The Beach Boys

Good Vibrations: Best of the Beach Boys

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The first compilation album to encompass the Beach Boys' 1970s work is barely that, as a result of the circumstances of its release in mid-1975. By rights, this album should never have come out when it did, but two successive Capitol Records compilations of (mostly) early to mid-'60s Beach Boys material, Endless Summer and Spirit of America, had burned up the charts and raised more interest in the Beach Boys than the group's current work had managed to do in four years on Warner/Reprise; and the latter company had to do something to capitalize on that success, especially as it had the group's late-'60s Capitol albums under license at the time. And this album was a modest success at the time, though that did little to make the executives at Warner/Reprise feel good -- no one could ignore the fact that only three of the 12 tracks here came from the group's Warner/Reprise output: "Sail on Sailor," "Add Some Music to Your Day," and "Surf's Up," none of which was exactly a chart buster (and one of which wasn't even a single); the other nine tracks, which qualified as the best known of the songs here, came from the group's late-'60s Capitol library. Even if a listener didn't know those corporate ins-and-outs, it was impossible to overlook the fact that only three of the tracks here dated from after 1969, a quietly damning statement about the hard times on which the group had fallen. On the other hand, the music, whatever its dates or origins, is uniformly superb, and constituted a revelation to a lot of younger listeners who didn't know how far this band had progressed into its own unique brand of psychedelia -- and beyond -- from 1966 onward. And while the makers did leave out a couple of priceless moments, such as "California Saga: California" and "This Whole World," they were smart enough to include the sublimely beautiful "Surf's Up." The latter, and not "Heroes and Villains," should probably have closed the record, a perfect bookend to the straightforward rock & roll of "Sail on Sailor"; but in 1975, it was all worth hearing anyway you could get it.