on 20 March 2002
After pet sounds not many beach boys CD's gain the critical acclaim or commercial success they deserve. However on this bargain CD two of the Beach Boys finest albums ever are gathered. First to Sunflower, which some reckon even better than Pet Sounds. What it is better than Pet Sounds for sure concerning this album is that it's a group effort. Dennis Wilson decisively shows himself as the second most talented Beach Boy with the funky Slip on Through and one of the most beautiful songs of all time , Forever. Brian however still hangs on as the main man with classics such as This Whole World, Add some Music and All I wanna do.
Surfs Up is nearly as brilliant as Sunflower and only has one bad track. The truly awful Mike Love song Student Demonstration Time. Brian steals the show, even though he's now a peripheral figure in the band on the verge of mental illness.Until I die and surfs up are wonderful. Although the extended version of the former found on the Endless Harmony compilation and performed by brian at his solo shows is that much more awe inspiring. Please take a chance on these two beautiful albums.
on 16 December 2005
As I write this review I am listening to 'Sunflower/Surf's up' for about the zillienth time since I perchased it at Reading festival 3 years ago. 2 years prior to that perchase I was still under the illusion that there wasn't much depth to the Beach Boys music and that they were just an irritating 60's american pop band that churned out hit after annoying hit (i.e. 'Help me Rhonda', 'Fun Fun Fun', 'Surfin USA' ect) Being raised on The Beatles from an early age didn't help as no other 60's outfit was gonna take prefference over them! Then I heard these 2 albums. My friend from school was determined to change my mind about the Beach Boys and played me some of their more experimental/less commercial offerings in the form of Friends/20/20. An experimental Beach Boys!?! At the time the idea seemed obsurd but I listened and eventualy liked them ('Cabinessence' in particular) then after 'getting used to' Sunflower/Surf's up, LOVED the band! Immesureabley!
Both albums filled me with the same emotions as hearing the Beatles for the first time as a little boy. Although an entirly different band, the level of geniouse and origionality expressed on these records equals and sometimes surpasses that of The Beatles. For example on tracks like 'Surf's Up' 'This Whole World' (the sweetest 2 mins of pop your ever likly to hear!) the dark, sad 'Till I Die' and the odd but very beautifull 'Day in the Life of a Tree', the songs (after you look under the suface) churn your emotions till you can't take it anymore. I actualy had nights where I used to stay awake wondering how a record could be so deeply moving. If you don't beleve me, keep listening!! I still find hidden treasure in the songs that I wasn't sure about at first. For example the song "At my Window" seems twee and a bit pointless on the surface, but let it wash over you and it soon reveals itself as a beatifully subtle, dreamy piece of music. I love the highly sung etherial "fly aways" at the end of song. Magic. The rest you'll have to hear for yourself.
My next perchase was 'Pet Sounds' which, although more consistant (and still a masterpiece!) has only one track that 'moves' me in the same way as most of the stuff on these albums, 'Don't talk put your head on my shoulder'.
Just a few more things. For those of you who think you've got the band sussed cause you've heard stuff like 'I get around', 'Do you wanna dance' or even the masterfull 'Good Vibrations', THINK AGAIN. There is a whole other side to this amazing group (the less commercial side in fact) and in Dennis Wilson, a songwriter as brillient and as heartfelt as brother Brian. Enjoy!
If you are the sort of listener who enjoyed the Beach Boys greatest hits and perhaps 'Pet Sounds' and are wondering what else the group has to offer, why not try this twofer disc? featuring the albums 'Sunflower' and 'Surf's Up' from 1970 and 1971. Both albums were relatively unsuccessful in terms of sales, lacking as they did any hit single fodder,but they have endured because of some really great songs(only the occasional clinker!),the trade mark harmonies and some really interesting and diverse musical ideas.
Both albums catch the band at a period of change. Increasing perceived as old fogies and facing the disintegration of Brian Wilson as the main creative force in the band, The Beach Boys faced
the ignominy of irrelevance and creative bankruptcy.'Sunflower' and 'Surfs Up' indicated that there was more millage to be had.Never afraid to experiment and always capable of coming up with some stunning melodies the group showed they had could incorporate then current styles such as funk,rock,and concerns such as eco-consciousness and spirituality and still keep the core sound.
The music of both albums could generally be described as winsome, introspective and romantic but with a melancholic edge.There are some heart-stoppingly gorgeous pop moments like 'Deirdre', 'Our Sweet love' and the beautifully nostalgic 'Disney Girls'. Add to these tracks mood pieces like 'Cool Water','A Day in the Life of a Tree'and 'Til I Die' and you have the basis for some great listening. Both albums see the Beach Boys coming together as a real band, and not just as Brian Wilson's backing group. Hence the variety of material and the emergence for instance of Dennis Wilson as a vocalist of note.
As a reissue this collection is first class. The remastering is first rate,the sleeve notes informative and of course in relation to listening pleasure for money spent,this set is beyond excellent.This is the sort of CD that you'll want to listening to from beginning to end and not just once or twice. Essential purchase.
on 28 November 2000
Sunflower and Surfs Up seem a strange back to back in many ways, whilst they may have been released consecutively they represent quite different musical themes from the Beach Boys. Sunflower feels quite 60s and sits comfortably next to Friends and 20/20 whilst Surfs Up presages an alternative furrow that the band ploughed through the 70s. Despite being a big Beach Boys fan it has to be said that they were always a better singles than albums band. Each and every album upto the death of Dennis Wilson had great tracks on but there were always some shockers to make the parts greater than the whole. Sunflower probably hangs together better as an album than anything else apart from Pet Sounds and starts with some classic tracks in This Whole World, Add Some Music and Tears in the Morning and you cant review this album without paying homage to Forever, Dennis Wilson at his very best. All in all a great Beach Boys album. Surfs Up is however the epitomy of the great tracks and shockers album. On the great side there is Surfs Up, Long Promised Road, Feels Flows and arguably one of the best Beach Boys tracks ever in Till I Die. This however is negated by A day in the Life of a Tree and Student Demonstration Time. Thankfully with the advent of CDs these can be skipped and you can appreciate the brilliance of the best without wading through the bad to get there. All in all though this is a good CD and the best is very very good. Sunflower on its own merits 5 five stars but the mixed bag of Surfs Up pulls it back.
on 18 March 2016
I purchased this mainly for Surf's Up, an album I first heard not long after it was originally released. Until that point, I'd thought of the Beach Boys as classic purveyors of good-time sunshine pop music. This was a bit different though - the Beach Boys doing wistfulness, regret, even a bit of cynicism. All very redolent of the end of the Sixties. I've listened to it on and off ever since in various formats and for me there's not a dud song on the album. Student Demonstration Time comes in for a bit of stick in other reviews but it remains very much a part of the album for me. I still remember the shock of the student deaths at Kent State University. Neil Young's Ohio expresses the bitterness and rage at the event, whereas this treats it with some mockery - both equally effective in my view.
With the copy of Surf's Up that I wanted, Sunflower was effectively free and makes an interesting counterpoint, being much closer to the Beach Boys that you might expect. Even the cover designs point up the contrast - Sunflower has a sunny image of the group whereas Surf's Up has that curious dark image.
on 26 June 2002
Sunflower is without a doubt one of the Beach Boys finest album; a near-flawless collection of satisfying rockers and jolting ballads that shows Brian Wilson and prominently the rest of the group reaching new pinnacles in their careers. Brian's songs are all excellent on this album: The incredible anthemic "This Whole World", and the wonderful "All I Wanna Do" and "Our Sweet Love". "Add Some Music To Your Day" is perhaps a tad corny, but is nonetheless a solid, well-structured and memorable track. Dennis shines with the pulsating 'Slip On Through" and, of course, the stirring and beautiful 'Forever'. Bruce Johnston's two offerings, 'Tears In The Morning' and 'Deirdre' are both perfect, unforgettable pop classics. The penultimate track, 'At My Window' is the set's one unmitigated disaster, an early Al Jardine collaboration with Brian (how could you?!) thats cloying simplicity in both lyrics (oh, those lyrics) and melody is just too hard to stomach! The album is completely redeemed by the closing track, a re-make of 'Cool, Cool Water', a track supposedly from the "elements suite" section of Brian's abandoned Smile project. A masterfully produced, atmospheric track that provides a suitably epic end to such a consistently strong album. Despite track 11, it would be hard not to give this 5 stars!
