles' 'I want to hold your hand' I could swear that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were inspired by the soaring harmonies of Brian Wilson. (Consider that The Beach Boys put out their first record a full two years before The Beatles did).

When I found out that Keith Moon and Charles Manson (two of the less attractive characters from the 1960's) loved The Beach Boys, I realized there was more to them than just nice pop ditties -Ė but not that much more! I agree that The Beach Boys were not as 'profound' or 'universal' as The Beatles or The Who, but that was not Brian Wilson's fault at all. His songwriting skills was almost the equal of his more celebrated British peers.

The main problem with The Beach Boys, as I see it, is that, by the nature of their very name, they could never ever break free of their squeaky-clean, California sand, sea, sun and surfin' image. The name 'Beach Boys' fixes an image in place and time, perhaps an image that was not true or accurate, but one that froze permanently in the minds of the public. Maybe they should've changed their name (The Sand Men?) if they wanted to join The Beatles, Stones and Who as one of the true giants of 1960's rock music. For, no matter how long their grew their hair and beards, how much drugs they ingested, how intellectual their pursuits became, the 'Beach Boys' title doomed them.

One of the great tragedies in pop music history is what happened to Brian Wilson. Had he not succumbed to drug abuse and mental illness, there's no telling what kind of records The Beach Boys would have released -- perhaps then they MIGHT have laid claim to being the 'American Beatles.' We shall never know, and it's a sad spectacle what they eventually turned into (dinosaurs before there were dinosaurs!).

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (17.06.2001)

Another group that fits the ďgood categoryĒ as opposed to the great one. I really like many of their easygoing surfer songs: 'Barbara Anne', 'I Get Around', 'Long Tall Texan', 'California Girls', etcÖ do I need to list them all. However since about the mid -seventies they seem to be more of a nostalgia act although 'Kokomo' is a catchy tune in its own right. Maybe I need to familiarize myself with some of their more recent work but somehow it was as existent on AM or album oriented FM radio when I was in my high school/college years between 1977-1984. Anyway, how long can the surfer craze be in style? I have my three long-playing record compilations and they fit the bill for me.

Callum Beck <cabeck@upei.ca> (01.09.2001)

I got onto your site via a Kinks link. I think you have a great thing going and think it is great you clearly state your opinions, even when I disagree. Have quickly scanned your Beach Boy reviews and of course find them a way off. How you could ever rate them a three or S & G a 2 is beyond me.

One general comment. I don't particularly like Mozart, except for a few pieces. I can recognize his brilliance but can't terribly enjoy it. I have alwaysrealized that my lack of appreciation for Mozart was a defect in me and not in Mozart. I guess I will just have to accept this same defect in you when it comes to the Beach Boys, I wish you could hear the incredible beauty of their music but for some reason you can't. Oh well, as Ray said, "Life Goes On."

Mattias Lundberg <lundbergmattias@hotmail.com> (02.02.2002)

The Beach Boys appear to be underrated in Europe and overrated in the United States. This probably goes with the general tendency among young Europeans today; 'Slag everything American off, or people will not take you seriously'. It's a pity, as always, when people let stupid attitudes like this inhibit their ability to enjoy good music. That being said, perhaps it really IS hard to appreciate all aspects of The Beach Boys as a European. Over here, The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who (all distinctively English-sounding if you ask me) are regarded as universal genii that wrote great music without really having a sound, whereas the 65-70 Beach Boys stuff is pigeonholed as 'great music that is sometimes marred by american bubble-gum culture'(to take an example, I've heard so many people saying that 'God only knows' could have been the overall best song ever, if it wasn't for the 'ba-ba-ba-ba' vocals between the verses). Most of Wilson's stuff (including the early, pure surf pop) comes through to me as genuinely humanist and philanthropic. I remember reading that he'd said about Pet Sounds:"I experimented with sounds that would make the listener feel loved." (or something along those lines). I think this sums up the whole atmosphere of the band's music.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (23.03.2002)

The Beach Boys were the ultimate unexpected success story gone bad, and damned if their sorry legacy doesn't extend farther than Pet Sounds. Starting out as an enjoyable novelty act (fulla boys who could really sing--that's one thing I have to say, the Boys were the best male pop vocalists to ever exist, who could bring you to tears with mere harmonies), the Beach fellas then underwent a nice mature change, with Brian Wilson helming the action behind the group and writing stuff stoned (this is a prime example of an instance where drugs helped rock'n'roll). This, in mine and everybody's mind, was a change for the better, and with Brian's excellent writing style (jazz chords finally had a place in rock--sixths, sevenths, ninths and thirteenths found their pop role through Brian), the Band crafted Today!, a stunningly mature brew of excellently catchy pop and thrilling harmonies et cetera. With Pet Sounds, the band had a touchstone, one of the most influential records to date, and we should ask--without Sounds, would the Boys ever have been considered a worthy band? Not really, and this is a problem I have with the group, although with Brian behind it all, the Beachers were destined to come up with something brilliant. Something unmatchably brilliant.

Then, unfortunately, came the slumps. And a lottof 'em, too... Smile was an overrated project, where Brian tried to take the artiness to an unreachable extreme. Luckily, it never transpired, but the unfortunate example Smiley Smile dealt an unfortunate rupture to their career. Then the democracy thing arose, resulting in sub-par albums and iffy Dennis rockers. Sunflower and especially Surf's Up were damn good highlights, a return to form and high points for creativity and popcraft. But with Carl and the Passions, the group's will to be hip gave it an ugly edge, and Holland was only mild redemption.The Boys are dead now, some literally, some figuratively. But I haven't heard many albums as stunningly bad as 15 Big Ones and Love You, so there. The last great song they wrote was "Sail on Sailor", from Holland, and thirty years down th'line, it doesn't look pretty.

Christian <xtian@ihug.co.nz> (30.06.2002)

I agree that if the Beatles rate a 5 for consistancy , the Beach Boys really only deserve a 3.

Still there must be something really remarkable about a band that can put out a song as truley awful as 'Lady Lynda' and as absolutely sublime as 'Cool Cool Water'. A band who will put out a song as stupid as 'Take a load off your feet Pete' and then as breath-takingly spectacular as 'Forever'. Songs as over-blown as 'Surfs Up' and then as intimate and delicate as 'The life of a Tree'. And I think that is the problem for people who don't love the Beach Boys as irrationally as myself ( I am also irrational about The Beatles and Ennio Morriconi )

It seems that Brian Wilson was always reaching for something slightly out of his reach and sometimes he made it and delivered something as perfect as 'California Girls', but we got something quirky and a bit silly like 'Vegetables'. For me that's what I love about the Beach Boys. I love BrianWilson's inventiveness, how he combines odd istruments like banjos and kazoos to make new instruments, how you can hear bit's of his songs reappear years later in various guises in other songs. I like how transparent his working process is, you can see what he is doing in his songs and even in his most finished and polished gems you can see the creative steps he's taken to get there.

The Beach Boys are inconsitant compared to the greatest band in the world (The Beatles), yet for some reason if I was put on a desert island with only one CD it would be a Beach Boys CD. I don't know why, Perhaps it's because for me despite all of the Beatle's cleverness and perfect song construction, they never have risked being as emmotionally out there as Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (28.08.2002)

The Beach Boys are my absolute favorite band, and i'd personally take their music over any other band (thus, i'd give them a 5). They had the most amazing voices i've ever heard and ever will hear, and Brian's arrangements in the mid-60's were always perfectly crafted and presise, not to mention Brian did everything all by himself (he told every session musician what to play seperatly, arranged, produced, wrote the music, etc.). Beauty is one of many reasons why i love the Beach Boys. They had beautiful voices, beautiful songs, beautiful lyrics, beautiful point of views about music itself (well at least Brian did), although they could be totally opposite at times of course (like "All I Want To Do" is pretty early-punk rock-esque, and the whole post-1975 period is full of hoarse vocals and silly, childish lyrics) but the essence of the band was beauty. They were emotional people, full of love and spirit as well, and i'm also an emotional person full of love and spirit. When i'm depressed i pop on Pet Sounds or Friends or something and i embrace the beauty of the music. Even those energetic early surfin' tunes i find beautiful because i love that trademark falsetto Brian had. When i'm in a more upbeat mood, i put on any of those extremely catchy surfin' tunes or songs like "Dance Dance Dance", or "Darlin'" or somethin. Brian's and the rest's productions and arrangements werent always perfectly crafted and presise of course, which is why i love the band. You can have an album like Pet Sounds which took months to craft and perfect and be the masterpiece it is, or you can have an album like Friends or Love You which doesn't have much production going for it, but the songs themselves are what make those albums amazing. Even though they stole from theirselves a lot, especially by re-writing "fun in the sun" odes over and over throughout their career starting with "Do It Again", they had a very diverse career. They managed to hit a lot of genres on the way and almost all of their albums have a total sound of their own, and a lot of times they even sound like a totally different band (compare Carl And The Passions/So Tough with Friends or Surfer Girl with Pet Sounds). Also, Brian Wilson's early voice (before he totally lost his voice in the mid-70's) is my absolute favorite voice as well. Not to mention that Brian also has a special place in my heart because i can really relate to him as a person and a handful of his songs. "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" for example describes me very very accurately, i was quite shocked when i first read the lyrics. Of course, i dont think the Beach Boys are perfect, but then again no one is. You have Mike Love, and shitty albums like Keepin The Summer Alive, and idiotic misinformed people who think all the Beach Boys were/are a bunch of pansys who wrote songs about surfing without actually listening before judging and of course those brilliant albums that bombed because no one gave a rats ass about the Beach Boys anymore (not that success matters, but: Friends, Love You, Sunflower). But thats just my 2 cents on why i love the band and why they are my favorite band in particular.

Dan Marshall <sivankovich@msn.com> (22.09.2002)

George, your 3 rating for the Beach Boys is nothing short of ludicrous. The Beach Boys are a 5 all the way. Yes, their early albums pale in comparison to their later albums, but you have to consider the time in which they were made. When the Beach Boys came out in 1961, teen idol balladry, doo-wop and other light fluff was ruling the charts, and rock and roll was considered dead. But the Beach Boys, in the midst of all this, popularized surf-rock, bringing back most of the elements of early, true rock and roll, and they did this before the Beatles ever set foot in a recording studio. In addition, the Beach Boys rocked much harder than the Beatles did when they came out. Just compare Surfin' U.S.A. with the Beatles' Please Please Me, which were released at the same time. While Surfin' U.S.A. displays great, gritty surf-rock, with driving guitars, Please Please Me is light pop fluff with embarrassing, syrupy love lyrics. Furthermore, the Beach Boys matured rock and roll with Today!, and then with their masterpiece Pet Sounds, which truly turned rock into an art form. The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a pathetic attempt to reach the artistic heights of Pet Sounds, using tape-speed effects that have nothing to do with musical abilities. In short, not only did the Beach Boys do everything before the Beatles, but the Beach Boys did it better.

[Special author note: uh, driving guitars on Surfin' U.S.A., but no driving guitars on an album with tracks like 'I Saw Her Standing There' or 'Twist And Shout' (which, as far as rock'n'roll goes, kick every single Beach Boys "rocker" out of the window? Embarrassing syrupy love lyrics on Please Please Me, but no embarrassing dumb surfin' lyrics on an album with tracks like 'Noble Surfer'? That's taking fandom a bit too far, methinks.]

Jon <gray0187@tc.umn.edu> (29.11.2002)

Every comment seems destined to comment on the Beatles too. Well, here goes. I don't like them as much as the Beach Boys. WHY!?!?! I am American, but I never feel particularly ethnocentric or patriotic (especially these days). So much for that. I generally like louder, harder-rocking, guitar-oriented music. So much for that. I don't care for poor poetry being called "great lyrics". Ah, here there may be something. The Beatles fail in this department so completely it's difficult to point it out without fans yelling at you, but there isn't much to point to for lyrical brilliance in the Beatles. There is a lot of doubletalk and second-rate Beatisms a la Bob Dylan, and nothing wrong with that if you only dig poetry if it's accompanied by music--but I don't. There are better words, far far better words out there, but they are only written down and not at the forefront of some great popular commercial engine. Some lyrics are better than others (Beatles/Dylan are better than many), but for the most part, I've had to give up on pop/rock for intelligent thinking. I like resonance too, and here is where I think the Beachers kick the living crap out of the Beatles. A few songs like "In My Room," "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)," "God Only Knows," and "Good Vibrations," make up entirely for any dreck in their repetoire and surpass all the greats of the Beatles catalogue for resonance, they are THAT GOOD. I kid you not. The lyrics for the Beachers are silly and cliched and dated, but they are so direct, and so honest, and so emotionally sung by Mr. Wilson especially, that even though they are silly, they turn my ears to jelly every time, and even bring tears to my eyes. That's never happened to me with any other piece of music.

As far as energy, there is a rush I get at the very intro of "I Get Around" that has yet to be matched by any musical piece as well. That "Yeah, GET AROUND" is so incredible that I doubt it will ever be surpassed. The Beatles to me always seemed either smug and fat or desperate--Lennon's vocal on "Twist and Shout" is the most uneasy unnatural singing I've heard, it sounds so desperate to break out of Liverpool or some personal situation and into something more (a great track, by the way, but better than the Beach Boys? I can't say it is). The difference for the Beachers is that Brian Wilson is in an idyllic locale, but still there is isolation and fear and uneasy vibes in his own mind, most notably in Pet Sounds, where the sadness is so manifold in the album's beauty that one is sure he is only escaping from himself, and he ultimately will fail and thus end badly, as he did. It has the feeling of the beginning of a tragedy, where everything is beautiful and in order, but with the apparent tendency to fall apart into ashes. On the other hand, efforts of the Beatles lose their appealing, uneasy desperate quality and turn into muscial adventurousness with little accountability on resonance. The songs often SOUND so anthemic ("I Am the Walrus," "A Day in the Life," or "Happiness Is a Warm Gun") but the lyrics are signs of creative laziness: "A soap impresison of his wife that he ate and donated to the nat'l trust," etc. Such avant-garde collages of unrelated images are the hallmark of lazy or uninspired writers, nothing more. This lends the Beatles an irritating, cheesy quality that doesn't work for me at all, not to mention Mr. Harrison's ill-advised sitar meddling. They say a Ghazal is beyond true English interpretation, and I say a sitar/tabla etc. is beyond an Englishman's interpretation. The language of the music is too different to bring the cultural identites together, it ends up sounding muddled or forced. People say they like it, but how often do they sit there listening to "Norwegian Wood" or "Within You Without You?"

As far as listenability goes, I will say this--the Beatles on first or even fifth listens hold up incredibly well. However, get much further than that, and the revolutionary qualities of the music fades considerably. The special, different lyrics lose their force, the guitarwork seems a little more uninteresting each time, and the novelty of such numbers like "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" are almost nonexistent. The good moments are more like the memories of those first few listens. I swear some Beach Boys tracks get better with each listen; that depth of composition...

I guess what all this is trying to say that the Beach Boys are not rockers, they are not particularly innovative, their lyrics are superficially banal and unexciting, they have specific formulas in their songs, and do not embrace various ethnic curiosities. But darn it, they move me in ways the Beatles only hope to. If the Beatles' musical adventurism and raw, brash desperation can stimulate me intellectually, than the Beach Boys stimulate me emotionally with their musical presentations and heartfelt compositions that transcend, in many ways, the instruments they are played with. The Beatles' popularity and the Beach Boys' relative obscurity remains a mystery to me. I suppose the experimentation, Beat-inspired lyrics, better looks (although let's not forget Denny...) and general ubiquity of the Beatles makes them more fashionable, and to me that is a tragedy. They are not bad by any means, but for moving music, give me Brian any day of the week.

Steve Potocin <epoggi@cox.net> (03.12.2002)

I have a slight bone to pick with your originality rating for The Beach Boys. Yes it's true they did not invent Surf music, that started with Dick Dale & The Belairs, with Miserlou, and Mr Moto in that order. Hey! Wait a second, what they did invent was VOCAL surf music, which is what 99% of people think of when you mention surf music. Hey here is something else they pioneered, writing & PRODUCING their own records! For those who don't know, if you see Nick Venets name on a Beach Boys record, you can be certain he was watching a genius at work and leaving well enough alone! This started in 1962, Nobody was doing this! Brian was writing the charts for all those hot shit studio musicians! The Beatles, Stones, and Who had Martin, Oldham, and Talmy, The BeachBoys had Brian. On this basis alone you should give them higher originality points!

Eric Kleinbrink <ekleinbrink@yahoo.com> (17.02.2003)

It's funny how people compare the Beach Boys with the Beatles (and not vice versa?). Yeah, so McCartney was influenced by Pet Sounds and some of that shows on Sgt Pepper. What does that mean? That the Beach Boys are better or equals to the Beatles?? The Beatles didn't JUST have Sgt Pepper to hang their artistic hat on. They had Abbey Road, White Album, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Help!, Beatles For Sale, Hard Days Night, With The Beatles, and Please Please Me. I can't think of a Beach Boys album that can even come close to these. How 'cum Beach Boy fans never mention how Rubber Soul influenced Pet Sounds?

Why can't people just say that Pet Sounds was a great album and leave it at that??

Howard <debhowj@mindspring.com> (06.08.2004)

First off some people need to get a life. I love both the Beatles and Beach Boys and see no reason to compare the two. You have to keep in mind that Lennon and McCartney had George Martin to bounce ideas off. Brian Wilson on the other hand usually was by himself. The person who is never mentioned is Tony Asher without whom Pet Sounds wouldn't have had close to the same emotional impact. You can argue that Brian was a greater musician than Lennon/McCartney but his lyrics can't be even closely compared. Without Tony Asher Brians great music gets obscured. Surfs Up would be considered as great as a 'A Day in the Life/Strawberry Fields' if you could understand half of what Van Dyke Parks is talking about.

The other issue is Brian's mental illness. Smile could never be completed because of Brian's personal problems. The Beatles did have many more classic albums but none of the group suffered with the kind of emotional problems Brian had. Because of this comparing their output for quality just doesn't make sense. I say enjoy what both groups were able to produce and forget about who is "best".

<alagithil@optonline.net> (13.07.2005)

I haven't ever commented on a reviewer before, but I do somewhat wish that the Beach Boys' adequacy score (4) and their listenability score (3) were switched. I agree with your points in this department, but not necessarily how you apply them.

The Beach Boys are quite inconsistent. As you note, they have a tremendous amount of fluff which almost certainly outweighs (but doesn't overcome!) their good stuff. However, I'd consider this an adequacy issue, rather than a listenability one. In fact, it is my belief that the Beach Boys are among the more listenable bands, with their unmatched harmonies and poppy demeanor

I love your site, and have clicked the link to every sixties band on it. Just thought I'd throw that in, because I may not comment again. Please consider what I have said (though not too long, because I'm sure you have better things to do than contemplate the Gospel of some bootlicking first-time commentor.

Your friend, the Obligatory Smilie. :)


ALBUMS 
SURFIN' SAFARI

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (18.06.2000)

The gap between the Beatles and the Beach Boys were there from the beginning, and this proves it. The reason: The Beatles honed their musicianship, as well as their songwriting, by playing together several years before recording their first album. While the Beach Boys had been out of the garage less than a year before recording the bulk of this album in one marathon 12-hour session. Dennis was only added to the group as an afterthought, (because Brian didn't want him to feel left out) and stuck in the drummer's seat, not knowing how to play any musical instrument!

But, still, comparing this with the Lost and Found 1961-62 CD, which contains pre-Capitol demos and singles (including the superior single mix of "Surfin'" and prototype versions of "Surfin' Safrari" and "Surfer Girl") shows that Brian was already growing rapidly. But the bulk of the record hasn't stood the test of time, because the songs really don't have universal appeal -- I like naivete, but these are too naive and primitive. But the hit singles, "Moon Dawg" and "Summertime Blues" are fun tracks to pass a few minutes with. But "Twist and Shout" is a better way to recapture your innocence,

Glenn Wiener <GJW0721@aol.com> (30.11.2002)

Some good songs hear and there but really these guys sound kind of raw. The lyrics are basic and they use a few slick tricks to get them buy. Nonetheless, the vocal harmonies are quite pleasing.  Not bad but better recordings would come later on.

<Jcjh20@aol.com> (10.02.2003)

Well, it's my least favorite Beach Boys album overall (not counting the Mike Love-led atrocities and Keepin The Summer Alive) but it's still enjoyable to an extent. Every song is at least catchy and fun, and any traces of "cheesyness" are usually funny, which is more then i can say about most of the 80's Beach Boys stuff. Honestly, there's not a song i dislike on here though (though "County Fair" comes very close, mostly because the rewrite "I Do" is 10 million times better), and even the songs you dislike still have their charm for me. "Ten Little Indians" has a cute little melody and equally cute "indian harmonies" and "Little Girl (You're My Miss America)" has a rare lead vocal by Dennis, and he had a fantastic voice that early! I really wish he sang more, and makes me wonder why Brian gave the lead so many times to Mike instead of himself or any of his other two brothers, which all had gorgeous voices. "Cuckoo Clock" does have Brian on lead for the first time, though he doesn't sound as good as he would just an album later. The hits (especially my fave "409") are wonderful, though "Surfin'" could of been recorded a lot better. It's a shame because it has some potential. Overall i give this album a 6/10 because even though i don't hate any of these songs, almost all of them are very insignificant. The "Summertime Blues" cover is pretty great though, i might add! I agree with Mark Prindle when he said the Who must have took their version as their inspiration because the original certainly didn't have those harmonies!


SURFIN' USA

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (19.06.2000)

Brian Wilson discovers overdubbing. Which is why this is a big improvement over the first album? By doubletracking the group harmonies, Brian learned how to create that great chorale sound of the group vocals, especially on the title track.

The instrumentals are indeed filler, and heavily influenced by surf guitar whiz Dick Dale (who wrote "Misirlou" and "Let's Go Trippin' "), bit, still, who else could play like that in 1963? George Harrison certainly couldn't, at this point. In nay case, though Brian would quickly move beyond this sound.

The cute little pop ditties, "Lana" and "Farmer's Daughter," while insubstantial, do showcase Brian's falsetto rather well. It a welcome contrast to Mike's overly nasal voice, which can get grating after a while. And "The Lonely Sea" (which was actually recorded during the Safari sessions) is a primitive, thoroughly lovely, almost mystic ballad -- almost an infant version of stuff on Pet Sounds.

Capitol, in 1990, did indeed release the first two albums on one CD. They also included bonus tracks, the best being a fun rocker from the Safari sessions called "Land Ahoy." Capitol is supposed to release these again sometime over the next year and a half, but don't hold your breath.

Glenn Wiener <GJW0721@aol.com> (30.11.2002)

Love that lead off track. Always one of my favorite Beach Boys tunes. A few other interesting ditties specifically 'Farmer's Daughter' and the slow romantic 'Lonely Sea'. However, three instrumentals add very little to the mix. Sounds like the Beach Boys could have developed some more material instead of cramming every little lick into a record. Like I've said before, the Beach Boys have recorded many great songs. Its just that the albums are hit and miss.

Anyway, I would go with Beach Boys Today and Summer Days (Summer Nights) before this one if you fans want to go the individual album route.

<Jcjh20@aol.com> (10.02.2003)

I think this album is a lot better then Surfin' Safari. There's too many instrumentals, but not all of the instrumentals are bloody rubbish! The versions of "Honky Tonk" and "Misirlou", while inferior to the originals, still show promice. Carl was a promicing guitar player at this point! He's not just playing Chuck Berry licks, he's doin' some pretty impressive (for his age and time in career) stuff! I really dig "Stoked" too, but "Let's Go Trippin'" and "Surf Jam" are redundant and didn't need to be on here. I dig "Shut Down" too, though it's practically "409 Part 2". I think "Surfin' USA" is slightly overrated though. It's a good song, with a soaring Brian falsetto and catchy melody, but the Beach Boys were, not only a GREAT band, but an AMAZING band (i think they had a lot more amazing stuff then just Pet Sounds but maybe i'm just biased), and they had 6 billion other better songs than this (like "Farmers Daughter" for instance, a forgotten classic which is on the same album). And where do ya go off saying "Lana" is a crappy song!? It's my favorite on the album! It has such a gorgeous melody and Brian vocal and the only thing remotely crappy about it is the lyrics (and like you said, nobody is doing a thesis on Beach Boys lyrics and the Beatles were writing the same exact stuff at this point. Besides i don't even think they're crappy!). I think it's a pretty good album, but like i said: too many instrumentals. I would of loved to hear more awesome songs like "Lana", "Lonely Sea" and "Farmers Daughter", but the instrumentals were probably just to fill out the record. "Noble Surfer" ain't nothin' either, besides a fantastic vibe solo and a more stronger production. "Finders Keepers" technically isn't anything either, but i dig those harmonys and falsetto lines (though ripped from "Big Girls Don't Cry"). I give the record a a low 7/10.


SURFER GIRL

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (20.06.2000)

Brian Wilson discovers session musicians, since his ideas were expanding faster than the BB's instrumental abilities. (Only when the Beatles came on the scene did pop groups who did their own studio work begin to really come into vogue.) The instrumental tracks for stuff like "Our Car Club" and "I Do" (an excellent outtake from the sessions that was on the 1990 "two-fer" reissue) really demonstrate that, even if the lyrics are pretty hokey. Yes, that is a real harp on "In My Room" and "Catch a Wave" (a great hit-single-that-never-was), played by Mike Love's sister Maureen. Quite a unique idea for a 1963 pop record. Unfortunately, Brian's not as innovative with the string arrangements on "The Surfer Moon," which sound like the hokiest 1953 big band. And the two instrumentals, which are admittedly more elaborate than those on the last album, aren't as much fun. Still, in retrospect, this LP was an important milestone for the band.

Joe H <jcjh@home.com> (23.12.2001)

For some reason i love this album!! Call me crazy, but some of these songs i absolutely love, while most people really dont care for this early Beach Boy stuff. "Surfer Girl" and "In My Room" are indeed the classics here, and im happy to see you like "Hawaii"!! Man, those falsettos drive me wild! I love them! I also love "Catch A Wave", "Our Car Club" (although a bit hokey, man its just good catchy fun!) and "Surfer Moon" (sucks, eh? i find the orchestra and Brians double tracked voice beautiful!!). Then theres those songs that arent that special but is enjoyable ("Little Deuce Coup", "Your Summer Dream") and the songs that are dumb! ("Surfers Rule", "The Rocking Surfer", "Boogie Woodie", ya know, all that filler). Overall, its no Pet Sounds masterpiece or no All Summer Long, but some of these songs are absolutely essential, IMO, and plus it blows away the previous 2 albums and shows that Brian was gradually realizing his genious and awesome songwriting abilities. I give it an 8!

Barry Stoller <stoller@utopia2000.org> (30.06.2004)

You might want to reconsider the "meatless, but pleasant 'Catch A Wave'" - after all, with harp and cymbals musically recreating the crash of a wave itself, one might identify this track as a very strong early example of psychedelia. Ungodly arrangement.

Jude Bolton <bolton_154@hotmail.com> (19.08.2004)

Whoa! I just noticed you upgraded the rating for this album. This is cause for celebration for me, even if it did come at the expense of Little Deuce Coupe. I do think this a solid 1963 album on par with Meet The Beatles believe it or not. The title track is in my top 5 BB songs all time. 'Little Deuce Coupe', 'In My Room', 'Hawaii', and 'Our Car Club' are all here too, and I love 'em all.


LITTLE DEUCE COUPE

Rich Bunnell <taosterman@yahoo.com> (20.05.2000)

I know it's bland surf music about cars, but the songs are so friggin' good! Almost every song has some amazing vocal hook which has stayed with me to this day, and in a good way. My favorites are "Custom Machine" and "Be True To Your School"-- who cares if the latter has corny lyrics? It's not like "Little Deuce Coupe" or "409"s lyrics are exactly poetry in the first place, and if you wanna hear cheerleaders, just check out the (superior) single version! I'd give this an eight and wonder why there're people who rate it so low. It's a compilation and a ripoff, but it's a GOOD compilation and a GOOD ripoff.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (20.06.2000)

This one came out only 3 WEEKS after Surfer Girl, and the idea was probably dreamed up by some honcho at Capitol Records, so I guess one could forgive Brian for repeating tracks. I actually like the album better in some ways because it contains a very high percentage of upbeat rockers. For me, the weakest songs are the three ballads, which sound incredibly corny.

"Car Crazy Cutie" has some great Dion-type backing vocals, and "Cherry, Cherry Coupe" is a more elaborate reworking of "Land Ahoy." Compare the two to see how far Brian had come in one year. As for "Be True to Your School," the single version (again, another bonus track on the "two-fer") is a more intricate production than the surf guitar-anchored version here. The single includes actual cheerleaders, George, so maybe that'll get you in the spirit of things.

Still a great, fun record, but Brian was about to enter a temporary slump. Too much, too soon?

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (25.06.2001)

Thankfully the record company has again been issuing early Beach Boys albums as twofers - Little Deuce Coupe is packaged with All Summer Long, Today is with Summer Days and Summer Nights, etc. So LDC isn't such a ripoff now.

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (30.07.2001)

This record is now reissue in combination with the All Summer Long collection. And let me tell you this is definitely the weak sister of the two. Whereas All Summer Long has many catchy arrangements and a good song flow, this one just sounds like a bunch of unfinished tracks with underdeveloped lyrics and extremely generic melodies. The accapella 'A Young Man Is Gone' probably elevates this record based on its original form. Truthfully I kind of like 'Be True To Your School'. Itís a little corny but at least it is one of the more original themes on the record. Tracks like 'Custom Machine' and 'Cherry Cherry Coupe' are just so run of the mill that you wonder why these tracks even made the record. Truly a subpar effort.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (25.10.2002)

As a Beach Boys fan, i can honestly say i'm not a big fan of this album. It was an incredibly original idea, and thus probably the first concept album in rock though. I for one don't mind that they rereleased songs from other albums to help the concept, as i'd rather hear classics like "409", "Shut Down" and the title track again then more filler like "Custom Machine" ("Our Car Club" is catchy as hell too, for the record). "Ballad Of Ole Betsy" is my personal fave, as Brian gives a really nice emotional vocal, which goes to show you he could make you cry with his voice for just about anything, and here it's over an aging car. I love the acapella ending too. "Be True To Your School" i always thought was an incredibly stupid song, but i really like the album version of the song. Quite catchy and fun besides the dumb lyrics. Most people prefer the single version but i think the single version sounds just like any generic early 60's tune, while the album version is a lot more interesting. "A Young Man Is Gone" is "Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring" acapella with new lyrics about James Dean, and it's quite beautiful though i prefer the Beach Boys cover of "Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring" from the Smiley Smile/Wild Honey 2-fer. "Cherry Cherry Coupe" is a rewrite of a Surfin Safari outtake "Land Ahoy", but i far prefer "Land Ahoy". "No-Go Showboat" and "Spirit Of America" are great songs with great Brian falsetto, and "Car Crazy Cutie" is also a catchy tune. Overall i agree with your rating of 6. Most of the tunes are catchy at best besides a few gems, and the concept idea is cute, but you can tell Brian either wasn't very inspired or didn't have enough time to really craft awesome ideas like he did on Surfer Girl. It's an amazing thing those 2-fers exist!

Bill Slocum <slokes@optonline.net> (14.05.2004)

I wouldn't have bought this album had it not been a two-fer with All Summer Long; even though the title track is my favorite Beach Boys song, I could pick that up in a Greatest Hits collection I'll get around to buying one of these days. But I did buy it and I'm glad I did.

Lyrically, you're right, George, this is a somewhat limited album. The Beach Boys were stuck in car-song gear, and there's only so many variations you can take. Yet there some good verses here, like with "Car Crazy Cutie" and especially "No-Go Showboat," which is a Beach Boys parody song years before the Beatles did "Back In The USSR." The singer in "No-Go" is itemizing all his car's super features, like with "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Cherry, Cherry Coupe," only to break down and admit it's all just for show, that his drag racer is so sad it gets "shut down by the ice cream truck."

Other songs have weaker lyrics, like "Our Car Club," but what a killer bass line. It almost reminds me of the "Batman" theme, or Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn" theme (which you reviewed in your Art Of Noise section.) The backing vocals are terrific, too. And "Custom Machine," yeah, it may be filler, but when those guys go "Waaah" doesn't a part of you go "waaah" too?

I guess there's too many songs they re-released, for what was only their fourth proper album, but I like the idea of focusing it on car songs. And the track placement is really good; I'm not crazy about the ballads "Ole Betsy" and "A Young Man Is Gone," but they come at the right times, taking things down a notch and setting up the next songs.

My favorite Beach Boys song is still "Little Deuce Coupe," but you know what I really like also? "Be True To Your School." Yeah, it's got corny lyrics, but that thing moves, and it's nice on the CD to have the single version as well. The single has more drive, and the cheerleader chants are genius, but I also appreciate the chance to hear the Boys sing it straight on the album cut without the production trickery.

Anyway, this one's on my car player right now, as we enjoy some warm late spring weather in Connecticut. I think it's gonna stay in there awhile, too.


SHUT DOWN VOL. 2

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (25.10.2002)

I agree with ya here. Two main absolute gems ("Don't Worry Baby", which contains some of the most beautiful Brian Wilson vocals ever, and the classic "Fun Fun Fun") and lots of filler. However, there are some hidden gems on here besides the filler, and i'm really glad you gave the record a 7 (i agree with the rating), as you've really underrated Surfer Girl IMO (I'd say that one is at least a 7 too, although i give it an 8). "The Warmth Of The Sun" and "Keep An Eye On Summer" are both beautiful ballads, and the latter is especially very underrated, with an incredible vocal from Brian. "In The Parking Lot" also has some great group vocals in the intro and outro, but unfortunatly are spoiled by their mediocrity in the rest of the song, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" is a very energetic and fantastic cover with an extremely great "wall of sound" Spectorized production, "This Car Of Mine" is a cute song with equally cute vocals from Dennis, and "Pom Pom Play Girl", though quite insubstantial/inconsequential is a catchyily funny tune. Although i agree Dennis is not a great drummer at ALL, i still think that "Dennys Drums" is very important as it's probably the first drum solo on a rock record like you said, which pre-dated other bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Cream and the like to record drum solos later on. It's obviously filler, and Dennis hardly does anything interesting in this particular drum solo, i guess its relevant. "Shut Down PT 2" is a pointless instrumental (i would rather hear "Shut Down" again), the "Louie Louie" cover is also pointless (though practically EVERY band covered it in the 60's), and obviously the stupid skit "Cassius Love Vs Sonny Wilson" is quite dumb (although the version of "Farmers Daughter" sounds a lot better than the version on Surfin USA! I really wonder if they recorded another version during the session). Still, not bad, which is why i give it a 7. The band really should of kept "I Do" and released it on Surfer Girl or on here too, as it's a fantastic song, by the way.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (19.04.2006)

If you take the new tracks from the previous album and fuse them with the best stuff here, you'd actually have another really good early Beach Boys album. As it is, though, it's clearly a rush job forced down Brian's throat. I totally detest the moronic "..Cassius..", which has dated worse than Surfin' Safari, in particular. I pretty much agree with your rating, but I do think the cover of "Why Do Fools.." is far superior to the original, although it's a very obvious Spector cop. (I would also bet that it's the first track with no Beach Boys at all playing on the backing track.) "This Car of Mine" is sort of fun, with that cute little piano hook and Dennis' goofy, but fun vocal. Finally, "I Do" shows that Brian could beat The Four Seasons at their own game, as well. (By the way, play "County Fair" and this one back to back -- notice anything?). Still, like December's Children, Beatles for Sale and Fifth Dimension, this is another album in which record company demands outpaced a 60's group ability to come up with start-to-finish strong material.


ALL SUMMER LONG

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (30.07.2001)

I might have to make a slight amendment to my original comments on the Beach Boys. Whereas I may prefer a compilation of these guys, this specific original release does hold plenty of merit. The styles on the different songs blend nicely where each track seems to add a little something special. The classic 'I Get Around' just may be the best Beach Boys single of them all. The next track, 'All Summer Long' has nice interwoven harmonies interspersed with some catchy xylophone runs. 'Carlís Big Chance' has some understated by catchy guitar runs. A nice change of pace from the vocal harmony schtick from these guys. 'Do You Remember' has some catchy lyrics and 'Hushabye' has a slick arrangement from the harmonies down the instrumental support. If you want to collect individual albums by these surfer dudes, this may be the real place to start instead of the overrated Pet Sounds collection.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (11.01.2002)

After a bit of a slump on the previous album, this is, as you said, a new peak for them. Two of the tracks are wonderful "seconds." For instance, "Drive-in" is the second all-out imitation of Phil Spector's percussion-and-echo-heavy Wall Of Sound productions, but the first time Brian used it on an original. Pretty cool. And "Hushabye" is the second Fifties cover that totally blows away the original version. The stereo mix is amazing, especially through phones -- Brian's lead is in one channel, the backing voices in the other, but when Mike takes the lead on the bridge, their voices switch places, and then switch back for the final verse. And the vocals are gorgeous, superb. Ironically, this track sounds less dated to me then the Wilson-Usher 50's imitation "We'll Run Away," with an incredibly corny melody and even more incredibly naive lyrics -- don't turn to these guys for marriage advice.

Unfortunately, the album also contains a not so great "second" in the studio banter exercise "Recording Sessions," which is nothing but sheer filler, as is "Carl's Big Chance." Another retread, but I think his playing was much better on the instrumentals from Surfin' USA then his pedestrian licks played on top of a generic blues/boogie-woogie progression. And you don't mention "Girls on the Beach," but the melody seems rather awkward to me. But the Berry-influenced rockers like "I Get Around" and "Wendy" have far more interesting chord changes and dynamic shifts than "Fun, Fun, Fun." And BW starts reaching further, with Carl's fuzz guitar (yes!) on "Little Honda" and more keyboards in general.

When I saw Brian in concert last year, he had a vibraphone player along, and it was striking how many of his songs feature this instrument prominently. He did perform the title song, which I think must have been the first of these. It really carries the rhythm track.

The "twofer" release teams this up with Little Deuce Coupe, and there are 2 bonus tracks from the sessions: a version of "Little Honda" with slightly more elaborate backing vocals; and a song which is listed as an alternate take of "Don't Back Down" that is actually an entirely different song, lyrically and melodically, than the album original -- recorded the same day, and every bit as good. An interesting find for BB hardcores. Also included is an outtake from Today called "All Dressed Up for School," a catchy rocker which has BW lyrically leering at an underage female. However, since he's 13 years younger here than in "Hey, Little Tomboy," it comes off a lot less sleazy.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (25.10.2002)

The most ambitious album at this point and the first album where Brian made sure every song was great, and there was no filler (although, he put "Our Recording Sessions" on for some reason). Definatly the best album the band made at this point and the peak of the early surfing era. "I Get Around" is an amazing creation, and personally, i think it beats out anything the Beatles ever did at this point in time. Like "Catch A Wave", the title track is also a song that should of been a big hit but was never released as a single. Amazing vocals, and ambitious, crafted, innovative production from Brian. "Hushabye" contains the most beautiful group vocals ever recorded by the band at this point and also the most sophisticated production, and quite original for it's time (leading the way for Today). It's a cover song, but it blows the original away. "Wendy" also has some amazing group vocals and more ambitious production, especially the intro, which kinda sounds like a blue print for "California Girls". "Girls On The Beach"...once again MORE amazing group vocals! Dennis also makes a rare appearence which is great to hear. This album is absolutely the REAL follow-up to Surfer Girl. "Little Honda" and "Drive In" both seem like normal pop songs on the surface, but are quite original in their own ways, especially the latter, which uses unprecedented chord progressions. We'll Run Away" is very nice balladry with a great double tracked lead from Brian, "Carls Big Chance" is the best damned surf instrumental the band ever recorded (besides "Stoked", which is quite great as well), "Do You Remember" is a cute ode to rock and roll, and "Don't Back Down" is an incredibly awesome surfing song, definatly one of the best they ever did. Even though everyone hates "Our Favorite Recording Sessions", i think it's quite an interesting piece. It shows the band having fun in the studio recording their vocals, and also goes to show Brian was not an uptight control freak like his idol Phil Spector. He was (and is, more than ever actually) a fun lovin' guy. Definatly at the least a 9 for this album. Dear near perfect.

Bill Slocum <slokes@optonline.net> (15.05.2004)

Really like your Hard Day's Night comparison, George. Like that album, All Summer Long is a mature work despite its innocent sheen.

When you listen to Beach Boys records like this one for the first time, there's a tendency to condescend to it a little. At least that was the case with me when I first put this on a couple of weeks ago. Because it is kind of primitive-sounding, pre-Beatles music, even though the Beatles had shown up right about then, and also because the songs sing about chili dogs and people driving woodies. It's kind of after you listen to it for the third or fourth time that it begins to dawn on you how clever it all is, how smoothly and perfectly it meshs together, how it fills its space with warmth and pleasure, and how well even the group's undeniable corniness works on you because of its sincerity.

"We love the drive-in, we love the drive-in." That Mom-and-apple-pie stuff isn't just window dressing, its what their heart and soul is made of. Hearing this album, track for track, is like going back in time to the summer of 1964, only a mythical one with Kennedy still alive and in office, drag races where no one ever suffers more than a scraped arm, and beaches where there's a girl for every guy, and vice versa.

The lyrics for "Drive-In" "I Get Around," and "All Summer Long" really fill out a portrait of summer life in California, detailing the lifestyle of unaffected middle-class teens in short, singalong phrases. "Girls On The Beach" is a Beach Boys classic that has it both ways, clearly celebrating the casual romancing most teens will do but suggesting the loneliness of the left-out just by the mournful way they sing lines like: "The girls on the beach/Are all within reach/If you know what to dooo..." And what a cry of pain they manage to make of a simple girl's name; "Wahhhannn-deeee" drawing it out for all its worth. Its especially affecting if you've ever had a crush on anyone named Wendy, though Brian didn't have too big a problem with it since that's what he named one of his daughters.

There isn't anything bad on this album as I hear it. Even "Our Favorite Recording Sessions" is kind of enlightening. The vocal mixes are each captivating in their own way, and the instrumentation has arrived to a point where it doesn't sound like a less-loved step-sister. The organ work on "We'll Run Away," and (especially) "Wendy" is very subtle and affecting as an additional voice for the a cappella backgrounds, while the guitar work on "Carl's Big Chance" and "Little Honda" is more driving than on past songs.

Is this better than Pet Sounds? I certainly enjoy listening to All Summer Long more. Like you say, Pet Sounds, for all its greatness, isn't that diverse. But the Beach Boys were diverse, and this record seems to show it as well as any other I've heard.

Listening to All Summer Long makes me want to listen to every song in the Boys catalog, even Stack-O-Tracks. That's pretty good considering I couldn't have cared about the Beach Boys one way or another just two weeks ago.

Adrian Subrt <asubrt@houston.rr.com> (11.07.2004)

Maybe the reason you don't understand this album is because you're not an American, and your limited experience of the nation by residing in "Santa Fe" does not suffice. For any resident of the red, white, and blue would easily acknowledge this album as a thirteen. The Beatles might have stepped up the challenge when they released Meet The Beatles on Yankee shores, but Mike Love and company weren't going to take any shit from those Brits, as they released All Summer Long in the year of the Tokyo Olympic games.

Opening the opus comes the song that has transcended pop to become an anthem for America, 'I Get Around'. It's one of the Beach Boys' definitive songs, and gives the listener gargantuan expectations for the following album. And are these expectations met? Barely, as the title track continues the perpetual motion. There are no radical departures from the theme (which is the theme of all the early Beach Boys' albums... cars, girls, and surfing), but still its still a strong enough pop song to keep a smile on the crowd's face.

Which is more than you can say for 'Husahbye'. What is this song trying to prove? That the Beach Boys are "angels", singing in their little angelic voices? I know for a fact that they are not. Brian Wilson's manic depression and Carl Wilson's constant sinning on motorcycles across the Southland easily prove the opposite. Not that it reeks of boredom, it's still nice to listen to it once in a while, but following the two classics it's a bit of a letdown.

But don't give up on the Beach Boys yet, because 'Little Honda' kicks the album back into high gear. A fast-paced song about XKE's is always welcome on MY Beach Boys album. This song even could have been a massive hit, but the tyrants at Capitol Records put doubts into Brian Wilson's weak little mind, and it was never released as a single. I guess in the 60's the youth of America could only handle so much excitement, because whenever this album gets on a roll the Wilson brothers decide to slow it down with some dirge-like teenage symphonies of boredom, like 'We'll Run Away'. I suppose you could relax and just concentrate on the gorgeous singing, but I refuse to do that. Good, Mike Love, go get married and have an unsuccessful relationship, I don't care.

Next comes 'Wendy', which manages to be something of a minor classic. It's melodic appeal and vocal hooks are fine and all, but doesn't this song keep quite a low profile? When I think of All Summer Long, I don't immediately think of 'Wendy', but it's nice that it's there. Do you remember when people used to say outrageous things like "Chuck Berry's gotta be the greatest thing that ever came along."? I don't, because I wasn't alive back then. But in 'Do You Remember?', the Beach Boys boys decide to give some respect to their predecessors. However, the song isn't as fun as it should be, and just fills its spot on the album without accomplishing anything amazing.

'Surfer Girl' is next, and it's very surprising that the Beach Boys would release the same song on two albums. I thought only the Turtles could do that. What's that you say? This isn't 'Surfer Girl'? Oh, my track listing says this is 'Girls On The Beach'. That's funny, because it's exactly the same song as 'Surfer Girl'! You can't blame the Beach Boys though, the American record-buying public was very easily fooled at the time ('Surfin' U.S.A.' equals 'Sweet Little Sixteen').

Next is the dark horse of the album, 'Drive-In', which manages to become the preeminent song on the album, like the Jets in Super Bowl III. I guarantee that this is the best song on the album. In many ways this is the quintessential early Beach Boys song. There's a good-timey melody, speed, and the greatest Beach Boys lyrics yet. 'Our Favourite Recording Sessions' is an incredible example of the sheer confidence the Beach Boys were riding at the time. Basically what this song tells the world is, "We can release the lamest piece of fake studio chatter ever, and put it on our album, and people will buy it! So let's do it!". It's certainly a massive challenge to the Beatles, one that the Fab Four couldn't even dare to answer. 'Don't Back Down' finishes off the album on a high note, with great Beach Boys harmonies and classic surfing lyrics. It just doesn't back down.

So there you have it, this is an excellent starting point for the Beach Boys to release classic albums that though good, and in some cases phenomenal, still get wiped out by the Beatles.


CONCERT

<DebNMarkW@aol.com> (06.06.2002)

This was one of the first albums I bought way back when. I have the same cd reissue as George does and I thought Capitol did a great job of cleaning up a very muddy live album. I always thought that if the girls were mixed a little lower, certain highlights would shine through better, but back then they were a part of the show. Brian Wilson's vocal on 'In My Room' is first rate and shows what a great singer he truly was before his drug induced meltdown. Anyone who thinks Dennis Wilson wasn't a decent drummer should listen to 'Papa Oom Mow Mow'. I must disagree with George on only one part...as a fan of good tight harmonies, and believe me the Beach Boys could hang with the best of them in this department, I think 'Graduation Day' is not to be missed. It sort of turns into a cutup at the end with Dennis singing the last note by himself, but they harmonized wonderfully even in a live setting with many distractions as this. I recomend this to anyone who is not only a fan, but to the curious as well who wish to see what pre Beatles pop was really like.

Pedro Andino <pedroandino@msn.com> (08.12.2003)

have you seen the chessy movie girls on the beach? yes it was one of those dumb surf movies with frankie avalon? yeah the beach boys sang the songs and check out the sexy women! ooooooo! hic a dula! surf movies rule!

Francis Mansell <Fgmansell@aol.com> (16.12.2005)

Just a brief bit of nit-picking: you say "no British Invasion band had a live album recorded in '64" - erm, Five Live Yardbirds was recorded in 1964. And part of Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl was also recorded in 1964 - though admittedly not issued until 1977.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (19.04.2006)

I really can't enjoy this thing, despite trying to cut it some slack for the screams and the whole energetic vibe. For one thing, the choice of covers, particularly the dumb "Monster Mash" and "Long Tall Texan", which sound really embarassing today. The Beach Boys had plenty of orginals to choose from - besides the bonus track of "Don't Worry, Baby", "Hushabye", "Surfin' USA", "Surfer Girl" and "Be True to Your School" (which explains Mike's comments preceding "Graduation Day") have surfaced on the boxed set. That means they didn't have to rely on those idiotic songs for material.

The other reason is that the whole thing is so damn contrived. The outtakes prove that extensive overdubs of both vocals and guitars had to be done to make the original album listenable. "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "I Get Around" are actually remixes of the studio versions -- the live ones must have been totally unusable.

So, this album just more proof that pre-1967 live rock records were not very good, period - there were other reasons for going to concerts besides actual performance quality.


TODAY!

Rich Bunnell <taosterman@yahoo.com> (26.06.2001)

I agree with your review; too many people act like the album's first side is just pithy pop stuff and predictably inflate all of the slow balladish stuff on the second half. This isn't to say that I don't love the ballads. They're all fantastic. "Please Let Me Wonder" is one of the most gorgeous songs Brian ever wrote. But why do people act like the first half is less meaningful when it has "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)" on it?? Man, what a great song. Anyway, six awesome pop songs, five of the best ballads ever and two minutes of lame studio banter adds up to a high 9/10 for me.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (13.01.2002)

I also think that the ballads are overrated and the rockers underrated, with favorites among both. If the last album was one with a few "seconds," this one's got a couple of "thirds." As in: a third Fifties cover that improves immensely over the original, and a third all out "Spectorized" production. And they're both the same song this time -- the fantastic "Do You Wanna Dance?", which is the best, most energetic version EVER recorded, IMHO. Unfortunately, the other "third"is the universally hated "Bull Session" -- more dumb studio gab. Rumor has it that the unedited interview was 25 minutes long, so if these are the BEST two minutes, let's hope the full version remains lost deep in the Capitol vaults forever.

"I'm So Young" is another 50's cover which is a sheer classic; with those four chords played on organ instead of piano, that weird echoey bass and those voices, it also beats out the original. "Dance, Dance, Dance" has a great Carl Wilson 12-string riff."She Knows Me" has really unusual piano changes. The backing track to "In the Back of My Mind" sounds like a dry run for Pet Sounds, with that percussion and those strings. If Brian has saved the lead vocal for himself, it would have fit perfectly. I do think the other two ballads are a bit overdone with the harmonies, but they're OK. And it's awfully hard to figure out what Brian had in mind with "Help Me, Ronda." An attempt to create his own brand of folk rock, in response to "Mr. Tambourine Man," maybe? Why the up-and-down fade on the last chorus? But Al does put in a great lead vocal. By the way, this version got a new lease on life in 1974 when Capitol rather sloppily included it on its mega-popular anthology album Endless Summer instead of the single (same with "Be True to Your School), which means it was the first version heard by a lot of younger listeners who probably wondered why the song was a hit.

The "twofer" includes two early bonus tracks, the demo of "Dance, Dance, Dance" played by the group, which at least proves that Carl could play his own riff and that it probably was a great live number; and an older take of "I'm So Young," with a gorgeous flute line that was replaced by the organ and bass on the album track.

It's unfortunate that Brian had to interrupt his obvious artistic progression with Summer Days and Party, because this album's place in the development of cohesive LP statements tends to get overlooked as a result.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (13.03.2002)

A surprisingly effective, enjoyable, and excellently crafted album when placed before its creative spawn Pet Sounds. With Brian Wilson acting as chief creative force, the group's songs (I said songs, so a certain closing dialogue is excluded, mind you) finally achieve a deeper, more admirably inventive dimension via the arrangements and instrumental parts than the kitsch that came before them. At the same time, the band's thrilling, engrossing work as a vocal quintet (or is it quartet? Hell, what do I know about the Beach Boys?) can make any piece of banal pop or doo-wop ("Dance Dance Dance", "I'm So Young") sound well-done. And the lush, soaring, emotionally powerful "Please Let Me Wonder", with its jazz-based chord structures, captivating harmonies (which is basically the exact same thing as the merit I just mentioned, but for vocals and worded in a nicer fashion so I can sound intelligent), and surprisingly tender lyrics make it a recording worthy of the masterpiece to come. A great recording, and an underrated classic, with a 9 happily granted from me.

