This two-on-one CD reissue offers a pair of "firsts" -- the group's first concept album (in the Sinatra sense of the term, referring to an LP built on a specific theme or subject) and their first long-player to overlap with the British Invasion. The interesting thing about the group's albums up to All Summer Long, including Little Deuce Coupe, was that they were among the better albums of their period; perhaps not quiet as strong as the best of Elvis Presley's non-soundtrack releases, but competitive with them and equal or superior to the work of the Four Seasons, Chuck Berry, or Bo Diddley from that time. Little Deuce Coupe's baker's dozen of car songs shows considerable inspiration on Brian Wilson's part -- cars, like girls, were something he knew and liked, where surfing was personally alien to him as a pastime. The sound, ranging from Four Freshmen-inspired harmony showcases ("A Young Man Is Gone") to romantic doo wop ("Car Crazy Cutie") and rocking anthems to fast cars ("Spirit of America"), speed ("I Get Around"), and school spirit ("Be True to Your School"). All Summer Long is a more sophisticated album that comes from more than a year later, resplendent in ethereal harmonies, unusual tempo and key changes, and a richer set of songs overall, including a ravishing cover of "Hushabye" and one of the great musical representations of summer ever heard, in "All Summer Long." This was to be the last album that the group would make as a largely self-contained unit, with the five members -- as opposed to a brace of session musicians -- at the core of the sound, and it has a simple, urgent immediacy that their subsequent LPs, though more finely crafted, sacrificed to some extent. The bonus cuts include the superior single version of "Be True to Your School," alternate takes of "Little Honda" and "Don't Back Down," and one previously unissued cut, the surprisingly lusty "All Dressed Up for School," which failed to make it onto All Summer Long. This pairing of albums was first issued on CD in 1991 and upgraded in early 2001 -- the latter is superior to any prior CD of either album or the material contained within.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder