The Beach Boys

Unsurpassed Masters, Vol. 14 (1966): The Alternate "Pet Sound" Album, Vol. 2

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This is the second multi-disc compilation in the Unsurpassed Masters series, which collects tapes from the instrumental and vocal recording sessions used for the creation of Brian Wilson's masterpiece -- Pet Sounds. What immediately stands out during these latter sessions is the control that Brian Wilson wields over the musicians and vocalists. This is not an ego-driven manipulation. Instead, it is Wilson's attempt to get an optimum performance from himself as much as it is to get a good sound from his ever-changing sonic architects. Included among these veterans are guitarists Glen Campbell, Tommy Tedesco, and Barney Kessel. Their contributions range from electric guitar solo to strumming a banjo -- all within minutes of each other. Unlike most other composers, Wilson knew with acute precision what he wanted before he ever hired the musicians for the recording sessions. For that reason, Wilson comes off as demanding at times when dealing with musicians as musicians first and people second. This volume contains quite a bit of Wilson tweaking sounds, leaving bits and pieces of sheer pop brilliance in his wake. While moments of that sort of inspiration can be found throughout the entire collection, "That's Not Me" is one of the highlights in terms of hearing the small yet significant alterations that Wilson makes as he adds layer upon layer of sound into what once seemed like a much more simplistic melody. In terms of sheer inspiration, the "God Only Knows" and "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" sessions, which comprise disc three, are worthy of frequent re-visitations. Disc Four -- aptly subtitled "Odds & Ends" -- highlights Brian Wilson's overdubbed vocals for an a cappella radio station promo for KOMA, as well as over a half-hour's worth of home recordings made by Wilson for seemingly experimental purposes.

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