Looking at the pros and cons of the newly expanded Best Of set
The Beach Boys have certainly experienced a renaissance lately.
Especially in the last couple of years alone, what with main man Brian Wilson still performing their tunes at age 80 (!), a documentary, Long Promised Road, about him, and some amazing collections released by Universal Music, such as Sunshine Tomorrow and the absolutely magnificent Feel Flows box set.
The latest, an expanded version of their 2003/2012 compilation, Sounds of Summer, has definitely created quite a stir among Beach Boys afficionados, with somewhat mixed reviews. With that in mind, this review of the LP box set will examine the pros and cons of the collection.
1. It’s a really beautiful package, containing three double record sets (although the “sixth side” contains no music) of very heavy cardboard stock, cool artwork with authentic looking inner sleeves and record labels on each set, and heavyweight vinyl.
2. It contains 80 tracks, presenting a fine overview of The Beach Boys’ oeuvre, with a strong emphasis on the ‘60s and ‘70s, and a few ‘80s tracks sprinkled here and there for taste.
3. It’s almost all true stereo mixes of the tunes, including several that have never previously appeared on vinyl, and 24 which had never appeared anywhere, the latter of which would be of particular appeal to Beach Boys completists, many sounding quite glorious to these ears.
1. The cover image on the box is a bit bland and murky, although it does make for a nice, abstract piece of art.
2. There isn’t really a theme with respect to the placement of the tracks. Well, the first LP set is all early ‘60s tracks, which is fine, but the next two sets are more of a temporal hodgepodge without tangible reason for the track placements. A chronological order would have made more sense, and would have allowed for The Beach Boys recorded history to unfold before the listener’s very ears.
3. A booklet should have been included. There are some fine liner notes in the gatefold of the first LP set, featuring interviews with several band members, but a booklet with more liners and some photos, both rare and classic, would have been a much better way to go.
4. Who the hell wants to hear “Kokomo” on this collection! It’s like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa! (ok, this is just a minor carp, but come on!!!)
Several “audiophiles” who have heard this set have complained about the new mixes, saying that they were done the new fangled way of punching everything up, making most of the mixes “too boomy”, and doing away with the volume variations that appeared in the original, and intermediate mixes.
This is certainly true, but to these ears the new mixes offer something very different; a guitar figure here, a keyboard line there, etc…which is a very strong recommendation. Most of those carping are Beach Boys completists who already have every mix of every track anyway, so these people need to get over themselves. High and low points: The new mix of “Can’t Wait Too Long”, which has had quite an evolution since the “original” mix appeared on the first Smile bootleg in 1982, is revelatory, but what’s with the reverb-laden mix of “Let Us Go On This Way”; it sounds really weird. Someone made a boo boo!
Weighing all the factors carefully, Sounds of Summer: 60th Anniversary Expanded Edition is highly recommended to Beach Boys newbies and fanatics alike. Drum roll for cliched tag line: you’ll have fun, fun, fun looking at and listening to this set!