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (16.03.2002)

Good but certainly not outstanding. The lyrics are pretty simple. My gosh 'Do You Wanna Dance' is mostly the title repeated over and over again with a few verses thrown in. Dennis Wilson sings it quite nicely though. I also kind of like his stylings on 'In The Back Of My Mind'. Some catchy arrangements on 'Please Let Me Wonder' and 'When I Grow Up' do stand out.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (18.08.2002)

A fantastic album!! Absolutely the best Beach Boys album ever at this point, and begins to point the way to Pet Sounds. Some of these songs were recorded as early as mid-to-late 1964!! Not only were these songs incredibly ahead of their time in early 1965, but down-right revolutionary for 1964. By hearing All Summer Long you'd have no idea Brian would create something like this. "Do You Wanna Dance" is awesome (and absolutely better than the original) with so much energy and fun that it makes me wanna take up Dennis on his offer. Same with "Dance, Dance, Dance" with those incredible "dance, right hear on the spot!" falsetto's from Brian. "Good To My Baby", "Don't Hurt My Little Sister" and "When I Grow Up" are heavily infectuous pop tunes full of melody and harmony. I really may be crazy (especially as everyone here seems to disagree with this) but i think "Help Me, Ronda" is better then it's later hit #1 smash single version "Help Me Rhonda". Maybe it's because i heard it first, but i love how the main riff is more prominent and i love the use of harmonica on it too. The ballads on the second side are breathtakingly beautiful. "Kiss Me Baby", "She Knows Me So Well", the awesome better-than-original cover of "I'm So Young" and especially my favorite "Please Let Me Wonder". "In The Back Of My Mind" is absolutely brilliant. Woulda fit quite well on Pet Sounds, methinks (with a Brian vocal of course, but Dennis does a great job). I just gotta shake my head in shame that they put that stupidly pointless "Bull Session With Big Daddy" on here though. This woulda definatly gotten one of many 10/10's as far as Beach Boys albums are concerned but that ruined it. At least the other stupid "skits" had a point, but all "Big Daddy" is is a bunch of talking about nothin' in particular. I definatly give it a 9/10. One other complain besides "Big Daddy", though is that i really reallllly wish they released this album in a newly stereo remixed form. This mono version may be what was originally released and intended, but personally i think it's horrible quality (same with Summer Days). The stereo remixes of various songs released on various releases are absolutely amazing. Just goes to show i'd love this album even more if all these songs sounded like the "Kiss Me Baby" stereo remix thats on the Endless Harmony Soundtrack.

Callum Beck <cbeck@pei.eastlink.ca> (21.08.2002)

Totally agree with Rich Bunnell's comments except "She Knows Me too Well" seems to me to be the highlight. If that dumb banter at the end was replaced by "I Do" "After the Game" "Pamela Jean" "Guess I'm Dumb" or a number of other top notch songs Brian did at this time, then I think this LP would have the respect it deserves.

Steve Potocin <epoggi@cox.net> (06.12.2002)

Thats Brians voice you hear singing lead on 'Please Let Me Wonder', Carls lead vocal debut is on the song 'Girl Don't Tell Me'. Can you believe, with a set of pipes like that, he had to wait so long?!?


SUMMER DAYS (AND SUMMER NIGHTS)

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (18.06.2000)

There's a lot of filler, but, unlike Shut Down, Vol. 2, the filler tracks are of higher quality. " Then I Kissed Her," for instance, is a wonderful cover -- it was good enough to be the European follow-up single to "Good Vibrations" (The UK at the time was going gaga for all things Spector.)

The production has finally moved beyond the Chuck Berry/surf guitar influences into the realms of keyboards, acoustic guitars, etc. The instrumental tracks are awesome on most of these songs. Unfortunately, in some respects their vocal and instrumentals are still mired in the corny fifties -- "Summer Means New Love" sounds like a soundtrack to a Doris Day movie, and "And Your Dream Comes True" as well as the studio version of "Graduation Day" (a bonus track) sound like they were sung by guys thirty years older (although the latter is much better than the butchered live version).

But I don't understand why people dump on "Salt Lake City" so much -- the vibes on that are really cool. I think "Let Him Run Wild" is more moving than any of Brian's original ballads on Today, although I suspect I'm in the minority on that one. He should NOT have rerecorded it on his most recent studio solo album -- how could he POSSIBLY improve on its greatness?

"Amusement Parks USA," on the other hand should have been tossed out the window. I hate that annoying cackling and the carnival barker is pretty lame. "I'm Bugged at Your Old Man," in hindsight, is the first look at the psychosis beneath Brian's humor. It gives me the creeps -- a precursor to the darkness of Smiley Smile.

Rich Bunnell <taosterman@yahoo.com> (26.06.2001)

Yeah, this one's a bit of an annoying regression after the previous album - you'd think that they'd be above songs like "Salt Lake City" and "Amusement Parks, U.S.A." by this point. I guess Mike Love had to solidify his presence in the band somehow. Still, this temporary lapse back into surf/girl music was completely necessary since it resulted in the release of "California Girls" and "Help Me, Rhonda." If they had gone right on into Pet Sounds and maturity there would be no "California Girls" or "Help Me, Rhonda"!!! And I'm sorry, but that would just be a freaking crime. "Let Him Run Wild" and the "Ticket To Ride" ripoff are great too, and "I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man" is really funny, creepy and bizarre. Probably a high 7/10.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (14.03.2002)

More frivolousness in the vein of earlier, more inferior work. But there's some of it that's quite good--"California Girls" features some exceptional, Spector-esque production, "Summer Means New Love" is a great instrumental, predicting "Let's Go Away For a While" in all of its glory, "Let Him Run Wild" is quite good when it comes to arrangements, etc., and "I'm Bugged At My Old Man", while bizarre, is actually rather funny. Yeah, it's a letdown after the artistic developement shown on Today!, but hey, the payoff came with the next record, right? An 8.

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (16.03.2002)

This one I like better than Today. The better version of 'Help Me Rhonda' is on here as well as the classic 'California Girls'. The sleeper song is the lead of track, 'The Girl From New York City'. Lots of good energy on this one mostly centered around the vocals and the driving rhythm and beat. 'You're So Good To Me' and 'Girl Don't Tell Me' have some spirit to them.

Ben Kramer <bkramer2000@hotmail.com> (31.07.2002)

Yeah, it's worse than Today!, but I'd still give it an 11. I'd have to give it a high grade just because of the marvelous 'California Girls'. It is my favorite Beach Boy song, as that opening is stunning. The vocals, well, they aren't anything unexpected from Wilson & Co., but they are still great.

Wilson was really growing as a songwriter, even though Pet Sounds sounds much more like Today! Than Summer Days. But I like many of the other songs too. Of course there is 'Help Me Rhonda', though I like the previous version more. This version was cut as it is the single edition. Also, call me weird, but I like the album's closer, 'And Your Dream Comes True' a lot. Sure, it may only be a minute, but it is still a very nice song. 'I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man' sounds extremely corny, though I really like it as well. The main problem with this album is the lameness of side one. The first six songs sound about as childish as the first couple of albums. Hey, at least this one is longer than 25 minutes! If the entire album were sounding as good as side two, this could have been a 12, maybe even a 13. Alas it isn't, and this is not one of The Beach Boys' strongest efforts. Anyway, I agree with your general assessment, though I think you underrate it just a little bit. Besides, this is basically what I expected when I first bought it. I didn't put this on thinking that this is going to be as great as Pet Sounds. It's a good album, and I feel lucky, because I got this one along with the previous album on one disc. Along with the five bonus tracks, this barely exceeds an hour in length.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (18.08.2002)

A step backwards, as they say. Most of this album is actually incredibly brilliant, and just more of the same of the brilliance from Today. Unfortunatly though, there is some throwaways on here. I could definatly do without "The Girl From New York City", and "Then I Kissed Her" (even though its just a cover). Most people (including George) would also say "Amusement Parks USA" and "Salt Lake City", but those songs are so fun and catchy i can't help but love 'em. "California Girls" is absolutely a masterpiece of a song, which makes this album worth having for alone! "Help Me Rhonda" was a #1 hit, and it's quite catchy but doesn't go beyond that for me. Lots of other songs deserved to be #1 hits before "Help Me Rhonda" in my opinion ("Surfer Girl", and "Kiss Me Baby", which was actually the B-side for "Help Me Rhonda", for instance). "Girl Don't Tell Me" may sound similar to "Ticket To Ride" but that doesn't mean it's not a totally great song! "Let Him Run Wild", and "You're So Good To Me" are brilliant with great lead vocals from Brian, "Summer Means New Love" is fantastically and totally a window to Pet Sounds territory, "And Your Dream Comes True" is beautiful acapella harmonies, and "I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man" is exactly what George said about it being both hilarious and sad. Those eccentric Brian vocals (especially the part where Brian screams "ohh when, will they let me, COME OUT!?!?....") along with equally bizarre, eccentric Beach Boys backing vocals are awesome and are equal to Syd Barrett with his eccentric songs and voice with equally eccentric sounding backing band. Overall, it's an interplay between throwawayish on the surface but very catchy and fun pop songs, just plain throwaway, or artistic ambition that actually follows up to Today and shows the way to Pet Sounds. An 8/10 from me. "The Little Girl I Once Knew" is also really great and woulda been a great addition to the album, instead of a disappointing (sales wise) single.


PARTY!

Pedro Andino <pedroandino@msn.com> (18.07.2003)

in 1965 my dad loved the beach boys then came this album. the strangest album yet! with sound effects, chatter, and swearing!.golly, these guys are like, stoned or they had too many coolers. move over, pet sounds! 'cause this album is the strangest yet coolest album in 1965/66!

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (19.04.2006)

OK, so it's totally contrived, I agree, even more than Concert, but I like it more. The Beach Boys, because they actually performed the songs in the studio, sound much more competent than they actually did live at this time. Most of the songs are pretty lightweight, but fun. And I do agree that the background chatter gets incredibly annoying at times. The place where it really bugs me the most is on "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," which may not add anything to the original. However, Dennis gives a totally effective reading that is marred by those stupid kids. On the whole, though, I think you're a bit hard on the record. The party atmosphere might be fake, but the looseness of the actual performances is hard to resist anyway. A minor album, to be sure, but fun anyway.

One outtake has surfaced on the boxed set. Brian sings a cover of Dion's "Ruby, Baby," which never made it to the party overdub stage. Probably because Brian started oinking during the chorus. On the Hawthowne, CA anthology, we get something better, though -- "Devoted With You" and "Barbara Ann" with the party overdubs mixed out. I'd like to hear the whole album this way, particularly Dennis's number, since we wouldn't get another lead vocal for several years.


PET SOUNDS

Simon Hearn <simon@leehearn.freeserve.co.uk> (09.09.99)

This is difficult for me. I can see the album's greatness, but it does nothing for me as an ALBUM. I love hearing songs off it now and then, but listening to it in its entirety is like eating too much chocolate cake - incredibly sickly. Don't get me wrong - I DO think this is class and their best album, but just not for me. After a while the harmonies and orchestration make me want to reach for a sick bag. SORRY PS LOVERS!!!! By the way, I think 'God only knows' is the best song on the album - who am I to disagree with Sir Paul!!! (Has stated it is one of the greatest songs he has ever heard)

Michel Franzen <crazytimes25@yahoo.com> (13.01.2000)

I would give this a 15 just for being a perfect album. It may note be the greatest album ever, like some people think, but as a collection it is as fine as it gets, lacking nothing that could improve it. This album does not leave me wanting more (like Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61, Beggar's Banquet, Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers do); as a single lp it succeeds in being a satisfying listen by the end. The songs go brilliantly together, even if individually they may not amount to a lot to talk about. Brian Wilson was in totally in control, and the mood melodies dominate.

<Jabtot@aol.com> (19.05.2000)

This is a tough one.You have to hold this album at arms length.Take it as any other album you are putting to your ears for the first time.Dont listen to quotes from "Macca"about how great it is.It is time to judge this for your self.If you put this album in a natural timeline with the rest of the Beach Boys work,this is the climax.Word is that the band even dispised doin surf music by then,but held the Capitol line"what sells makes money".When Brian Wilson presented this work to the band they were less than thrilled.Brian forged along to make the record more of a BW solo album than a Beach Boys work.He knew that by putting himself in the forefront,he would take the blame if it died on the vine.Early on the other band members distanced themselves from the album.Now they all clamor for the raves that should be Brians alone.Thats how the Beach Boys were,and are to this day.No need to list tracks here,this is a beautiful piece of work.Sure,the blemishes exist.Even some of the Beatles work had their weak moments.Although Brian tried to one up the Fabs efforts on Rubber Soul,he still came within a whisker of pulling it off.I enjoy the full experience of listening to this album.Capitol just released a stereo version of Pet Sounds (more money,more money)and it is heavenly.Purists must listen in mono as Brian intended it to be released.I still get goose bumps at certain points (Brians high pitched wail of 'Caroline,No') of this album.I highly recommend this work! P.S. Stop comparing the Beatles,and the Beach Boys....Its so irrevelent!

Sergio Miranda <sergiomc@net.telematic.com.pe> (12.06.2000)

Hi.. I just wanna say some things about Pet sounds.

First, I heard (and read) about this album, and all were saying that 'this is the greatest album in the rock'n'roll history'. And later, 'this inspired Sgt pepper'. So, I decided to buy the CD. I only knew a few songs, like 'God only knows' and 'Wouldn't it be nice'.

And when I pressed 'play' in my Cd Player, all I heard was brilliant music. 'Wouldn't it be nice' is maybe my favourite song. Just read the lyrics while your listening to, it's so positive.

'You still believe in me' is so fantastic, the lyrics are so mysterious and sad too... the best line is when Brian sings 'I wanna cry...' in his falsseto voice mode.. it's great.. it makes you think in your own life. 'God only knows' is, far , the best song (even better than a Beatles' Revolver song ????...I read that Paul McCartney was inspired with this song to write "Here there and Everywhere"..

If you listen to it well, you found that it's perfect.. the bass line, the melody, the strange chords (to me, they are).... 'Don't talk put....' is too, a beautiful song, with a good arrengment with strings, and Brian singing in a way that nobody else can. This song makes you feel so well, that you just wanna be with your girlfriend and hold her tight, and think in how wonderful is be with someone like her... really !!!! I mean it, because I don't speak English (i'm from Peru), but I don't need the lyrics to feel the music.

And so it goes ... 'I just wasn't made for these times' is another classic song with good harmonies and a terrific Brian's voice. The song is about the Brian's life, his troubles, his mind problems and all that. But who doesn't feel like him any time?? just 'looking for a place to fit in' because 'i just wasn't made for these times' .... a song for all the mis-understanded people.

And the CD ends with "Caroline no"... Please.. why is it so short??? it's the best song with the best melody I've EVER heard. Listen to all this terrific changes in the chords in the chorus... Brian .... HOW DID YOU DO IT??? HOW COULD YOU IMAGINE ALL THOSE CHANGES??? Well, the other songs, are great too, but no so good like the others I mentioned before.

Is it the Best album ever ?? Well, i'm not sure .. I got to listen to much records to say an opinion. But Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper.' maybe, never could be done, without Pet sounds. Paul was so inspired in this album at 1966-67, that Pepper just came out with all the Pet sounds innovations. For example, pay attention at the bass line in songs like 'Fixing a Hole', 'A day in the life' , 'Lucy in the sky...' , or much better in 'With a little help....' Paul is just playing in pet sounds' style...

Well, to finish, I'm not agree with you George at 100%. The music and the rock'n'roll, borned to 'have fun' (i think), and later to became in 'music-revolution' against the past generations. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley......but with the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, etc. this music turned into a much better music, much complex than the three basic chords. But after the 60's and 70's the Rock was missing his essence, only a few groups were really good like 'Pink Floyd', 'Led Zepellin', and even you don't like it,..... 'Paul & Wings'. Not necessarily the rock has to be 'noise', and hard rock..

WHY ?? Why we need bands like Metallica or all that stuff that just make noise ??? or Marylin Manson ??? even the punk in the 70's was most interesting. And don't talk about the 'groups' of 90's and 2000. what's that ??? where's gone the real rock'n'roll??? where are the beatles, beach boys when we need them ?? Do you think any day, bands so good like them, came back to the radios?? Maybe, the people return to good music, and not just to the 'dance' music... don't you think ??? dance music is ok, but it say nothing to your mind, your soul, or to your heart.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (12.07.2000)

Last night, I saw Brian and his new band perform all of Pet Sounds live with a symphony orchestra (!) , and I was reminded of the timelessness of these melodies. Just incredible. I was never really crazy about "Don't Talk" and "I Just Wasn't," but I was just about moved to tears with these two. "Let's Go Away for Awhile" is really the only filler on the record. The title track is really a very cool pop/jazz instrumental -- NOBODY produced anything like it in 1966. And I don't think "Sloop John B" sounds totally out of place -- Brian certainly used the same production style on that song as the others, and he was smart enough to know he needed a crowd pleaser on the album.

A few critics (notably that pompous Dave Marsh) have accused Brian of doing nothing more then ripping off Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" technique. While no one would argue that that was Brian's starting point (as far back as "Why do Fools fall in Love" on Shut Down, Vol. 2), Brian took it way beyond Phil with Pet Sounds, with new melodic twists and highly unusual instrumentation -- I don't think Phil ever used a theremin, a koto or a banjo. And those voices!! One advantage the stereo remix has over the mono is that the harmonies are brought more into prominence.

The loss of Brian's grip on reality is even more tragic when rehearing this. The Beatles vs. Beach Boys comparison (Revolver is an entirely different kind of album than this, so to me it's like comparing apples and oranges) is important -- it's too bad we couldn't have both, in the long run.

Nat Cassidy <Drmwvrs@aol.com> (22.08.2000)

The best song on the Beach Boy's Pet Sounds is without a doubt 'God Only Knows'--i know, it's popular choice and one of those songs that has drifted almost into public domain, but it's popular for a reason! It has some of Brian's best lyrics, one of the most beautiful melodies, and a break that comes out of nowhere and builds to perfection. 'Don't Talk' is right behind it, along with 'Wouldn't it Be Nice,' though--hell, every song on this album (i even love the instrumentals, they make me want to smile like a jackass) should be considered classic.

Philip Maddox <slurmsmckenzie@hotmail.com> (04.10.2000)

One mark of a truly great album is if everybody has a different favorite song on it. In those cases, every song needs to be very, very close in song quality so people are attracted to them. Of course, you could say that everybody has a different favorite track on horrible albums, too, but that's beside the point.

The point is, I have never met two people who had the same favorite song on this album (OK, so I've only played it for 5 or so people, and my dad hated the entire thing). I'm not even going to try to pick a favorite. The song quality is so amazingly even that I'm in heaven whenever I play any of these songs. Well, actually, 'That's Not Me' is definately my least favorite song here, featuring a decent, but not particularly grabbing melody. But among the rest, it's a total toss up. 'Don't Talk' is gorgeous beyond words, 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' starts off great, has an even greater middle section, then ends great. 'Here Today' has my favorite chorus on here - the way they sing "...And it's here/And gone so fast" really gets me going. I could go on. This album has a couple of slight problems, though. First of all, all of these songs do sound quite similar (except 'Sloop John B', which is different but is still nearly perfect), so I have to be in the mood for ballads when I pop this in. Second, well, I don't like 'That's Not Me' quite as much as the rest, but it's still good. I'd have to give this a 10. I know that Beatles comparisons are useless, but I like this better than any Beatles album but The White Album (which rules in ways I can't describe). You know, I've been told over the years that this album is only good "if you're a romantic". Well, let me say this - I'm as far away from a romantic as you can possibly get, and I STILL love this album. Even if I don't really relate to the love songs and such, the music is just SO GOOD that I can't help but fall head over heels for this album. Plus, a bunch of the songs have much more "universal" themes, so one needn't be afraid of this just because they aren't really gushy people. I can't think of anyone of would severely dislike this album (except my father, of course).

Oh, and a quick word about Smile - I have the Beach Boys box set, which has the demos and remnants of what was to be Smile, and to be frank, the melodies simply aren't as strong as they are here. Maybe it's just because the songs weren't finished, but I think Smile would have been a step down from Pet Sounds. It still sounds good, of course, which says a lot considering it's nothing but demos.

Michael Battaglia <Dhalgren99@aol.com> (07.12.2000)

Only Beach Boys album I own (excepting old "greatest hits" sets that belong to my parents that I barely listen to) and as far as I'm concerned the only one I'm going to own unless Brian Wilson shows up at my doorstep with a stack of CDs in his arms.  Any other one would probably be just an anticlimax.   It's just about perfect all the way through, some moments stick out more than others (that "ahhh ahhh ahhh" in the end of "You Still Believe in Me", the "You didn't think, no, that I'd around and watch him take you" in "I'm Waiting for the Day") but overall I've no complaints at all about this album.  Though for some reason "Don't Talk" remains my least favorite song (relatively speaking, I still like it), it just never seems to go anywhere. Dig that "beating heart" bassline (I think) when he says "Listen . . . ".

The instruments are okay in a background soundtracky kind of way, I generally skip them if I'm pressed for time at all.  But they're pleasant and I guess they'll set some sort of mood if you get into that sixties vibe.  But is it me, or does "Sloop John B" stick out like a sore thumb?  A batch of pensive, medative songs and here we have a traditional Carribbean shanty?  Hm.  Oh well.  Can't beat "Caroline, No" for great ways to end an album, Brian's voice just does awesome things for me.  The vocals are more or less what make the album, I think if you dragged in another batch of talented vocalists, it just wouldn't be the same.  You need those harmonies.

It's too bad that Brian Wilson basically flipped his wig after making this, but I guess if you're only going to do one REALLY good album in your entire life, it might as well be one like this.

Ian Allcock <Swimeca@aol.com> (14.01.2001)

Dear George,

Before I begin writing this response to your review of the Beach Boys album Pet Sounds, let me first say that I am a big fan of your site. It is extremely refreshing to finally find a music critic who rates albums based on the quality of their songs as opposed to their reputation or their alleged innovation. Such critics have already been responsible for far to many oversights in rock's history, and the Beach Boys probably know this better than any other band based on the amount of critical bickering their later albums have incured. I can only hope that there are more critics like you in the future.

Having said this, let me say that I am a big fan of the Beach Boys, and I have a couple of points I'd like to argue regarding your review of Pet Sounds (which is undeniably one of my favorite albums of all time). First of all, I really do feel that the music on this album is solid throughout including "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" and "Here Today" both of which do every bit as much for me as anything on the album's first side. In fact, I was very surprised that you found weakness anywhere on this record being that I have listened to it hundreds of times and noticed none. Even the instrumentals still strike me as being excellent, particularly "Pet Sounds" with its meowing guitar, latin percussion, and reassuringly jazzy horn section. As for "Let's Go Away For A While", this track also feels beautiful with its gentle sense of motion and calming effect which perfectly ends side 1 after the fiery burst at the end of "I'm Waiting For The Day".

My second bone of contention with your review is that I was deeply bothered by your remark that,"the Beatles didn't have to waste that much time while recording Revolver, a masterpiece that's still much more important than Pet Sounds could ever hope to be". Above all else, comparing the Beatles to the Beach Boys is unacceptable and unfair in that Revolver and Pet Sounds are two entirely different types of albums. Furthermore, this comment seems to imply a nasty dig at Brian Wilson's talent in that he couldn't produce his masterpiece as quickly as the Beatles produced theirs. To understand why Brian took so long, one must first understand the situation he was in making Pet Sounds. Try to imagine John Lennon (assuming that he was the most talented Beatle) entering the studio without any other member of the band to help him write of George Martin to help him produce. Now imagine him only working with a lyricist who writes simplistic lyrics (which he must heavily revise) and a group of vocally talented but artistically clueless band members (who already resent his vision and occasionally voice this during recording). Finally, consider that this is not the mature, worldly Lennon of Plastic Ono Band, but a young man barely over 20 years old who's artistic abilities are mostly untried and who must now write, perform on, conduct, and produce by himself. Is it really any wonder that Wilson took so long to create something this grandiose? It also must be noted that Pet Sounds IS as influential as Revolver. The Beatles openly admit to being heavily influenced by this record (particularly Paul who continues to say it's one of his all time favorites) as do hundreds of other pop and rock bands. Indeed, Pet Sounds' aftershocks are still reverberating through pop music today in innumerable ways.

In the end, let me recommend that you do all you can to continue listening to the Beach Boys' records. Like most great artists, The Beach Boys have something in their catalogue for everyone and its only a matter of time before you find you favorite (I've already seen pages that don't give Pet Sounds top billing but rant over Friends and Sunflower). By the way, I'd like to mention that Brian didn't entirely vanish from the band after the aborted SMiLE project but continued to write much of their output until 1971's Surf's Up LP on which his terrible emotional illness and drug addiction finally removed him from the band for several years. He would later write another entire album's worth of material on 1977's Love You which is being seen more and more as a lost gem. Brian really did anything but "give up" despite his own problems and the band's rejection of his most ambitious material for a more conservative sound. Thank you for taking the time to read my opinions, and please consider them if ever you change your rating of Pet Sounds.

Glenn Wiener <glennjwiener@hotmail.com> (29.01.2001)

I borrowed this CD from my local library to see what all the hype was about. The radio friendly hits, 'Wouldn't It Be Nice', 'Caroline No', 'Sloop John B', and 'God Only Knows' are good focused songs. However, for the most part the other tracks just do not add anything special. Not slow and romantic like 'Warmth of the Sun' or 'Surfer Girl' or fast and energetic like 'Fun Fun Fun' and 'All Summer Long'. It just trudges along at a mid tempo pace with limited focus. 'Here Today' isn't bad and the song after it has some good moments too. However 'I Wasn't Made For These Times' has an incredibly lethargic and weak song structure which wastes the otherwise touching and strong lyrics by Brian Wilson.

How VH1's illustrious music experts rated this recording as the Third Greatest Rock N Roll CD of all time, I'll never know. This album barely even rocks. The special effects and the lack of a good guitar and drum presence causes me to idly twittle my thumbs in boredom. In my book, get a good compilation or two of the Beach Boys music and stop at that.

Didier Dumonteil <dbdumonteil@wanadoo.fr> (25.02.2001)

Pet sounds is to the bb what Sgt Pepper's is to the b.A technically perfect album but is-it their best?As far as the B as concerned,now Peppe's takes a back seat to revolver,the glorious white one and abbey road.

Back to the BB.To quote an almost forgotten tune of Procol,who will search beyond the pale?To find out that surf's up,sunflower,holland and maybe the beach boys love you(Brian) and summer days might be better than the hackneyed icon.

Back to pet sounds:wouldn'it be nice,sloop john b and god only knows are instant classics,nobody can deny.With the addition of you still believe me,I know there's an answer and I just wasn't made... " it's a solid set.There's only one problem.A lack of diversity:see Revolver if you don't know what I mean.

Get it anyway.Its several incredible moments will make it worth your while .

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (25.02.2001)

My understanding is this was so totally a Brian Wilson album that he had all the vocal tracks sung by himself, and simply replaced some with the other Beach Boys' voices when they returned from touring. The instrumental backing was all from members of the LA "Wrecking Crew" that had played on Spectors' albums and a lot of others besides; Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Ed Carter, Glen Campbell (!) etc. But Brian arranged all their parts, and if one note wasn't right, he knew it and had the musician change it. Simply amazing.

Not only is this album great because different people have different favorite songs on it, but the favorite changes constantly. At different times I've thought either "Wouldn't It Be Nice" "God Only Knows" "I Know There's An Answer" "Caroline No" "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" or Sloop John B" was my favorite. I've probably forgotten a couple.

<Shebaquay@aol.com> (26.02.2001)

The first time I listened to the Beach Boys Pet Sounds I was immediately struck by the feeling that this might well be my best record of all time. It was an incredible feeling, being that I'd gone in expecting nothing more than to be entertained with some pleasant harmony singing and nice orchestration. However, I wasn't yet convinced and went back to listen to the record again. Today, about a year and a half later, this record remains my all time favorite. Intense joy simply oozes out of every second of the recording from beginning to end and I sometimes wonder if it will ever tire me out. This being said, I was certainly less than pleased when, in searching for reviews of other Beach Boy albums, I came apon your review of Pet Sounds. It's not the thirteen you gave it that really got on my nerves although this certainly didn't help. It was the tone the review seemed to take, unfairly comparing this album with the Beatles' work and delivering a rather nasty dig at Brian Wilson and his ambition to equal them. Even after this, however, I remained silent until reading your remarks on Mark Prindle's sight regarding this album. The statement that Pet Sounds is to The Beatles as a child's dootlings are to Picasso is more than just honest criticism. It's fan bias at its absolute worst (something I believe you wrote an essay against if memory serves). Furthermore, your points justifying this blatant insult to Brian Wilson's astonishing effort were often on extremely shakey ground. For example, you stated that Pet Sounds represented nothing remotely as innovative as Sgt. Pepper even though the Beatles openly admit to drawing the large portion of their inspiration from this record. Furthermore, you stated that the lyrics to Pet Sounds are massively inferior to those of the Beatles, conveniently failing to take note that the lyrics are deliberately understated so that the huge orchestrations and intricate arrangements can be focused on as the true expressive instruments through which the album works its magic. This is an album where the lyrics and music are organically linked (unpretentious lyrics focusing huge sound which supplies emotions that no words could). In all honesty, I don't rag on your favorite band (maybe your brain simply functions differently than mine does). However, the fact that there are so many people out there willing to swear by this album really indicates that I am not alone in my stance. Take my word for it, if your not rating this album a fifteen, your missing something.

[Special author note: Dear Shebaquay@aol.com! First of all, my comments on the Prindle site date to an earlier epoch than this one, and it's no use bringing that subject up here. Second, the harshness of my tone on that site was due to a natural reaction against people viciously putting down Sgt Pepper without presenting any arguments. Third, while I always keep hearing that the Beatles were inspired by B.W. for Sgt Pepper, I can't see any exact influences of that album upon Sgt Pepper, apart from maybe 'She's Leaving Home': I suppose it's the 'idea of competition' rather than a direct tutorial process. Fourth, you have neglected my main point: the main reason I consider Pet Sounds slightly inferior is due to its painful lack of diversity. To get a fifteen, an album must be diverse. On Pet Sounds, more than half the songs sound absolutely the same, and that is a minus. Since you're obviously treating this album from a religious point of view, it doesn't matter to you, of course, but for me, diversity is one of the primary necessities for a great album. That's all. Oh and, by the way, I'm perfectly aware that many people swear by this album. Many people have slight reservations about it for the very reasons I've mentioned, too. Have you ever tried statistically counting the two groups? No? In this case, please leave me alone in my stance. I really love the record, what else do you want from me? To worship at Brian Wilson's toes?]

Steve Hall <riseandshine99@hotmail.com> (07.03.2001)

The most "beautiful" album i've ever heard,though not the best.Prejudice holds a lot of people back from discovering this album and that's truly sad.This is one album that i ain't tired of.Like most i think "god only knows is the best" but my favourite is "that's not me".What a shame we never got to hear a finished Smile from Brian.

Palash Ghosh <palash7@hotmail.com> (14.03.2001)

Before I heard Pet Sounds I had foolishly dismissed The Beach Boys as a fun, but very lightweight and not very important, pop group. But after hearing this breathtaking album, I realized what a true genius of melody and harmony Brian Wilson really was!

However, having said that, I agree with the reviewer (Simon from UK, I think?) who cleverly noted that "listening to it in its entirety is like eating too much chocolate cake -- incredibly sickly." That perfectly hits the problem with the album, each song is so richly layered in the same way that it's difficult to distinguish one tune from the next (aside from 'Sloop John B,' which has no right to be on this record).

I prefer not to hear this album as a whole Ė- I'll put it on the CD and play a handful of selected numbers. In that way, one can really appreciate each song much better.

Ironically, two of my favorite numbers are the ones that you (George) dislike the most, 'Here today' and the instrumental title track, they're utterly gorgeous! My other fave is the ever-popular, 'God only knows' (Keith Moon's all-time favorite song!).

I don't know enough about The Beach Boys to speculate on whether or not Brian Wilson's subsequent madness and self-imposed seclusion was the consequence of his overwork on this album. It may have been the inevitable result of drug abuse (acid) and mental illness. In any case, Pet Sounds is a remarkable, landmark album, and I couldn't believe it when I read it was not warmly received in the U.S. (even Mike Love disliked it!).

I commend Brian Wilson for getting his group to break the shackles of their simple girl-meets-boy formula ditties, but, as you say, it led to the Beach Boys' ultimate destruction.

I was never really aware of any 'competition' between the Beach Boys and the Beatles -Ė and if there really was one, the lads from L.A. were soundly beaten in it! However, I DID know that Paul McCartney cherished Pet Sounds and it supposedly inspired him to write 'Here there and everywhere.' Otherwise, I doubt The Beach Boys ever posed any kind of 'threat' to The Beatles.

Sean Rodgers <sero_@hotmail.com> (08.07.2001)

Anybody who dismisses the Beach Boys as a crappy girls'n'surfing pop band has obviously never heard this album. The standout tracks- which for me are "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows," "Sloop John B," "You Still Believe In Me," "I Know There's An Answer," and "Caroline No" -are incredible beyond belief, especially the first three.  The rest of the album, while beautiful, unfortunately doesn't quite live up to those songs. As supremely talented as Brian Wilson was, he just didn't make this album diverse enough to outclass the best work by The Beatles. I've only sat down and actually listened to the album two or three times; most of the time I just program my stereo to play the above six tracks. But if I ever fail to be moved by the harmonizing at the end of "God Only Knows"....well, I don't think that will ever happen.

Additionally, anyone even remotely interested in studio work and the production of music should read the liner notes. The staggering amount of work that Brian Wilson put into this album should put most modern musicians to shame.

Brian Sittinger <brian.d.sittinger@lmco.com> (20.07.2001)

I can't disagree with Sean's first comment at all; Pet Sounds does not convey any of the themes commonly associated with The Beach Boys (surfing, and to a slightly lesser extent, cars!). This is one extremely beautifully melancholy record. [Quite a few years ago, I found out that my father did not own this record (yet he owned quite a few before and after!). So this was a birthday present for him. A gift for me too, no doubt.] "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows" are among my favorite Beach Boy tracks. If there is anything detracting in this album is the fact that most of the songs fall into the same mood. But, if this lack of stylistic diversity does not bore you, Pet Sounds is highly recommendable. 10 out of 10.

Adrian Denning <mdenster@yahoo.com> (12.10.2001)

I don't mean to be rude, but why, to get a fifteen, MUST an album be diverse? What the hell has that got to do with it? Really, out of thousands upon thousands of albums released over the years maybe only ten or twenty DO deserve to get maximum score. I enjoy reading your site and your mostly intelligent commentary on a variety of releases. But this Sgt Pepper being better than Pet Sounds because it's more diverse? To me, that means it worse. Of course, we are all entitled to our opinion. But, Revolver is a better Beatles album BY FAR than Sgt Pepper and a lot of music critics seem to agree with this repeatedly placing it higher in 'all time best' polls. As for Pet Sounds influence on Sgt Peppers. Well, it influenced Paul a great deal. You only need to have ears to hear the influence on the bass playing. Brian himself could have been playing bass on some of those songs! As for Pet Sounds it's perfect from beginning to end. Not to say there aren't weak points. 'That's Not Me' is hardly great. 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times' though is STUPENDOUS and I challenge anyone to disagree with me. Go on! Listen to it. Listen, listen, listen. It's easy if you try.

[Special author note: I don't mean to be rude either, but on careful reading, does this comment not give a new life to the term 'meandering'?]

Joe H <jcjh@home.com> (29.11.2001)

Beautiful album. The original review pretty much hit the mark so i wont say much. "Dont Talk", "Here Today", "God Only Knows", the traditional "Sloop John B", "Wouldn't It Be Nice"... absolute classic songs! Definate 10/10.

A really quiet, passive record, although beautifully melancholy. And when i say beautifully melancholy i say that with the ut-most emphasis and enthusiasm! Some of these songs are incredibly pretty! They actually make me depressed with their beauty. Songs like "Dont Talk", "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" (which EXACTLY describes myself at this point in time! Uncanny!), "God Only Knows", "You Still Believe In Me" etc. are very catheric for me, even though the lyric matter may have nothing to do with me (besides the aforementioned "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"), but for some reason, i feel i can escape threw the music. Maybe im overrating this a bit, but just to balance that out, ill say i still think Sgt. Pepper is a better album. The instrumentals are nothing to be scoffed at, they just carry the mood, but yeah, i can honestly live without them. I am also glad "Wouldnt It Be Nice" is the opening track, 'coz i think it'd spoil the mood of the record if placed...say... on track 6. I absolutely give this a 10/10.

Ben Kramer <bkramer2000@hotmail.com> (25.12.2001)

I actually prefer their surfing songs to this, they're more fun and a better listen (there are a few exceptions), however, the surfing material has one major problem. It isn't consistent. I wish I had a greatest hits compilation of these guys (which I might buy) rather than 4 studio albums on 2 cds and Pet Sounds. I would love to have a cd with 'Surfin Safari', 'Surfin USA', 'Help Me Rhonda', 'California Girls', 'Good Vibrations'... Overall however, on an album to album basis, Pet Sounds is the best, but wow, is this album overrated. When replying on your essay about overrated/underrated material, I mentioned that this album is the 3rd most overrated album ever. I am starting to agree more and more with you that it is the most overrated. Actually, if I were to rewrite that comment, I'd change #1 to Never Mind The Bullocks but back then I didn't realize that it is given more props than Quadrophenia and Let it Bleed. I agree with your review of Pet Sounds and if I were to give my opinion in detail, I could easily copy and paste your comment, but I won't and just say what I just said. The only difference I would have is that I will go with the crowd and say that 'God Only Knows' is the best song on here. 'Don't Talk' would be up there though. Also, I love 'Sloop John B' a lot as well. The rest of the album seems to be monotonous which is my main problem with Pet Sounds. Also, it's too short and the instrumentals could be found next to the word filler in the dictionary. But overall, this album is worth a 13 because some of the songs are timeless and the vocals are amazing, though not the best ever as fans like to say. For the best vocals, I look at Who at the Isle of Wight Festival. I know McFerrin said that, but he has great taste (well, except the fact that he overrates Yes but he's still a great guy with a great ear for quality). I like it a lot, but it's not the magical album that many claim it to be.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (04.03.2002)

It's universally agreed that this religious-influenced pop record is impeccable, revolutionary and, well, heavenly--but the thing that fascinates me most about the recording is its arrangements and production secrets, and the songwriting. Looking at Brian Wilson's structures and heavy jazz influences in the music makes it all the more fascinating, and the techniques to achieve certain sounds--coke cans, cupped vocals, etc., all detailed in the liner notes--are all quite impressive, and, in the end, probably substantially influential. Some of the most intelligent and enthralling pop music ever made--if it ends up not being the Beach Boys' best (I've yet to hear some other works), then that unheard masterpiece (Smile, anyone?) must truly be something.

<DebNMarkW@aol.com> (09.07.2002)

What can be said about one of the greatest albums ever made? Paul McCartney's favorite album of all time is still widely revered today in the year 2002. Had the priveledge of seeing Brian recently perform the album live in concert. The fact that so many people have clamoured to see that show in Europe as well as here in the USA says something for it's longevity. First off, let's call the album what it is...a Brian Wilson solo album in disquise. When 'Caroline No' was released as a single, it even bore his name, not the Beach Boys. Brian was such a fan of Phil Spector's wall of sound, that his recording sessions were usually done in the same vein. When the boys returned from touring, they found completed backing tracks done by the best session men. Some of which were even Spector's people. Brian and the boys did the rest. How can you hear these harmonies and not be completely impressed? In the review for Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home, George states "arrangements and vocal harmonies aren't everything." Now I've never seen great result in starting any mail with lines like "you suck, you rat bastard," so I'll simply say that never have I disagreed with one of George's statements more vehemently. [So I assume you'd have to give Bringing It All Back Home a zero out of ten then? - G.S.] To me it sounds like something a young person would say today. Ho hum, where's the screaming guitar dude? If you are lucky enough like me to have the Pet Sounds Sessions box set, you'll know one of the highlights is the vocal tracks only. If anyone can listen to this and not be impressed at the complex arrangements, then go take a music course somewhere. What has always impressed me about Pet Sounds is how such a positive album could come out of a young man who was so deeply troubled mentally at the time. Pet Sounds is probably the most positive and optomistic album ever created. Throughout, Brian appears to be barring his soul for the listener. 'You Still Believe In Me' was always my favorite because of the lyrics. 'God Only Knows' is perfectly suited and well written for Carl's angelic voice. In concert, Brian did the vocal much justice. 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' was a great album opener and was lyrically aimed at his wife's sister. He was in love with her at the time. Brian has said in the liner notes and in his autobiography that he made this album for people to feel good. I think his humble mission was more than accomplished. Did the Beatles outdo him in the end? Sure. Did he go to pieces after that? Yep. But one thing remains clear, no album has influenced more musicians in different genres of music than this one has. Well done Brian.

Jon <gray0187@tc.umn.edu> (01.12.2002)

Listen to George.

David Dickson <ddickson@smtp.owlnet.rice.edu> (16.01.2003)

Hmmm. Well, this record is kind of a toss-up for me. I was fairly annoyed to find out that it had only two tracks that I recognized when I first listened to it, but fortunately, by then, I was mature enough to see past that minor quibble. This album had been hyped as "the second greatest album of all time behind Sgt. Pepper" and other such hoo-hah, and I thought, Come again? The friggin' BEACH BOYS? Naaah.

Of course, I was wrong, and yes, this is one of the best albums of all time--and yes, it is tremendously overhyped. VH1, in fact, recently dubbed it the 3rd best rock and roll album ever, behind Nevermind and Revolver. Others, closer to me, have called it none other than the best album EVER, for reasons ranging from it predating the Beatles twin revolutionary masterpieces of 1966 and 1967, to it being SO much more complex and orchestrated, to it being done by an American band, and therefore being automatically superior. Riiiiight. And if that isn't a prime load of merde, my name is Mike Love.

STILL--it deserves a ten. It's only a toss-up for me because I just HATE it when albums are overhyped.

Well, let's get to the songs, shall we? We all know the hits "Wouldn't it be Nice", "God Only Knows", "Sloop Ivan B" and "Caroline, Nyet", so we won't mention those. They're classics; no need to discuss them. I also really dig "Here, Today" and "I Know There's an Answer" and "I'm Waiting for the Day"--those deserved to be hits. And they probably were--in England, that is. This album stayed on the charts longer over there than did Help! and Let it Be combined. In fact, it beat out Revolver as Album of the Year in many 1966 magazine polls. "Don't Talk", "You Still Believe in Me" and "That's Not Me" are also good, though lacking enough radio-friendly hooks to be certifiable singles. The "don't talk" vocal line is memorable in the first, the second is packed-to-the-brim with so much sweetness and sappiness that I would like it if I were female, and the third has that good-ol'-boy all-American growing-up charm that it feels finger snappin' good even to this crusty leftist. "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", though I definitely identify with the lyrics, is pretty boring, though. And the two instrumentals are a waste of space, most notably 'cause they don't have ANY Beach boys playing at all. Still, try and envision some cheesy '60's tropical romantic comedy in your mind when you hear those two. It fits perfectly. No wonder they call this a "concept" album--it feels almost like a movie soundtrack.

So there you have it--the best LP ever made. No, just KIDDING, it's only just an excellent album. I didn't mention the vocals--they are darn good throughout, especially when Brian Wilson himself takes the mike. Perhaps the most impressive part about the whole shi-bang is that he arranged and produced the whole thing single-handedly, while co-writing the songs and singing lead on most of them--at the tender age of 23. Neither Paul nor John ever managed something like that. No wonder the dude had a nervous breakdown.

<Badlydrawnone@aol.com> (22.06.2003)

I've got to say that this is my favourite album of all time, it beats The Beatles stuff , The Pixies stuff andthing Pink Floyd did. For me it symbolises what I'm going through right now, the struggle of maturity. My favourite song is 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times', you say they put the weakest stuff at the end but I have to disagree. This song helpe me throughalot of bad days. 'Caroline No' is a beautiful song and a marvellous end to the album. I know it was hard painful work for Brian wilson but it was worth it in the long run I have to give it 15

Jean Marlow <wolram@optushome.com.au> (22.04.2004)

I have to admit to a personal bias with the Beach Boys; I grew up in a little town near the coast, and this was the band we listened to when weren't actually IN the surf. I have never really thought that they were a substantial band (maybe a bit of rebelling against what I knew the best?) but so many people whose opinions I respect have recommended this album in particular, that I recently bought it for myself.

Most of them are familiar songs; even the songs I don't know sound like songs which I could know, or should know. That's the problem. Every song is lovely; every song is gentle, harmonious, has wonderful sound. Smooth, pretty, nothing offensive. A bit like marshmallow, really. There is nothing which I DISLIKE about this album, it's just that nothing really jumps out and says *the best/2nd/3rd album ever made*. Apart from 'the Sloop John D', they are all pretty much the same, and John D has never really been one of my preferred songs. Having said that, God Only Knows is and always has been my favourite BB songs. I must be honest and admit that I am relieved that so many male reviewers agree that this is the best (or one of the best) song on the album; it seems a bit *girly* to admit loving such a sentimental song, but, for me, the melody and harmonies epeitomise the best things about the band.

Nevertheless, I have been disappointed by this album. Although, as I said before, there is nothing wrong with the album, I think that the opinions of others had led me to expect perfection; it isn't

dL <cabinessence@freemail.hu> (02.12.2005)

I really like your 'revisited' comments on Pet Sounds, probably in the light of the finished SMiLE it sounds a bit different than before, doesn't it. You still don't seem to be the biggest fan of the record though, which is not a problem of course, we all have different tastes. You're right, Wilson doesn't consider PS his true masterpiece, in the SMiLE documentary 'Beautiful Dreamer' he gives it 7 points on the scale of 10, whereas he gives SMiLE 10. Naturally he's wrong: good as it is, SMiLE just cannot match the emotional complexity of Pet Sounds. To me SMiLE is kind of a psychedelic bluff (though a very beautiful and intricate one), the lyrics are a bunch of clever puns, nothing more. You write, the guys playing on the record are "no virtuosos" - well, I have to disagree here, they were all schooled and very professional session men, who played on a lots of Californian pop records. Drummer Hal Blaine or bassist Carol Kaye played on almost every Californian hits of the 60s, they played on Spector's hits, the Association's hits, the Mamas & the Papas' hits, "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Eve Of Destruction"... heck, Carol Kaye even played on the Mothers' very-very artsy Freak Out! Anyway, they were the best musicians around - and definitely better musicians than any British mop tops of the day playing their own instruments.

I don't think that Pet Sounds has anything common with ELO, ELP or any other overblown 70s prog crap which was all about musical 'virtuosity' and very 'deep' and 'meaningful' thoughts about nothing -- all useless and irrelevant. There's nothing overblown on Pet Sounds : all the intricate experimentation and the Coke bottles and everything serve the overall "feel" of the record. I mean there's a purpose behind the experimantation and crazy musical ideas here. And that's what's entirely missing from the 70s prog crap.

Another important point which may explains why Pet Sounds remains massively popular even after 40 years: I think it's the ultimate post-adolescent / young adult record of all times. Nowadays nobody cares about 'horses dancing the waltz' or 'marmalade skies' or any "poetic" psychedelic 1967 gibberish (thank god) but I guess there'll always be people at the age of 19-20 or so who can identify themselves and their own state of mind with titles like "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" or "That's Not Me" or lines such as 'could I ever find in you again the things that made love you so much then, Could we ever bring 'em back once they have gone", and the overall feeling of lost childhood innocence so beautifully summarized in Pet Sounds' brief 36 minutes.


SMILEY SMILE

David Goodwin <ksg1-2@yifan.net> (04.07.2001)

I agree with almost everything you wrote in your review, but I'd like to add a few things that have always irked me about the album...

Well, actually, one thing that occurs in two parts: namely, the two "good" album songs ('Heroes and Villains' and, of course, 'Good Vibrations') appear in much better versions, at least to me, elsewhere. Let me elaborate. 'Heroes and Villains' is an easy one, as the Smile edit (heard, IIRC, on both the boxed-set and the two-fer reissue) has always just sounded better to me...eek, now that I think of it, I also prefer the Smile versions of most of the OTHER tracks here as well, so, err, yeah...go cohesive trains of thought.

But apart from that, I've always felt a bit alone with my perspective on 'Good Vibrations', so I doubt anybody will sympathize with this, but hey, off chance, right? 'Good Vibrations' was built up to IMMENSE proportions before I had even heard it--my local oldies radio station never seemed to play it while I was listening, and I most definately wasn't around when it was created. Thus, when I finally DID hear it a few years ago, I was underwhemled; it seemed to lack cohesiveness, and effectively falls apart by the end thanks to the *extremely* lazy last section. HOWEVER! The oh-so-woefully-incomplete mix of the song heard on Rarities --now availible as a Japanese import CD--was like a revelatory bolt of lightning. Instead of having merely the "I'm picking up good vibrations" and "good good good good vibrations" vocals during the chorus, it has an extra, "shouted" overdub by Brian which injects quite a bit of energy into the proceedings. Unlike the released version, it also has GOOD edits between the sections (the familiar version brutally cuts off the vocals at several points..for example, the first chorus into the second verse goes something like "Bap bap, good vibrations, bap bap, exci-Close my eyes"...while the Rarities mix finishes the final "Excitations"). And heck, I much prefer the "upbeat," fuzz-bass version of the "Gotta keep those lovin' good..." section, as it doesn't leave the song HANGING...

Yeah, I'm impossible to please. So?;) Great review!

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (05.07.2001)

It's about time someone nailed this album like your review does. For me, Smiley Smile was the largest "45" in my collection: play "Heroes and Villains" turn it over, play "Good Vibrations," then finito. I've no doubt this album was released to satisfy the record company for product. Just about everything after the two "good" songs is basically a half-assed demo. What's even more maddening is better versions of some numbers already existed: listen to "Wind Chimes" and "Wonderful" on the box set. Not to mention all the Smile numbers ("Our Prayer", "Cabinessence", "Cool Cool Water", "Surf's Up") that found their way to later albums. (I'm leaving out "Mama Says" by the way.)

<JPGonzo81@aol.com> (20.07.2001)

are you smokin crack bro....smiley smile is raw and EXTREMELY underproduced--i'll have to agree with you on that one george----but its the best smoke out music you'll ever hear from the sixties (besides the givens: Pepper, Pet SOunds, Blonde on Blonde, Anthem of the Sun, dah d-dah...) Its only got 9 songs on it which sucks, but hey dude some these melodies were frickin awesome. I bought the LP a couple of years ago after i learned about the whole SMILE fiasco. In a way I'm glad that album never came out. If it did, Brian would have spent years trying to top that one (it was supposed to be the most universal album of all time---an album to "kill" all albums that followed)----a pastiche combing the splendour of human feeling and emotion combining humor, wit, and irreverence with a musical history lesson to boot. That album (maybe not SMILE itself but the concept rather) should be one to consider the next time a garage band wants to get together and make a million bucks. That will certainly make the industry cream. "I blew my cool i blew myself over..."

FOLLOW UP: try making an album when all you really have are two impeccable 3 and half minute wonders; 5 guys baked out of their skulls; an organ or 2; a bass; a bongo; and 14 days to finish it. Thats what smiley smile is all about. Props to the beach boys for not going over their heads finishing this one up. It IS genius when it really boils down to it.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (27.07.2001)

What a frustrating album. The guys try to pick up the pieces after the crash and burn of Smile. And quite literally, pieces. A lot of the tracks -- "Little Pad," "Fall Breaks," "With Me Tonight," "Whistle In" -- aren't full songs, but just fragments repeated over and over again for an obligatory minute or two. I wouldn't agree that the album lacks hooks. "Whistle In," for instance is very catchy, but it's nothing BUT a hook that leads nowhere. And as RAILGUITAR points out, when one hears the far superior original versions of Smile songs that have surfaced -- "Vegetables," "Heroes and Villains," even the fragments that became "She's Goin' Bald" (called "He Gives Speeches") and "With me Tonight" -- Smiley Smile becomes even more disturbing. "Wonderful," which is ruined by that bizarre overdub of stoned laughter on the instrumental break, is especially awful.

There are few bright spots, though. "Gettin' Hungry," the record's third single (credited, in another idiotic marketing move, to Brian and Mike alone), is a weird, but fun, little R&B number that predicts the next album. And I'd make an argument that "Wind Chimes" is as good here as the original Smile version. While that one is a meditative, mind-expansive piece, this darker, minimalist take is obsessive, almost psychotic, giving the impression that Brian is being driven insane by the wind chimes. A brilliant, but quite disturbing piece. And, of course, it does contain the BB's all time classic "Good Vibrations" and the good, if reductionist, single version of "Heroes" . But on the whole, releasing what was, on the balance, ridiculous and unfinished stuff was a major, major error on the group's part. And titling it Smiley Smile only invited comparison to -- or confusion with -- Smile, opening the door to critics' trashing their artistic credibility, from which the group has never truly recovered. Only the hardest hardcore fans can really take this album -- others should seek out "GV" and "Heroes" on compilations.

Lobster loose <lobster_loose@yahoo.com> (07.12.2001)

I have actually always been fond of Smiley Smile and the few albums released afterward not due to the actual greatness of the albums themselves, but simply because through the cluttered, horribly rushed and simplified mess I can still hear inklings, still see shadows of the creative apex and spiritual epiphany that Smile would have been. Every once in awhile (such as in the end of "Heroes and Villains" and even the last repeat of "Vegetables") a small ray of that wondrous sunshine shoots through the ugly clouds and hits me in a way I can't explain...kind of like the way Katy Lied, the Steely Dan album hits me (that one was supposed to feature some extremely well-produced musical ideas, where Becker and Fagan tried blending the whole band into a single jazzy sound, or something like that...the way I got the story, this "sound" was lost and the masters ruined when put through noise reduction systems. So B & F had to rush through an album, much in the way the Beach Boys did with Smiley Smile). It was these fragmented, all-too-short moments that heightened my curiosity and sent me on a search to find more of this wonderful endorphine-activating music.

Through a few searches on the internet I came up with proposed track listings for what would have been Smile, and after downloading the essential ingredients from bits and pieces of bootlegs and boxed sets, I was able to mix together a pretty decent home-made Smile. It's still nowhere near its FULL potential, of course, but it is truly the only music on earth that makes me feel this amazing way. I'd like to hear your review, actually, on these mix-matched Smile albums...just because you panned Smiley Smile and yet you seem to take it for it is, too - the smoldering ashes of a burnt down masterpiece.

There's a bunch of sites devoted to Smile, but you can get a pretty decent rendition of the "album" here -

http://users2.ev1.net/~bigrynz/index.html

If you haven't been there already. I'm curious to know your ratings on a much better representation of the unfinished opus.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (15.03.2002)

I don't get what everybody like(s/d) about Van Dyke Parks. They say he's immensely talented, a genius, even, but he's really just a pretentious, incomprehensible weirdo whose music is the perfect, unlistenable personification of his bizarro tendencies. I dunno what he did to make the Beach Boys' Smile so incredibly flooring a record, but whatever it was, it doesn't transcend onto Song Cycle, his first solo album, or Smiley Smile, a record where even the hits ('Heroes and Villains', 'Good Vibrations') are corrupted by meaningless experimentation. And the rest of the songs are just snippets of ideas that are either painfully bizarre and artsy or not fully formed enough. Brian Wilson goes off his rocker on record. Rock on!! Surf's Up!! Fun Fun Fun!!

Look, my basis for my rating of 5 (which has been angrily disputed by a number of my colleagues) lies in that in the long run, can you compare this to the brilliant, innovative songcraft of Pet Sounds? Naw. Not too great. "Wind Chimes", anyone? No, thank you.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (18.08.2002)

It's obviously no Smile, but it's quite enjoyable to me. Sounds like a debut album by a band that has no funding whatsoever to record an album! Despite that, "Heroes And Villians" and "Good Vibrations" are on here, which both are masterpieces. Besides those, the Smile tracks in their raw form are still enjoyable even though greatly inferior. "She's Goin' Bald" is "He Gives Speeches" with hilarious lyrics (with a few other bizarre sections), "Wonderful" is a real cool creepy version with Carl on vocals and a real weird middle section, "Wind Chimes" is equally creepy although contains some beautiful harmonies at the end, and "Vegetables"...well it's ok. The Smile version blows it too much away for me to enjoy it really. The other tracks, even though fragments of ideas or incredibly unfinished are still very good! "Little Pad" has some gorgeous humming, "Gettin' Hungry" is an absolutely awesome song that shows the way towards Wild Honey a bit, "Fall Breaks And Back To Winter" is a very bizarre but very intreguing instrumental and "Whistle In" and "With Me Tonight" are quite insignificant but good nonetheless. I give it an 8 all together. A careless, hastely put together product that sounds like a personal demo by a legendary band still is a hell of a lot better then most stuff out there today.

Michael H. <ratboymike@hotmail.com> (15.08.2003)

Smile session song's have been reportedly released on these 2 albums: SMILEY SMILE & WILD HONEY


WILD HONEY

<JPGonzo81@aol.com> (20.07.2001)

Damn fine album. Good Carl vocals on this one. This was the first time the BB's did anything R&B related(all the groups back then were all into pyschedilic music)---and off the heels of this album bands started to re-capture their roots. Consider Dylan's John Wesley Harding or the Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo or even the freakin White Album. I think unconciously the beach boys caused a shift in the musical pendulum of 1968---that would have everyone trading their day glo gibson SG for a phat fuckin 59 les paul. Thanks Beach boys. Brian kicks ass....shame on him for tokin all that hash during smile though.....he would have made something phenomenal.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (31.07.2001)

This came out at exactly the time as Magical Mystery Tour and Satanic Majesties, but it's so far removed from the prevailing sound of the time that it makes one wonder if the Beach Boys just shut off the radio after Smiley Smile. Unless they only listened to R&B stations. As the new liner notes say, most of it is so bare bones that it sounds more like a demo for a Beach Boys album than the real thing -- the title track, for example, sounds like a cruder version of "Good Vibrations." I would argue that even Smiley Smile was more elaborately produced.

But the pot smoke had evidently cleared from the studio, because the album is really very energetic, full of upbeat, straightforward performances. Even the two fragments -- "Mama Says" (lifted from the Smile version of "Vegetables") and "Country Air" are delightful, even if the latter consists of nothing but a verse. The best harmonies on the album there -- very evocative. "Darlin'" was originally intended for a group called Redwood (later 3 Dog Night) that Brian was producing, which is why it's a bit more arranged than the rest of the songs. "Let the Wind Blow" actually has a very moving spiritual lyric, but the tempo of the track is taken a bit too fast for the message to get across. It's a ballad, guys! And "How She Boogalooed it," even with Love's hopelessly dated lyrics ("S-O-C-K-I-T to me!") sung by Al (not Carl) isn't bad for a first attempt at a Brian-less song.

Capitol Records blew it a bit by not including three tracks on the reissue from the sessions that appeared of the 1983 Rarities LP. There's a superior long version of "I Was Made to Love Her" that includes a neat little doo-wopping tag before the fade that was stupidly edited out of the album version. It really gives a stronger R&B harmony feel to the thing. And there were also fun, stripped down takes of "With a Little Help form My Friends" and "The Letter" that could have been included. And, of course, mixing the album into stereo would have been nice. I know that's not what St.Brian intended, but flat mono sound just doesn't make it 34 years later.

On the whole, though, WH is really a fun, lighthearted lark that is much easier to digest now than in winter, 1967, when the rest of the rock world was on one big space cloud. But, at the same time, it was another rather abrupt shift in direction from the "high art" of Pet Sounds and Smile that was bound to confuse and alienate an audience that had much higher expectations -- and that's, unfortunately, exactly what happened.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (17.03.2002)

Some fine soul and pop grooves, although I miss the harmonies (replaced with a nice dash of swagger) just a tad. "I'd Love Just Once to See You", "Darlin'", the title track, and the Stevie Wonder cover are all just great. Has anyone ever realized that Elton John's "Have Mercy on the Criminal" ripped off the main riff of Eric Clapton's "Layla"? A high 8 for Wild Honey.

<Jcjh20@aol.com> (09.02.2003)

Really catchy, energetic, ass-kicking stuff! The melodies totally rule too. Most of the gorgeous harmonies are gone, but they're still there on a lot of songs, like "Country Air", "Here Comes The Night", "Mama Says" and "Darlin'", and they're awesome on all of them. It's an album that wasn't nessasary for the band to make at this point, but i'm still really glad they made it. The Smiley Smile/Wild Honey 2-fer stands as one of my favorite Beach Boys cds to listen to, actually. I give it a 9 overall. I really gotta agree vehemently with Bob Josef above though. The mono mix for this and Smiley Smile is actually pretty bad. Muffled, distorted and makes the album sound like a rough generated demo. Now, on the other hand, if you listen to stereo remixes of "Lonely Days" (an outtake from the sessions of this album), "Let The Wind Blow" and "Darlin'", even though they still appear minimally produced, they still sound 50x more clearer and elaborate. Why do they insist on always re-releasing these albums in mono for the reason it was "as Brian intended"!?! Brian was deaf in one ear for Christ sakes! He couldn't hear mono, so of course he intended it that way, because mono is all he heard! That's always just bothered me, mostly because i hate mono and the Beach Boys sound a lot better in stereo.

Mark (11.12.2003)

What a wonderful album. I fully understand that the San Francisco bands as well as the Beatles and the Doors were on the top of the charts, but it's such a shame that albums like this get ignored. As Brian was busy playing in his sandbox and getting high, Carl took over the production and did a damn fine job. Nice singing too. 'Let The Wind Blow' is a gorgeous song with it's "don't take her out of my life" hook. I always like 'Aren't You Glad' and it's use of horns. Darlin' actually made it to # 19 on the charts. Again, a very strong vocal from brother Carl. Finally, the title track and it's theremin instrumental hook is quite catchy. A very solid album from these guys. One that deserves a second look all these years later.

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (06.04.2004)

I sure wish the Beach Boys and their record company had dumped Smiley Smile and put "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villains" on this album. Might have saved their reputation. Unfortunately SS did its evil work, and when the record company rushed out Wild Honey it was too late.

I didn't hear this album until the early 70s when I went through a Beach Boys thing...running out and getting their albums in short notice. This is probably their best post-Smile album and maybe in their top five overall. The title cut is an attempt to follow-up "Good Vibrations" with the theremin hook. It actually comes over a little better, partly because of that heavier R& B backbeat and also because it's more unified, doesn't have all those sections.

"Aren't You Glad" has a dry close-miked sound to the vocals. The light touch reminds me of the Lovin' Spoonful for some reason.

I like the band's version of "I Was Made To Love Her" with that famous bass riff preserved underneath that dance-hall piano sound. "Country Air" has a far-off yet warm sound to the vocals, with Carl's voice turning into a rooster's crow. "A Thing or Two" I liked because guitar-based songs were becoming a rarity - I like those changes in the verses and then they go to the old surf-styled riffs under the chorus.

"I'd Love Just Once To See You" is great up to the point Brian has that stupid lyrical joke at the end.

"Darlin", "Here Comes The Night" and "Let The Wind Blow" are solid tunes - the last of these is my favorite, with the airy vocal harmonies over an ominous rumbling bass-piano riff. Overall I'd make it a 9/12.


FRIENDS

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (08.11.2001)

What few fans the band had left by this point must have been totally flummoxed by this record. Jerking around from Spectorian mini-concertos to a psychedelic breakdown to raw R&B -- and now, ultra-mellow TM influenced pop. And "Transcendental Mediation" was not a spoof -- the group (especially Mike) very earnestly embraced TM. That's a main reason the album represents the band in a very harmonious place -- although once they tried to take Friends on tour with the Maharishi, that harmony became very short lived.

In some ways, though, this is one of their least dated albums, because it very much deals with universal, more adult themes like friendship (title track), parenthood ("When A Man Need a Woman"), nature ("Little Bird," "Wake the World") and spiritual introspection. And Brian was very much involved, contrary to popular belief -- except for the two Dennis songs, Brian wrote virtually all the music, with the other group members mainly collaborating on the lyrics.

What really rescues the album from terminal boredom, though, are the great harmonies, back in full force after being relegated to the back seat after Smile. And they aren't overwhelmed by the arrangements as is the occasional case on Pet Sounds. "Be Here in the Morning" is the peak, with the dazzling twist and turns in the vocals. And I think you underrate this stuff Dennis comes up with. "Little Bird" reminds me a lot of "Penny Lane" is its melodic structure, and "Be Still" sounds like a complete statement despite being only 80 seconds long. I would have liked to see the group doing it with a big church organ and choir-type group vocals, though, instead of what is basically a solo Dennis demo.

With that exception, the album falls flat where group harmonies are absent. "BDN" is a big Brian Wilson bore; "Diamond Head" is pleasant, but kind of rambles; and if you had spent any time in an American roller skating rink in the 60's George, you'd know that "Passing By" isn't really all that interesting.

However, this record was doomed to failure because of it's ultra-mellow outlook. With the exception of 'Surfer Girl', all the group's albums head a strong rock single to lead the way, and the title track her just couldn't cut it. The album's musical and lyrical philosophies were diametrically opposed to the concerns of their peers, and new, younger folks couldn't relate to the more mature themes, leaving them in no-man's land. Which is why their next single was "Do it Again."

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (17.03.2002)

Some people don't like this album because it's too cloying or too mellow; that may be, but it only shows through on a few of the tracks (such as the bizarre musical sex talk "When a Man Needs a Woman"). Otherwise, this is an unjustly underrated album, with Brian Wilson returning to the all-out creative force of Pet Sounds within his arrangements and production style. The tuba-laden "Wake the World", the lovely "Be Still", and the delightful title track are all great tunes...pity this album is so often overlooked. A high 8 from me.

<Jcjh20@aol.com> (01.08.2002)

An absolutely fantastic album, and my 2nd favorite Beach Boys album (1st, Pet Sounds of course). The direct opposite of Pet Sounds, as Friends is concise, and minimally produced. "Busy Doin' Nothin'" and "Diamond Head" are brilliant songs that stand up to anything on Pet Sounds in my opinion. "Meant For You" is the best song i ever heard under 50 seconds. "Friends" is an underrated classic that shoulda been a hit instead of a total flop that it was. Dennis's first 2 Beach Boys songs are fantastic, and "Little Bird" fits snugly on the album and "Be Still" beautiful simplicity. I even love "Transendental Meditation"! Although you hate the vocals, i love the vocals, which makes the song for me alone. I agree it is weird they placed a song on this on such a mellow album, but i like it. A 10/10 for me.

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (09.01.2003)

I may agree on your final numbers, but we take very different paths getting there. I agree that "Passing By" is one of the best numbers, but "Busy Doin Nothing" is also a great tune. I don't find it a boring song, but a song about boredom, which Brian pulls off quite well - also good lyrics from one not usually known as a word man. The title cut is another terrific number, bringing back those days of hanging out with your buddies as summer seems to be drawing to a close, and you're leaning against your car and saying, "I dunno, what do you feel like doin?"

Seems like a lot of this album is about boredom, come to think of it. On the other hand, I really can't stomach that falsetto in "Be Here In The Morning." That and "When A Man Needs A Woman" are signs of that later embarrassment in lyrics, The Beach Boys Love You.


STACK-O-TRACKS

<MOWRY99@aol.com> (21.07.2004)

You know, I've been waiting to buy this record for 30 years (really). I'm going through a twenty-second childhood and I'm digging the Beach Boys majorly these days, hearing them through a set of fresh, yet aging, ears. 'Sloop John B' sends chills up my spine. Little symphonies, indeed. 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' is a soundtrack for all the yearnings I've ever had. Yes, Nancy, that would still mean you. This is more than nostalgia; it's an opportunity to hear the uncluttered melodies of songs whose lyrics are encoded in my brain. Lyrics which mean so much less than this music.  The tic-toc percussion of 'God Only Knows' is chilling. Who heard it this way before?

Sure, there's some dreck to wade through. 'Little Saint Nick' is a yawn. 'Little Honda' is four cylinder craft. 'Here Today', however, is powerful. It rockets up ascending scales and achieves a celestial orbit. My, I love this record. Even some of the old stuff offers a vibrantly minimalist groove. 'You're so Good to me', 'In My Room' and 'Surfer Girl' are wordless voyages to simple places that should not be forgotten.

Unjustly mocked for years, this record is an important part of the Beach Boys catalog. Man, I wish Rhino would be out a Stack-O-Tracks version of Love's Forever Changes. But that's another trip entirely.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (25.04.2006)

OK, it was a ridiculous marketing move on Capitol's part. Why would they think anyone would care in 1968? But it is, nowadays, fun for the group's hardcore fans. The most interesting thing to do is to program the songs in chronological order, starting with "Surfer Girl" and ending with "Do It Again". It's really informative to see how simply Brian's arrangements started out so simply and how they progressed rapidly over time, culminating in the complexity of Pet Sounds, and then shifting down to the basics for "Wild Honey", "Darlin' " and "Do it Again". It is weird at first to hear these songs as instrumentals, but great if you're really into the band.

Of course, there can be too much of a good thing, with the boxed set ("Good Vibrations", "Cabinessence"), the Hawthorne, CA anthology ("Fun, Fun, Fun", "Surfin' USA", "Sail on Sailor") and The Pet Sounds Sessions (the entire album!!) carrying the concept to a ridiculous extreme. Enough is usually enough!


20/20

Burkhard Leitner <BURKHARD@gmx.at> (08.08.2001)

The 20th album of the Beach Boys in just seven years, and as you mentioned, it must have been put together hastily. I think beside of the two perfect classics "Do it again" and "I can hear music" it contains just one more jewel: "Time to get alone" - An older number from Brian Wilson (there exists an alternative version from the times of Wild Honey). Waltz rhythm, a wonderful melody, very personal lyrics - a great lovesong!

There´s a song they released after 20/20 as a single, and which is fortunately a bonus track on the CD:

"Breakaway" - This song really takes my breath away, whenever I listen to it. It's an outstanding production from the first to the last bar, only to compare with "Good Vibrations". A mini-symphony in three pieces, with superb instrumentation (castanets, flute, saxes, acoustic guitar, a very cool sounding piano,etc.) and an unbelievable vocal-arrangement.

I'll never understand that this song flopped as one of their lowest charted singles, but I understand the frustration that they must have felt after that.

Both songs feature Carl as lead singer, and he did an excellent job on that.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (29.11.2001)

The musical zigzagging the band had done since Pet Sounds finally broke down here, with each track created by different teams of writers and/or producers within the group. And considering that three of the songs are leftovers from 1967; three more are covers; two more ("Do it Again," "I Went to Sleep") were recorded just as Friends was released in June '68; and the rest were recorded in a two week rush prior to heading to the UK for a tour in November '68 -- 20/20 is a surprisingly good album. What it lacks in unity it more than makes up in diversity.

I think of it as the band's Revolver -- different group members working in different styles, but still somehow giving the impression that they are still working as a collective (although that illusion was probably due to engineer Stephen Desper's mix more than anything else). My least favorites here are Bruce's sappy instrumental, which is too obvious an attempt of a sequel to "Let's Go Away for Awhile" (...to "The Nearest Faraway Place" --that title can't be a coincidence); and "Bluebirds", which sounds like "Aren't You Glad?" with an extremely clumsy psychedelic guitar solo overdubbed (the version on Live in London is a lot better, with Carter's guitar much more toned down).

"Cottonfields" is a nice track, but the subsequent 1970 single version (which should have been a bonus track) produced by Al is more fun -- more upbeat and rocking. Which, I agree, leaves "I Can Hear Music" as the best cover. The vocals are just mindboggling, especially on the acapella bridge. Carl is also credited as producer on Brian's "Time to Get Alone," but that's not quite true. Carl took the backing track to the not quite finished original Brian did with Redwood in 1967 (found on Three Dog Night's Celebrate anthology), erased their vocals, and overdubbed the Beach Boys. Which is why it sounds very much at home next to Smile's "Our Prayer" and "Cabinessence," the latter of which is just a totally unique song.

"I Went to Sleep," on the other hand, is really a trifle that belonged on Friends, but it's kind of pretty. "Break Away" and Dennis's powerful "Celebrate the News," however, are the first of a series of stunning tracks that the Beach Boys would record in 1969 and 1970 that would culminate in Sunflower, with increasingly sophisticated vocals and production. And while it's obvious that "We're Together Again" and "Old Man River" could have used a few overdubs, they are nice to have as bonus tracks.

Dennis' other three tracks aren't quite up to the standard of "Celebrate the News",but they're up there. "Be With Me" is the first of his sweeping orchestral things which would reach a peak a few years later. "Never Learn Not to Love," the infamous (uncredited) co-write with Charles Manson, uses the Beach Boys' harmony in a dark, creepy way which has its only precedent in "Wind Chimes," but it's great. And as far "All I Want to Do" is concerned, I find Mike's vocals a bit gruff and flat (he sings it better on a live version on the Rarities album, an outtake from Live in London), but it's the best rock number on the album. The guitar is much tighter than on "Bluebirds." As for the sex noises on the fadeout, they are authentic. Dennis hired a hooker off the street and had Desper record them in action. But Dennis was unsatisfied with the results (vocally, anyway) and had Desper overdub a second "take." Sometimes, attention to detail can go a little too far...

Joe H. <jcjh@home.com> (23.02.2002)

Great album. Id give it a 9 out of 10. A lot of really great songs ("Do It Again", "Cabinessence" which is a old Smile track, "I Went To Sleep" and especially "I Can Hear Music"). I love "Never Learn Not To Love" as well, and surprizingly, its a Charles Manson song! Dennis changed some stuff though, of course, and Manson went uncredited for i suppose obvious reasons. I heard he wasn't too happy bout that.

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (18.03.2002)

On the contrary, I think this album is a disappointing, uneven, sub-par hodgepodge whose contractual obligation status shows through its sub-par songwriting. (And I'm not even going to lose my cool!) The unfortunate moments mainly come with the members-who-are-not-Brian-Wilson (the MWANBW, for short)'s slowly flowering songwriting, and Dennis Wilson's dumb rockers, Bruce Johnston's cloying ballads and symphonic works, and Carl Wilson's clumsy Phil Spector tribute are what makes 20/20 such a rocky listen. The best songs are the fine single "Do it Again" and the lush, B.W.-penned "Time to Get Alone", although of particular interest is the irritatingly bizarre Smile outtake ("Cabinessence") and the spooky (if you know that it's) Charles Manson-penned "Never Learn Not to Love", previously titled "Cease to Exist" (ooh...shudder). A low 6.

Mark Corbett <mark.corbett@ctsu.ox.ac.uk> (02.05.2002)

This album contains some of the most soothing and beguiling music Brian Wilson ever wrote. The main problem with 20/20 is that Brian's songs are so good the other songs are put in the shade (despite the fact that they're good songs) and they therefore sound out of place, particularly the covers. The Beach Boys had developed an irritating knack for placing square pegs in round holes: 'Transcendental meditation' (Friends), 'California' (Holland) and 'Student Demonstration Time' (Surf's Up) being the most obvious examples.

Here's why I like Brian's 20/20 songs so much:

'I Went to Sleep' (recorded during the Friends sessions) is a wonderful piece of anodyne music - one that never fails to free me of stress. Just close your eyes and think of lazy summer days. The a cappella mix on the Hawthorne CA CD is a real treat too. A miniature masterpiece. Oh, and listen out for the snoring!

'Our Prayer' has been perfectly described as "an exquisite exercise in celestial wordless harmony"; it may only be a minute long, but what a minute! I was fortunate enough to see one of Brian Wilson's recent London shows - the quite breathtaking versions of 'Our Prayer' and 'Please Let Me Wonder' were the highlights.

What can I say about 'cabinessence' that would do it justice? It's a quite stunning and extraordinary piece of pop music, certainly one of Brian's very best creations. The Good Vibrations box set contains the backing track (in isolation) which is both weird and beautiful! From listening to this, and the Pet Sounds box set, I soon realised that some of Brian's best music is hidden in the rich production of the final mixes. You'll discover tunes within tunes. The 20/20 version of 'cabinessence' is the one recorded for Smile, with some new vocals added from Dennis and Carl (Dennis:"Right there is my biggest turn on"). This album is well worth buying for this song alone.

'Time to get Alone' is a deeply gorgeous song: from Carl's heartfelt opening lines, the amazing "ooooooo-get alo-oooooone" harmonies, the magical middle section, through to the majestic strings added for the final chorus, it's a song bursting at the seams with great melodies. The Hawthorne CA alternate take has a clearer, fuller sound, and boasts an a cappella ending of those ghostly background harmonies - it was only after hearing this that I realised just how good they were.

'Do it Again' (which reached number 1 in the UK) is the only song on the album in mono. Apparently, Capitol Records lost the master tape when compiling the Stack-o-Tracks LP. An engineer had made a copy but, well, you can judge the sound quality for yourself. I'd give the song 9/10 and the sound quality 2/10. A real shame.

Michael H. <ratboymike@hotmail.com> (15.08.2003)

"Never Learn Not To Love" is a re-write of a Charles Manson song "Ceast to Exist".

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (06.04.2004)

Hey, I like that guitar on "Bluebirds Over Mountain!" Quite unique for a Beach Boys record. But I gotta stop reading these reviews. I'd rather pretend it's Carl playing lead on "Bluebirds Over Mountain" and there aren't any sex noises on "All I Want To Do." (I already knew about Charles Manson's "Cease To Exist" being on the album.)

"Do It Again" wins the prize as best cut on the album for me. It's too bad the uptempo guitar-based stuff became so rare on Beach Boys records in the post- Smile era, particularly when you consider their live show was still very heavy on guitars.

"I Can Hear Music" is good run at the Spector sound from Carl. Same warm sound as with "Country Air." "Cottonfields" may not have the grit of CCR's version, but I like this one better.

"Our Prayer" is one of the best harmony pieces the group ever did.

"Cabinessence" was one of the Wilson - Van Dyke Parks songs where Mike Love questioned VDP about the lyrics - what does "over and over, the crow cries uncover the cornfield" mean, huh? (nonetheless Mike dutifully sings it.) The bass on the vinyl side almost made the needle shake when I'd play it.

Lots of good stuff on this album, which was kind of a house-cleaning for Capitol Records of Beach Boys material still in the can as ther contract was up. The only true stinker is Bruce Johnston's syrupy muzak piece. I only have the vinyl version, but I have heard "Breakaway" which was supposedly co-authored by Murry Wilson. Despite the involvement of Murry, a child abuser by Brian's account, it's pretty good. Um, give it another 9/12.


LIVE IN LONDON

Steven Knowlton <knowstev@med.umich.edu> (28.05.2002)

I saw a video of the Beach Boys performing "Good Vibrations" live around the time of Live in London, and it appears that the theremin line is not a theremin on stage, but instead a lap steel guitar played by Mike Love.

