Graham Reid | | 1 min read
There's always been talk that the Beach Boys didn't mean that much after the seminal Pet Sounds and the lesser Smiley Smile in the late Sixties, and yes, they did seem a bit directionless.
But by the early Seventies they were steering a more confident course through the Sunflower and Surf's Up albums which mixed pop and their signature harmonies with songs which had a melancholy feel (especially on Surf's Up).
Sunflower was widely ignored at the time (#151 on the US charts) and although Surf's Up fared better (as it deserved, songs like Disney Girls, Til I Die and the title track are up there with some of their best moments)
And Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine all stepped up as writers when Brian was coasting or checking out.
There's a superb expanded version of Til I Die here where Brian seems to be reconciling the self-doubt of the released version.
Somewhere behind the surf culture, light-psych aspiration and melancholy there was also a fine little rock'n'roll band (the slight but kinda fun Got to Know the Woman, Dennis' It's About Time: both on Sunflower).
This is a lot of Beach Boys – and the songwriting quality sometimes dips – but across four LPs you'll be in no doubt about their unique sound and particular gifts. And even that lesser material is elevated by the arrangements, musiciansship and those classic harmonies.
And Dennis Wilson warming up for his important solo album Pacific Ocean Blue with a bunch of songs (none of which appeared on Surf's Up) which seemed to mark him out as the late blooming George Harrison of the band.
You can hear this collection at Spotify here. It is available at selected record stores on four LP vinyl with a booklet etc.
There is a lot of Beach Boys at Elsewhere including this extensive interview with Brian Wilson (there are other more recent but shorter ones), this one with Mike Love, this with engineer Mike Linett who helped reconstruct SMiLE with Brian Wilson, and reviews of Brian Wilson's solo albums.