This 29-track CD represents the final phase of the Beach Boys' first go-around with Capitol Records, as well as the tail end of their 1960s output. The two albums contained on it present vastly different ambience from the same decade. The Friends album wasn't thought much of by most listeners or reviewers in 1968 -- in an era when most bands were adding layer-upon-layer of instrumentation, throwing on extended guitar or keyboard solos at the drop of a hat, pumping up the volume overall, and trying to describe the psychedelic experience from within, the Beach Boys put out an album of music that could've been played by five guys on mostly acoustic instruments, all of it written from what seemed like a pretty satisfied and peaceful place in the universe. Some of this reflected Brian Wilson's increasingly isolated approach to life, but he provided only part of the songwriting here, and the others seem pretty content to float along in good spirits as well. One of the most upbeat and genial albums ever released by this most musically good-natured of bands, it was ignored in 1968 but today seems like a beautiful, oasis-like corner of paradise in an era of discontent and strife -- it wasn't profound, but it is gorgeous. 20/20 was a pastiche of singles and leftover fragments of past projects (including the Smile album) that, understandably, seems a little disorganized -- radiant psychedelia like "Cabinessence" is juxtaposed with elements of '50s rock & roll ("Bluebirds Over the Mountain"), folk songs adapted to the group's style ("Cotton Fields"), and a brush up against the dark side of the '60s, in the form of "Never Learn Not to Love," a byproduct of Dennis Wilson's brief contact with Charles Manson and company. Somewhere in there is a veritable soundtrack for the 1960s, but at the time only "Do It Again," a retro-sounding piece of beach music that charted, was a selling point. This CD was originally issued in 1990 with five bonus tracks in addition to the two LPs' contents, the most important of which was the killer single "Breakway," a deeply personal yet catchy and memorable song done in the most accessible group style, which failed to find an audience; also present is a lost cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Walk On By," and the 1968 outtake "We're Together Again," an achingly beautiful song that was somehow forgotten in 1968. In 2001, a remastered edition was released that featured significantly improved sound, and that is the preferred edition of this disc.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder