Beach Boys Song Reviews
Surfin' Safari (1962)
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Surfin' Safari 10/10
Let's go surfin' now/everybody's learning how/come on a safari with me ... That's how the Beach Boys introduce themselves, and what nice words. I even like them even though I live in Kansas, which has been scientifically proven to be the worst place in the United States to go surfing. But when I listen to this song, I'm not in Kansas. I'm in Cali-freaking-fornia where there's this giant thing called "the ocean." And apparently some people get these big pieces of wood or something, put it on top of this "ocean" thing, and stand on top of it!!! ... Yes, this is why there are so many hot women in California!!!! (I've never been to California, as a matter of fact, but I know there's how women in California, because the Beach Boys told me so circa 1965.) Any-dang-way, this is a great surfing song! The melody is very catchy. The groove and instrument playing sounds like it's from a bunch of wimpy white boys, but that's OK, because this was 1962, and ... The Beach Boys were a bunch of wimpy white boys. 1962 was in the midst of a dark age in rock (who the frig cares about girl group and Motown?), but this song is a highlight! Too bad I can't say the same thing about the other songs...
County Fair 7/10
The melody is OK, but it strikes me as being a dumb old throwaway song with some really embarrassing dialogue in the middle of it. I'd take this song over half of the stuff kids today like listening to. But it's nothing special. (I wonder if this is what the Sparks were making fun of in their "Algebra" song from their debut album?)
Ten Little Indians 7/10
Well, the Beach Boys would later cover "Sloop John B," but this adaptation from the nursery rhyme is just meant to be cute and little else. It's mildly enjoyable though.
Who the heck wants a song about drinking root beer? Oh wait, I forgot. This is the early '60s and it's OK for music to be sucky. I like the groove even though it sounds exactly like the other songs on this album. The melody is decent, and so is the instrumentation. The lyrics are embarrassingly stupid, but ... they pretty much already hit their nadir with "County Fair."
Little Girl (You're My Miss America) 4/10
There's nothing appealing about this song. The melody just isn't worth anything. The whole "sha-la-la" background chorus is something that should have stayed in the '50s! And whoever the hell that is singing "You're My Miss America" in that barritone probably didn't rehearse much. It's also notable that this is the album's only ballad ............
Everybody likes this song! As you probably know, this is one of the album's biggest hits, and it continues to get radio play to this day. The melody is catchy and the instrumentals are predictably white-boyish. Hey, but that's why we like the Beach Boys, right? (No? ... What's that you say about harmonies and ballads?)
For a surfing band, there's not a lot of songs about surfing on it. This is only their second, and it SUCKS!!! OK, it's not so bad, but it's obviously a dumb old throwaway song. It starts out sounding like that "Hey Mickey, you're so fine" song and then the bulk of the song is a goofy thing featuring silly scat vocals and a non-melody. Oh well.
Heads You Win, Tails I Lose 7.5/10
Dumb lyrics, but the melody is passable this time. The chorus is interesting in its own way. The bouncy rhythm section is kind of fun. The vocals are funny, because it sounds like they're falling asleep. (Hey, they'll get better, I swears!)
Summertime Blues 8/10
Hey, I like the riff! They ripped it off from something I can't remember, but who cares? It was 1962, and that's OK. This is a cover anyway. The melody is pretty good here. But this is only a minor highlight.
Cuckoo Clock 8.5/10
This is a pretty good song. The melody is catchy. They accent this song with calls of "Cuckoo," which sounds totally gimmicky to me, but this isn't as embarrassing as they did previously in this album. There's some good use of harmonies here as well.
Moon Dawg 8/10
A very interesting song! It's an atmospheric instrumental and it features some sound effects of a dog barking. A significant precursor to the title track of "Pet Sounds?" Mayhaps.
The Shift 6.5/10
This song isn't bad, but it doesn't have a great enough melody to warrant the wimpy performances! This is basically another throwaway song as far as I can tell. Perhaps you have another opinion.
Surfin' USA (1963)
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Surfin' U.S.A. 10/10
Didn't I tell you that the Beach Boys were going to get better? It's just been one album, and they've come up with a surfing song that manages to surpass "Surfin' Safari." OK, that's an arguable statement, but I think this song is generally better developed, and I like the melody better. One thing the Beach Boys fail to solve with this song, however, is that it's impossible to go surfing where I live in Kansas. They should get on that immediately. Come on, Mike Love is still alive. (This is set to a Chuck Berry song, which is why he gets cowriting credit, but I think this is a nice improvement.)
Farmer's Daughter 8.5/10
The Beach Boy's lovely harmonies are really beginning to materialize after hearing merely hints of that in their previous album. The melody of this song isn't anything to be proud about, which is why I'm only giving this song an 8.5. The song is set to a regular rock beat, which seems kind of odd in retrospect. Perhaps the record company wouldn't let them release an a cappella song, which this would undoubtedly be better suited as.
(Hey I'm doing research for this album review ... believe me, that won't happen often!) I recognized this song immediately, because this Beach Boys instrumental is so engrained in our pop culture. Recently, that's probably thanks to Pulp Fiction! This is a Greek song (the style of music happens to be song's title), yet it sounds so distinctly American. It's amazing how cultural programming can do something like that to music! If I were an academic, I might want to study that ... Oh, this is a cover by the way. But it's so obviously Beach Boys.
Another instrumental, and this one was written by Brian Wilson. Some might consider this a throwaway song meant to fill up this album's meager 24 minute running length. But it's actually quite fun. I would probably have given this an 8.5 if it were on their first album, but ... it's throwaway and there was a lot more of that on their debut. (Ah screw it, I know my rating system is flawed!)
Lonely Sea 8.5/10
This is Brian Wilson's first real ballad, it seems. It was co-written by Gary Usher, but ... seriously nobody cares about Gary Usher. (Was that too mean? I'm sorry...) But anyways, this song features those heartmelting Beach Boys harmonies, and it's hard not to at least surrender this song your attention because of that. Otherwise, the song does come off as boring. Particularly when you compare it to their later songs in which they completely MASTER this type of hautingly beautiful music. Again, the melody doesn't seem to do much of anything.
Shut Down 9/10
This song sounds exactly like "409," but whatever. It's hard to come up with all these songs when you had to manufacture hit songs! This is a good party song, and it's really about as good as "409."
Noble Surfer 7.5/10
This is another party song, and it's silly! There's nothing particularly special about this song other than it features really stupid lyrics and, briefly, a xylophone-type instrument. This song is throwaway, but it's still kind of fun.
Honkey Tonk 8.5/10
This is an instrumental cover. It's played nicely using the Beach Boys' characteristic surf-rock instruments. It's a fun song. The guitar work is pretty nice, and for some reason I don't mind listening to this instead of their great vocal work!
Brian Wilson wrote this song all by himself! If the Beach Boys career would have ended right here, I could imagine that this song would be pretty well known today. The melody is pretty simple but it's catchy. The vocals are beautiful! The rhythm seems stuck in that '50s R&B mindset, which almost seems to detract from the whole experience. But I only say that because I have their later work to compare it to! (Oh, this is what happens when I review groups that I'm already very familiar with ...)
Surf Jam 7.5/10
This is yet another instrumental, and this one is written by 16-year-old Carl Wilson, his first songwriting credit. As expected, this song is derivative and sounds exactly like the other instrumentals in this album. It's a fun song to be sure, but the overabundance of instrumentals on this album is what makes me take away points in the "album tilt" rating. (Does the guitar seem a bit off to anyone else at the beginning of this song?)
Let's Go Trippin' 7.5/10
As if they really needed yet ANOTHER instrumental. This is was written by an outside composer called Dick Dale. It sounds a lot like that "Tequilla" song.
Finders Keepers 7/10
Finally, a non-instrumental!!! ... Hey, the final song on the album isn't supposed to be so sloppy! I guess it's interesting more along the lines of changing rhythms and development. It seemed like they wanted to do more with this song, but they didn't for whatever reason. Oh wait, I know the reason. THE RECORD COMPANY WERE NAZIS!!!!!
Surfer Girl (1963)
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Surfer Girl 10/10
Now who in their right minds can say anything bad about this ballad? This band is probably best known for their harmonically devastating ballads, and this is the first great one of their discography. It's interesting that they would actually begin thieir album with a ballad. Usually, it seems, those are reserved for the third track after two fast-paced songs. They made an excellent decision with it nonetheless!
Catch a Wave 9.5/10
A harp? Brian Wilson's definitely trying a few things in the studio, and it does nothing but improve the song. This song, at its base, is just another surfing song, and there's nothing particularly original about it. But they took the time to polish the song! The melody is great and the beat is toe-tapping. It's a classic surf song!
Surfer Moon 8/10
This is another Beach Boys ballad, but it's not too enthralling for me this time. It's too '50s! The pizzacatto strings at the beginning was polished and well done, but it's not characteristic of The Beach Boys enough. ... Well, it's only their third album and they haven't quite found their groove I guess. The melody is splendid though ... just the whole experience bores me a bit.
South Bay Surfer 6.5/10
I first listened to this album months ago and I looked up what melody this song came from. It's an old Dixieland song. Anyway, it's just fller ... if Brian Wilson didn't write it, it's filler. (OK that's an unfair statement, but I'm not going to erase it.)
The Rocking Surfer 6/10
An instrumental. Basically useless. It's not that fun. I'm tired of these. I want more classics!!!
Little Deuce Coupe 8/10
OK this is a classic. It's not a *great* classic as far as Beach Boys songs go. It's a straight ahead song with a simple though catchy melody and great singing. This is too simple for a Beach Boys song. They should never have sung about cars. ... Or surfing. (Yes, I'm crusing for a bruising with irate Baby Boomers. I can take all of you.)
In My Room 10/10
HERE WE GO!!!! This ballad is beauty in ways only the Beach Boys knew how to do properly! The chord progressions are absolutely golden. Brian Wilson has such an ear for harmonies, it's amazing. That's why this group is famous, after all! The melody really didn't matter ... it's the freaking harmonies!!
Very excellent vocals here with a call and response style interchanges. Not to mention the melody that's utterly catchy and original. It's a light, white-bread rocker, but it's very good and VERY Beach Boys. It doesn't do anything new after the first 30 seconds, but it doesn't overextend its welcome.
Surfers Rule 8/10
It's kind of like the last song, except it doesn't sound as fresh. The melody and harmonies aren't so excellent. Well ... it's still good.
Our Car Club 7.5/10
It's very dated again and un-Beach Boys. There's some good drum bits in here, but they've been doing that in the '50s. It's derivitive. It's about cars. ... But it's enjoyable, at least.
Your Summer Dream 7/10
It's a ballad though uninspired. The melody doesn't seem to do much. The instrumentation consists basically of a boringly strummed acoustic guitar and a doofy drumline. Meh.
Boogie Woogie 6/10
They end it on a weak note, but that's OK. These guys are going to turn into a GREAT band. I swear! I skipped ahead! This is a rock-jam-thing instrumental that nobody cares about. Nobody remembers the Beach Boys for doing this type of song, and there's good reason. It's boring. This group just wasn't a jam band.
Little Deuce Coupe (1963)
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Little Deuce Coupe 8/10
...didn't I already review this song? ... Whatever. As I already said, this is a nice, catchy and simple song. It doesn't do much ... it's just a straight ahead rocker for white boys who wear sweaters and drive cars. They probably like the other songs on this album. Those jerks.
Ballad of Ole Betsy 8/10
This is a pleasant and pretty ballad though it's a far cry from the harmonic brilliance we already heard from these guys in "Little Surfer Girl." This one's mightily boring in comparison. At any rate, I like the melody even though it's instantly forgettable.
Be True To Your School 6/10
Sloppy. This would have made a great parody if it sounded a little more self-conscious. But ... this song is YUCK. The mixing is the first thing that strikes me about it. It's a rather heavily instrumented song with vocals going all over the place and a boogie-woogie horn section. But the balance just doesn't seem right. ... This is a real mess.
Crazy Car Cutie 6/10
Oh, we really needed another song with the '50s style chord progression. Damn it all!! I'm not even enjoying this in the sense that one would actually enjoy '50s music. I dismiss this song with one word: Whatever.
Cherry, Cherry Coupe 7/10
Better this time, but it still leaves much to be desired. The instrumentation is decent this time, and the chord progression is more like the Beach Boys. It's absolutely uninspiring, though. This song is for the moment ... I'm listening to this song right now, and I already forgot about it.
Easily, this is the best car song these guys came up with at this point. Those sleepy vocals and Chuck Berry guitar licks never get old. I love the melody!
Shut Down 7/10
Everyone who bought this album in the '60s is probably a dork. This is another sterile rocker with a merely OK melody that only dorks would like.
Spirit of America 6/10
The worst TV show in history is Happy Days. That's what this song reminds me of. Hey, wasn't that TV show supposed to take place in the 1950s? Then why is this song, that's not even worthy to have been sung by Potsie, on this album? Screw it!!!! (For the record, the worst TV show in history is actually MadTV, but I'm sure you knew that already.)
Our Car Club 7.5/10
Didn't I review this song already? ... That was one of the lesser songs from Surfer Girl, but it's a highlight on Little Deuce Coupe. How did that happen?
No-Go Showboat 6/10
No-go album! ... Despite that the song has a "chug-a-lug" rhythm, this song manages to be completely uncharacteristic of the Beach Boys and has an annoying melody. Something's not right!!!
A Young Man Gone 7/10
An a cappella song ... They have very pretty voices, but nobody can successfully carry a song without a compelling melody. If you did that, you'd might just as well prove Einstein's Theory of Relativity wrong.
Custom Machine 7/10
Good news! This is the last sterile song of the album! ... OK, it's the last song. I'm glad! ... About the song, nothing new to report.
Shut Down Vol. 2 (1964)
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Fun, Fun, Fun 9.5/10
The classic Chuck Berry "Johnny B. Goode" sequence begins this enjoyable Beach Boys rock song. OK, it's not the Beach Boys' most original song, but it's a classic song anyway! The melody is infalliable... The rhythm has a nice "chugging" to it, which seems like an improvement over what I remember from their debut album. There's a nice electric organ solo in here to give it spirit. It's a classic!
Don't Worry Baby 10/10
Just to prove that these guys' strength was always ballads, they follow up their hit with this absolutely spellbinding piece. The song strikes me as sounding too '50s like I criticized their earlier ballads for sounding like. But this time, this one has that "Beach Boys" sense about it. It's personalized to the Beach Boys, and that's why it can stand the test of time.
In the Parking Lot 9/10
This is a memorable song ... I went to that Brian Wilson concert 18 months ago. I never heard this song when I went to the concert, but I remember clearly that he sang this song. OK, it's a lot like "Fun Fun Fun" and probably not as strong, so I can't give it such a high score. I like that there's a ballad-like introduction to the song that seemingly has little to do with the "rocking" body of it. That seems pretty complex!
"Cassius" Love Vs. "Sonny" Wilson 5/10
This type of nonsense is what keeps this album from being a classic for these guys. They were off to a great start with the first three tracks ... but this throws a wrench in the wheel and ruins the whole experience. It's so bad that I sometimes remember this song more than the others!!! This song is a clearly staged "insight" into how the Beach Boys goofed off during practice. Only, this obviously isn't how they really acted... Nobody acts like this unless they're on the Mickey Mouse club. (Oh, and goofing around with the "Mickey Mouse" singing wasn't necessary either.) We all know the Beach Boys all took themselves pretty seriously ... this doesn't convince anyone otherwise.
The Warmth of the Sun 9.5/10
Yay, back to the real ballads! You can tell right here, with the fourth 9+ song on here, these guys really have their craft down well. This song is as harmonically rich as anything they would do up until Pet Sounds (although melodically this is a slightly different story). Oh, those heavenly voices are enough to untangle every mess that's in your brain!!!
This Car of Mine 7/10
Pretty banal here. It's obvious this group needed to get away from such songs ... there's no passion in this song at all. It's just a chugged-out song without a memorable melody. Even the fade-out at the ending is sloppy. (Fade-outs are one thing, but when it still sounds sloppy, you have problems.) The good sense was they kept it under two minutes.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love 8/10
This is a '50s cover ....... they really needed to get away from these songs. But at least they give the song some life with their trademark vocal harmonies. It doesn't save the melody, which is mostly trite, but I love the voices! They even add some, what I perceive, rather unusual percussion. It sounds like someone's shaking spoons!
Pom Pom Girl 8.5/10
Cutesy but kind of fun in its own way. The melody is fine, but it sounds like it was recycled from earlier Beach Boys compositions. The nice quality we're getting here is the instrumentation is kind of interesting. Those timapani hits and the funny clapping noises were an excellent and pretty innovative touch. The same thing goes with the dialogue as the song fades out. This is an energetic song with some funny vocal performances. I like it!
Shut Down Part 2 7/10
The best thing about this instrumental track is that counting that begins the song and then the horn that toots eight times. It's strange ... and somehow I like it. It seems to be another hint at their future. After that point, however, it's just another derivitive "surf-style" instrumental track that we heard a bit too much in their earlier albums.
Louie Louie 7/10
They're getting really pointless here by covering this famous old song. The vocal bass work is annoying (especially that stupid sounding vocal acting as the bass). This is obviously more filler, I guess because the studio wouldn't give them enough time to work out this album. Whatever.
Denny's Drums 5/10
.................That's right, this is a drum solo. They're really hurting for filler material. He's not really a great drummer. I'd rather listen to the neighbor kid.
All Summer Long (1964)
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Get Around 10/10
Nothing different than any of their earlier efforts, but somehow this manages to top all of those! I guess that's the story with most of these songs on this glorious Beach Boys album. The melody is brilliant with hooks that prove exactly why Brian Wilson is considered one of rock's greatest songwriters. It's a complex song with not only great harmonies, but it seems they were in control of them in ways they never were before. A perfect pop song.
All Summer Long 10/10
They use a brief xylophone section to introduce this track and even use it within! I thought their instrumentation was geting pretty advanced in Shut Down Vol. 2 but they continue to get better. The melody is so delicious and so are the harmonies that it's difficult to deny that the song isn't another classic! It really captures the spirit of "having fun all summer long."
They're really caring about everything they do now ... a track like this might not have been produced too well in their ealier albums. This song features a piano pounding around at lower registers and a great irregular drum pattern. The more pop-rock bit in the middle was incorporated FLAWLESSLY. The harmonies are beautiful!!! This is the most unique song of the album, but not exactly the best. The creativity dribbles off this one!!
Little Honda 8/10
It's one of the lesser songs, but this is entertaining ... nothing so boring like the average song on Little Deuce Coupe. I still think their car songs are the least compelling, but ... maybe that's just because I was never into cars.
We'll Run Away 9/10
Gorgeous! The harmonies are lovely but somehow not as compelling as the ones in "Hushabye." Nothing at all to complain about here, because I just love soaking up this ballad! The melody is lovely ... even the orchestration is nice. The song sounds pristine and timeless. Such a nice improvement!
Carl's Big Chance 8/10
Another one of the lesser songs. It's a return to the instrumentals ... I was never too impressed with these, but at least this one features some fairly decent guitar noodling. (But, it's a far cry from guitarists like ... um ... Eric Clapton.) The harmonies have a typical '50s pattern, but the steady guitar beat keeps it fun. The saving grace of the song was a very subtle use of an accordion ... it gave the song an atmosphere that, well, wasn't so bland!
This is a mid-tempoed rocker/ballad (it seems). The melody is absolutely wonderful, and it would have been the highlight on another Beach Boys album. The good sound from a high-register electric organ graces us in a little interlude! Beauty!!!
Do You Remember 8.5/10
The Beach Boys pay tribute to their influences. It seems like a throwaway song that's too stuck in the '50s .................... but instead of being stuck in that mentality, they're looking back to it. For some reason it's easier to take that way. This is a fun, toe-tapping number, anyway. It seems too short, though. I guess that means I liked it!
Girls on the Beach 8.5/10
This is a song that has a real treasurable atmosphere and great vocal harmonies... It's another song that I want to soak up just like the sun rays on the beach, I guess! The melody isn't as catchy as the album's best, but ... it's still great. It'll put a smile on your face!!
I suppose this seems like another throwaway novelty song ... the melody sure isn't among the album's best. Another good example of the improved song production are those jingley sounds in the production that points to Pet Sounds. The goofy lyrics are playful, but it seems so trivial............................
Our Favorite Recording Sessions 7/10
Even the goofy studio dialogue is much better than Shut Down Vol. 2. This is from genuine studio sessions instead of that staged nonsense. That said, this is easily the weakest point of the album ... but it doesn't ruin it.
Don't Back Down 8.5/10
Well, the album doesn't turn into a great conclusion, but I guess 1964 is still well too early to start thinking about the album mentality. This is a perfectly nice pop song though not nearly as compelling as the other songs of the album ....... I like the melody, though. It's hard to dislike it! (That falsetto voice seems screwy sometimes.)
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Do You Wanna Dance 10/10
The Beach Boys are getting even more complex in their songs and arrangements, although it's not radically different from the stuff from their previous work. This song certainly sounds refined, and shows these guys at the top of their game! This is an almost thundering rocker with a thick atmosphere. The melody is catchy and great! Wooooooooooo!!!!
Good to My Baby 9.5/10
Just love the hooks! Again, the instrumentation is so thick that it hurts. The melody is utterly complex (it's based on a rather simple groove, but it goes through interesting stages of development).
Don't Hurt My Little Sister 8.5/10
This is another extremely well done song but not an instantly memorable rock song. The melody is pretty fine (with some good vocal harmonies inserted for good measure), but not quite as hooky as the other songs. It still makes a great listen and it can hardly be considered a 'kink.'
When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) 10/10
They use a dulcimer-like instrument in here, but that's not the best part of the song. The melody is excellent here--verrrrrry catchy. The vocal harmonies in the middle of the track are enough to be utterly heartmelting. Again, the songwriting is absolutely complex ... this is why everybody says Brian Wilson is a genius. I like the lyrics, too ...
Help Me, Rhonda 9.5/10
This is one of the album's more recognizable tunes. The melody is classic Beach Boys! It seems strange that, at three minutes, this is one of the album's more lengthy tunes. Not that the previous ones seem underdeveloped, but I do like to be immersed into a song for a longer time. (The volume keeps switching to high and low toward the end of this track ... Why???)
Dance, Dance, Dance 10/10
Give me this song for a million dollars! You've got to love these chord progressions ... ooooo!!! The melody manages to gain distinction as another one of the album's best. As an added bonus, this one probably is a good song to dance to if you are so inclined
Please Let Me Wonder 9.5/10
The first of the album's five ballads. I like it better when they separate them out more, but ... whatever's fine! Ballads were always these guys' strength, so maybe they wanted to go out on the highest possible note? This is a great and engaging ballad with their excellent sense of harmonies. Nobody would have accepted anything less from them!! The melody is fine but probably not their best.
I'm So Young 8/10
For the life of me, I find this album BORING. Like the harmonies and the melody is fairly hooky, but .................... it's boring. I find the chord progressions to be pretty dull here. This doesn't seem to impressive to me!
Kiss Me Baby 8/10
I really like the atmosphere of this ballad as everyone should. The production is utterly thick and refined, which can only go to improve it. The melody doesn't do much to compel me, but maybe it's not supposed to?
She Knows Me Too Well 10/10
Yay! This is easily the best of the ballads. This song is absolutely heavenly. The Beach Boys always excel best at ballads when they find some very resonant chord progressions. It also helps that they sing like wimpy angels!!
In the Back of My Mind 8.5/10
Quite a bit better than "I'm So Young" and "Kiss Me Baby" although this isn't the world's greatest piece of balladry ever to come out of these guys' heads. The instrumentation is pretty good, though. There's an assortment of strings, woodwinds, and you even hear a pizzacato string every once in awhile. Highly creative! The melody is pretty good too, but not incredibly memorable.
Bull Session with "Big Daddy" 7/10
I'm not too sure what the reason is they release these conversation tracks ... this time, they're ordering junk food. So.................................
Summer Days & Summer Nights (1965)
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The Girl From New York City 9.5/10
The first thing that struck me about "The Girl From New York City" is it sounded a lot like a Frank Zappa track from Cruising With Reuben and the Jets. Except, naturally, the Beach Boys version was serious and much better. It's a fun song and highly energetic. Unlike much of the Beach Boys material during their early period, this hasn't dated badly. The instrumentation is enjoyable and very refined.
Amusement Parks U.S.A. 9.5/10
You would think that this was a bad throwback to their earlier period (after all the advances they made with Today!) just due to its novelty. But this really is a very refined song. That groove the organ playing in the background sounds almost menacing to me ... that's certainly a far cry from the impression I got from their previous albums. Even the play acting in the middle of the track doesn't come off that badly. I enjoy this song very much.
Then I Kissed Her 10/10
Oh, the beautiful melodies! This is more of a heavy rocker and I fall in love with the percussion, especially those light clicks we hear. Musically, this is very Beach Boys, but Brian Wilson sure learned a thing or two about song production... What a revolutionary. Nobody in 1965 was layering sounds like this. Not even The Beatles.
Salt Lake 9.5/10
This one is another heavily produced masterpiece! Oh, Beach Boys fans probably hate me for this. Musically, this is very early Beach Boys, but the song production is heavily creative and completely nailed. The xylophone we hear lightly in the background gives this song such a unique texture. The dark saxophone was awesome too... That combined with a catchy melody is just sheer musical heaven.
Girl Don't Tell Me 8.5/10
This track is weaker compared to the others, but I'm still enjoying the hell out of it. The melody is wonderful, but it's not that catchy compared to its 'big brothers.' The vocal performance is a little annoying to me. Again, the instrumentation saves it (with the light xylophone) but it's not nearly as complex as the others. I'd never call this a throwaway track, but it's weaker for these guys during this era.
Help Me, Rhonda! 10/10
Oh, the heavenly catchiness! OK, I'd normally pretend to go ape-crazy at the addition of this song because they already included this in their previous album. Who likes a repeat? But at least they took the occasion to improve this song. It sounds much crisper and tighter here. It was good in Today!, but it's better here. Plus, they got rid of that annoying volume-change thing that plagued the original. This song is classic!!
California Girls 10plus/10
Maybe the real reason I consider this album to be such a masterpiece is that I have such a fondness for "California Girls." The introduction to the song was rather unusual for the era ... it was classical inspired and had nothing to do with the main melody. It points directly to Pet Sounds. I'm also calling this track the Beach Boy's best song pre-Pet Sounds for reasons not only because of the flawless and beautifully lush instrumentation, but the melody is also catchy and utterly heavenly. If you don't know this song by heart already, then there's something wrong with you!!!!!!! GAAAHHH!!!!!!
