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The Beach Boys – The Very Best of the Beach Boys: Sounds of Summer LP box (Capitol/UMe/Brother)

24 September 2022

This 6xLP set isn’t comprehensive, but it more than doubles the original 2003 collection of Beach Boys essentials. The original 30-track edition of Sounds of Summer has now surpassed the platinum sales mark four times, serving as a primer on the magical songs that make the Beach Boys such a treasure and representing the unmatched pinnacle of American pop music. In honor of the band’s 60th anniversary, this expanded edition adds another 50 tracks to help tell the band’s story. Songs spanning 1962 debut album Surfin’ Safari through 1989’s Still Cruisin’ capture the pure escapism of classic surf-rock sides and expand toward Brian Wilson’s pursuit of pop perfection characterized as “teenage symphonies to God.” LP1 Side A offers a rapid sequence of surf-culture favorites leading with the immortal “California Girls” and the band’s first #1 single, “I Get Around.” Inspired by The Four Freshmen, the harmony of Wilson brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis joined by cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine remains vibrant and blissful. Love’s youthful and reedy voice fronts “Surfin’ Safari.” Joyful singles “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Fun, Fun, Fun” pay tribute to the rock and roll style of Chuck Berry. Side B collects songs romanticizing the experience of the American teenager in the 1960s. Jardine sings 1965’s “Help Me, Rhonda,” notching the Beach Boys’ second chart-topper. Carl Wilson sings Pet Sounds’ sublime “God Only Knows” with warmth and emotion. Brian sings the wistful daydream “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” backed by musicians from the Los Angeles studio system’s famed Wrecking Crew. LP2 expands the subject material to collect songs from different eras. Jardine sings the stroll “Come Go with Me.” ‘80s singles including the nostalgic “Getcha Back” and loopy “Kokomo” share space with ambitious Smiley Smile nugget “Heroes and Villains” and Brian Wilson’s pop masterpiece and million-selling single “Good Vibrations,” which concludes the original selection of 30 songs. The material becomes more adventurous as the band members flex their creative muscle with the passage of time. Dennis and Carl’s R&B rocker “It’s About Time” muses on the pitfalls of stardom. The song reflects the period circa Surf’s Up and Sunflower documented in 2021’s rich Feel Flows set, covering time when the band members aside from Brian Wilson were making creative strides. The pastiche “Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)” emerges from the time when Brian was finding his way through the aborted Smile sessions. Carl and Brian lead the beautiful Smile remnant and eventual 1971 title cut “Surf’s Up.” There’s no surfing afoot, but the song reveals a spiritual awakening that coalesces into an intoxicating coda repeating the line “child is father of the man.” The set includes “It’s OK,” adding another of the band’s top 40 singles that went missing from the original release of Sounds of Summer. A final pair of platters include other overlooked gems including the lovely “All This is That” from 1972’s Carl and the Passions – So Tough, 1964’s lovelorn “Wendy,” the whimsical Smiley Smile cut “Vegetables,” rollicking “Susie Cincinnati,” and Pet Sounds’ classic slice of teen angst “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.” The expanded Sounds of Summer features two first-time stereo mixes, as well as 22 new stereo mixes. These new mixes add clarity to low frequencies and separation to voices and solo instruments, but sometimes tend toward brittle, edgy, and overly bright. The set’s final LP side is etched with the band’s famous logo. Like the band itself, this is a rewarding set for various types of listeners. Some will be satisfied with the original, indelible pop classics. Others will be glad to encounter the loping and gorgeous Holland track “Sail on Sailor,” sung by Blondie Chaplin, perhaps for the first time. The Beach Boys won hearts with youthful songs about surf, girls, and cars. Nonetheless, many will be captivated by this deeper dive into the expansive and rewarding catalog that made the Beach Boys experience much more than it appeared to be on the surface.

9 of 10 for songs
6 of 10 for remixing