What does it sound like?:
This slightly confusingly presented compilation is basically a brand new stereo remaster of the Beach Boys ‘Wild Honey’, coupled with out-takes from the sessions and also those for Smiley Smile (which preceded it by just 3 months in September 1967) which is not included as that already had a stereo remaster a couple of years back. To complete the Beach Boys 1967 output you’ll need to get that disc to accompany this set if you haven’t already (but fair play to Capitol for not expecting fans to pay for the same disc again). On top of that you also get an official release of the much-bootlegged ‘Lei’d in Hawaii’ – a “live” album that was actually recorded in the studio and never saw the light of day – as well as contemporaneous live performances.
Wild Honey was only ever released in Mono or ‘faux stereo’ so this a a brand new stereo mix and it’s delightful. Wild Honey was already a pretty stripped down, sparse affair but hearing this new mix I noticed loads of little details – a guitar part, a vocal harmony that I’d never heard before and the music benefits from even more space and air in it. It also reveals the flaws, there are bum notes, little mistakes, bits of audible background noise that the pre-Smile Brian would have ironed out in endless retakes. The loose ‘just roll the tape and play’ vibe of the album is part of it’s magic. Most of the musicians you hear playing are the Beach Boys themselves, so after years of Brian building his own wall of sound with the Wrecking Crew it’s now back to Brian at the Organ and detuned piano, and the garage band version of the Beach Boys in their own studio – their years on the road bashing out ‘Fun Fun Fun’ and ‘Help Me Rhonda’ means they do a spirited performance of the material and best of all is Carl Wilson, who belts out quite a few of the lead vocals. On the out-takes with Studio chatter though it does sound like Brian is still drilling them through performances – and in contrast to what the biographies say, very much in charge of his faculties and the band.
What does it all *mean*?
The band were relentlessly prolific pretty much throughout the 60s and 70s and their various ups and downs. In spite of several box sets and compilations, there are still stacks of unreleased goodies and alternate mixes in the vaults and the band are infamous for leaving great songs unfinished or shelved for long forgotten reasons. A highlight is the gorgeous ‘Lonely Days’ (only a short snippet of this was previously released on the slightly bizarre ‘Hawthorne, CA’ compilation) – and there’s another (excellent) take of ‘Can’t Wait too Long’ one of the great lost BBs songs. Most of the unreleased material is re-mastered and properly mixed in stereo too.
‘Lei’d in Hawaii’ is in Mono – and it’s obvious why it never got released – it’s a sort of Beach Boys ‘unplugged’ years before such things existed but the studio performance is so underpowered it’s almost comical and would never have convinced anyone it was ‘live’. Quite interesting to hear 1967 Beach Boys approach older material and it’s nice to have as a bonus and a reminder that even when making some perfectly decent new material in 67 they were already regressing into nostalgia on stage.
The penultimate track is Brian along at the piano, having a bash at ‘stripped down’ version of Surfs Up with several false starts – he gets it down eventually but you can hear his heart’s not in it and there’s no way this would have fitted the on Smiley Smile or Wild Honey.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
65 tracks over 2 discs for £10 is excellent value and Capitol have maxed out the space on the CDs with as much content as possible. If you’re a fan, this is a treasure trove and you’ll be delighted with the new mixes and the wealth of unreleased material. If you only know Pet Sounds and the hits – Wild Honey and Smiley Smile should definitely be on your ‘to do’ list (as should all the post Pet Sounds and 1970s albums up to Holland).