<DebNMarkW@aol.com> (05.12.2003)

A very good live album, and one I've put on over the years more than Beach Boys Concert. That is, until Capital put them together. My only disapointment over this record is that Dennis didn't sing any lead vocals. Maybe he did and they were left off during the editing process. Dennis to me was my favorite member of the group and one whose talents were extremely underrated. His drumming on this album is superb, he also learned to play a pretty decent piano, and he was writing some beautiful songs. The Beach Boys were putting out really good albums such as Friends and Wild Honey and being virtually ignored...except in Europe. The boys do a good job handling Brian's lead parts and Carl had an absolutely angelic voice. 'God Only Knows' and it's rich harmonies are well done live. 'Do It Again' truly benefits from a live setting with a spirited lead vocal from Mike Love. Just a quick side note...George is right. Mike Love's jokes are corny and stupid. Leave the comedy to professionals. You're not funny. Brian's falsetto part on 'Do It Again' is done very cleverly by the horn section. This is a decent live album from the boys before they became a nostalgia act.

Brian Donovan <railguitar@comcast.net> (18.12.2005)

This is a good live album, and it would be better if someone had taken the time to edit out Mike's idiotic and insulting stage patter. Oh well... A big reason I like this is the rhythm section, it really has a powerhouse sound and presence not found on the other BBs live albums. The boys were into getting a good R&B sound, and especially on "Darlin" and "Aren't You Glad" they sound like The Rascals (one of the all time great blue-eyed soul bands, but I could go on and on about them, so I won't).

I also like the intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and also "Do It Again." My only quibble with "Do It Again" is I'd like the lead guitar solo to be louder, but other than that it's terrific. "Barbara Ann" is another loud fast take that beats the studio version all hollow.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (04.05.2006)

A very solid live album. Adding a horn section, Ed Carter on guitars and bass, and Daryl Dragon on additional keyboards, allows the live sound to be much fuller, closer to Brian's studio arrangements. Mike's patter between songs is pretty goofy, but at least it's not as juvenile as on Concert. I actually think that some of the songs sound better than the originals. "Bluebirds.." was never a great song, but at least Carter's guitar is turned down to a more appropriate level. "Barbara Ann" sounds better with a bigger arrangement, too, although it's clear the band never took the song all that seriously. "Aren't You Glad," to me, is the peak. The original sounds like a demo for this version, with really good rhythm session work, full horns and great vocals. Two outtakes, so to speak, have surfaced. The Endless Harmony collection has a rehearsal for "Good Vibrations," which sounds the same, except with no audience. Mike actually played a Moog to get the theremin sound. The Rarities album had a performance of "All I Want to Do" from another show on the tour, which is pretty good, although it fades out before Dennis gets to do his sex sounds (actually, the tape ran out.) As for Lei'd in Hawaii -- it was actually supposed to be a TV special as well as a live album. However, "Heroes and Villains" notwithstanding, the performances were evidently so crummy that the album couldn't be released. The American Band has footage of the band doing "God Only Knows", but it was so terrible that they overdubbed the Live in London version on top! Two of the rehearsal performances have shown up, Smiley Smile-esque versions of "Surfer Girl" (on the boxed set) and "Good Vibrations" (on Hawthorne, CA). These aren't too bad, which makes me wonder what happened during the actual concerts. Besides, do you think they actually could have gotten away with the pun in the title in 1967?


SUNFLOWER

<Dougaclimber12@aol.com> (24.02.2001)

(This is a message from one of the die hard Beach Boy fans mentioned in your review of Sunflower. Though I doubt my commentary can dissuade you from your rating this album an 11, I would like to provide a counterpoint review reflecting on your own and pointing out why this album is so good.)

My Record Rating: 10 (definitely one of the Beach Boys best) My Overall: 13 (There are a few flawed moments on this record. However, they are only just that, moments. There isn't a bad song to be found anywhere.)

The Beach Boys album Sunflower has long been a lost gem of the band's catalogue. After it bombed in mid-1970, their record company simply refused to continue pressing it, and it disappeared from pop history from over 25 years with only a few critic's raves to remind us of its existance in the first place. Thank God for the reissue which has saved this would be soft rock classic from total obscurity. Some people, of course, have criticized this album as an uninfluential, ultimately unimpressive piece of flower pop, but these critics entirely miss the point. This isn't and album about innovation. It's an album about maturity and the band member's individual growth. It's also an album in which the Beach Boys effortlessly create a new style for themselves (contrary to your review, this sounds nothing like the band's earlier surf bubble gum) which weaves together rockabilly, doo-wop, R&B, Gospel, and that certain child like pop quirkiness which was the group's trademark. From the beginning of Sunflower, it is clear that all the band's song writing members are sitting comfortably at the top of their game. Here is a song by song run down:

1. "Slip On Through"- Dennis's hard hitting personality and R&B roots come through loud and clear on this number. Great syncopated rhythm and glowing background harmonies coupled with a wildly over the top delivery start the album out on a high point.

2. "This Whole World"- Brian's effortless piece of first rate doo-wop. The trippy lyrics aren't bad either ("you are there, like everywhere, like everyone you see/happy cause your living and your free").

3."Add Some Music To Your Day"- I have no idea why you dislike this song George. Sure it's a little slow in some places, but I'd hardly call it a stinker. Just a pleasant, laid back celebration of the many ways music betters people's lives. Lighten up and enjoy!

4."Got to Know the Woman"- Another rocker from Dennis. Cool bluesy singing with Gospel background and a sense of humor to boot (a tribute to the Big Bopper perhaps?). Great stuff.

5. "Deirdre"- This is Bruce Johnson's first song on the album and it's a wonderful piece of lighter than air pop. The harmony singing in the chorus is particularly beautiful and I love that flute line!

6. "It's About Time"- A real forgotten masterpiece of the band's catalogue. Again, Dennis injects a hard rocking edge into this song which seems at once ferocious and confessional. The explosive freakout at the end rocks and rocks hard.

7."Tears in the Morning"- Admittedly, this is probably the weakest song on the album due to that accordian playing. However, it still isn't bad, just mediocre. Besides, the piano part at the end is lovely and manages a very real sense of melancholy.

8."All I Wanna Do"- Another masterpiece. Weird, echoey vocals and bizzarre, slightly disjointed harmonies make this the band's most convincing excursion into psychedelia. Those synths in the background which seem to repeat the word "do" over and over again are very eerie.

9."Forever"- Dennis's straight from the heart, clapton-esque ballad. What else can you say? Simple, yet very moving and resonant.

10."Our Sweet Love"- Another piece of lighter than air pop from Brian with lovely string arrangements and sweet lyrics. Really beautiful right up to the fade.

11."At My Window"- Commonly regarded as the only true stinker on the record by many fans, this actually isn't that bad. The voice over is a little unnerving (not only does Brian think the birds are talking to him, he thinks their talking in french ). However, this is just a typically innocent number at heart with sweet child like singing and a haunting fade.

12. "Cool, Cool Water"- An astonishing final song which starts out as a silly commercial jingle, turns into the haunting "Water Chant" of SMiLE's Elements Suite, then reverts back to a slightly slower jingle which seems somehow like a meditation and is backed by quirky "dripping" synth lines. The perfect track to end on.

All in all, Sunflower is an album which holds out excellently both as a cycle of original songs and a whole album. What flaws do exist are so tiny that they are practically invisible, even after repeated listenings.

Finally, this album features one of the best productions of all the Beach Boys' catalogue. Both voices and instruments are somehow compressed, creating a lovely shimmering quality which helps the music flow with an incredable fluid grace rather than the baroque orchestration of Pet Sounds. Even more amazing, the vocal harmonies often seem to come from varying distances and sometimes fly at the listener from all directions at once. To rate this carefully crafted pop beauty a mere 11 along with such company as Zappa's Absolutely Free (a severely underproduced, noisey, sometimes obnoxious, and only sporadically funny record) isn't just wrong, it's downright criminal.

Ultimately, Sunflower is unquestionably a record which all Beach Boys should have. It remains, like a snapshot of the band at their zenith comfortable with themselves, eachother, and their music before the long plunge downward. As "It's About Time" states, "I used to be a famous artist, proud as I could be/struggling to express myself for the whole world to see/...little did I know the joy i was to find in knowing I am only me".

Didier Dumonteil <dbdumonteil@wanadoo.fr> (25.02.2001)

It's about time people began to realize that theBB it's not only pet sounds.Sunflower was reissued last year with surf's up for a price of on!Some companies aren't tight-fisted at all!

Sunflower can boast at least 4 classics:

-this whole world and add some music to your day:the songs you can play when you 're waking  up and it's haaard! they are brimming with glee,you'll overjoyed everytime you play them.Ditto for our sweet love.

-and then there's forever:as strong a ballad to rival the best of Abbey road ,that means a lot!It almost makes you cry.

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (25.02.2001)

I always figured "Cool Cool Water" was a Smile outtake, originally intended by Brian and Van Dyke Parks to be part of a suite on the Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water). I really liked Sunflower when I got it in the 70s: "This Whole World" is one of Brian's best numbers, and a throwback to his early 60s style. Another number I loved was "All I Wanna Do" with that big echoey wall-of-sound. "Forever" is probably the strongest Dennis Wilson song; I think they played it at his funeral.

According to W&A and others this album was originally to be called Add Some Music To Your Day but was rejected by Warner Brothers. Landlocked may have been another rejected effort that morphed into Surf's Up.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (26.02.2001)

This is the album Friends should have been. Like Friends, Sunflower is full of the harmonious family vibe that was part of that album's appeal. But unlike Friends, this album contains a bunch of strong uptempo numbers that balance out the ballads. Furthermore, although both Friends and 20/20 were in produced in stereo, Sunflower is the first Beach Boys album to full take advantage of stereo. Incredible, full-bodied production, the strongest since Pet Sounds. This culminates in "Cool Cool Water," which, unsurprisingly, has its roots in a never completed Smile track, "I Love to say Da-Da." I love the little Moog synth droplets, in particular.

I pretty much agree with your assessment of the songs, George. Although I love "Add Some Music" -- it's got a great Brian Wilson keyboard hook, and I like the way they keep switching the lead vocal so that everyone (except Dennis) gets a turn. Bruce, as usual for him, puts in two numbers that are incredibly schmaltzy, even by Beach Boys standards, and his lead on "At my Window" only adds to its overcutesiness. And while you say that "Our Sweet Love" has that Pet Sounds vibe, to me, "All I Wanna Do" sounds more like it would belongs in 1966, with that echo effect on Mike's lovely lead vocal. Dennis hit a new peak, of course -- his stuff can't be praised enough. The album deserved more success, but it was way too mellow and down-to-earth for the Volunteers/Woodstock crowd. It's a lot easier to appreciate it 30 years removed from the musical politics of the time.

<Dudefile@aol.com> (25.03.2001)

I agree and I disagree. On one hand, I understand what you mean when you say this record isn't exactly a work of genius, though it certainly is a very competent piece of upbeat pop music. However, like one of the earlier commentators, I too think it deserves to be rated higher than Surf's Up for a few very important reasons.

First, this is definitely a more self assured record than Surf's Up was, and it shows in the sound. Unlike Surf's Up, none of the lyrics sound forced or contrived to fit the era of political turbulance that was the early 70's. Second, when the fillerish tracks do show up, they are still listenable and excusable in the album's context, and there are no tracks approaching the sheer awfulness of "Don't Go Near The Water" and "Student Demonstration Time" which pollute Surf's Up. Finally, the production of Sunflower in general is slightly clearer than that of Surf's Up which is a bit synth heavy in places and seems infected by a strange blue murk. Once again, thank you for your time.

Paul Mamolou <pmamolou@home.com> (26.04.2001)

I would just like to ask how 'Cool Cool Water' got the best track spot for this album? Its not a bad song but there are at least 4 better songs:(best first)

1. This Whole World

2. Forever

3. Our Sweet Love (these First three our just about equal to me)

4. Add Some Music

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (20.03.2002)

A formal comment about Sunflower, the album on which Mike Love wins a "frightening spiritual conversion" award for his appearance (ahem, ahem): While it still retains the somewhat slight quality and cloying mellowness of previous records like Friends and 20/20, Sunflower makes up for these detractors in lovely, engrossing arrangements and solid songwriting. The album is a huge improvement over previous missteps, mainly because lesser members of the band (Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston) have become more assured in their writing, as with Johnston's soaring "Deirdre" and "Tears in the Morning", two of the LP's highlights. Sunflower also harkened a return by the band to the lush, creative production styles of the landmark Pet Sounds, a trait that helps carry such structurally middling tunes as "Our Sweet Love" and "All I Wanna Do". In the end, the only missteps come courtesy of Dennis, who delivers a too-traditionalist pair of pop tunes in "Got to Know the Woman" and "Forever", and Mike Love, whose newfound spiritual side results in the dull, disengaging sound collage "Cool Cool Water". An 8 out of 10.

Niklas Strömberg <niklas.stromberg@gavle.to> (16.07.2004)

I just want to say that I would turn "Add Some Music to Your Day" to a grey rating and "Slip on through", "Tears in the Morning" and "Our Sweet Love" to a red and all of a sudden you have a record with an overall rating of 13... :-)

David Moses <DMoses_69@yahoo.co.uk> (08.12.2005)

I have to disagree with the scorn placed on 'tears in the morning'. Next to 'forever' it is my favourite track on here and I find the melody absolutely beautiful. I also believe 'add some music' is a great track. The main difference on this album is that Mike, as far as i can see, only sings one lead vocal, 'All I wanna do'. The main vocalist here is Dennis. the others also chime in. I never really thought much of Mike's voice. He was suited to less melody and more groove. Dennis demonstrates he can rock and do ballads. I have yet really to see an obvious show of talent from Mike, although i think 'Sumahama' is a lovely song. As for Bruce being called 'Schmaltzy', he is my favourite of the Beach Boys! Controversial, but somebody has to like him!!

Tim Blake (03.08.2006)

Oddly enough, having heard a reasonable amount of Beach Boys (mainly Pet Sounds, Surf's Up, Smiley Smile and Smile in various forms), I cannot think of an album of theirs that at all surpasses the beauty of Sunflower. As far as I can tell, it's one of those under-the-radar albums by a major artist that no one has noticed, and then people are like 'wow it must be a long lost masterpiece!', than of course since it had little originality or innovation and impact, debunk that idea and call it average, or just good.

I can't really do that because this is definitely the most beautiful BB album, the most (successfully) diverse I've heard, and the songs are brilliant! I know you couldn't very well call this the Beach Boy's masterpiece, but I seriously think it is better than Pet Sounds. Pet Sounds has it beat mainly in it's historical context, and also extremely consistent quality, but it is certainly more monotonous, predictable and lacks diversity. Of course, every song on Pet Sounds is a complete classic in itself, but as an album it tends to bore. I know, I know, historically speaking it can't be beat for when it came along and what it achieved, but if I take a bird's eye view I think Sunflower is the superior album. It's simply got a lot more to it. And Surf's Up is a good one, but far too much a retread of Sunflower and also lacking it's consistency of quality.

In criticism though, the second half of the album takes a slide in interesting. I mean, it's a barrage of quality at the start. 'Slip On Through', 'This Whole World', 'Add Some Music To Your Day' (wtf? do you hate this song just because it's by Mike Love? Seems that way, it's totally one of the best BB songs bar none! you've got a real thing for rating BBs down JUST because Mike Love was in the group...not fair at all, though he was the weakest link). This is Mike Love's best song, and it's really good. 'Got To Know The Woman', 'Deirdre', 'It's About Time'. Awesome song after awesome song just rolls out. 'Tears In The Morning', 'All I Wanna Do'...more greatness!

I find it hard to deny that this is the best Beach Boys album. Saying it is Pet Sounds is far too easy, and in a way kind of narrow-minded. Pet Sounds is pure brilliance, but it's pure monotonous brilliance. It's constricted by it's own stylistic limitations, I mean the Beatles did way more. Sunflower is a diverse ray of sunshine kind of thing that will put a smile on your face and wow you with it's diversity, melodic integrity and great atmosphere. It's definitely an album that could beat the Beatles at their own game.


SURF'S UP

Martin Teller <mteller@teleport.com> (27.02.2001)

I think the cover is supposed to be Don Quixote. [Well, yes, I think so too. But WHY? - G.S.]

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (27.02.2001)

This is yet another of the Beach Boys' roller coaster albums with some of their best and worst tunes on the same record.

"Surf's Up" knocked me out the first time I heard it, and it's the second best number on the record. The best one is "Til I die" though, probably the best thing Brian did in the entire 70s decade. I highly recommend the version Brian cut in the 90s for the video "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times." The end of a side two seemed to be the group's place for Smile numbers. "Mama Says" off Wild Honey, "Our Prayer" and "Cabinessence" from 20-20, "Cool Cool Water" from Sunflower, and "Surf's Up" were Smile tunes.

The Beach Boys used to do "Riot In Cell Block #9" in concert and they would have been wise to stick to the original. Jack Reilley, their manager at the time, was hot to give them a contemporary activist image, hence all the "ecology" lyrics. Reilley was apparently a kind of con man who misrepresented himself as an NBC newsman and crowbarred his way into the fold - he separated from the group after their Holland adventure. By the way, I think Van Dyke Parks has a vocal part toward the end of "A Day In The Life of a Tree."

Carl's numbers are great, it's a pity he wasn't able to sustain their quality in subsequent albums. How'd he get Charles Lloyd to play with the Beach Boys I wonder?

Al's "Welfare Song" is passable, but the other two Jardine-Love tunes are terrible. Actually just about all the Jardine-Love compositions during the 70s were bad. Not a good advertisement for TM at all.

Didier Dumonteil <dbdumonteil@wanadoo.fr> (27.02.2001)

IMHO,the moment of truth.Is surf'sup better than pets sounds?Don't laugh!Once upon a time there was an album called sgt pepper's.this album was so beautiful one should never have thought of comparing it with white album or Abbey road.These latter albums were panned ,the first by the TIMES in 1968 ,the second by Ed Ward in rolling stone in 1969("side two is a disaster")And now beatles fans are numerous to think,and I'm one of them ,that SGt Pepper's is not THE Beatles' album for everyone.On the biggest poll ever done,the virgin one,it takes a back seat to Revolver.

Now back to the BB . Their main problem ,lack of diversity,underlined by the webmaster ,find some kind of solution here."don't go near the water" is the BB's "happiness is a warm gun":3 melodies woven in a splendid vocal feast.As for lookin' at tomorrow,it displays a strong Beatles influence ,not a bad thing,because it has the incomparable white album feel:the "haunted" sound of "cry baby cry".RELATIVELY SPEAKING,it's almost the BB 's white album.I say "almost because when it comes to something really heavy (student demonstration time),it's the BB 's downfall.Helter skelter or birthday or yer blues,they can't do definitely.On the white album,the B. could do anything.

But listen to "disney girls" and you'll be overwhelmed by waves of nostalgia and you won't know why.Ditto for "a day in the life of a tree".Do the five first words of the title remind you of something?BUt the melody is gorgeous and catches you from beginning to end.The title track is a return to the complexities of the mid-sixties ;actually it's a collage of bits of this era,and it works quite well.Don't overlook this album(and holland) when you pronounce the BB artistically dead after 1966.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (12.03.2001)

I like this one a lot, despite it's problems. I suspect that Dennis is nowhere to be found here. As would happen in 1980, no songs, no lead vocals, and not photographed with the other band members at the recording sessions. Which is incomprehensible, given the strength of his stuff on Sunflower. One unused track, "Fourth of July," indicates that's Dennis' melodic strengths had not disappeared all of a sudden.

As for Brian, evidently the commercial failure of Sunflower caused him to retreat again. "Until I Die" had been recorded over a year before the album's release, and of course "Surf's Up" was from Smile. Which left "Tree" the only new BW song. Despite the lovely organ/recorders arrangement, Rieley's voice totally sinks the track. And it was BW's idea to use him, which totally disproves the "drugs-enhances-creativity theory." Dennis would have been the perfect lead voice for this -- he would have been able to convey the feel Brian wanted while actually being able to sing in tune.

But the other two songs are real BW masterpieces. "Until I Die" is a really powerful statement, with beautiful vocals. And with a stronger production, the title track could have been the Beach Boys's "A Day in the Life." But it's underproduced, because Brian opposed its release, and Carl had to edit it together from three sources (a 1966 backing track overdubbed with a 1971 lead voice, a 1966 demo, and 1971 re-recording of the "Child is Father to the Man" fragment). Too bad it didn't get what it deserved.

As for the rest of the songs, Carl did put a game effort in putting them together. "Long Promised Road" was a big surprise when I first played the album -- I had heard it on the radio and had no idea it was the Beach Boys. That and "Feel Flows" could have been a great launching pad for a very cool "prog/pop" direction for the band. (The Moody Blues, for instance, borrowed more than a little from the Boys.) Al's stuff gets unjustly trashed '-- "Feet" is silly, but no more so than anything on Friends, and "Looking at Tomorrow" isn't a bad protest piece. The main problem with Mike Love is his lyrics -- "Don''t Go Near the Water" has a good melody supplied by Al; and I don't agree that the Beach Boys couldn't pull off a tough rocker -- "SDT" rules in terms of production. I agree it would have been better to stick with the original "Riot in Cell Block 9," which the Beach Boys had been performing live. And finally, Bruce comes up with his best song EVER with "Disney Girls" -- very touching, great, great harmonies, and devoid of his usual sugar overdose. I like the way his backwards-glancing nostalgia contrasts with the forward-looking themes of the rest of the song.

The album was, and deserved to be, the biggest success since Wild Honey, but it didn't take long for them to screw up the momentum this release brought them.

<Klippspringer@aol.com> (25.01.2002)

great record. their masterpiece. the whole year 1971 was full of ideas and experiments in popmusic (no matter if it was rock, folk, soul, funk, jazz, electronics or even preHipHop)

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (22.03.2002)

A damn fine album, and it's a wonder it isn't hailed as the band's second classic. Hell, it's the group's Sgt. Pepper, really, a collection of exceptional pop, brimming with ideas and winning the whole way through. Seriously.

I don't see how people can't be thoroughly amazed at how the Boys have come as songwriters and visionaries at this point, but for some reason, they don't. Only Al Jardine, in my mind, offers some low points, but the most exceptionally crafted low points of the group's career: "Take a Load Off Your Feet" and "Don't Go Near the Water"--cloying, oui, but nice, and isn't it a wonderful slice of irony that an album called Surf's Up starts out with a song entitled "Don't Go Near the Water". Otherwise, everything sparkles--hell, I even think that "Student Demonstration Time" is a great bit of zany fun. It's great that Dennis is gone here, so he can't mar the record with any sub-par rockers or ballads. Bruce Johnston is at his best ever with the great "Disney Girls (1957)", my pick for the record's highlight, while Carl proves as great a songwriter as a singer with "Long Promised Road" and the groovy "Free Flowe"--a classic as well. I'm not even in need of mentioning Brian Wilson's unsurpassed baroque-pop masterpieces on this album...but it's all great. So exceptionally great.

In the end, this remains one of my favorite albums of all time, if not one of the best O.A.T. (Hey! That acronym would be BOAT! What a coincidence!). So while Surf's Up is not a BOAT, it's the Boys' second best IMHO, and deserves to be investigated. Please.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (10.08.2002)

Hmm, well, seems like you don't like this album too much (or the Beach Boys overall, for that matter) but i really enjoy this album. I'd give it about an 8.5/10. The title track is an absolute masterpiece as far as i'm concerned. One of the best damned songs Brian ever written. It sounds like "weirdness for weirdness sake" mostly because the rest of the band tryed to resurrect the song in 1971 for the album's release even though the song was drastically unfinished. They took the backing track done in 1966 for the first part, added Carl's vocals from 1971, added a part of a demo Brian did of the song for the second part, and re-recorded "Child Is The Father Of The Man" from Smile. Even though the song could of even been better if it was finished in 1966-1967, i still think it's a masterpiece of a song. Especially the "Child Is The Father Of The Man" bit. What breathtaking harmonies... "Til I Die", "Feel Flows", "Long Promised Road" (reminds me of the Wild Honey style) and Bruce's best Beach Boys song "Disney Girls" are all awesome as well. "Dont Go Near The Water" has a beautiful ending part, "A Day In The Life Of A Tree" is very nice but i really wish Brian or Dennis sang it instead of Jack Rieley, "Take A Load Off Your Feet" is catchily cute, and "Looking At Tommorrow" is a cool dark acoustic tune. "Student Demonstration Time" does suck indeed though. I disagree that the Beach Boys couldnt write a decent rocker. "All I Want To Do" is fuckin' awesome! So at least Dennis could! Brian wrote a lot of great ones too if you ask me.

David <davi@euskalnet.net> (14.10.2002)

I've read that the cover is a copy of a famous sculpture, "The end of the trail" by James Earl Fraser, which symbolizes the extermination of the native americans. By the way, I prefer 20/20 and Holland, but except 'Student Demonstration Time', the record is not bad. 'Till I die' being my favorite, close comes 'Surf's up', and I like 'Lookin at tomorrow' (a welfare song (although I prefer the 'Welfare' one by Carole King).


CARL AND THE PASSIONS/SO TOUGH

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (27.08.2002)

An underrated album. It's a pity that Brian can't be heard at all on this album (unless he plays piano or bass or whatever). "Marcella" is a classic and really should of been a hit. "You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone" is also a really great tune. Dennis's 2 songs are absolutely beautiful, especially "Cuddle Up", which is one of his best songs ever. "All This Is That" is an amazing song for not being written by Brian. I love the end part with Carl's beautiful vocal. "Here She Comes" and "Hold On Dear Brother" isn't good compared to the other songs on the record, as those guys Ricky and Blondie could never write a song nearly as good as any of the guys in the Beach Boys (i'm not a fan of Blondie's or Ricky's voice either) and "He Came Down" could of been better. Overall i give it an 8.

<RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (17.04.2004)

This was the album that was packaged as a "two-fer" with Pet Sounds by the record company. Talk about an uneven match.

As you would suspect, Brian's material stands way out, the rest is forgettable. "Marcella" is a classic along the lines of "Do It Again" as a retro-rocker (it was apparently written about either a masseuse or prostitute - can't recall which - that Brian knew.) "You Need A Mess of Help To Stand Alone" is good, though the vocals are rather chaotic.

I forgot about the rest.

But it is notable that there were no Carl Wilson-authored songs, which was surprising after the quality of his efforts on Surf's Up.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (28.04.2006)

The album wasn't really a conscious attempt at reinvention at all. It just turned out that way by accident! The band was extremely unstable at this time, with Bruce out, Chaplin and Fataar in, heavy touring, Brian retreating more into drug abuse, and the record company breathing down their necks for another album after the relatively good sales of the last one, their most popular album in years. The group unity that was so focused on Sunflower was more tenuous on Surf's Up, and here it almost totally breaks down, with the four songwriting teams all off in different directions: Fataar and Chaplin's whatever; Mike and Al's TM ads; Dennis and touring pianist Daryl Dragon's pseudo-classical pop; Jack Rieley rewriting lyrics to Brian's songs; and Carl somehow trying to hold it all together (hence the title). The bulk of the album was recorded in a ten day span, which is part of the problem with it -- the Beach Boys never function well when they are rushed.

This results in the most disjointed album the group ever released. For all that, it didn't turn out nearly as bad as it could have been. "Hold on Dear Brother" used to be my top candidate for worst song ever on a Beach Boys album. But it's grown on me some -- it sounds a lot better on the remaster than on the original LP. Although isn't it odd that a couple of South Africans would come up with a C&W tune? "Here She Comes" sounds more like what you would expect from them. Kind of sounds like Traffic -- it's got a pretty good groove. I guess I feel the same about these tunes as I do about a non-McGuinn song on the Byrds albums that came out at about this time. Maybe they sound OK in and of themselves, but they DON'T sound like the group.

Al and Mike got some songwriting help from Brian on "He Came Down." Although Mike's attempt at religious syncretism on the verses is pretty stupid (as well as theologically inaccurate), the group sounds suprisingly authentic singing gospel on the chorus and bridge. "All This is That," which is Carl's only co-write on the album, is better lyrically because it's more abstract, and that staccato piano sounds very much like Brian, although he didn't write it. By the way, Mike didn't totally ignore this album -- on the Love You tour, the band performed this tune with "Everyone's in Love With You" (yuck) as he preached to the crowd about TM.

Dennis's stuff was actually recorded four months earlier than the rest of the album, and sounds like it was beamed in from another record. But it's very cool, although the orchestration is bit overdone. When I first put on "Cuddle Up" for someone in college, he thought it was the Moody Blues! This might have been an interesting direction for the group to pursue. Still, Brian comes up with the peaks. "..A Mess of Help.." has a very chaotic production, but it's very catchy. And I don't know why some reviews say that "Marcella" is a nostalgic throwback. To me, this version sounds very ethereal and haunting, with the weird instrumentation and the interlocking vocals. Hard to believe that Brian wrote it a a takeoff on the Stones! They never recorded anything else quite like it -- the peak tune, I agree.

Carl said that if Brian could have produced this thing properly, it would have been a "kickass" record. Imagine these songs with a focused, Sunflower kind of production! As it is, it does take some time to get used to. People who really like the previous and next albums would definitely get into it after a while. At least the group was still trying to experiment and progress. Warners' marketing strategy was even dumber than you imply. Their plan was to create double albums of each new Beach Boys album with an old one. In this case, though, they didn't originally put the Beach Boys's name on the front cover of the LP (as it now appears on the CD). So, you might wonder what an album by this unknown group "Carl and the Passions" was doing in the Beach Boys's bin, if you didn't turn the album over. And even if you did, you might wonder why you have a Beach Boys album coupled with an album by this new group. Together with the fact that this invited direct comparison with the Beach Boys' one acknowledged classic, it's small wonder it was a bomb. Putting it together with the next album certainly makes more sense now.


HOLLAND

<Jcjh20@aol.com> (10.02.2003)

I agree with the 8. Most of it is really good, but it could of been better if Brian participated more. "Funky Pretty" is a really awesome song for instance. Has that classic Beach Boys touch that shows Brian still had it, but wasn't interested in having it, i suppose. "California" is also awesome, and also has that classic Beach Boys touch, although it wasn't written by Brian, strangely, but Al. The rest of the songs are great too (especially Dennis's beautiful "Only With You), though "Leaving This Town" bores me, and so does "Steamboat", to an extent (though it'll probably grow on me and i'll regret saying that later). "Beaks Of Eagles" isn't all that special either, but i'll give a thumbs up to it because it's a different style the Beach Boys wanted to try out, and i respect that. I'm glad "Sail On Sailor" was a hit too, even though it could of been a lot better if Carl sang on it instead.

Ohh yeah, and that Fairy Tale was a wonderfully creative idea! Bizaare, maybe, but it really works.

dL <cabinessence@freemail.hu> (22.06.2005)

About "Mt. Vernon And Fairway": so there's the young prince who hears those magical music on the 'magic transistor radio', and it inspires him and makes him happy. Then, after a while, he doesn't hear it anymore. Then his two brothers discover the radio, and they can hear that magical music their elder brother can't hear anymore. Sounds a bit like an allegory of Brian's artistic downward spiral, of losing his magic touch, his inspiration, his creativity, and letting Carl and Dennis taking over the control of the group, doesn't it? So this little fairy tale is a bit more deeper and sadder than it seems at first glimpse, isn't it?

Michael Gerlach <Gerlach.Aumuehle@t-online.de> (31.08.2005)

I am just about copy'ing my old vinyls to CD's and when doing that with Beach Boys HOlland I came over an interesting article (see http://home-1.worldonline.nl/~mollyb/docs/holland.htm) which states, that originally "Sail On sailor" was NOT meant to be published on that Album, but "We Got Love" by Fataar/Chaplin instead. As much as I know "We Got Love" was only published on the In concert Live Album, but never as Studio recording. But replacing "Sailor" by "We Got Love" would indeed make a rather different and even more quiet Album

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (01.05.2006)

My absolute favorite Beach Boys album. Even though, objectively, I know that other albums are technically better. Certainly not because it's the best produced album -- it's the most stripped down album since Wild Honey. It is much more elaborate than that, of course, but like that album, it's dominated by piano, not a lot of guitar, and, for the most part, very few of the band's thick, multitracked harmonies. A long way from Sunflower.

Considering what a logistical, technical and financial debacle getting to and recording in the Netherlands actually was, it's amazing that the album came out as strong as it did. You've hit the nail on the head -- it's a mature album, the Beach Boys taking an honest look outside and within, for the last time.

Mike Love manages to be poetic on "Big Sur" (There's actually an earlier version from the Surf's Up sessions, taken at a faster tempo, harmonies drifting in and out, but with a stupid line on the tag about the cops chasing the hippies away from Big Sur, which the neo-con Mike would never allow to be released today). A friend of mine thought that the Moody Blues could have pulled off "The Beaks of Eagles," but not the BB's, but I think it's an evocative manifestation of the mystic side of the band, sort of "The Lonely Sea" grown up. "California" is at the perfect crossroads between the 60's and 70's Beach Boys. "The Trader" is also very good and, I agree, surprisingly angry in the first half of the song. I always thought the second part of the song was about the native Americans trying to find peace after being exiled to the reservations. I like the introspective lyrics to "Leaving This Town," but I agree that Ricky wasn't exactly Keith Emerson on the Moog here. Tedious -- I'd would have rather them extend the nice round vocal harmonies at the end instead of almost instantly fading them out.

One real drawback is that we don't get a lead vocal from Brian or Dennis (why did they think we'd rather hear Chaplin?), but their songwriting is strong, anyway. "Steamboat" is a very strange song, but grabs you, and "Only With You," I think, is a love song that rivals "God Only Knows." "Funky Pretty" is lighthearted and whimsical, but clever and not childish -- what Love You should have been. On the other hand, I do find "Mt. Vernon and Fairway" embarrassing and disturbing -- another inadvertent peek at Brian's psychosis - sort of Smiley Smile, part 2. It's also parallels SS in that the musical fragments are frustrating -- you just know that Brian could have turned them into very catchy songs if he had put his mind to it. You can hear that more fully on the boxed set, where you get a remix without Jack Rieley's narration. As for "Sail on Sailor," that was the song that got me into the Beach Boys. An insistent, driving riff and powerful lyrics from Jack Rieley, it caught my attention fully then and always does now. I wish a REAL Beach Boy had sung the lead, even though Chaplin has a good voice. Even after he left, they always handed it off to a sideman to sing for some reason. I can't tell you what a thrill it was to finally hear Brian sing it last year. The album is worth the price of admission alone just for that song, but the listener will also get a fine album the blows away a lot of preconceptions about the Beach Boys. Too bad they didn't keep it up.


IN CONCERT

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (06.06.2004)

Now, this is one where we really disagree. I think this really representative of the band at its live peak, at the end of its progressive period. I surmise that a lot of your displeasure stems from the approach, that you find the hard rocking approach of the live band at odds with its pop studio approach, very much defined by Brian Wilson.

But I find the performances exciting. The extra musicians and dominance of electric instruments provided some necessary butt-kicking muscle to the group, and gave ammunition to the fans that wanted to prove that the BB's weren't just wimps. I would agree that most of the songs aren't necessarily better than the studio versions, but almost none of them are worse. A number of the songs are altered signifcantly enough so that they are at least interesting. For instance, "Help, Me Rhonda" sounds almost like country rock, both in the arrangement and Al's vocals. Not bad, but a bit odd. I miss the counterpoint vocals on "Let the Wind Blow"; on the other hand, the tempo is slowed down enough so that the intended emotional impact is better conveyed. "Good Vibrations" loses some of its spaciness, but there is precedent for the fun singalong section in the bridge -- studio outtakes exist of Brian experimenting with that. "Darlin' " is incredibly speeded up here, but it's not the tape; having seen the band live more than once, they really did play it this fast! Terrific.

The most radical changes occur in the four tracks that made up the second side of the original LP package. Like "GV", "Marcella" loses some of its etheriality here, but the more rocked up version here, with great guitar from Carl, pushes the song's hook right in your face, and the Stonesian feel that Brian originally wanted is better realized. And I think that "Leaving this Town" is the one song that is better than the studio original. The midsection, with Carly Munoz's Emersonesque organ and great percussion, is much more dynamic than the tedious Moog of the Holland version. The flute and electric piano give "Caroline, No" a very jazzy sound. And the somewhat disjointed "Heroes and Villains" is turned into a seamless rock and roll song. This section of the album is the peak for me.

I haven't heard the studio version of "We Got Love" (which did come out on the German version of Holland, but was rapidly withdrawn), but I think this version is the best song that Fataar and Chaplin wrote for the group -- it at least fits in with the overall sound of the album. I don't suppose that "Surfin' USA" and "Fun, Fun, Fun" needed to be rocked up more, but they are good. The only song that I think doesn't work at all is "You Still Believe in Me". The electric keyboards and Al's very nasal vocal wreck it. You wouldn't know this is one of Brian's most gorgeous Pet Sounds tracks from this performance. I do like the fact that Mike Love is kept to a minimum, but no Dennis songs? Fataar and Chaplin get to sing, but Dennis doesn't?!! Perhaps the most serious flaw of the record.

Whoa, I've spent a lot of time on this one. I really think that this is a strong, powerful album from the band, with a strong overview of the band's history. It's a good place for anyone to start, especially more hard rock oriented people (Glenn Weiner, I'm talking to you!). The next year, Endless Summer came out, beginning the group's tranformation into a Mike Love-driven oldies act. But here, they were hot.


15 BIG ONES

<DebNMarkW@aol.com> (05.12.2003)

My dad actually came home one day with this album for me as a gift way back when it was first released. Seems he heard it in a store and thought I might like it. He was right. Every time I put it on I think of him. Dad, I love you and I miss you. Now on to the album itself...isn't it just a fun record to listen to? I actually remember 'Rock and Roll Music' being a top 40 hit and played on AM radio. Agree highly that the Brian is back campaign was a complete farce. Someone sobered him up, drove him to the studio, and put his bloated fat ass in front of a microphone. His cigarette/whiskey laden voice is an extremely sad thing to hear. I know George will be shaking his head in disgust, but I love 'It's Ok'. Has one powerful hook. Vintage Beach Boy background vocals too. It goes waaaay up in the car. So does 'Suzie Cincinnatti' for that matter. Nice vocal Al. Was interested to see how big a part The Captain and Tennile played in this record with the arrangements and vocal harmonies. They even manage some background vocal as well as musical help. Sadly, brother Dennis is reduced to a cover of the old fifties classic 'In The Still Of The Night'. His creativity obviously dried up, he warbles this cover with not much gusto. I also can do without Brian singing about feeding the cows and the horses. 'For Once In My Life', however is beautiful singing with a lot of emotion. As I said before, this is simply put, a fun record to listen to. Nothing more, nothing less.


LOVE YOU

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (10.08.2002)

One of my all time favorite Beach Boys albums, definatly. Every song absolutely rules. Full of melody, and good fun, with some innocently stupid but cute and hilarious lyrics all through. "Good Time" may be my favorite song as well (although "The Night Was So Young" comes very close, with some amazing group harmonys and Brian falsetto of old), as its a neglected classic Beach Boys tune with those beautiful classic Brian vocals. It may not fit on the album for that reason (the production is different, plus the awesomely cheesy synth bass that is on every other Love You song isn't on it), but it still fits to me because the song only deserves to be on a classic album such as this. I originally was dissappointed by Brian's raspy vocals, because Brian's old falsetto is my favorite voice ever, but i eventually realized that it (and Dennis's) has a great charm of it's own. I love "I'll Bet He's Nice", the cute duet with Brian and Brian's wife on "Let's Put Our Hearts Together", the great rare falsetto of the chorus "Solar System", the peppy fun as hell synth drenched version of rock of "Let Us Go On This Way", the bizarre 50 second "Ding Dang", and one of the best pop songs the guys ever done "Mona". In a perfect world, "Johnny Carson" woulda be the theme song to the show. My 3rd favorite Beach Boys album besides Pet Sounds and Friends. 10/10.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (20.08.2002)

The album shows that BW was still capable of writing catchy and compelling melodies. And I can live with the sparse production -- Wild Honey was pretty bare bones, but it ended up being a decent album.

But this ain't no Wild Honey. It's an album that fans have a lot of divided opinions about. I'm in the camp that really can't stand the ridiculous, almost infantile lyrics and the hideous vocals. The comparison to Smiley Smile is apt -- another look into the disturbed mind of Brian Wilson. (And it has an annoyingly unfinished Smiley Smile type fragment, too, in "Ding Dang"). And despite the fact that "Good Time" is an outtake from Sunflower makes little difference -- it, unfortunately, fits in because of the utterly silly lyrics. Again, I really resented the guys putting out this juvenile, backwards stuff after producing such mature work from Pet Sounds to Holland.

"Solar System" has got to be the worst -- its singsongy melody and "astronomical" lyrics sound like the song was written by a 4-year-old for 4-year-olds. "Mona" has Dennis Wilson singing about inviting a girl over to hear Phil Spector records -- in 1977? These two songs alone show that Brian was rally out of touch with reality. "Roller Skating Child" is creepy in a "Hey, Little Tomboy" sort of way -- Mike Love sounds like a pedophile. And "Let's Put Our Hearts Together" only proves that Marilyn Wilson couldn't sing any better than her husband at this point. I could go on, but the album is a really painful and unsettling listen. The only song I enjoy is the single "Honkin' Down The Highway," which has a pretty good vocal from Al Jardine and is a fun retro kind of thing. But, on the whole, it made being a Beach Boys fan really difficult at this time.

The album bombed commercially not so much because of its timing of release. Within a month after its release, they publicly announced signing with CBS Records. Which didn't exactly motivate Reprise Records to promote it, or MIU.


M.I.U. ALBUM

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (12.01.2001)

Jumping right to MIU after the last BB album you reviewed was Pet Sounds, George, I was sure that you would totally blast this. As do the vast majority of BB fans. A major reason that this occurred was that this album follows Love You, which was essentially the first Brian Wilson-dominated record in many a year. But he once again retreated, with Mike Love, Al Jardine and their writing/producing partner Ron Altbach dominating. This of course, resulted in a backlash from critics, fans and record buyers alike -- it was their biggest sales bomb since Sunflower.

But, while it's not a masterwork by any stretch, I found the record to be in some ways a relief from Love You and its predecessor, 15 Big Ones. The reason is that these albums are full of hoarse, croaking, out-of-tune, virtually unlistenable vocals and infantile lyrics from Brian, resulting from excessive tobacco and cocaine use. You get a (very bad) taste of that on "Hey Little Tomboy," which was actually recorded a year earlier for was originally intended as the Love You followup, Adult Child. But Warners rejected it. They then tried a Christmas album, but when Warners rejected that, too, they remade the material into what became MIU (i.e., "Bells of Christmas" became "Belles of Paris."

In any case, Brian's voice made quite a bit of recovery here, even if it was only temporary. Contrast "Tomboy" with his attempt at falsetto on "Rhythm" or "Winds of Change." Not too bad, really. And on "Matchpoint," he actually provides a lovely vocal and a pleasant melody, which enables one to overlook Mike's clumsy metaphor in the lyrics (love as a tennis match?). As for the rest of the album, Dennis vocal on "My Diane" (also from Adult Child) is strained, but heartfelt, and the sweeping arrangement captures the feel of his solo album Pacific Ocean Blue. Too bad this is the only track he participated in (he hated MIU). Carl also puts in a lovely lead on "Sweet Sunday," another in the series of the domestic-slice-of-life songs he band started coming up with on Friends. Elsewhere, Love is at least tolerable (except, I agree, on "Wontcha Come Out," which is as bad as "Tomboy"), and Al's vocals are strong on the two oldies covers, much better than most of those on 15 Big Ones. The fact that these were the two singles is a clue, though, on how much confidence people had in the band's songwriting at this point.

Still, this is a pretty minor effort (especially lyrically). Overall, only a record that a real fan would enjoy, if at all.

Didier Dumonteil <dbdumonteil@wanadoo.fr> (25.02.2001)

MIU was reissued last year with LA.It comes after Beach Boys love you,an album I like very much.

MIU is pleasant.A FRench like me can't resist  "belles de Paris" and its spate of clichés :it seems like a travel brochure set to music,and I really dig the way Mike Love pronounces the French words (watching belles jeunes filles and the handsome gendarmes)

Most of the tunes are unpretentious,spontaneous and delicious:she's got rythm,hey little tomboy,the remake of peggy sue,sweet sunday and the maudlin My Diiiaane!

Ryan Maffei <chaucer@ix.netcom.com> (23.03.2002)

Yeah, I get exactly where George is coming from. Ballads iffy, the rest okay. His passable rating certainly proves that he is an INTELLIGENT critic who transcends the biases and half-assed work of the ALL-MUSIC GUIDE. I hope neither he nor his family EVER have to sit through 15 Big Ones or Love You.

Seriously, I may be greatly affected by the D-minus worthy dreck of those two releases, but M.I.U. is a fine record. It's quite underrated, however, in the face of harsh critics, just like the underdog masterpiece Surf's Up. NOT that I'm saying this is a Surf's Up-worthy record, not at all, but the derivative surf-pop and balladry on this album no longer feels like soup or glitz--it's authentic, polished at the very least, with a nicely prominent lushness via harmonies and strings. It's neo-soul, and what more could we ask for, given that we aren't expecting a second Pet Sounds? "She's Got Rhythm" is a damn fine song, almost at the level of the definitive post-era work, "Sail On Sailor", and the rest of M.I.U. is harmlessly enjoyable without being a guilty pleasure. I'm not saying you should go out and by this album because of zealot ideals derived from being an underdog supporter (with Surf's Up, I am). But I am saying it's better than it's thought to be, so don't break it before hearing it. Break Love You. Somebody PLEASE break Love You. (M.I.U. gets a 7/10 from me, by the way)

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (08.10.2002)

I think this is a sorta underrated album, personally. I think Adult Child would of been a better follow-up to Love You then MIU, but overall MIU has some excellent songs on it. Sure, it has mediocritys of course, nor is it anywhere near as an amazing classic as Love You was, but nonetheless, absolutely gorgeous songs like "Sweet Sunday Kinda Love" (the title was mislabeled on the new 2-fers), which has one of the best Carl vocals ever, and "My Diane", which is another song that reaches the brilliance of Love You stuff, gives me the initiation to give this album an 8/10. "Hey Little Tomboy" is a hilarious song, which is also catchy as hell, and definatly a canditate for best song on the album. "Shes Got Rhythm" also soars with a great falsetto from Brian as well. The rest isn't as good as these tunes, but there's nothing on here i really don't like, honestly. "Bells Of Paris" is my least favorite song here but it has moments that i enjoy. "Matchpoint Of Our Love", despite the cheesy arrangements and lyrics, contains a beautiful Brian Wilson vocal and probably the best Brian vocal you'll ever hear since. "Kona Coast", though with it's blatent recycled falsetto parts from "Hawaii", and "Pitter Patter" as well as the 2 oldies covers are catchy as well. "Winds Of Change" is actually a guilty pleasure of mine. It's an obvious attempt to be "emotional" or "thoughtful" and at the same time is a pale imitation of past glories, but still, i find it quite nice. I love the end "won't last forever"'s too, even though even those were obviously taken from "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)". It wasn't even written by anyone in the band either, so that doesn't make it any better. Oh, and i also really love "Wont'cha Come Out Tonight", it's another song with awesome Brian vocals. The intro is pretty obnoxious, but i've listened to it so much i don't even mind anymore. It's a shame Brian would soon retreat after this album..

Dmitry Nemo <nemo_dmitry@mail.ru> (21.02.2003)

On the cover of album M.I.U. I find ship with crimson sails. It is funny, because Russian wrighter Alexandr Grin had a amazing love story (novel) about girl, who waits prince on the ship with crimson sails. Find it on your local language - it's really amazing story.


L.A. (LIGHT ALBUM)

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (15.01.2001)

The best album released after Holland. Which isn't saying all that much, really. The absence of Brian is apparent -- I wonder if he actually appeared at all. No lead vocals from him, and all three of his "contributions" are actually leftovers from other projects ''Here Comes the Night," as you said, is a rerecording of a 1967 song; the backing track of "Good Timin'" was recorded in 1974 while they were trying desperately to follow up Holland; and "Shortenin' Bread" was yet another outtake from Adult Child. Brian was becoming increasingly nonfunctional -- I saw a show on this tour where I was sitting in back of the stage, and he could be seen pitifully plunking out a few piano chords, not singing, and looking very lost. Sad. And I supposed he realized it - -he was the one who brought Bruce Johnston back as producer.

Bruce mostly rescues the record, though, by piling on those good old multitracked harmonies, the like of which we hadn't heard for several years. And the songwriting does get unjustly bashed. Two of Carl's songs, "Full Sail" and "Goin' South" get dumped on for being boring, but they're pleasant. But "Angel Come Home" is better, because he gives the lead vocal to Dennis. A very moving vocal. As is Dennis's own song, "Baby Blue," another powerful performance. Al does lift Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" for "Lady Lynda," but it works. Too bad he ended up divorcing her, though, because he ended up redoing his lead vocal as a B-side called "Lady Liberty," a song about the Statue of Liberty.

However, I have to go with the majority on "Sumahama." Like all of Mike Love's solo songwriting (except for "Big Sur"), it's hopelessly corny lyrically and melodically. Mike was engaged to a Japanese woman at the time, which inspired him (although he ended up not marrying her, a surprising exercise in restraint for the much-betrothed Mr. Love). And Bruce gets bonked on the head for persuading the boys to do "Here Comes the Night" (although Brian and Dennis were smart enough to refuse to participate). When I first saw the ten minute running time on my LP label, I was hoping for a prog rock epic, but noooo! Despite some strong singing from the group, especially Carl's lead vocals, this is among the biggest time-wasters in the group's catalog. Oh well, it could have been worse. At least they didn't record a Victim of Love! I would say it doesn't make LA worth skipping for Beach Boys fans, especially with programmable CD players.

Didier Dumonteil <dbdumonteil@wanadoo.fr> (25.02.2001)

There's a big problem in this album:the disco remake of "here comes the night" is given over too much space.This horrible piece of garbage should never have been included in a BB album.At the time the disco virus was contaminating everyone:The Stones's despicable"miss you",MCCartney's horrible "coming up",Rod Stewart 's ridiculous "do you think I'm sexy?"Their songs have a quality though:they are shorter than the BB's extravaganza.

Now back to the good songs:good timin' and full sail are full of sun,with splendid vocals.Lady Lynda, a   Bach rip-off(remember,the Byrds did it too for "she don't care about time)that doesn't suffer for it,au contraire:it may be the most exquisite track!I don't agree with Bob regarding Sumahama:the topic might be corny and maudlin,but the sound allows something different,not a bad thing for the BB.

Joe H. <jcjh@comcast.net> (11.10.2002)

I absolutely agree with you here bout this album George. Underrated album and absolutely not deserving of the vicious contempt of it. "Here Comes The Night" IS a horrible, embarressing mistake though. I loved what you said about it being put unjustly and unfittingly on an album full of ballads. That definatly doesn't make sence. The "Here Comes The Night" is an amazing song though, so at least they picked a good song...but still doesn't make the song justified of course. And 10 minutes long?! They really shot themselves in the foot there (especially the fact it did not even chart). Besides that though, there are some excellently fantastic songs on here. "Good Timin" is an absolute classic and the last Beach Boys classic they've ever done (despite the fact this song was first recorded in 1974). Very beautiful, with lots of awesome harmonys and a stunning Carl vocal. Carl was definatly the most talented and important part of the Beach Boys at this point, although even though Brian was quite disfunctional at this point, he handed in some classic songs. "Shortenin' Bread" is the other of only 2 Brian songs on the album (besides "Here Comes The Night", from 1967), and this one is just a fantastic rearrangement of the traditional kids folk tune. It's a hilarious arrangement, but quite fun and Dennis's "mama's little baby loves shortenin shortenin" vocals are fantastic and it gets stuck in my head instantly everytime i hear it. "Baby Blue" is also an amazing song written by Dennis with a very beautiful vocal from Carl. It's also the last song Dennis ever released for a Beach Boys record, which makes it quite an evokative track (especially the middle part where Dennis sings). Mike's "Samahama" and Al's "Lady Lynda" are also great tunes. Carls 2 songs, and Dennis's other songs are nice as well, although kinda boring. Overall, i'd probably give this album a 6.5 or 7.


KEEPIN' THE SUMMER ALIVE

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.01.2001)

Keeping the Summer Alive? Only on extreme life support. Quite awful. However, this one actually tends to get less bashed by most BB fans because Brian was more engaged in the songwriting. But only the most fanatical BW worshipper could pretend that the songs he wrote with (or were sabotaged by?) Mike Love are worthy. Reason # 1 why the album is bad. The two ballads, "Goin 'On" and "Oh, Darlin", have incredibly corny 50''s melodies, and the two upbeat tunes are burdened with Love's disturbing high-schooler lyrics. I mean, the guy was over 35 years old at this point! And "When Girls Get Together," again destined for Adult Child, was yet more proof that Warners was smart in rejecting it. Abysmal musical arrangement, vocals, lyrics and melody (as in, there is none.) A sure contender for the top 10 worst Beach Boys songs.

Reason #2 that the album sucks: no Dennis anywhere. No songs, no lead vocals. And I suspect he isn't on the album at all. The original LP inner sleeve had photos of the band members at the recording sessions -- except for Dennis, who was only represented by an old in concert shot. Maybe his alcoholism was taking hold, but L.A. and Pacific Ocean Blue proved that his songwriting abilities was far outstripping anyone else's at this point. A few of them was have elevated the record a few points for sure.

But the album's main downfall: the harmonies. They sound flat, sterile. What was Bruce thinking? Evidently, he was trying for a live feel, or something, but the voices sound, ironically, more lifeless than ever, as if the Boys had aged forty years since L.A. Brian's voice was evidently gone again (you can hear that briefly at his brief lead at the end of each verse of "Goin' On"), so the falsetto range seems to be totally missing. Only on the tag to Bruce's otherwise unbearably sugary "Endless Harmony" (originally released by him as a single called "Ten Years Harmony," maybe because it seems to go on that long) do we get those amazing cascading harmonies that made the Boys famous.

I do actually like two songs, though. The title track is upbeat, catchy and fun, even if lyrically it's "Do it Again, part 3." (However, avoid the version performed by Randy Bachman's band, Union, at ALL costs!). And "Santa Ana Winds" (which was started by Al in the Sunflower/Surf's Up period) is a welcome respite from all the juvenilia, with its acoustic arrangements and nature theme reminiscent of Holland (even if it isn't up to that album's standard). But, on the whole, I felt incredibly ripped off when I paid full price for this thing in 1980, another reason being its cheap half hour running time. It deserved all the lack of sales it got. And by the 1981 tour, all of the songs had been dropped except for Al's stupid cover of "School Days" (which is full of nothing but vocal and instrumental cliches, as opposed to his inspired oldies remakes on MIU). Carl ended up leaving the touring band in '81 partially over it, too, although he certainly can't avoid his share of the blame for this fiasco, since he contributed the unnecessarily simplistic "Livin' with a Heartache." Bleah!

There was actually worse ahead (coming in 1992), but you couldn't believe it then.

Didier Dumonteil <dbdumonteil@wanadoo.fr> (25.02.2001)

Bob is absolutely correct:this LP could be boiled down to a decent single:Santa Ana winds/goin'on.AS far as the rest is concerned,the BB are scraping the bottom of the barrel.Maybe their worst!Stay away,even if it's been reissued with the 1985 mediocre album as a "bonus"!What a bonus!

<Jcjh20@aol.com> (26.02.2003)

Well, the title is stupid, the production is very weak, and the songs aren't as good as even almost anything on even L.A. (Light Album) (nevermind Love You), but i enjoy at least half of this album, to tell you the truth. First of all, "When Girls Get Together" is not a outtake from Adult Child, but the Sunflower period (when Brian was at his post-Smile prime still). It's an excellent song that should of been on Sunflower, and is one of the best unreleased Beach Boys songs. Since the production really sucks, however, the mix of this song is horrible, and a blatent attempt to fit a totally unrelated 10 years old track into an album of a totally different era. If they stuck on the original Landlocked mix (which are on bootlegs) you'll see what a gorgeous shining arrangement this song has. Regardless, it's the best song on the album, and "Sunshine" is also really catchy and fun too. "Some Of Your Love" has a similar melody to "It's Ok" and is yet another countless attempt to revive former glorys, but it's also catchy. "Endless Harmony" (though the beginning is cheesy adult contemporary) and "Santa Ana Winds" (a kinda weak Holland outtake) are enjoyable also to an extent, and I hear a beautiful Carl vocal in "Oh Darlin'" too, but the cheesy harmonys and synths almost ruin it. The rest is totally insignificant though. I wouldn't call any of this horrible (though the cheesy 80's production of "Goin' On" comes close) but it's mostly really a desperate attempt to get a hit and be back in the mainstream. They shoved Brian in the studio and forced him to write some songs for the record to perhaps get the juices flowing again for the band, but he was obviously not capable of writing anything at this point. And yes, Mike Love was responsible for any of the crappy lyrics on the record too. I give this a 5/10.

Pedro Andino <pedroandino@msn.com> (01.08.2003)

you know every album sounds bad but i never heard such garbage in my life! the beach boys are shocked and apalled! bad bad bad! never touch this album in 1980! fuck you !


THE BEACH BOYS

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.05.2001)

Bruce Johnston is responsible for three major crimes in the Beach Boys world : 1) "Here Comes the Night"; 2) Keeping the Summer Alive; and 3) recruiting Culture Club's producer for this thing. I remember a 1983 interview with Carl Wilson in which he said in order to record a "Good Vibrations"-class record, they needed Brian Wilson --"anything else is bullshit." And, lo and behold, how correct he was -- heavy sequencers, synths and drum machines everywhere! Unfortunately, more than a few classic acts were affected by this stupid craze in '85 and '86 (try the Moodies' The Other Side of Life or Elton's Ice on Fire and Leather Jackets for even worse digitally programmed horrors).

But, as you said, the Boys' trademark harmonies and strong melodies very frequently break through the morass. Unfortunately, sometimes they don't. I vehemently disagree about "Getcha Back" -- I think it's the WORST song here, by far. It's nothing but a horrible rewrite of "Don't Worry, Baby," complete with obnoxious faux-teenage romance lyrics and vocals by middle-aged Mr. Love. At least it was his only songwriting contribution. And "California Calling" has balding Al Jardine regaling us about the wonders of surfing (again). Despite a good melody by Brian and real timpani from Ringo, Al singing about surfing being "totally rad" just makes my skin crawl. The meandering "I Do Love You" only proves that Stevie Wonder had lost it long before (for a great Wonder cover, try the Wild Honey album instead).

It's was nice to see Brian returning to form after KTSA, both in songwriting and vocals, but most of his songs seem to drift a bit aimlessly. "Male Ego" is a bouncy, loose number sort of reminiscent of Love You, but a lot better. However, "Matter of Time" and "I'm So Lonely" don't really go anywhere. And "Crack at Your Love" is very disturbing. The title alone brings up imagery I just don't want to explore!

One of the best things about the album is that Carl's lead voice is everywhere, which lifts "It's Gettin' Late" and "Maybe I Don't Know" a bit above the average 80's synth-popper. I actually like "Passing Friend". I mean, one thing you've got to give Culture Club, the were Masters of the Hook, and the oblique lyrics are very interesting. Bruce comes up with his second-best ever Beach Boys song with "She Believes," just drenched with those harmonies and Carl's lead vocals. Really romantic and lovely. And "Where I Belong" is simply a tour de force. The less-is-more principle applies here. Nothing but a simple keyboard highlights the incredible, incredible vocals. One of the Beach Boys lost masterpieces, as far as I'm concerned. I cannot BELIEVE anyone would pick "Getcha Back" over this song!

The album does represent a major improvement of KTSA, I will agree. The vocals are a thousand times better. And the use of digital technology did inspire BW to begin work on the Brian Wilson solo album. But there wasn't really a lot here to entice new listeners, which is why the album actually sold less than the previous two, if I'm not mistaken. Getting Culture Club's producer doesn't mean one is going to be as popular as Culture Club. Oh well. At least Mike Love didn't start wearing eyeshadow.


BRIAN WILSON

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (11.06.2003)

The biggest disappointment here was not the music -- it was the lyrics. I disagree -- an artist of the stature of Brian Wilson should have a good lyricist to provide mature words to his songs. He can't provide them for himself, and neither Landy or his girlfriend Alexandra Morgan (who helped out a a few tunes here) were it. Although certainly heartfelt, most of them read like they were written like an adolescent boy just learning how to write songs. Very awkward, and Brian's somewhat strained, shaky voice delivering them doesn't help. At least both the vocals and lyrics are better than those of Love You (although I think "Little Children" was actually demoed for Love You -- "little Carnie and Wendy," Brian's kids, were pushing 20 by the time it was recorded! By the way, the line that goes "you can't kiss no one until you come home" is kind of creepy..).

But I don't want to sound too curmoudegeondly, because I do enjoy the music here a lot. Sure, there might be too many 80's synths and drum machines, but they don't overwhelm the songs like they do on the last Beach Boys album or other records from this period. The atmosphere is pretty hard to resist. The songs are all quite catchy. 'Meet Me in My Dreams Tonight," in particular is striking in its exuberance. But its no coincidence that the two best songs here rework ideas from Smile. "One of the Boys" takes the acapella wordless harmony idea of "Our Prayer" and applies it to a more traditional doo-wop melody. And "Rio Grande" expands the Western motifs of "Cabinessence" and "Heroes and Villains" even further. A very cool overall effect, topped off with the most interesting lyrics on the album. The two tracks make me wish Brian would've taken a few more chances like this with his solo stuff.

Your Sweet Insanity bootleg has your chronology a little confused. "He Couldn't Get His Poor Old Body to Move," "Being with the One You Love" and "Goodnight, Irene" actually are from these album sessions, not those that produced Insanity. The first two ended up as single B-sides, while "Goodnight, Irene" ended up on a Leadbelly/Woody Guthrie tribute album called Folkways:A Vision Shared. I don't think it quite works. Brian's upbeat, Spectoresque production contrast too much with Leadbelly's downbeat lyrics. "Sloop John B" and Leadbelly's "Cotton Fields"were good Beach Boys folk-rock, but Brian didn't hit the mark here.


SWEET INSANITY

No reader comments yet.


I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (13.06.2003)

Quite lovely, for the most part. The approach does differ from the Beach Boys versions significantly. For most of the original versions, the production and harmonies were supposed to be big, sort of taking you out of yourself into another realm. But here, Don Was takes a more stripped down, intimate approach -- almost live sounding. Acoustic guitar, an instrument Brian didn't use all that often, frequently dominates. With Was's usual Was(Not Was) crew adding harmonies that are much more relegated to the background, the focus is on the quiet instrumentation and Brian's voice. That's the album's weak link, because, of course, Brian's voice isn't what it used to be. For that reason, none of the Beach Boy tunes are better than the originals, but it's always interesting.

The opposite of the effect I described above happens with "Let the Wind Blow." The Wild Honey track has extremely basic, almost demo level backing; here, it's a more fully realized production. Unfortunately, Brian's vocal can't compare. The biggest surprise here is that Brian was persuaded to do "Wonderful." This version actually sticks more closely to the original Smile version (now on the boxed set) than to the goofed up take on Smiley Smile. At least it's better than the latter.

Speaking of the box, the completed version of "Still I Dream of It" (originally intended for Adult Child) is also there. Brian gave it a 40's big band kind of arrangement, but the lead vocal is the same rough, hoarse sound he had throughout this period. This is the one tune I actually wish he had redone for this album, since Brian's voice actually sounds better now! The box also has all of the original versions of the Beach Boy songs here, so I would probably point a new fan there and to the first solo album before here. I'd say this is an album for the fans.

And isn't it a bit odd that the song that gives the title to the album and movie appears in neither?


ORANGE CRATE ART

Branst <azwwp@hotmail.com> (07.03.2003)

I am extremely happy to see this album reviewed, I think its on par with alot of the best Beach Boy stuff. Van Dyke's songwriting, productions, arrangement, etc. are extraordinary and to have Brian Wilson's voice over all that beauty is perfect. Its the perfect nostalgic vibe and I recommend it to anyone. My favorite songs off the album are "Hold Back Time," "Summer In Monterey," and "Wings Of A Dove." I hope Van Dyke does another collaboration with Brian Wilson or another great vocalist for a follow-up.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (13.06.2003)

"A nostalgia trip into the year of 1967?" Try 1947! As Parks himself would probably admit, the album is a look through rose-colored glasses back at a supposedly more bucolic and innocent California, before the raucousness of modern culture (including rock and roll) existed. (The inclusion of "Lullaby," actually written by George Gershwin, is another clue). Of course, that California never really existed in the first place (Parks must assume you've never read John Steinbeck when you listen to this stuff), but the "good old days" always look better through a hazy gauze of nostalgia.

If Parks had sung these songs himself or hired another vocalist, they probably would have sounded dated or corny. But add Brian's off-kilter voice, and overdub it with off-kliter harmonies everywhere, and the project takes on a slightly surrealistic aura that I think works well. The effect is almost dreamlike. My personal favorites are the title track and "Hold Back Time," with the catchiest melodies and refrains. "Hold Back Time" certainly sums up the theme of the album. But that's decidedly uncommercial proposition, because who wants to do that? A shame, because this a charming, well crafted effort.


IMAGINATION

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.06.2003)

They tried to market this one as Pet Sounds, Part 2. No way! Not even close. But it's still a nice listen, if not extraordinary. The lack of sophistication in Brian's own lyrics still bugs me. A big reason that that the first three tracks are my favorites, because the lyrics are provided by outside writers. Nice musical moments are everywhere, though. The low point for me is "Happy Days," with awkward music matching the awkward lyrics. "Sunshine" is at least tons better than Brian's KTSA track of the same name. Joe Thomas's classical-sounding piano fugue on the coda is quite lovely. "Lay Down Burden" is a sincere, very moving performance.

I wish Brian had decided to include more originals rather than recycle old songs, even if the production keeps them from sounding dated. "Keep an Eye on Summer" is a very obscure and minor track -- why bother? Brian inexplicably hates his lead vocal on the original "Let Him Run Wild," there was no way he could improve on it now. Still, it's a more than listenable version. "She Says That She Needs Me" is actually a rework of a Today outtake called "Sherry, She Needs Me." I could actually see that fitting in on that album, with all those introspective romantic ballads. The best of the slow songs here. "South American," with lyrics from Jimmy Buffett, is a whimsical, upbeat bit of fun, showing a lot more wit than stuff like "Kokomo." Finally, I also have to go with the title song as top track. I like the sentiment in Steve Dahl's clever lyrics, and they suit Brian's persona well. The melody is ultra-catchy too. Overall, Imagination is a pleasant pop album which doesn't quite show the extent of Brian Wilson's talent.


LIVE AT THE ROXY THEATRE

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.06.2003)

I saw Brian twice on the 2000 tour (once with an orchestra), and the album captures perfectly the feel of a show. Brian's stage persona is just as unsettling as the album indicates -- he sits at his synthesizer and doesn't play it, and he reads the lyrics from a TelePrompter. And his voice, again, is uneven -- he pretty much takes Mike Love's baritone parts while Jeff Foskett does Brian's old falsettos. But considering what the man has been through, it's amazing that he's able to get on a stage at all, never mind do as well as he does.

Besides the quality of the material, what saves the show is the energetic, incredible band. Excellent musicians and vocalists, they capture Brian's frequently complex arrangements (even using a keyboard based theremin called a tannerin on "Good Vibrations" instead of a synth) but still make them sound fresh. In terms of sound, this outstrips any Beach Boys live album, although advances in technology in the 25 years since In Concert also help. However, with one exception, I wouldn't say that any of these are better than the studio versions, simply because Brian's lost so much in his vocals. The one exception is "Back Home," where Brian's voice -- as well as the backing -- is again, actually better than it was in the 15 Big Ones/Love You period. A fun track, although I still can't quite picture Brian Wilson as a farmer in Ohio.

The production is perfect -- this was what is was like to be there. It might have been nice to have a show with the orchestra (conducted by Larry Baird of Moody Blues fame), though. And the setlist, IMHO, still ignores too much of his great 67-73 material, although I understand he's included more on his 2001 and 2003 tours. Still, a show, and this CD is definitely worth the money.

<DebNMarkW@aol.com> (05.12.2003)

I saw this show a while back when he came through Tampa Bay. Never thought in my life I would ever get the chance to see Brian live and in person. He sat at a synthesizer piano the entire night which he rarely played, he nodded on occasional approval to his crack band during tricky musical or harmony passages, he even strapped on the bass for 'Surfer Girl', and he sang so sweetly and lovingly all night. He does just about everything and his band is second to none. 'Love and Mercy' from his exquisite 1988 solo album is nice, as is 'In My Room'. Listen to it and be amazed at how good he sounds considering all that he has been through.


SMILE

Michael J. West <mwest@rockpointe.com> (13.06.2005)

First a quick FYI: The track was ALWAYS supposed to be called "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," and not "Mrs. O'Leary's Fire"; that was just a mix-up that got tagged to some of the bootlegs that came out. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 started in Kate O'Leary's barn, when a cow kicked over a lantern.hence the title.

Secondly, I think most of us music-geeks can agree that we'd been waiting years and years DREAMING of this record, and spent a lot of that time fantasizing about what it might sound like. I can say with certainty that the final 2004 product actually exceeded my fantasies. I fell in love instantly, and no matter how mny times I hear it I get chills down my spine during "Child is the Father of the Man," "Surf's Up," and "Blue Hawaii." Ohhhhh, man. I don't even really know if words do it justice, but I have to say that it's lusciously wonderful. I picked it as best album of '04.

Brian Donovan <RAILGUITAR@aol.com> (14.06.2005)

One of the more rewarding listens I've had in the last couple of years, mainly because I was afraid Brian's weather-beaten voice might ruin the issuance of this long-awaited album. But Brian sounds better than he has since his voice went all to pot in the first place. Of course props have to go to the Wondermints and Jeff Foskett for stepping in with the harmonies and new falsetto leads in strategic places (i.e. those domino-ing columnated ruins.)

It seems that Brian was much much closer to finishing Smile in 1967 than I previously thought. Indeed the arrangements on key tunes like "Cabin Essence," "Wonderful," and "Wind Chimes" are photo-copy-close to the late 60s versions that came out on Beach Boy records (or on the Good Vibrations box set). "Surf's Up" got dolled up a little with the strings and the high harmony over what was Brian's solo vocal-and-piano, and that's probably the place where I missed the "young" Brian Wilson singing the most.

On the other hand there are some songs where Brian's sassy old codger voice actually helps....notably "Heroes and Villains" which is, after all, about an old man looking back at his life and then going into a reverie about American history and the westward expansion, (Brilliant concept by Van Dyke Parks and Brian, especially in that short a running time).

One frustration I have is the brevity of some of the tunes. I could especially do with a lot more of "I'm In Great Shape" and "In Blue Hawaii." (But what's up with "Old Master Painter," "You Are My Sunshine," and "I Wanna Be Around?")

So many great songs in this cycle. I will pick out "In Blue Hawaii" as my favorite though, largely because when it gets going it really improves on the "Cool Cool Water'" version that came out on Sunflower, and it ties up the album's end with its beginning quite nicely ("Good Vibrations" being the "encore" if you will.) I also like the Tony Asher lyrics for "Good Vibations" better than Mike Love's roccoco changes. More direct.

There will be those who will insist that now we've got to have the Beach Boys Smile tapes brought out and assembled in this order that Brian's now made part of the Smile canon. Fine and dandy if it happens, but with all the earlier releases that dribbled out and now Brian's production, I think we can all smile now.

dL <cabinessence@freemail.hu> (17.06.2005)

About this SMiLE thing: I'm a huge fan of Brian and the Beach Boys, still I felt a bit disappointed after I first listened to it. The main trouble is the overall sound of it: to my ears it really sounds crappy compared to the original 66/67 recordings, much too slick, and the drums sound very out of the album's overall feel (especially in the loud section of 'Wind Chimes'). Listening to the piece performed live was fascinating - listening to it from Cd is a bit of a putdown. Yes, Brian's voice sounds exactly like a voice of a 63 years old who smoked too much in his life, but it's still an improvement over his 70s voice (remember the horrible vocals on The Beach Boys Love You?). Maybe some Pro-Tools? Anyway, it's a fantastic album, but was it worth waiting for it so many years? I won't answer my own question, but I'd rather listen to the original 66/67 session outtakes just like before 2004.

Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (24.08.2005)

I really have to give you a bit of grief for the rating -- a 12? The SAME as his first solo album? I really don't get it -- there are some good melodies there, but there is that 80's production, but the lyrics are mostly inferior. As I said, even the two best songs have ideas that are Smile-derived.

Smile does indeed live up to the hype. I will agree that none of the new recordings better the best available Beach Boys versions, mainly because of the vocals, as you point out. But that's not really the point. As Beach Boys maniacs know, there isn't much that's new -- virtually all of the music and nearly all of the lyrics actually had been at least written, if not recorded, during the 1966-67 sessions (for instance, I myself had never heard "Song for Children" and "I Wanna Be Around" in any form, but that's it). However, all of the pieces have finally been assembled into a coherent whole that is just stunning. Brian was at the height of his compositional and arranging powers when he came up with this stuff originally, and it shows. And hearing it modern stereo production is a revelation. I actually played the boxed set version of "Heroes and Villains" ("in the cantina") back to back with the new version, and in terms of sound clarity, this is one place where the new Smile wins, hands down.

Thanks in large part to Parks, Smile comes off as a series of impressionistic sound paintings. Pet Sounds is much more a direct emotional experience, so I can understand why some people wouldn't like this, and the whimsicality of some of it ("Barnyard", "Vega-Tables", "On a Holiday", "I'm in Great Shape") could annoy people almost as much as Smiley Smile.

As for the vocals, I also miss the young Wilsons, but Brian has done the best singing since Holland here, amazingly enough. I agree that "Surf's Up"is the weakest thing here, vocally -- Brian's voice simply can't handle his own tricky melody. But, for the first time, he's using his live band both on instruments and backing vocals, which was indeed the smart thing to do. They provide the perfect support that was missing in 1967, and help bring the cohesion to the album.

Mike Love may have been right about one thing -- this is an extremely uncommercial project. "Good Vibrations" (by the way, I don't like these original Tony Asher lyrics -- Mike's are indeed better) and, maybe,"Heroes and Villains" were obvious singles, but would they have been enough to make sure that the album was a hit? Perhaps Brian was right to think that it was too far out for his audience. That it actually made the Top 20 in 2004 is amazing enough. Plus, it would have been no more possible to perform it live in 1967 that it would have been for the Beatles to take Sgt. Pepper's.. on the road. This is another place where advances in technology have benefited Smile. I was lucky enough to see the whole thing performed live last week, complete with horns and strings. You could hear all the subtleties perfectly, and Brian carried off his vocals to a T. A very powerful, moving experience. Along with the inclusion of obscure classics like "Break Away", "Marcella" and "Sail On, Sailor", he even surpassed his Pet Sounds tour. I feel quite lucky to have seen both the album and the concerts finally see the light of day!

Andy Doman <adoman@kent.edu> (31.10.2005)

I share your complaint about the vocals on the Brian Wilson SMiLE. A Beach Boys fan friend of mine turned me on to a copy of the Beach Boys SMiLE. He made it right after he went to the first SMiLE concert. What he did was mix all of the available parts of SMiLE tracks sung by the Beach Boys (sessions, bootlegs, box set, etc). He mixed the tracks so it plays just as Brian Wilsonís SMiLE, but with vocals by the Beach Boys. Itís amazing. The vocals were the first problem I had with SMiLE. I just love the Beach Boys vocals, because every member is an amazing singer. As you probably know, Brian Wilsonís SMiLE did feature some vocals that were never heard before. Those vocals were used in the Beach Boys SMiLE CD I have since they never appeared before. But, Wilsonís ďold-timerĒ vocals are minimal.

Michael J. West <mwest@rockpointe.com> (06.12.2005)

One thing you say that I both wholeheartedly agree with and object to on principle:

this thing deserves younger, fresher vocalists, like Brian himself and his late brother Carl used to be thirty years ago.

No. This thing deserves younger, fresher Brian Wilson vocals. That's the problem: there is no other singer on Earth that could sing these songs and do them justice (not to mention, communicate all the Smile experience, glorious and terrible) except Brian himself.

Which is the real meat of the problem: the only thing that could truly make this album the masterpiece it deserves to be is to have 24-year-old Brian on vocals. So angelic, so clear, so Brian!

Actually, that's not quite true, either: it needs the other Beach Boys. I wouldn't want Brian to have to deal with Mike Love again, of course, and he was the arranger for all the completely lovely vocals on this record.but, say what you will, there was something quite magical in that original combination of voices that has never been replicated: not by the Beach Boys minus Brian, not by Brian plus other singers.

All of that said, I thought, and continue to think, that Smile was as wonderful and near-perfect as I had always dreamed it would be. My "best of 2004" pick.listening to it for the first time was like finding the Lost Chord.


CARL WILSON

Adrian Denning <mdenster@yahoo.com> (16.03.2003)

I wouldn't rank 'Heaven' as Surfs Up quality, more like LA Light Album quality, as good as some of the stronger ballads from that particular album. The shocking thing was, Carl had actually left The Beach Boys to do these two solo albums. But unlike Dennis and Brian I don't get the feeling he had any real impetus to do a solo record. He just left the group sick of all the constant family squabbles in the democracy that Seventies ( and Eighties ) Beach Boys had become. If you were a Beach Boy in the late Seventies, early Eighties - you couldn't move without everybody having to take a vote on which direction you were supposed to move in, which shade of blue striped shirt to wear on the latest nostalgia tour, etc, etc.

I actually don't mind the production on this particular Carl Wilson album, it's the material itself and the performances that are the problem. Bland material and strangely lacking vocal performances. Carl hardly stretches himself here. Still, yeah. 'Heaven' IS a nice song.


YOUNGBLOOD

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PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE

<DebNMarkW@aol.com> (24.03.2003)

This is definitely worthy of a good listen. It is a solid well thought out album from the Wilson brother who was eager to prove he was a lot more than just the band's sex symbol. Dennis was a talented songwriter in my opinion and his vocals on the early Beach Boys albums were crucial to the harmony for which they were so famous for. When he took a lead, he was pretty damn good too. His songs were mostly very introspective and thoughtful. Dennis was also the first Beach Boy to release a solo album, which as legend would have it infuriated Mike Love greatly as he wanted to be the one to do it. It was also critically acclaimed, which probably also didn't please Mr. Love. 'River Song' is worth the price of admission alone. Such a beautiful gospel type number with an infectious opening piano line, it is one of the best songs ever to come out of the Beach Boys camp. It's not better than anything the Band did...let's not be hasty. It's not THAT good. It is however, a very dark album. Certainly carried with the fact that 'Farewell My Friend' was played at Dennis' funeral. Dennis would come crashing down after this success in a world of drug and booze. He would destroy his voice, lose his songwriting ability, and die a broken and bitter man longing for the past. If he would have cleaned up, certainly more successful solo albums would follow. I have never seen this on cd. I still have my worn vinyl copy from many years ago, but this would fit nicely onto one cd and seems to me it is long overdue.


HIT PACKAGES 
THE BEST OF THE BEACH BOYS

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