The Beach Boys

Surfin' [Varése]

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It is the rare major recording act who hasn't cut a session early in their career for some small label, whose owner licenses the tracks over and over, diluting the catalog's value. For the Beach Boys, it's the handful of recordings they made for music publisher Hite Morgan in 1961-62. These skeletons in the closet often helped the artists early on; the Beach Boys certainly owe a lot to Morgan of Guild Music, who took them into a professional recording studio to cut "Surfin'," which went on to become their first chart single. A few months later, he took them in again to cut their first versions of "Surfin' Safari" and "Surfer Girl." Morgan naturally retained rights to these early recordings (which also included several other numbers, demos and outtakes), and over the years they were licensed for a dizzying number of albums, usually with some miscellaneous tracks by other artists added, since there weren't enough finished masters to make up a full-length album. The best collection is DCC's 1991 CD Lost & Found 1961-1962, which is extensively annotated and contains many previously unreleased outtakes. If that's a bit too thorough, Varèse Sarabande's Surfin' may make for a more listenable alternative. Running a brief 32 minutes, Surfin' is a nicely arranged collection of rarities that never pretends to be anything more than what it is. The Beach Boys recordings are rudimentary, but identifiable, and the group's fans should have at least one version of this material in their collections (given its proliferation, they probably already do). This one at least can be recommended as a reasonable selection of Beach Boys juvenilia.

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