The Beach Boys

Help Me Tampa

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How does one criticize the most inessential Beach Boys bootleg? Only in the most obvious ways. First, most of this two-CD production was taken from their April 12, 1974 concert in Tampa, a time at which they'd already passed their creative peak, though they were still a good live band. Second, live material from roughly this era is available in immensely superior fidelity on an official 1973 release, The Beach Boys in Concert. Third, and far and away most important, the sound quality on this bootleg is ferociously abominable, almost certainly taken from a lo-fi-audience recording that makes the band sound as if they're playing through the opposite end of a football field-length sewer pipe (with bad vari-speed wobble afflicting a few cuts to boot). And though the Beach Boys actually sound like they're playing pretty well, even at this point they were pretty much an oldies band, with more than two-thirds of the material originating prior to 1970. Disc Two is rounded off with 11 songs from appearances only identified as "various live & TV show '60s & '80s," though most, if not all of these, sound like they date from the mid-'70s onward. While the fidelity on these tracks is better than the live Tampa material, it's usually not of official release standard, and the performances are not so fine that they're worth making a special effort to hear. A couple cool mid-to-late-'60s color cover photos of the band (sans Brian Wilson) are the only classy thing about a release that's not even worth checking out of the public library.