The second album on this set is Surf's Up, which i'm sad to say is mostly a soulless, pretentious, unsubtle and tragically dated attempt to cash in on the ecological trends of it's day. It isn't without its high points though, and these highs happen to be so high, they're practically leaving the Earth's atmosphere! 'Don't Go Near The Water' is wildly over-produced, preachy and is a non-entity as far as the rest of the album is concerned; It is only redeemed slightly by a beautiful vocal and harmonica arrangement at the end. 'Long Promised Road' is a pleasant offering by Carl, but is painfully contrived and mostly meaningless. 'Feel Flows' is a lot better (a strong, jazzy and soulful song, again by Carl, thats length does not seem to detract from its tightness) but this is again hampered by almost completely meaningless, unfathomable lyrics. 'Take A Load Off Your Feet' is, I must confess, a most enjoyable track, that provides welcome comic relief to the smugly straight-faced attitude of the rest of the album. 'Disney Girls (1957)' is a real high point, a Bruce Johnston ballad that is frankly awesome in its beauty, thoughtfulness and stunning melodies. 'Student Demonstration Time' is a Mike Love re-write of an old rock n' roll song and also happens to be one of the worst songs ever written (or should that be 're-written'?). 'Lookin' At Tomorrow' is fatally dated and cliched to the point of being unlistenable (Take A Load Off Your Feet is better! No really, It Is!). The album is rounded to a satisfying (and gratifying) conclusion with a trio of Brian Wilson numbers, two of which happen to be a couple of the best songs ever commited to record. 'A Day In The Life Of The Tree' is REALLY corny, not helped by some atrocious warbling singing by Jack Rieley, (who represents all that is pretentious and tacky about seventies period Beach Boys!) ruining a potentially good song. ''Til I Die' is just superb; a haunting and poignant philosophical song that packs an immense emotional punch (and contains some great Brian-composed lyrics). 'Surf's Up'. Well, what else can you say that hasn't already been said about this enchanting epic? Perfection, pure and simple. This is an album of two distinct halves: Absolutely abysmal pigswill ('Don't Go Near The Water', 'Student Demonstration Time' etc.) and almost God-like pop/rock perfection ('Disney Girls (1957)',''Til I Die' etc.). So, to create a good balance, I'll give this half of the CD 3 stars. Thereby giving the whole CD the rather spiffing score of 4 stars. Definitely one of the top three Beach Boys CDs you must own!
on 9 January 2011
Fads and fashions in the pop world can be cruel to those no longer ahead of the wave. The Beach Boys at the dawn of the 1970s were almost completely becalmed. They definitely weren't part of the new hard rock trend. They were the guys in the striped shirts, right? They'd also lost their principal song writer, Brian Wilson whose psychological problems after the collapse of the 'Smile' project have been well documented.
Sunflower was a flop but it is a truly wonderful album. Surf's Up faired a little better in the charts but the Boys were still way off their mid-sixities sales figures. But it would be wrong but it would be unfair to judge either of these wonderful records from their chart positions. Taken together these two albums contain some of the finest music that the Beach Boys ever recorded. Indeed it is almost disrespectful not to package them separately. I mean, you'd never get Rubber Soul and Revolver on a twofer and it is a shame that neither Sunflower or Surf's Up enjoy a similar critical reputation. Which is better, Sunflower or Surf's Up? For me Sunflower definitely has the edge. I see Surf's Up as more of a mood piece containing lovely watery songs such as 'Til I Die' and the sublime 'Feel Flows.' The band also reprise 'Surf's Up' from the abandoned Smile project. The Beach Boys may have baulked at Brian's visionary approach and his overall direction on the Smile sessions but they still clearly needed the songs from those times. Sunflower, as I have said is simply lovely. Truly, an embarrassment of riches. The album is very diverse as well; containing great rockers such as 'Slip on through' and 'This Whole World' as well as some tender and affectionate ballads such as 'Forever' and 'Our Sweet Love' which are almost of Pet Sounds standard.
In short, I love to put this cd on when I have friends around: invariably they say 'wow, what's that great record?' You can't ask for more than that.
on 19 August 2006
I first bought Sunflower way back in the early 70's on musicassette and played it to death then. At that point I was a Beach Boys fan, but that degenerated into a liking for Student Demonstration Time. Woah! I didn't catch up with them again until 2000, when the great early 70's albums were being reissued on CD - at last. Wow! Sooooo good. I find it hard to say which is my favourite Beach Boys album: Sunflower? Surf's Up? Holland? Each one has so many sublimely beautiful tracks. The lyrics of the ballad All I Wanna Do on Sunflower cannot be bettered and the music flows sweetly into Forever. Brian Wilson still sings Forever at his live shows. And then listening to Surf's Up's title track is like bathing your senses in nectar. Sunflower does have its poor songs, in my opinion. I always skip tracks 4 to 7. But the quality of the others more than outweigh these and nothing less than a 5 star rating is due.
on 1 September 2014
Another superb 'double-header' from the Beach Boys with 'Sunflower' (1970) winning most of the accolades from me. Dennis Wilson provides 3 inspired tracks here :- 'Slip On Through' and 'It's About Time' are classy rock numbers whilst 'Forever' is a lovely ballad. Meanwhile, Brian Wilson weaves the old magic again with gorgeous harmonies on 'This Whole World'; other stand-out songs include 'Deirdre', 'All I Wanna Do', 'Our Sweet Love' and the highly inventive album closer 'Cool, Cool Water'.
