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First two Beach Boys albums
on 20 October 2004
Throughout 2001 Capital Records went through the Beach Boys catalogue re-issuing them all in re-mastered sound using the best-available masters, with extensive liner notes and usually two albums plus bonus tracks on each release.
In the early years, Capital managed to squeeze a large number of albums out of the group and there is a steep learning curve as the group became more proficient and mature, and Brian Wilson's songwriting, arranging and production skills evolved.
Surfin' Safari (1962) was the band's first album, rushed out in the wake of the success of the title track as a hit single and its hot-rod B-side, 409, replete with the sound effects of a 348 Chevy as they couldn't afford a 409. Surf, hot-rods and girls are the preoccupations of most of the songs, mainly original compositions, though there is a stab at Summertime Blues, and the Gamblers' Moon Dawg, considered to be the first surf record.
It includes some of the demo recordings that got the band signed in the first place, and their first single, Surfin', from 1961, which had first been released on the tiny X Records label and then on Candix. The version here is the Candix version speeded up, despite the "production notes" in the liner. Most of the lead vocals are by Mike Love, though Brian sings Cuckoo Clock and Dennis Wilson, the Ringo Starr of the group, debuts as lead singer on Little Miss America. Ten Little Indians was also released as a single from the album, against Brian Wilson's wishes (his choice was Chug-A-Lug). At this stage the Beach Boys were strong vocally and harmonically but their instrumental skills were rudimentary. Although some of the tracks have previously appeared in 3-track stereo (vocals left and right, instruments at centre), they are all in mono here, although Land Ahoy!, an outtake included as a bonus track, is stereo.
Surfin' USA (1963) was similarly built around the hit title track which really put the Beach Boys on the map, a surf lyric re-write of Chuck Berry's Sweet Little Sixteen that defined their vocal sound. Again the B-side was a hot-rod song, Shut Down, on which Brian collaborated for the first time with DJ and drag racing enthusiast Roger Christian. Apart from being in stereo, this album is mostly more of the same, though Brian takes three lead vocals, including Lonely Sea, a ballad that prefigures the wistful melancholia of his later productions, and the instrumental Surf Jam marks Carl Wilson's first released composition