Let Him Run Wild 10/10
I love this beautiful ballad!!! It would be hard to follow-up that previous song, but the Beach Boys pull that off like samurai masters. This track has those beautifully haunting melody these guys are famous for. The development of the song is flawless ... it has a more thoughtful contemplative section and a more upbeat part...... Gosh, Brian Wilson is a genius.
You're So Good to Me 9/10
This is probably not one of the album's highlights, but who can argue that it isn't charmingly unusual. Those loudly thumping drums certainly seem unusual for the day, and those guitars produce an interesting effect. The melody is just great, though. The "lah-lah-lah's" are interesting in the sense that they sound almost self-parodical. But it's too engaging to really consider it as such.
Summer Means New Love 8.5/10
One thing I never cared about the Beach Boys earlier albums was the meaningless instrumentals they'd always do. But that stuff is even much better and even welcome here with "Summer Means New Love." Those choppy guitar chords almost has a new wave effect ... The lead melody is what makes this a nice song... It's quite catchy. The instrumentation is very smart, and I love the violins in particular!
I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man 8/10
OK here's the worst song of the album. This has easily the most cliche melody of the album. The instrumentation is uncharacteristically sparse ... consisting of just a piano pounding. The lyrics are very funny, though. It's basically a "white rich teenagers' blues." It's like a pre-Weird Al novelty song. I never thought the Beach Boys were very witty, but this song makes me laugh out loud. Musically, it's very out of place here.
And Your Dreams Come True 9/10
This song isn't the best ending I would have hoped for! But at the very least, it's brief. There is no instrumentation here at all; it's just the Beach Boys singing a cappella. Well, they're excellent at harmonizing, at least, and the song is only 1 minute. I would have liked something a little more amazing, but ........ Well, this was a great album anyway and I'm still stoked about that!!!
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Hully Gully 8/10
We hear audience noise and the guys soon start singing this fun old song called "Hully Gully." Naturally, the whole effort comes off as a toss-off (because that's what this whole album was, as a matter of fact). They're at least having fun with it. The sloppy vocal performances and --- the real Beach Boys playing their instruments! Yeah...
I Should Have Known Better 8/10
Even the Beach Boys were Beatles fans! It is always fun to hear no matter who's playing it. The vocals are mixed too quietly in my opinion (and who knows why people were talking through this). It's played too sloppily, although I like that bongo drum at least.
Tell Me Why 8.5/10
Another Beatles cover! This one comes off a little better. The vocal performances seem a little more confident. They're still being very goofy (and I never thought these guys were very funny). I think this cover version comes off pretty good.
They take a little while to start singing. This is a fun old early rock tune that they sing very silly. The vocals are so sloppy (and on purpose) and it's almost difficult to listen to! Well they're having fun at least.
Mountain of Love 8/10
And now it's another nice cover. They provide a little bit of harmonica, which is definitely a nice touch. This is a rather enjoyable cover version, I do say! (Sorry I'm skimping out on these track reviews --- what do you expect from me, anyway??)
You've Got to Love Your Hide Away 8/10
This suffers from the rowdy crowd. You hear them shouting out "HEY!" when the music in the chorus comes to it. Actually I like this vocal performance otherwise. It sounds rough and world-worn. (Hey, that's Dennis Wilson singing!)
Devoted to You 8.5/10
This is a nice little track! The instrumentation consists of a modest acoustic guitar, and the vocal performances are delicate. All that chatter in the background is a bit distracting, but --- you can't argue with the concept! It's the concept!!!
Alley Oop 8.5/10
It begins with some Rolling Stones' posturing! And then those lead vocals sound like they're trying to emulate Mick Jagger! (I think that's Mike Love singing but I'm not too sure.) I find this song very enjoyable! The audience participates in some of the singing, and they're almost constructive here ... for once ...
There's No Other Way (Like My Baby) 8/10
A nice ballad although I'm probably not a big fan of the original song. The sloppiness of the vocals are kind of charming here, especially.
I Get Around / Little Deuce Coupe 7/10
And now the Beach Boys assault themselves. This is so goofy that it sounds like this band was just tired of singing the song after so many concerts they probably gave. Well, this one's difficult to listen to, but it's funny in a way.
The Times They Are A-Changin' 6.5/10
Bob Dylan is assaulted now! Help! The lead vocal performer sounds like he was having a little bit too much to drink. And so does the audience who interrupts the song with these yelps. Yeesh...
Barbara Ann 9/10
And now, the reason you all came here today. It was for their cover version of "Barbara Ann." The Beach Boys are so famous for this song that I thought they actually wrote that song until I discovered otherwise --- yesterday. I heard the original version, and this one's vastly superior. It fits their vocal harmonic style wonderfully! Their fun, party time atmosphere is fun to hear for once. Well--- something worthwhile came out of this effort at least!
Pet Sounds (1966)
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Wouldn't it Be Nice 10/10
This is such a great song! It's an upbeat tune that both musically and lyrically expresses feelings of youthful optimism. Naturally, the melody is perfect and instantly memorable. The instrumentation is godly... Of course, the development is varied and interesting. This song isn't even close to three minutes long, and there are many distinct textures. Lovely, lavish and beautiful.
You Still Believe in Me 9.5/10
This is another gorgeous track... A ballad this time, and that's always been The Beach Boys' real strength. The melody is pretty, but the harmonies are even prettier. This is so precise!
That's Not Me 9.5/10
The melody is another nice one. It doesn't quite strike me like so many of their other songs. Again, it's the mood is what's going to get you. The lush production coupled with those lovely lyrics about a kid who is ready to move onto new and more exciting things about life... Well, this is another priceless moment.
Put Your Head on My Shoulder 10/10
Even slower than the previous two ballads, but this is even prettier. The instrumentation consisting of such pretty violins (though as far from cheesy as it gets). Brian was really tapping into different dimensions (of the sci-fi variety) when he was writing this song ... It's hard to say what was inspiring him...
I'm Waiting For the Day 10/10
A more upbeat song although not really in ways you'd think ... This is such an off-beat album that the whole experience is so difficult to describe. He sort of goes back and forth between sweeter, lighter sections and more thunderous ones --- with drums that are just crazy. He nails the moods, naturally --- the development is wild and creative. Cool!
Let's Go Away For Awhile 10/10
Ah, now here's a touching instrumental. This showcases all the extravagant steps Brian Wilson took to arrange these songs... Well, he took revolutionary steps. Not just the historical background is relevant --- it's the music that counts. The arrangement is beautiful and weird --- wild and exotic --- freakishly wonderful. Xylophones, pianos, violins, saxophones, sharp drums ---- all playing a calming and exotic chord progression. Hey, wonderful...
Sloop John B 10/10
I was at geology field camp (it lasted five weeks in low civilization areas) when this came up on the radio. It was a horrible day and we were all tired. And so... this became our theme song for the rest of the trip. The melody is quite good --- no, they didn't write it. This is an old ditty. The lavish instrumentation is what makes it revolutionary... It's put to a rock 'n' roll symphony! It develops wonderfully ... the push to the end was nailed perfectly. Wonderful!!
God Only Knows 10plus/10
However, this must have the prettiest melody of the whole album. Of course that's arguable, but ... well, I'm arguing. The melody is certainly one of the best ever written in rock music all together! The instrumentation is something else. Something else, indeed. Something something else...
I Know There's an Answer 10/10
A wild song ... So freaking wild... It starts out with some strange loop. The development is really weird and unpredictable. At the same sense, there's nothing even remotely awkward about it. Especially with this track, I like hearing the stereo version. I'm even more dumbstruck.
Here Today 10/10
Another gorgeous track with phenomenal and thundering instrumentation --- the melody is pretty. The development is classical-like (with plenty of strange and unpredictable yet completely perfect 'diversions'). Apologies for these horribly written track reviews, but words are really escaping me. Such a daunting task. This song is only three minutes long, and there's way too much going on....
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times 9.5/10
More of that freaking beauty!! The busy instrumentation is utterly dazzling, and he even turns in another wonderful melody. The chord progressions make this even more warming.
Pet Sounds 9.5/10
Another instrumental. Again, I appreciate these immensely, because you can concentrate exclusively on the wonders Wilson did in the studio. Such excellent and exotic sounds and textures here. Again, hard to pinpoint much of this...
Caroline No 10/10
Dammit, here's another heart-melting ballad. It is a hugely wonderful classic. Everything about it is classic. Everybody shall love it. It's too good for the Planet Earth. Oh, and at the end he inserts some train sound effects and *gasp* the pet sounds! (Dogs...)
"Hang On To Your Ego" is the same song as "I Know There's an Answer" except with the original lyrics. You can tell that these vocals weren't meant to be the final ones. Mike Love hated these lyrics so he wrote new ones. Mike Love sucks.
Smiley Smile (1967)
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Heroes and Villains 10/10
At least this sounded complete and it's probably close to how it would have sounded on Smile. It's a glorious song, of course, and it's absolutely worthy to drool over! The melody and harmonies are absolutely haunting and stirring. You also have to love the melody, which is immediately catchy. But what makes Brian Wilson's work even more amazing is the song development --- This song goes absolutely everywhere and its execution is unconventional yet seamless. What a crazy collection of ideas. The last important thing to mention is that there are tons of different textures that he uses. Yeah... impressive indeed.