Surf's Up (1971) also has some great moments but, with Brian's contribution diminishing, this collection feels somewhat less inspired. However, this is still a pretty good album and, on this occasion, the third Wilson brother, Carl, steps up to the plate and delivers a couple of crackers in the shape of 'Long Promised Road' and 'Feel Flows'. Finally, Brian pops up at the end of the album to deliver 2 little gems; the ethereal 'Til I Die' and the gorgeous 'Surf's Up' are worthy of an extra star by themselves. Verdict : Possibly the best of the Beach Boys 'double-headers' - this is well worth buying at a decent price.
In 2016 - both 1970's "Sunflower" and 1971's "Surf's Up" are considered the best of The Beach Boys 70's output - and rightly so. But at the time America’s Joe Public couldn't have cared less about the first and showed only casual interest in the second - especially considering how big and influential the band had been only years earlier.
Having jumped contractual ship from their spiritual home since 1962 (Capitol Records) - and especially given the melodic strength of the new material - big things was expected of The Beach Boys and their clean break to Brother Records in 1970 (distributed by the then mighty Warner Brothers). But it just didn't happen. Released Monday 31 August 1970 - "Sunflower" lasted only four weeks on Billboard's Top 200 peaking at a miserable No. 151. Apparently its sales figures were embarrassing in the USA (it fared better in the UK on EMI's Stateside label where it made No. 29 on the LP charts).
Maybe "Sunflower" was perceived as being out-of-sync girly surfin' music - their Beach Boys sound 'old hat' against the emerging Hard Rock explosion that was engulfing music towards the end of the Sixties and into the first two years of that redefining decade - the Seventies. At least 1971's follow through "Surf's Up" cracked the USA Top 30 - finally landing at No. 29 - and managed a four months stay on the LP charts as opposed to one. With a weary warrior crouched over his beaten horse on the front cover and song titles like "Student Demonstration Time" and "Lookin' At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)" - at least "Surf's Up" seemed more in step with a fractured and hurting America - so it did better.
Whatever way you interpret history - re-listening to these two remarkable albums on this wickedly good CD Remaster and I’m reminded in emphatic style that sometimes Joe Public needs to be just that - reminded. I say knob to those original embarrassing sales numbers – the musical brilliance on display here is indeed embarrassing - but for all the right reasons. Let's break down those brilliant harmonies...
UK released 14 August 2000 - "Sunflower/Surf's Up" by THE BEACH BOYS on Capitol/Brother 525 6922 (Barcode 724352569229) offers up 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD and plays out as follows (70:22 minutes):
1. Slip On Through
2. This Whole World
3. Add Some Music To Your Day
4. Got To Know The Woman
6. It's About Time
7. Tears In The Morning [Side 2]
8. All I Wanna Do
10. Our Sweet Love
11. At My Window
12. Cool, Cool Water
Tracks 1 to 12 are the album "Sunflower" - released 31 August 1970 in the USA on Brother Records/Reprise RS 6382 and November 1970 in the UK on Stateside SSL 8251.
13. Don't Go Near The Water
14. Long Promised Road
15. Take A Load Off Your Feet
16. Disney Girls (1957)
17. Student Demonstration Time
18. Feel Flows [Side 2]
19. Lookin' At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)
20. A Day In The Life Of A Tree
21. 'Til I Die
22. Surf's Up
Tracks 13 to 22 are their album "Surf's Up" - released 30 August 1971 in the USA on Brother/Reprise RS 6453 and November 1971 in the UK on Stateside SSL 10313.
The properly chunky 22-page booklet offers fans liner notes from Beach Boys authority TIMOTHY WHITE adapted from his acclaimed book "The Nearest Far Away Place: Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys And The Southern California Experience". His song-by-song analysis and critique is both honest and affectionate and much of it peppered with Brian's 'selective' memories. There's the inner gatefold sleeve for "Sunflower" (no lyrics unfortunately), period photos, alternate artwork, original recording and reissue credits as well as lyrics to the "Surf's Up" album. But the big news is 24-Bit Digital Remasters from original tapes by two hugely respected Audio Engineers - ANDREW SANDOVAL and DAN HERSCH. Sandoval handled the acclaimed 2CD 'Deluxe Editions' of The Kinks and Small Faces (amongst many others) - whilst Dan Hersch (along with Bill Inglot) has been at the heart of Rhino's Vinyl and CD Reissue machine for over two decades - having handled literally hundreds of prestigious catalogues across a huge range of genres. These guys know their way around tape boxes and it shows. Beautifully and carefully recorded at the time - all that technical expertise and innovation comes shining through on these wonderful-sounding transfers. Top stuff...
