The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys Made In California

Add some music

The Beach Boys 50th anniversary year was
never likely to be an event-free lap of
honour. Upon reforming, they managed to
produce an intermittently great album of
new material and thrilled audiences
worldwide with marathon performances.
Unsurprisingly, the good vibrations didn’t
last and were followed by a public fallingout
that once again appears to leave the
band divided. Nonetheless, the careerspanning
Made In California rounds off the
celebrations in fine style.

Interestingly, it reflects a change in the
way the band have been perceived in recent
years, with as much space devoted to their
less successful, yet creatively fertile later
years as their long-accepted golden era of
surfin’, hot-rods and teenage crushes. This
post-Pet Sounds period intrigues fans most:
the creative tensions within the band, the
sometimes inspired, often flat-out bizarre
contributions of their unwell leader, Brian
Wilson and the artistic flowering of the
younger Wilson brothers, Dennis and Carl,
gave rise to some of the group’s best music.

This time around, hardcore fans’ biggest
concern will be the extent to which those
Capitol vaults have been raided. While there
are some mysterious omissions (Awake,
Stevie, a lot of Brian’s much-bootlegged
Adult Child collection, Dennis’ Carry Me
Home and I’m Going Your Way), there’s
just about enough “new” material here to
placate the hardcore.

Discs One to Three rattle brilliantly
through the albums up to 1971 with no real
surprises, save Dennis Wilson’s wonderful
1970 single Sound Of Free, its B-side Fallin’
In Love, and an odd alternative version of
Meant For You, featuring additional lyrics that
were probably best left on the shelf (“Have
you ever seen a pony run alongside of his
mother/And have you ever seen a puppy-dog
laying his head on his brother?”).

The fourth disc features the first major
rescue from the vaults. (Wouldn’t It Be Nice
To) Live Again was written by Dennis Wilson
for Surf’s Up but, mystifyingly, left off at the
last minute. There’s no wonder he lost
patience with the group. It’s a magnificent,
tender epic, most reminiscent of Pacific
Ocean Blue’s Thoughts Of You. “Who ever
said a man can’t cry?/I know I can cry,”
Dennis sings, and you’ll find you too have
tears in your eyes.

While nobody needs a version of Rock
And Roll Music with an extra verse, or an
alternate mix of Brian’s Back, Disc Four also
features the interesting, late-period
harmony-overload curio California Feelin’.
The rarity-fest continues on Disc Five, the
highlights of which are a pair of songs the
band recorded with Don Was in the 90s,
Soul Seachin’ and You’re Still A Mystery, for
an aborted album. Grown-up, musically
complex and without a surfboard in sight,
the songs offer a tantalising glimpse of what
may have been.

Of a selection of previously unreleased
live tracks spanning the band’s career,
a superb Wild Honey, with Blondie Chapman
sounding possessed by the holy spirit and
backed by Big Brother & The Holding
Company, and a souped-up It’s About Time
are of particular note. They underline what
kind of band the mid-70s Beach Boys could
have been, had Dennis and Carl been
allowed to take the helm. Instead, they took
a plunge into the novelty band circuit.

The final disc comprises unreleased
tracks, a cappella and instrumental versions
of much-loved songs, and assorted session
work. Absolute wonders include Brian’s
backing track to Glenn Campbell’s I Guess
I’m Done, and Dennis’ laidback and funky
Barnyard Blues, which sounds more like
Little Feat than The Beach Boys. Few fans
would have voted for an instrumental version
of Transcendental Meditation, but it’s here
and it’s a revelation. The set ends with a trio
of songs from a 1964 BBC session; the
sound quality may be poor but those voices
shine through, utterly peerless nearly 50
years on. 

5 stars 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars

Capitol/UMG | cat no tbc (6CD)

Reviewed by Jamie Atkins
<< Back to Issue 419