Now comes what sounds like a demo to me. This sounds very strange and drugged-out. If I didn't hear the final version on Smile, I would wonder what the heck they were going after. This song, as it stands, doesn't sound crazy-brilliant but just crazy. Yikes... They're singing a pretty catchy song about eating vegetables amidst a constant, pounding bass line. There's a weird use of a very low register pan-whistle. And they insert crazy sound effects of people eating vegetables. Yeah... weird...
Fall Breaks into Winter 8/10
This surfaced on Smile as "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow." It was an instrumental there, too, so they weren't ever planning on making vocals! This sounds so stripped down compared to "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," which was to perfectly illustrate a ravaging fire (and sirens wailing and everything). What we have here sounds like a bunch of weird guys spacing out... Well, it's enjoyable in a different sense!
She's Goin' Bald 6.5/10
This was apparently based on something meant for Smile, but I don't recognize anything. Well, this song should be kept far away from that album. It starts out as a rather simple but OK melodic line whilst someone plays bongos. Then, somebody messes with the vocals and they sound like chipmunks... They cut that out, and they start to sing an under-produced and spaced out soul song... Oh my gosh... Well this is a real mess. It's not even perversely enjoyable like the two previous tracks were.
Little Pad 7/10
Somebody's doing drugs, and they're not sharing. This one sounds like it was partly rewritten as "Blue Hawaii" on Smile, but I can only barely gain that impression and only in select locations. It starts out with some drugged up laughter and then some weird, thick Hawaiian music pops up --- And then that stops and somebody starts strumming a ukulele. Wow, this is weird. You'll have to hear it... I can only use words to describe this oddity.
Good Vibrations 10plus/10
And then there's "Good Vibrations." What a freaking wonderful song --- and easily one of my favorite tracks ever made. Hailed by Brian Wilson as a "pocket symphony," this thing had so many sounds stacked on top of itself that it's hard to even sort out. But you're going to have fun doing it. The arrangement is utterly spectacular and the development is absolutely legendary. LEGENDARY. That's all.
With Me Tonight 7.5/10
Another one that sounds weird. If it's also an abandon Smile track, I really don't recognize it. I'm sure Wilson wrote material for that album that he never used for it... this could be one of those. Well, this also sounds horribly incomplete. It begins with some a cappella vocals --- well, they sing a rather pretty melody but the only accompaniment they have is a lone organ just playing long, drawn-out chords on a low register. Spaced out, man...
Wind Chimes 8/10
This was to be another beautiful song to be featured on Smile with the same title. This is undoubtedly a weaker and sloppier version of the final version, but --- well, it's still rather beautiful. This is played a lot slower, though, so it REALLY sounds drugged up. Furthermore, the vocal performances sound like they were on LSD when they were actually recording this. Trippy!!
Gettin' Hungry 8/10
As far as bizarre beginnings go, I think this might top them all. It begins with a really strange robotic groove played on a weird electric organ. It's kind of like a bizarro form of synth-pop. They just keep that groove going for a few seconds, and they rather awkwardly launch into more of a goofy soft soul song. The nicest thing about these songs, I guess, is they refuse to be categorized. But then again, it still comes off like somebody's on drugs and nobody bothered to come around and make it right...
Now, this is one enormously beautiful melody that would turn into one of the many great songs on Smile. I bet you can guess the problem of it --- it's really sloppy. Again, it comes off as an unfinished demo --- as it probably was. This is Bizarro Smile.
A one minute track. A pounding old piano and the Boys singing what might sound like a usual vocal Beach Boys sound except someone smashed up the mixer. Well..
Wild Honey (1967)
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Wild Honey 9/10
This track features a weirdly passionate performance from Carl Wilson. It seems pretty sloppy at first, but then it also seems like he's believing in what he's singing. And, well, it's 1967 so I guess nobody was that interested in having these guys sing like they did in 1964. But anyway, this is a pretty fun song. The groove is fun, and they have a great use of those scaling synthesizers in the background. The melody is catchy and manages to garner enough energy and spirit. It's neat to hear the Beach Boys try something like this, and it works!!
Aren't You Glad 8/10
This is undoubtedly Brian Wilson! You can hear those stripped down xylophone sounds in this that was hiding behind the shroud of all those layers of sound in Pet Sounds. The instrumentation is quite nice but a little sluggish. You know those xylophones are pounding and a little distracting. The melody is catchy, and it's nice that he never let up in that department. The vocal performances are fun and spirited!!
I Was Made to Love Her 8/10
A Stevie Wonder cover... It's funny that they would go soul. Anyway, Carl Wilson does another one of his soulful vocals. I didn't feel the need to really point it out before, but I'm going to have to do it now. He doesn't have a voice for soul. He gives it all he's got, and that's a good part of it. But his voice seems too strained and dry!!
Country Air 9.5/10
Oh, here's finally a great little composition. This one features nice instrumentation. It's very strange, but a tad more streamlined and enjoyable. That idea they had to use the weird fuzzy noise was interesting. Gosh, these guys are weird. This track marks the return of The Beach Boys using their famous vocal harmonies --- oh, why'd they ever stop?
Thing or Two 7.5/10
They're going jazzy at first, and then they suddenly jump into a strange, R&B groove. It's hard to put your finger on this --- and I guess that's an appealing aspect. It sure sounds confused... I'm confused............
YES! Here is a wonderful tune, and the best one of the album. For ONCE they don't sound so dang confused. The instrumentation is streamlined and wonderful. It makes me think maybe there is a hope for The Beach Boys to return to their former glories... Well, at least they're still capable of creating bona fide classics. The chord progressions are wonderful, and Carl Wilson's strained soulful vocals actually suit this beautifully. This is absolutely infectious and wonderful.
I'd Love Just Once to See You 9/10
Ah, there's some more hope with this wonderful track. Brian Wilson delivers a nice solo as someone furiously strums an acoustic guitar. The chorus is absolutely heavenly --- and he doesn't need to use an abundant of complex instrumentals to achieve this like he used to do. Well--- there's such a thing as perfect, subtler beauty. (OK, he's talking about wanting to see somebody in the nude, but --- Well, she must be lovely.)
Here Comes the Night 8.5/10
It is a blander song, and I'm having a difficult time connecting with it. I want to call it sub-par songwriting, but it's a little too creative for that. Well, whatever it is... This is a rather droning track that features really peculiar vocal ideas --- They're almost chanting the lyrics. The instrumentation consists mostly of very dark keyboard sounds... Weird...
Let the Wind Blow 8/10
This begins with a strange piano loop, and what occurs next is a strange and unsettling song. It sounds like a ballad they might have done for Today! except much more bitter. I suppose Wilson was feeling pretty bitter. Well, it's a strange song, and you can't dismiss it for one millisecond.
How She Boogalooed It 8/10
But you can dismiss this, but I'm not sure why you'd want to. At least the songwriters are generally normal!! It's a joint composition between Carl Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston. It's a pretty standard rocker that would have been pretty generic in 1964 --- except they use more up-to-date instrumentals including an organ that's on crack.
Mama Says 7/10
Bring on more of the abandon Smile tunes! This is an a cappella chant that was to appear (in more orchestrated form) on "Vegetables." I don't think this particular bit was included in the version of "Vegetables" on Smiley Smile, but it doesn't matter --- this melody was certainly used there. They sort of do a playful barbershop quartet rendition of it. OK, thanks.
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Meant For You 8.5/10
Wow! Thirty-eight seconds long! If this little snippet wasn't so danged beautiful I'd say these guys only included such a short track to extend the tracklisting and make it seem like the album is longer than 25 minutes. It features such a pretty peaceful melody with a mere organ and piano accompaniment. There's some really brief choral interplay at the end and then a fade out.
Looking at the songwriting credits, this was written by four Beach Boys (without Mike Love). So, I guess that means we have all the good guys working together! (Look at me cater to the Love bashers.) Anyway, this track has a very nice melody and a great chord progression. The instrumentation isn't so much stripped-down, but they don't waste anything unnecessarily, and that definitely has value.
Wake the World 9.5/10
Listen to this wonderful songwriting! This a wonderfully varied song especially for one that's not even a minute and a half long. I just sat through a house/techno Madonna album full of 5+ minute songs, which didn't even remotely have this many ideas. It's such a relief that I'm listening to real songwriting for a change. The hooks are meaningful, the chord progressions are unpredictable but glorious and the instrumental embellishements are entertaining. You can't go wrong with a song that incorporates a semi-creepy string build-up and a bouncy tuba section (not at the same time).
Be Here in the Morning 8.5/10
This is an interesting song, and I love listening to it. Some of the chord progressions are unusual and jump out at me! The melody is nice, and it captures the unusual somewhat alien atmosphere of this song. It's less earthly, and somehow that's a nice thing. The instrumentation is pretty bare here. You just have an ukulele, harmonium and a handful of other minor sounds.
When a Man Needs a Woman 9.5/10
This is entirely good natured with a bouncy melody and instrumentation. The guitars keep the texture alive. Who knows why they had to include such a laid-back organ for the instrumental interlude? I suppose that's part of the charm...
