The Beach Boys

The Best of the Beach Boys, Vol. 2

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Almost exactly one year after Capitol Records issued its first Best of the Beach Boys album (to cover the perceived weak performance of Pet Sounds) came this second volume, and once again it was a creation born of expediency. Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys had spent most of the second half of 1966 and the first half of 1967 working on the concept album SMiLE before abandoning it in the late spring of 1967; as a stopgap measure, to get something new into the hands of fans, Capitol Records once more raided the Beach Boys' back catalog. But Best of the Beach Boys, Vol. 2 ranges a bit further than its predecessor. The label was obviously still uncomfortable promoting the "new" Beach Boys music from Pet Sounds and beyond, so there's no sign of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" or even "Sloop John B," and the compilation is still in the era of surf and car songs, with the expected hits including "I Get Around," "California Girls," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Surfin'' Safari," "Barbara Ann," and "409." But they're interspersed with some of the most unusual work of their early period, including the ethereal "Please Let Me Wonder" and the exquisitely textured "Don't Worry Baby," along with two of the more thoughtful teen anthems of the period, "Let Him Run Wild" and "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)." Rather ironically, given its quota of huge hits and its more ambitious programming, this album sold only a fraction of the previous volume -- by the summer of 1967, the mass appeal of all of those early hits assembled together was muted. Perhaps as a reflection of this, the U.K. version of the album, with a considerably different song list that included "Good Vibrations" (in what would have been its first LP appearance), "Here Today," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice," reached number three on the British charts, versus the number 50 placement in the U.S. But the fact that the Capitol label was so quick to reach back to the surf and car songs didn't improve relations with the group members, who were now all more or less on the same page musically with Brian Wilson, and were increasingly coming to understand how Wilson had felt in the years when he was trying to sell them as well as the label on the new music. Other, more ambitious collections have made this album irrelevant, but it's still a halfway decent representation of an important part of the group's late surf and car era.

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