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The Beach Boys
U.S. Singles Collection - The Capitol Years 1962-1965
Capitol Records
www.thebeachboys.com


Wow.

That is the simplest way to state the feeling that listening to the early Beach Boys' recordings produces in the ears. Capitol Records has just released an amazing 16 disc collection of Beach Boys' U.S. singles, all packaged in miniature versions of their original packaging… which is pretty cool on its own, but what really makes this collection even more exciting are the bonus tracks on each disc. Each disc features the original A-side and the B-side, most of them in mono, and features extra material that includes live tracks, stereo mixes and alternate takes. This is a Beach Boys' fan's dream come true.

From the first disc, which features "Surfin' Safari" on the A and "409" on the B, this is a priceless collection. The sound quality is amazing for magnetic tapes that are nearly 50 years old. The tapes have obviously been well preserved (no doubt owing in some respect to the keen madness of Brian Wilson) and the clarity and pure tone of the recordings is superb. The remasterings really enhance the clarity of the recordings and very nicely showcase the vocal harmonies, as well as the sheer musicality of the band, even at this young age. Listening to the way the band changes throughout the first four years of their existence is really amazing, and revisiting these tracks makes it obvious that the glory of Pet Sounds was in the making early. The chance to hear the mono and the stereo mixes of "Surfin' USA" side by side is spectacular, showing just how much the industry was changed by the advent of stereo, and that the Beatles weren't the only band to use the new technology to enhance their sound.

All the great early tracks are here… "Shut Down," with its angsty teenage car mentality to the incredible (especially in retrospect) "California Girls." "Help Me, Rhonda" sounds even better than ever before, with the Glen Campbell guitar part shimmery and complex, and the Chuck Berry-esque guitars of the incredible "Fun, Fun, Fun" stand out crisply against their scrubbing backing rhythms and fantastic vocal harmonies. The early love songs shine like never before, from "Surfer Girl" to "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" Even the campy singles like "Little Saint Nick" and "The Man With All The Toys" are wonderful in this remastered state, and the B-Side "Blue Christmas" is wonderful. The 16th disc is a bonus single and includes a couple tracks released here for the first time, including the original mono mix of "All Dressed Up For School" and "I'm So Young." Also included is a really cool alternate mix of "Help Me, Rhonda" that is superb.

Perhaps most importantly, in this day where Americans seem to struggle to have anything that they can hold on to and associate themselves with, the pure simplicity and joy of the Beach Boys' songs is a welcome break. The simple joys of singing about cars, surfing, girls, dancing, and how your school is better than others brings to mind an era of American history that is sorely missed by those who have known that happiness. If the kids would listen to this instead of all that screaming and emo nonsense, we might have a little better planet and more hope for the future. These songs each hold a piece of historical significance, and this package presents them in a way that is simply amazing, and kind of important at a time when the music industry seems to be turning a bit back to the singles' market over the album. Try this music on your kids… you might be surprised.

-Embo Blake

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