Released towards the end of June 1970 on Brother 0929 - the second 45 from the "Sunflower" LP was the Side 1 openers "Slip On Through" b/w "This Whole World" - Dennis Wilson writing the A and Brian the flip-side (no UK issue). But despite the edgy groove - it tanked. Earlier in February 1970 - Brother had issued the Beach Boys debut 45 on the label - the pretty "Add Some Music To Your Day" b/w "Susie Cincinnati". At one point it appears that "Add Some Music..." was considered as an album title. Even better is the gorgeous "Deirdre" - a happy song with wonderful layered vocals and an almost jingle-bells Christmas feel to it (when Brother put out "Long Promised Road" in June 1971 as a single off "Surf's Up" - they used "Deirdre" as its B-side). The straight up bopper and "...I used to throw my mind sky high..." confessions of "It's About Time" (the Side 1 ender) give it incredible edge - and that Bass/Vocal middle-eight break is pure Beach Boys genius (Dennis Wilson, Bob Burchman and Alan Jardine wrote it).
Side 2 opens just as strongly with Bruce Johnston's hurting but beautiful "Tears In The Morning" where he keeps a hold on his sorrow as those string arrangements soar behind his 'missing you' vocal pleading. Brian Wilson and Mike Love's "All I Wanna Do" is the closest the LP gets to a "Pet Sounds" outtake (Todd Rundgren was surely listening to this). "Forever" is probably the album's most revered and beloved song - yet when Brother Records put out another 45 in February 1971 (Brother 0998) - they relegated "Forever" to the flip-side of "Cool, Cool Water" - a commercial mistake methinks. The 'sparrow came flying down' song "At My Window" is a fitting lead-in to the amazing "Cool, Cool Water" - a song that's synonymous with Beach Boys melodic brilliance. That build-up of trippy voices as the song makes its way to those ‘now now now’ chants – like Sigur Ros 30 years before the event - wow...
The Surf's Up" opener "Don't Go Near The Water" warns of polluted oceans and the same pouring out of your facet. An animated Carl Wilson fronts "Long Promised Land" wanting to throw off 'shackles that are binding me down' (lyrics he sings with a passion and desperation you can literally feel). The hippy wistful 'take good care of your feet' and 'watch what you eat' lyrics in "Take A Load Off Your Feet" feel like the theme song to a Californian whole-food store that sells any manner of mushrooms. Better is "Disney Girls (1957)" - a genuinely lovely melody beautifully played and sung by Brian Johnston where he pines for 'Patti Page and summer days...' Things take a decidedly heavy turn with the out-and-out Neil Young guitar rock of "Student Demonstration Time" where they incorporate 'there's a riot going on' and change 'cell block number nine' into 'student demonstration time'. It's brilliant and the kind of song CSYN might have produced on a third studio album if they'd made one...
Side 2 opens with the fazed vocals of "Feel Flows" where we're 'unbending never-ending tablets of time' - a fab yeah man moment with brilliant guitar laced with flute. I often cite "Feel Flows" as one of the album's layered masterpieces. The hurt disconnectedness of returning war-vets fills the equally trippy and acoustic-driven "Lookin' At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)" - where men can't find work sweeping floors but can find substances on the street corner to dull the ache. Tweeting birds and a seaside/church organ fill the equally trippy "A Day In The Life Of A Tree" - a plea for the environment choking on 'pollution and slow death'. The beautiful but damaged "'Til I Die" has Brian wondering 'how long will the wind blow' before something darker takes him (he fought to have the song's dark subject matter on the album). The 'Smile Sessions' 2CD set showed us four variants of the album's centrepiece "Surf's Up" - one of them stretching back to a lovely 1967 piano demo. The finished "Surf's Up' is simply exquisite in its arrangement and delivery - where you can 'so' hear Todd Rundgren, Hall & Oates and so many other melody giants in its 4:11 minutes.
For me "Surf's Up" is a huge leap forward and "Sunflower" was great anyway - so any listener is on a winner either way. In fact some have argued that this Beach Boys twofer may indeed be the best '2LPs onto 1CD' value-for-money remaster ever released. And damn - but I think they're absolutely on the (harmony) money...