Passing By 10/10
This is an instrumental except it features the Boys singing "aahs." For some reason this is one of the most instantly memorable tracks of the album thanks to some of the textures that they deliver with that bouncy organ and Dennis Wilson's drums. I must say, this is a very well composed track with some of the nicest textures they created in their post-Pet Sounds era.
Anna Lee the Healer 9/10
More of that simple, laid-back pop music! They're reverting back to the old timey R&B grooves except delivered from a one-fingered piano player. This is rather interesting, but most importantly it features these guys' always excellent layered vocals.
Little Bird 9.5/10
Wow! Dennis Wilson wrote this, and it's pretty freaking good! I like its cool groove and laid-back feeling. There's a funny section involving some of the guys singing obnoxious "Na-nas" and playing single notes on the banjo. Another section involving a simple cello sound is very quaint. This one is easy for me to take to heart.
Be Still 8/10
This song is so minimalist that's just Dennis Wilson singing along with some very simple organ chords. Automatically, this is one of the least compelling tracks of the album, but that's almost by default. There's value to minimalist production, but ... this is pushing it, my friends. This is more minimal than Philip Glass usually gets during his heyday...
Busy Doin' Nothin' 9.5/10
Taking a bit of a cue from the bossa nova styles gushing out of Brazil at the time, Brian Wilson delivers this entirely pleasant ballad. This three-minute running length is getting excessive for them, isn't it??? The production is laid-back simple and likable with acoustic guitar strumming and lite-percussion, and I wouldn't change a single thing about it.
Diamond Head 8.5/10
This is about as experimental as the Beach Boys were willing to get at this point. It begins with some funny sound effects (sounds like someone dropped a ball in a chamber under water ... or something). Then some ocean wave sound effects pop up along with some ukulele and Hawaiian slide guitar. A crazy bit in the middle becomes almost avant-garde but in a non-intrusive way. The very end continues with the Hawaiian theme and the ocean sound effects. At three and a half minutes, this absolutely shatters the previously held length record here. Ooo...
Transcendental Meditation 8.5/10
And what's this? Apparently Mike Love came back from his little pilgrimmage to India and helped Brian Wilson and Al Jardine write this unusual tune. This is one of the more unusual tracks of the album with a chord progression so primitive that it's nearly brilliant. This has an almost droning effect that's appealing. The one thing that's missing is hooks, which is inexplicably absent here. But at least they had the idea to just take this on for a minute and a half...
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I am not doing track reviews for Stack-O-Tracks. If you wish to complain, forward a note to my secretary.
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Do It Again 9.5/10
I remember the glorious old surf days of 1962--- er, rather I remember listening to those albums. This is a retro song that hopes to recall their old glory days except with much more updated production standards. Notably, you hear the robotic "burps" at the beginning and some hammering sounds at the end (which were gathered from the Smile sessions). Musically speaking, this is just as good as the Beach Boys from the old glory days. The melody is incredibly catchy and ya gotta love the chorus.
I Can Hear Music 9.5/10
What a gorgeous cover of the Phil Spector song! Carl Wilson delivers such a gorgeous vocal performance and the production is otherwise thick and brilliant. You also get a nostalgic vibe from this song, but the production values are obviously more advanced than they were when this song was written. It's amazing how starkly different music sounded from 1962 and 1969 on so many facets...
Bluebirds Over the Mountain 9/10
Another old-timey cover, this time a rockability song written by Ersel Hickey. According to Wikipedia, Hickey is best known for penning this song, so ... well ... This is the legacy of one man. And it's not bad. The straight-ahead melody is catchy though derivative. The song production is the best feature here with very well-crafted arrangements. Wilson's robotic drums seem like they were never this much fun. I especially like that unexpected but graceful transition at the end to a traditional Beach Boys ballad.
Be With Me 9/10
Dennis Wilson wrote this one... He's definitely turning into an interesting songwriter although it's clear that he could never hope to achieve it at the same level as his blessed brother Brian. Anyway, this is a starkingly dramatic song and it's convincing at it more or less. I love the mood, which is utterly nailed. This comes across as a song that you'll enjoy pumping up to full volume to become immersed in it. The only downfall is that the melody itself isn't that great. (You have to love those thundering drums and that psychedelic way they fade out at the end.)
All I Want to Do 8/10
Dennis delivers a bit of a hard rock song, with some very dirty lyrics. The electric guitar licks are surprisingly good especially considering it's on a Beach Boys album. Musically, it's nothing too special ... it's just a standard rock 'n' roll affair. It does come off as a throwback to the early '60s. (Yeesh, they even have a soundbyte of people screwing at the end. Is this The Beach Boys???)
The Nearest Faraway Place 8/10
Bruce Johnston wrote this saccarine-sweet instrumental. Johnston wasn't an original member of the band, but he was brought into fill in some of the duties on their tours, 'cos Brian was busy mixing his studio albums. Anyway, here is his solo songwriting debut with the band. Um, it's rather lovely but basically worthless. Nonetheless I can't hate something that's actually pretty sounding and generally well-done for its style.
Cotton Fields 8.5/10
Usually I think I would dislike a song like this, 'cos it's an old folk cover that I've probably heard a few too many times in my life, but this was a really creative take on it. This was Al Jardine's baby, and he did quite a few interesting things. He starts it out with him sounding like he's singing far away. Then, the instrumentals suddenly pop up! The arrangments are interesting and make that freaky old song sound as fresh as ever. So nice job!!
I Went to Sleep 8/10
Brian and Carl co-wrote this ballad that, as the title suggests, is pretty sleepy. Not so much a phenomenal composition, and it's interesting that the other members of the group were now able to stand on their own feet. They're no geniuses of course, but they're pretty capable!
Time to Get Alone 9.5/10
Brian wrote this song alone, and it's a similarly laid-back song. It's very pretty and I want to listen to this while leaning back in my chair and thinking about the happy times. What these "happy times" might be don't matter --- if nothing comes to mind, I'll just invent some. The melody is catchy and the instrumentation is subtly gorgeous. (Especially that violin that comes in the middle of this.) Just gorgeous!
Never Learn Not to Love 8/10
Dennis Wilson rewrote this song from "Cease to Exist" originally by Charles Manson. So there's the historical interest. Otherwise, Dennis is responsible for most of this --- and it ain't bad. It starts up as a funny, echoey orchestral build-up. The meat of the song is odd though not enormously appealing. No hooks at all. The major redeeming factor is the quirky production standards. Geez, Dennis was a weirdo wasn't he?
Our Prayer 9.5/10
Beautiful! I suppose it was a very good idea to resurrect these Smile songs 'cos it would have been a shame never to officially release them onto the public. OK, very few people were listening, but I'm sure that there was at least one person who really wanted to hear this. The beautiful, a cappella choral bit "Our Prayer" was to be the opening for Smile as well as the lead-in to "Good Vibrations." This is one of the Beach Boys' best vocal works ever.
The thing about hearing all these Smile snippets is that I know that all of these are pretty much excerpts from a rock 'n' roll symphony. It's nice to hear that the sum wasn't greater than the parts; these snippets are nice to hear even without the context of the rest of the album. This song switches back and forth between a laid back and more chaotic section. This sounds better on Wilson's completed Smile project from 2004, but this is nearly as great.
"Break Away" might be a bonus track, but it's an utterly essential Beach Boys song for you to hear! Brian Wilson penned this mightily tuneful song with some naturally great vocal bits. He's not doing anything he didn't do before; he's just concentrating on writing great songs, and that's exactly what he does. Wonderful.
"Celebrate the News" was the B-side to "Break Away" and penned by Dennis. He's really not such a great melody writer, and I hate to say that. This is an interesting composition with some interesting vocal bits and an inspired flute texture we hear lightly in the background. The fade-out is trippy.
Brian teamed up with Ron Wilson for "We're Together Again" --- Ron's not one of his brothers but a member of the Safaris who were known for the iconic instrumental "Wipe Out!" This one's a tad boring and sounds like a toss-off. (The lyrics pretty much consist of repeating the song title.) Well at least it's a pleasant toss-off.
"Walk On By" is a cover of the Burt Bacharach song. It's not too interesting. I'm just gonna write it off.
"Old Folks Home / Ol' Man River" is a nice rendition of that old spiritual standard. They make it sound much more homely than you might have guessed, and it's quite charming. The vocals, naturally, are beautiful.
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Slip on Through A-
They just get right into that groove, too... there's not an introduction or anything. But Dennis Wilson came up with a really cool groove! I'm not a major fan of that funny, pulsing buzzy noise, but those horn synthesizers in the background are incredibly cool, and he comes up with some nice drumming lines. The chorus is memorable, and he gives a rather soulful vocal performance. It's hardly up there with the classics, but it's still a lot of fun.
This Whole World A+
This goes to show how great The Beach Boys could be even though it was 1970 and the music-listening public considered them has-beens. It also proves that Brian Wilson could still write a great, great tune. It's only two minutes long, but it leaves an incredible impression, with deathly vocal hooks and beautiful use of the Beach Boys' classic use of vocal harmonies. Fantastic!
