The Sunrays

The Tower Recordings

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This has 27 of their 1964-1967 tracks, concentrating on their singles, but also including a half-dozen previously unreleased alternate mixes/vocals, as well as the previously unreleased "Goodnight Debbie, Goodnight." The Sunrays were the pet project of co-producer Murry Wilson, father of the three Beach Boys brothers. Unsurprisingly, they sounded very much like the Beach Boys, particularly in their vocal arrangements. Before you go buy this expecting a son-of-All Summer Long, be aware that as was often the case in imitative rock music, the Sunrays were a much more lightweight version of the original model. Imagine the Beach Boys' most superficial and Whitest mid-'60s sides with more mainstream L.A. pop arrangements and you have some idea of where the Sunrays were coming from. The harmonies are accomplished but on the sterile side, with even more of the Four Freshmen influence that colored the Beach Boys' vocal arrangements. It's in some respects as close to the Happenings or the Tokens as to the Beach Boys, and even by 1965-1966 standards, pretty square. And, most important, the material is mostly inconsequential, frothy pop, whether written by Sunrays singer Rick Henn (who penned their best tracks), Murry Wilson, or others. To be honest, they make the Beach Boys sound gritty, proving that it took more than smooth, high vocal harmonies to capture that group's magic; it also took the complexity and emotional depth of Brian Wilson's compositions and production, which of course couldn't be emulated. The Sunrays' biggest hits (although they weren't that big), "I Live for the Sun" (one of their relatively few tunes to boast a lot of drive) and "Andrea," remain their best tracks. This compilation is indeed only a portion of their output -- Collectables also has a Sunrays box -- but the 27 cuts will still be way more than enough for most listeners, unless they're fanatics for the West Coast harmony sound.

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