The Beach Boys

Ten Years of Harmony

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There have been so many anthologies of Beach Boys material released across the decades that it's easy to forget how extraordinary this double-LP set was in 1981 -- and still is in the new millennium. At the time of its release, all but one of the earlier collections of the Beach Boys' work was devoted to their Capitol Records output from the '60s -- and then along came this set, focusing on their more sophisticated and finely crafted (if not as popular) Brother Records library, dating from the '70s. And unlike the 1975 compilation LP Good Vibrations: Best of the Beach Boys, this set was not made under the gun, trying to cash in on a sudden surge in the group's popularity; rather, it was put together with a lot of care, encompassing popular and important LP tracks as well as their hits. So in addition to the expected charting singles "Sail on Sailor" and "Rock & Roll Music," there's also room for the psychedelic pop textures of "This Whole World" and "Add Some Music to Your Day," the "California" portion of "California Saga," and landmark tracks like "Surf's Up" and album strong points such as "Marcella." The compilers even avoided the cheat of padding the song list with live versions of the group's earlier Capitol-era hits from their concert album, so apart from a rendition of "Darlin'" from the latter, the original compositions as well as the recordings are all from the band's '70s output. Of course, there are also some caveats. The collection isn't in strict chronological order, so neophytes would need to pay attention to distill that side of the history, and the need to include material from the group's relatively lackluster late-'70s output also means there are some slacker musical moments here, though even those do represent some of the better songs from those weaker records. But for anyone interested in exploring or enjoying most of the highlights of the group's second decade -- and there are a lot of them -- there are many worse places to start than Ten Years of Harmony.

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