Here's a look at the rest of the Beach Boys reissues:
“Pet Sounds” is of course an unqualified classic. Everything Brian Wilson had been working toward came together in this one exquisite album, the music and lyrics fine-tuned, the performances exceptional. Though it’s perhaps more accurately termed a Brian Wilson album than a Beach Boys album, as it made the most use of session musicians. It’s still a terrific accomplishment the whole group can be proud of.
In the wake of the release of the completed “Smile,” it’s interesting to look back at “Smiley Smile” (which also makes its stereo debut with this release). It fares better in retrospect (it does, after all, feature “Good Vibrations”), but overall feels too much like a grab bag of material that was randomly thrown together; in fact, everything after “Good Vibrations” seems like a collection of demos. Even if the album wasn’t completed to Brian’s original specifications, surely something better could have been created out of the wealth of material he left behind. But it’s still a fascinating look at Brian’s creativity running wild.
“Wild Honey” was the last Beach Boys album in mono, so the next two albums in this series only feature stereo mixes. This new release of “Sunflower” also has improved sound, as the original analog master was discovered. It’s an enjoyable album, with Dennis turning in some of his best vocals on his own “Slip On Through” “Got to Love the Woman,” and the gentle “Forever,” Mike Love in good form on “All I Wanna Do,” and the excellent “Add Some Music to Your Day” and “Cool, Cool Water.” The band was terribly disappointed that “Sunflower” fared so poorly on its initial release (it peaked at a miserable #151), but it’s since become a fan favorite.
For “Surf’s Up,” the original 15 IPS mixes were used, helping to reduce the noise on previous versions. It’s a curious album, almost as strange in its way as “Smiley Smile”; a disparate collection of songs that don’t quite seem to fit together. The album goes from the absolute sublime (the much-heralded title track) to the exceedingly strange (“A Day in the Life of a Tree,” sung by the band’s manager Jack Rieley, and a song which some fans argue was a meant as a joke). And the topical songs (the environmental lament “Don’t Go Near the Water” and “Student Demonstration Time”) sound rather forced. But there’s no denying the appeal of “Disney Girls” and “Feel Flows,” not to mention the album’s killer ending — the stunning “‘Til I Die,” followed by “Surf’s Up.”
“Fifty Big Ones” is the latest greatest hits collection, packaged in a box with a set of photo cards picturing each Beach Boy. 2003’s “Sounds of Summer” is really the best of the single disc “best ofs,” so if you’re happy with that release, and its sequel, 2007’s “The Warmth of the Sun,” there’s no pressing need to get this set; though collectors will want to note it does include new stereo mixes for six songs (and a 2009 stereo mix of “Don’t Worry Baby”).