Add Some Music to Your Day B
A tad more sluggish this time, but this is nicely done song regardless. It doesn't have that sparkle that the previous two songs do, but I enjoy listening to it. The vocal harmonies keep the song sounding nice, the textures change around a little bit, and the melody is fairly well-written. The only part I really don't like is the part in the middle that goes “music is in my sooooooo-o-o-o-uuuuuullllll!” It makes my skin crawl.
Got to Know the Woman A-
Dennis Wilson wrote this blues-rock tune, and it rocks about as hard as you'd probably expect The Beach Boys to ....... which isn't hard at all. If it wasn't for the inventiveness of it, it would have just been boring. They do some really nice thing with their voices... constantly layering the vocals in that instrumental build-up in the middle is undoubtedly cool, and keeps this thing faaaaaaar from growing plain and generic than it would have. Dennis Wilson really has lovable, cocky sort of quality in that vocal performance that helps.
Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnston wrote this heart-melting, gorgeous ballad that deserves to be counted along side their greatest hits ... but due to the fact it was 1970, there weren't enough people paying attention to turn it into a hit! But the thing is so freaking gorgeous. Johnston gives a wonderfully frank vocal performance, while the organic instrumentation has that tendency to charm the pants offa me.
It's About Time A-
Surprisingly, this sounds like music from 1970! A lot of heavy riff guitar and raucous singing! Surely other bands were able to do this sort of thing better, but The Beach Boys know how to write good melodies. And besides, they do a really nice job with it anyway... Carl Wilson gives a confident vocal performance, Dennis's drumming is pretty wild, and I like some of those guitar licks! They even find the room to actually make this song evolve. It's only three-and-a-half minutes long, but most bands of the time were going twice as long with only half of the ideas. So, I'm delightfully surprised, and this gets a major thumbs-up.
Tears in the Morning C+
The first time in the album when the melody really isn't that good. Bruce Johnston wrote this sort of French-pop inspired tune, but basically repeats the same hook every 12 seconds. And it really doesn't make sense that its four-minute length is epic with respect to everything else. They try to do what they can with it by drastically changing the instrumentation... well, that's sort of fun, but that's no good excuse for writing such an uneventful melody. But even here, the funny thing about The Beach Boys is their vocal harmonizations capture me all the time. Can I truly hate this song? NO.
All I Wanna Do B+
This one was co-written by Mike Love and Brian Wilson... in the past, that particular songwriting pair had been Wilson writing the music and Love writing the lyrics. Neither are particularly special this time. Mike Love gives a sort of delicate vocal performance with some sort of reverb effect. The instruments get cluttered at the end, which is nice to keeping the song from getting too dull, but it's not too inspired. This one takes a little while to get caught up into... it's an interesting one.
Another song penned by Dennis Wilson, this ballad isn't as tuneful as one of Brian's, but his vocal delivery is very heartfelt, and the background vocals are something very special. The effect of these vocals has a much darker effect than they did on the traditional Beach Boys tune, and that is awesome! Same style but different ideas...
Our Sweet Love A-
This sounds like something from their Smile era... which automatically suggests that it's gorgeous as heck. Sometimes, these guys could write such great melodies and make it seem so effortless. My only complaint is that strings track, which is mixed too loudly and has a bit of a schmaltzy feel.
At My Window B+
I'm not the biggest fan of this sort of nursery rhyme (with a very predictable melody), although it's certainly very charming. It's very sweet with jangly instrumentation, and particularly tight vocal layering in the chorus. There's a little bit of play acting in the middle of it... that's Brian Wilson speaking French. It's a nice song to sit back and soak up... There's a really odd instrumental shift around the two-minute mark, though. Sort of a hiccup.
Cool, Cool Water A
This is incredibly spaced out! It's an expanded version of a song that was supposed to appear on Smile... and that one was pretty spaced-out to begin with. The funniest thing about this song is that there's no clear vocal melody. It starts out as a very light “groove” with some finger snapping, a light toy piano pounding, background “ooohs” and a couple singers singing variations of “cool, cool water.” That fades out, and we get some wind sound effects... and some singers come in with some mystical vocals! Then that funny groove comes back with added sound effects that make it even quirkier.
Surf's Up (1971)
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Don't Go Near the Water B
They open the album with a mid-tempo pop-rocker written by Al Jardine and Mike Love. It's biggest flaw is the melody, which is incredibly simple and predictable. However, the presentation was pretty funny --- a rubbery synthesizer played throughout keeps the texture unusual... Although, Mike Love gets a little too nutty with that vocal delivery at times. You might notice something about the lyrics ... This is a political song, lamenting water pollution, and telling everyone that they should stop it at once! ...Did it work? Why yes it did. That's why there was no more water pollution after 1971.
Long Promised Road A-
Carl Wilson wrote a song! I guess he had to considering Brian and Dennis apparently weren't going to write anything for this album... Well, naturally he was going to imitate Brian, because he pretty much had to, but he did a remarkable job with it. Of course, Brian was the genius, so this couldn't be as good as one of his, but the melody is catchy, and I like it. He gives a convicting vocal performance, and even instruments it wonderfully, playing around with the textures a bit. It's sometimes a sentimental ballad, other times a pop-rocker and one time in the middle it turns into an atmospheric sort of hymn. Not bad! Cool buzz synth, too.
Take a Load Off Your Feet B+
This isn't a great song or anything (the melody is good but not incredibly memorable), but the quirky presentation keeps it fun to listen to. Highly unusual drum hits keep a goofy sort of texture... there's a sort of mysterious though crazy buzz-synth in the background ... there's even a little pizzicato strings. There's even a little bit of a wobble in those vocal performances. I guess they long stopped taking themselves seriously... and they're better for it, too.
Disney Girls (1957) A-
Bruce Johnston writes a song! It's a really nostalgic, schmaltzy thing that would have been more appropriate in ... er ... 1957. The melody is very simple, but it's a good one that's well developed. The background “ooohs” are as nicely done as you'd expect from them. Every once in awhile, they'll start to sound a little like a classical choir, which I thought was a nice touch.
Student Demonstration Time C
This is one of those reasons that everybody hates Mike Love. He took the melody to the blues “Riot in Cell Block #9” and rewrote the lyrics to fit the political unrest on college campuses at the time. (Kent State University and all that.) Yeah... Who wanted the Beach Boys to take up important issues, much less trying to perform blues-rock. As long as you know that The Beach Boys are lame when it comes to blues-rock, this isn't that horrible. At least the band seemed to give it some real effort. I really don't like that siren noise going off the whole time, though.
Feel Flows A-
Really strange. Carl Wilson wrote this odd song... The beginning of it is an OK melody with a choppy rhythm and some sort of ghostly effect done to his voice. The middle of it is incredibly repetitive (rapidly going back and forth between two chords) and the melody he presents isn't that interesting, but it all culminates into a sort of mystic jam with a strange electric guitar solo and a fancy, fluttering flute. This isn't a great song or anything... I didn't like it the first time I heard it, but it did grow on me. Carl had done good!
Lookin' at Tomorrow (Welfare Song) B
This is a nice, quiet folk song. The melody doesn't have incredible hooks in it, but the melody is earthly and rich. The instrumentation is mostly singing with a twinkly acoustic guitar, but with some echoey vocal effects and a few synthesizers. He was doing his best to imitate Brian's songwriting, and not doing an all-too-terrible job! This is very likable.
A Day in the Life of a Tree A-
Another strange song... These guys had the uncanny ability of doing that, didn't they? Brian Wilson co-wrote this strangely majestic song about a tree growing up. The only instrumentation is an organ playing some ordinary, plain chords in the first half, and then the organ gains some baroque-style rhythms in the last half. How did they turn such common, somewhat amateurish ideas into something of majesty? Ah, I guess they were magic.
Till I Die A
Listen to this song, and it's obvious Brian Wilson wrote it. Hear those creepy and thoroughly captivating harmonies! Obviously Brian was in an incredibly dark period of his life, and this is what he wrote to reflect that. It was very therapeutic for him, but the other band members hated it at the time. At least they let it appear on the album (probably because they were already short of material)! It's depressing, but it's beautiful! More of those famous vocal harmonizations make those captivating harmonies even more intense. It's good to listen to if you're depressed.
Surf's Up A+
Even after padding the last few albums with unused Smile outtakes, somehow they hadn't gotten around to using this gem until now. This was even one of the main pieces of Smile, and it's a pure beauty from beginning to end. It's one of those masterful multi-part suites that represented Brian Wilson, as a songwriter, at the top of his game. The tone of it is hugely sentimental, and the melody is unforgettable.
Carl and the Passions - "So Tough" (1972)
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You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone A
This is one of those times when I can't tell if Brian Wilson was being weird on purpose, or if he was so nuts at the time that he couldn't possibly write anything normal. Whatever it was, it doesn't matter, because I really like this song. Doesn't anyone find this track the slightest bit of fun? It has a good beat you can dance to and a very catchy hook! And the weirdness of it pushes it over the top, and please forgive me because the 'weirdness' is hard to describe. Carl's guttural lead vocals are simultaneously hilarious and good. That pounding piano plays a really weird chord progression. Newcomer Ricky Fataar's drumming is great, and a tad menacing. (And I'm not complimenting Fataar because I don't think Dennis Wilson is awesome or anything...) And the addition of a banjo texture and a fiddle in the background made it even more enjoyable.
