on 16 December 2003
Don't be confused by the 'Soundtrack' tag, although this CD is indeed the soundtrack to a 'rockumentary' about the Beach Boys made a few years ago (and available on DVD in the States). The material dates from 1963 through to 1980, and includes alternate takes, new stereo mixes, and previously unreleased material taken from the seemingly bottomless Beach Boys/Brian Wilson archive. Highlights (for me) include an astonishing version of 'Til I Die' featuring an instrumental opening (totally gorgeous) followed by a rough-sounding vocal mix - engineer Steve Desper apparently did the mix entirely for his own pleasure and not surprisingly the Boys opted for the version released on the 'Surf's Up' album. Other previously unreleased tracks include 'Soulful Old Man Sunshine', 'Loop de Loop' (Al Jardine adding a new lead vocal 29 years after it was first recorded!!) and Dennis Wilson's beautiful 'Barbara', recorded in 1971. Live highlights include 'Darlin' (Knebworth 1980) and a 1972 live rendition of 'Wonderful', pretty much as recorded for 'Smile' and not akin to the drugged-out 'Smiley Smile' version. All in all a treat for fans and highly recommended!!
Like many of the albums after Pet Sounds, this is a mixture of both style and quality - perhaps the most diverse BB album of all, though that's a tough contest. To appreciate it, you probably have to be a fairly devoted Beach Boys fan, though not necessarily a fanatic (anorak, but not beard and sandals!)
The standout tracks for me are:
-The beautiful long alternate take of "Till I Die"
-"Sail Plane Song" and "Loop de loop", totally different versions of the same basic song
-"Endless Harmony" (the title track) and "Brian's back". Apart from their own merits as songs, these two are an imaginative summary of much of the group's first two decades. (Admittedly Brian's first comeback, described here, occurred under considerable pressure, but against the odds he is definitely back now.)
Among the other gems, I was particularly pleased with the first appearance of a third version of "Help me Rhonda".
Several of the tracks are rough cuts, but good rough cuts. For example, most of us are used to (though NEVER blasé about) the perfection of "God only knows", but here you have a version live in the studio, "unplugged", with three voices and no vocal overdubs. Recorded the year after the original version, it doesn't try to reach the same heights, but it is still a touching performance which gives new perspective on one of the great songs of the 60s.
It amazes me how this group (or anyone) can have so much good unreleased material. By contrast, most of the Beatles "Anthology" tracks are definitely out-takes.
There is lots of good stuff elsewhere in the album, but it is worth the price just for the tracks I have mentioned.
Four stars rather than five, as some of the other tracks are work-in-progress versions, probably dispensable except for the aforementioned beard and sandals devotees.
[Sorry boys, but as "Pet Sounds" is a five (though if I were in Spinal Tap I would certainly give it six) this has to be a four.]
on 28 July 2000
This is a must for Beach Boys purists and will pleasantly surprise fans of the hits! Yes, the hits are included (with alternate takes of "Help Me Rhonda", "California Girls", and the "Surfer Medley". Highlights include the alternative take of Brian's melancholy "Till I Die", Carl's "Long Promised Road", Dennis' hauntingly prophetic "All Alone", the big-band jazz of "Soulful Old Man Sunshine", and Al's "Loop De Loop".
on 28 June 2013
I had the original 1998 version of this album. That's the one with the orange cover with the Beach Boys standing behind a fence. It was re-released in 2000 with some different mixes. This version is the one with the cover as shown here (the Beach Boys in a car). The contents of the disc included here, however, are exactly the same as the original. The easiest way to tell is that "Surfer Girl" on the re-release is almost a capella. This one isn't. The backing track is still loud and clear. The cover and booklet all say 2000 and the disc itself says 1998. I'm disappointed as it's the 2000 version I wanted.
5 stars for the original, probably 5 stars for the re-release but 1 star for including the wrong contents in this package.