The Beach Boys

Surfin' Safari

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The Beach Boys' debut album, recorded in an era in which little was expected of rock groups in the way of strong LP-length statements, is mostly thin and awkward in both the songwriting and production departments. The title track, their first true smash, is great, as is its flip side ("409"), which was not only a hit in its own right, but was the first vocal hot rod classic. "Surfin'," their debut single (and small national hit), is also good, and one of the few Beach Boys tracks that could be said to have a garage-like quality. Unfortunately, most of the other cuts (most of which are group originals) are substandard ditties, as Brian Wilson had a way to go before honing his compositional genius. It does, however, afford a glimpse of the group as they sounded when they were a true band in the studio, before most of their parts were played by session musicians. Two of the better cuts, "The Shift" and the instrumental "Moon Dawg," have a grittier-than-usual surf rock base that would flower on 1963 hits like "Surfin' U.S.A." [Surfin' Safari/Surfin' U.S.A, a Capitol two-fer CD, combines this and Surfin' U.S.A. onto one disc, with the addition of three rare bonus cuts from the same era.]

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