Here She Comes C+
Not bad, but not particularly good either, and I suppose this might be a good reason the fans resent this album. It was the creation of the two newcomers of the group, Fataar and Blondie Chaplin who were brought in by the band manager to lend the group a more credible rock 'n' roll sound. Yes, this song is definitely rock 'n' roll, but it's entirely forgettable. It's just a mid-tempo thing with a polished bass guitar, a light piano riff, a steady drum beat, a melody for a consistent five minutes. One ear and out the other.
He Come Down B-
Oh no! They're trying to sing gospel! In my book, that's an even greater mortal sin that they could have done than trying to play straight rock 'n' roll music! This does sound like they had no idea what to do. Its tendency to constantly start and stop can get annoying, and that bit in the final third where they bring it to a sort of classical music choral end was a little strange. But hearing some of the band members getting it on in with their greatest 'soul' voices is hilarious in a good way.
Awesome! I'd like to see this song on a Greatest Hits compilation or something, because it's genuinely good and not in the dubious weird way that the opening track was. But I guess it can never be on one of those compilations, because it fails the second test: It wasn't a hit. But it's a whopping success in the first test: It's great! Plus, it stylistically very similar to their early hits that I wouldn't find it too out-of-place in albums like All Summer Long. It has a driven, menacing rhythm to it, a very catchy melody, and a terribly good chord progression. It's the sort of song that grabs me right away and I can't bear to break my attention with it until the very end. My only complaint is the extended fade-out. If there's anything worse than regular fade-outs, it's extended fade-outs.
Hold on Dear Brother B-
This is another Fataar/Chaplin collaboration, and it's another mid-tempo rocker that sounds nothing like The Beach Boys. It's not the fact that it sounds nothing like The Beach Boys that bothers me; it's merely the fact that it's bland and unmemorable. So, Fataar and Chaplin might be great instrumentalists (it shows in how polished and professional this sounds, particularly the excellent slide guitar), but if you're just gonna contribute these non-distinctive rockers, then yer outta the band!!!!
Make it Good B+
Holy mother of..... See, this is what I mean when I say “leave the songwriting to the songwriters.” This Dennis Wilson creation is so incredibly bizarre and so remarkably overblown, and it might not even be particularly good, but at least I can say that there isn't anything else like it. The song consists just a grandiose symphony playing while Dennis tries to sing at the top of his lungs so passionately that his voice just ends up squeaking at the end. It's hard to know what to make of it, but at least it isn't boring and the chords are good. This is also the opposite of rock music, which is weird for an album that's supposed to be rock. But whatever.
All This is That B+
Yeah, so obviously somewhere the rock 'n' roll ambitions of the band manager completely broke down in the process. This is a very leisurely paced tune with a lightly pounding piano and featuring some of the Beach Boy's lovely falsetto vocals and deeper vocal harmonies. The melody is reminiscence of a nursery rhyme, and I don't like it that much. But this is quite a pleasant thing to sit through... that's hardly worth denying.
Cuddle Up A+
So when people tell you that Dennis Wilson was the second best songwriter of The Beach Boys, they're not just being total dorks. (Well, I guess anyone who listened to every Beach Boys album is a dork... obviously...) But this Dennis Wilson composition is so monumental and beautiful that it frequently makes me lose my breath. It starts out with small piano chords whilst Dennis sings in his sweetest, most melancholic voice. The full orchestra picks up on occasion, and it never fails to sound magnificent. Particularly at the end when the boys come in toward the end with some of their most magnificent beautiful vocal harmonies. Man, this is great.
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Sail on Sailor A
They might have not had many more unused Smile outtakes, but they had an old unfinished song that Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks had worked on. This wasn't originally supposed to be apart of the album, but the record company demanded something that could be released as a single. For once, the record company did a good thing, because this is quite a nice tune! It doesn't have a tremendous amount of deathly hooks, but it's nice, breezy and catchy nonetheless. The straight-ahead rock 'n' roll instrumentation is put to excellent use. It's not weird and awkward like, well, the opening track of the previous album was. But then again, it's not as unique... But still. Great song.
They've got steamboats in Holland! It's probably an understatement to call this a “weird” song. I guess that's what you get when you travel to Holland where they have all those prostitutes and special brownies. The song's rhythm appears to be based on the slow chugging of a steam boat. In the meantime a variety of tinkly instruments play quietly along in the background. Those classic Beach Boys vocal harmonies provide some extra atmosphere and beauty to the song even though it wasn't much of a beautiful song to begin with. It's funny how The Beach Boys can consistently illicit such a remark from me even during their off-times: I've never heard anything quite like this before.
California Saga / Big Sur B+
Oh look, it's Mike Love, and he's doing something constructive! He and Al Jardine apparently were feeling homesick in Holland, so they wrote a trio of songs expressing what they loved so much about California. Mike Love's contribution was this number about his love for the beach. It begins creepy and atmospheric, but quickly turns into a very enjoyable folksy rock tune with an organic harmonica and an atmospheric slide guitar in the background.
California Saga / Beaks of Eagles B+
They took a poem by Robinson Jeffers and set it to background music. It is strongly reminiscent of that Joan Baez record Baptism, which was filled with poetry set to orchestrated background music. The important difference is Al Jardine comes in with a pop song between verses, which helps it seem less pretentious. But whatever, the poetry bit is pretty cool. The chord progressions are mystifying, and there's a flute doing a whirlwind throughout.
California Saga / California A-
Ah yes. Al Jardine wrote this sunny surf tune like the way they used to do it, except there's this funny, rubbery bass-line going throughout. Other than that, it would have been indistinguishable from some of that old style. It's nice of them to give us this nostalgia! While it's certainly not better than many of those classics, it's still good and I like hearing it.
The Trader B-
On second thought, maybe Holland wasn't the best place to get inspiration. I mean, geez, how bored must they have been to write songs about ships and trading? At any rate, this Carl Wilson composition is OK, but I'm having a bit of a difficult time finding something memorable about it. The texture is certainly unusual and kinda nice as they keep that dark rubbery synthesizer from the previous track except it's not nearly as goofy-sounding. But the melody is dull and the harmonies are fairly static. Not a terrible listen, but nothing really catches fire.
Leaving This Town B-
This collaboration between Ricky Fataar, Blondie Chaplin, Carl Wilson, and Mike Love is about as unremarkable and bland as the previous song. At the very least, it's slightly richer than the Fataar/Chaplin collaborations in the previous album. But not really a whole lot. The melody doesn't do much for me. But at least there's a weird, clunky bit in the middle featuring a strange, glittery piano groove along with a minimal synthesizer solo.
Only With You A
Somehow I knew this gorgeous ballad was one of Dennis's before I looked it up (with a credit to Mike Love ... I don't want to talk about something I don't know, but I've got to assume his contribution was the lyrics). It's really nice to see the guy be able to create so many wonderful gems like this... This is a very straightforward and understated ballad, so don't expect any of that charming weirdness from “Steamboat.” Carl Wilson turns in a melancholic vocal performance, which fits the keyed-down tone of the song beautifully.
Funky Pretty B+
This Brian Wilson composition, that was originally meant to be apart of the storybook album he was cooking up (the remnants of that is also included in this album, which I will review next. It's based on a synth-groove that isn't so much funky as it is rubbery. The harmonies are oddly compelling, though, as most of Brian's tend to be. It's also one of those middle-career Beach Boys moments where I have to scratch my head and say: “Geez, I'm not sure about this one, but I can say without a doubt that I've never heard anything quite like this.” I'm also a bit mystified why they would conclude the album with this...
Mt. Vernon and the Fairway
I'm not going to score these tracks. There's no point. But I'll talk about them. Sort of. Here is the first track from the fairy tale Bonus EP. A sort of passive, highly repetitive synthesizer loop plays while Brian talks about some kid in a mystical sitting in his “hidden bedroom” and takes out a transistor radio.
I'm the Pied Piper
And the kid gets some magic music from the pied piper, and it sounds like The Beach Boys! Yes, I think they're magic, too. Soon, that passive loop comes back. And the kid tries to get the magic music back, but it's Bach, so it sucks.
Better Get Back in Bed
This begins with a mini-tune, which is basically an unremarkable groove that repeats over and over, but they use an organ that sounds exactly the same as the organs at baseball games! After that, the kid remembers about the Pied Piper and checks to see if the magic radio is there.
Magic Transistor Radio
Yup, the radio is in a tree. Oh man, the Pied Piper is a pedo.
I'm the Pied Piper
He goes outside to sit with his transistor radio in a tree. Oh man, I completely forgot to pay attention to the story. I'm sorry.
Radio King Dom
And the Pied Piper is magic, and it's a happy ending. I wish I had some pie. I like pie.
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