The Beach Boys

Surfin' Safari/Surfin' U.S.A.

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The usual perception of the Beach Boys' early albums is that they're primarily for completists and principally of historical interest. This CD goes a long way toward dispelling that myth. The group's first two LPs were originally compiled together on one CD in 1990 as part of a reissue of their complete Capitol output, and were upgraded in March of 2001. Although neither album shows the group near its very best, they hold up remarkably well 40 years later. Surfin' Safari was recorded in such a rush after the title track became a hit that the group was forced to draw on whatever songs Brian Wilson and collaborator Gary Usher had come up with as part of their weekly writing sessions. Still, there's some very good music here beyond "Surfin' Safari," "409," and "Surfin'": the lost surf hit "Chug-a-Lug"; the doo wop-style "Little Miss America," on which Dennis Wilson and company step into Dion & the Belmonts territory; and a credible cover of "Summertime Blues." Even the slightly lesser material such as "Moon Dawg," a cover of a surf classic by the Gamblers that's one of Carl Wilson's best early guitar showcases, "Cuckoo Clock," and "The Shift," all generic surf/beach music, is attractive. Surfin' U.S.A. was done with a little more time and more control by the group and Brian, and it shows. From the opening title cut, the album never lets up -- "Farmer's Daughter" is a gorgeous surf tune with a killer lead falsetto by Brian; "Miserlou," "Stoked," "Honky Tonk," "Surf Jam," and "Let's Go Trippin'" were brilliant instrumentals showing off the group's (especially Carl Wilson's) virtuosity even at this early date; "Lonely Sea" was the first example of Brian writing and singing in a melancholy, reflective mood, and was a distant prelude to songs like "Don't Worry Baby" and the entire Pet Sounds album; "Shut Down" was their second great car song ("409" being their first); and "Noble Surfer," "Lana," and "Finders Keepers" were great rockers with beautiful vocal and instrumental hooks, the latter's chorus a good-natured send-up of the Four Seasons' sound on "Big Girls Don't Cry." The bonus tracks include a hit that should have been, a surf-style cover of the 1950s Tarriers and Eddie Fisher hit "Cindy, Oh Cindy" that's worth the price of the CD just to get it; and "Land Ahoy" is an achingly beautiful rock & roll ballad that, for reasons impossible to fathom, never made the cut from the Surfin' Safari album, but was later transmuted into "Cherry, Cherry Coupe." [The March 2001 upgrade made a significant improvement in the sound over the 1990 version, with a much closer, more vivid presence to the instruments and richer textures on the vocals.]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:06 Spotify
2
2:16 Spotify
3 1:29 Spotify
4
2:01 Spotify
5
2:06
6
2:00
7
2:12 Spotify
8
2:19 Spotify
9 2:11 Spotify
10
2:10 Spotify
11 2:03 Spotify
12
1:55 Spotify
13 2:29 Spotify
14 1:51 Spotify
15 2:06 Spotify
16 2:01 Spotify
17 2:23 Spotify
18 1:51 Spotify
19 1:53 Spotify
20 2:04 Spotify
21 1:41 Spotify
22 2:12 Spotify
23 1:59 Spotify
24 1:42 Spotify
25 2:10 Spotify
26 2:36 Spotify
27 1:40 Spotify
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