The Beach Boys

In the Beginning: The Garage Tapes

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Even with the dozens of discs' worth of unreleased Beach Boys rarities that the Sea of Tunes label had issued prior to the appearance of this 2007 bootleg, yet more material continued to be unearthed. This compilation features two CDs of recordings from 1960, 1962, and 1963, and if it's hardly the kind of thing that can be recommended to the general fan (or even the kind of thing that ranks among their more interesting unreleased stuff), it certainly has its fascination for the dedicated Beach Boys fan. Disc one is a very varied assortment of 1962 and 1963 studio outtakes, including some sessions at which they were backing producer/singer Gary Usher, Sharon Marie, and the Honeys. While some of the April 1962 sessions are rather corny early-'60s pop/rock tunes, Brian Wilson has a very endearing high vocal on "The Beginning of the End"; he also takes lead vocal on the nice if dated ballad "Visions," which he co-wrote with Usher (and was later recorded and released by Rachel & the Revolvers). It's hard to specify what the Beach Boys' involvement in Sharon Marie's "Summertime" was other than perhaps being part or all of the backing band, but it's a pretty dynamite gritty version of the standard. There are also a whole bunch of mid-to-late 1963 outtakes/alternates of officially released songs similar enough to the commonly available versions that they're mainly of interest for scholars of how their tracks evolved and were produced in the studio, though the instrumental "Rabbit Foot" would evolve into "Our Car Club," and "Good Humour Man" into "The Rocking Surfer."

The second disc is almost wholly devoted to home tapes, apparently from 1960 (at least that's the date given on the track listings), on which you can hear the boys routining rudimentary versions of "Surfin'," as well as doing a cappella harmonizing on the obscure doo wop song "Bermuda Shorts." The amount of horsing around and jostling that seems to be threatening to erupt into fights indicates that the occasional similar verbal sparring on subsequent officially issued Beach Boys comedy tracks wasn't wholly contrived. Some female friends seem to be informally helping out the lads on some other, mostly a cappella tracks (including, interestingly, "Sloop John B," which would be a huge Beach Boys hit about five years later), and while it's slightly lo-fi and slightly juvenile, the material seems to demonstrate the group's remarkable facility for vocal harmonies was nearly fully developed before they ever entered a recording studio. The very last track on this CD, "Murry Directs Brian at the Organ," is definitely a later studio recording, not a 1960 home one; you also hear Beach Boy dad Murry Wilson on a brief trivial recorded phone conversation, which stretches the boundaries of something that will interest even fans of the group, bootleg or no bootleg.

The fidelity on disc one of this compilation is at or nearly of official release standard, and while the sound quality on disc two is lower, it's not at all difficult to hear. The rather extreme marginalia of these tracks to the Beach Boys' core legacy makes it something that should only be investigated by completists, but accepted on those terms, they're valuable, illuminating, and sometimes even enjoyable finds.