Reviews

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys did make more than just one great album -- speaking of Pet Sounds of course -- before they became an oldies-circuit cliché and a mere job for Mike Love. This two-for-one re-release of Sunflower and Surf's Up, from 1970 and 1971 respectively, proves that. With this release Capitol Records revives the Beach Boys' own Brother Records label imprint that flourished briefly in the early Seventies; this is just one in a series of reissues from the Beach Boys' Brother catalogue. What's interesting here is that these two albums marked the last real creative involvement of Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys, before he took to his bed and before years of polypharmacy eventually reduced him to a twitching mush-mouthed hulk who ended up in the care of crackpot celebrity therapist Eugene Landy. Wilson finally freed himself from the clutches of Landy and fellow Beach Boys founding member Mike Love and is now pursuing a solo career. He's recently been touring with an orchestra, playing selections from Pet Sounds and reclaiming whatever is left of the Beach Boys' creative legacy and reputation.

It's surprising to hear the R&B flavor that characterizes Sunflower and Surf's Up; on these two albums the whiter-than-white Beach Boys actually sound funky and soulful at times. Naturally the gorgeous ballads are here, featuring signature Wilson brothers vocal harmonies. The group self-produced these two records and established a pop production sound that other acts like the Carpenters and David Cassidy would soon turn into a commercial-radio-hit formula. This release also is unique in that the Beach Boys functioned as something of a democracy, sharing lead vocals, songwriting chores, and production duties. This might be as close as the Beach Boys ever got to being a band in a career that was either dominated by Brian Wilson's studio genius or, later, by Mike Love's penchant for touring the group into oblivion.

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Ross Johnson