Capitol, which had already released ten Beach Boys albums in three years, was bugging the group for product that it could release in time for the 1965 Christmas season. To buy time while Brian Wilson began conceiving the Pet Sounds masterpiece, the group issued a set of covers, featuring '50s rock and R&B hits they had listened to as schoolboys, plus some newer sounds. Packaged as if it had been recorded at an actual party, it was in fact recorded in the studio over a few sessions, with friends, family and romantic partners adding sounds and vocals to create an informal atmosphere. With the exception of a bass guitar, all the instruments were acoustic; the acoustic guitar-and-bongo arrangements, in fact, give this a hootenanny campfire feel. Since its release, this album has gone up a few notches in critical esteem, praised for its loose, casual feel and insight into the group's influences. Realistically, though, its lasting appeal lies mostly with dedicated fans of the group, as fun and engaging as it is. It does have the massive hit "Barbara Ann," which actually features Dean Torrence (of Jan & Dean) on much of the lead vocals; other highlights include a rousing run through "Mountain of Love," an unexpected version of "The Times They Are a-Changin' sung by folk fan Al Jardine," and three Beatles covers.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger