Release Date: Aug 27, 2013
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, AM Pop, Early Pop/Rock, Sunshine Pop, Surf
The Beach Boys 50th anniversary year was never likely to be an event-free lap of honour. Upon reforming, they managed to produce an intermittently great album of new material and thrilled audiences worldwide with marathon performances. Unsurprisingly, the good vibrations didn’t last and were followed by a public fallingout that once again appears to leave the band divided.
Twenty years after the Beach Boys' exhaustive five-CD Good Vibrations box set comes this even more stunningly packaged collection. The six CDs – including outtakes, demos, B-sides, live rarities and 60 unreleased tracks – follow the group's trajectory from early doo-wop-era home recordings, via surfing hits, Smile-era psychedelia and plenty of troubles and tragedy, right up to last year's comeback single, That's Why God Made the Radio. The real treasures here have remained long hidden: the late Dennis Wilson's haunting (Wouldn't It Be Nice to) Live Again – mystifyingly left off Surf's Up – is as great as anything in their canon, while other lost gems range from his brother Brian's long-lost Sunflower era Where is She? to fascinating oddities such as the Boys' 1964 backing track for Glen Campbell's I Guess I'm Dumb.
If there’s one band whose name and sound instantly evoke pleasant nostalgia, represent the sentiments of an entire generation, and showcase the changing landscape of a whole genre, it’s the Beach Boys. Founded in 1961 by brothers Dennis, Carl, and Brian Wilson, as well as their cousin, Mike Love, and friend, Al Jardine, it’s fair to say that no group (well, besides the Beatles) has influenced the backdrop of American pop music as much as they did. In commemoration of their fiftieth anniversary, the quintet recently released a six-disc box set, appropriately titled Made in California.
Designed as the triumphant conclusion to the Beach Boys 50th anniversary reunion, Made in California is indeed something of an extravaganza. Packaged as a hardcover yearbook -- a motif that runs right through to the liner notes, which include a high school piece by Brian Wilson among the various essays, along with plenty of rare photos -- Made in California makes no secret of hiding its nostalgia, but that doesn't mean the average Beach Boys fan wishing to take a stroll down memory lane should turn to this luxurious box. This six-disc set may tell the Beach Boys story quite thoroughly, but the devil is indeed in the details, details that may only compel the devoted.
A six-CD box set spanning The Beach Boys' 50-year career is a treat no matter your angle, your fear of corporate milking or even a dislike of the band. There’s something here for you and although only completists need this, as an investment this will have value for even casual fans. As a document, elaborately wrapped in squidgy yearbook book and with pages and pages of band commentary, pictures and articles, this is an achievement and looks beautiful.
The Beach Boys' self-image has always been out of step with popular critical opinion. The Wilson clan (along with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine) bought into their mythology as "America's Band" — a family-friendly nostalgia trip — ever since "Kokomo" resuscitated their career in the mid-'80s. But while their music has really never left the public consciousness, their acceptance into the '60s rock canon has always hinged on the critical view of the group as the brainchild of troubled music genius Brian Wilson.Made in California (the umpteenth collection of the Hawthorne, CA act's work) upholds this view.
The first thing to consider when delving into Made in California is who this extensive box set is aimed at, and what is it for? Lavishly designed like a high school photo scrap book with unseen photos aplenty, there is too much music here (seven hours!) for someone taking tentative steps into a back catalogue crammed with so many aural delights. However, at the same time, there’s too much material included that connoisseurs don’t necessarily need. As great as it is to hear shiny new stereo re-masters, of which there are plenty here, even casual fans of The Beach Boys could probably do without hearing ‘Sloop John B’ again.
The Beach Boys Made in California (Capitol) The Beach Boys have been compiled and repackaged more than any other major rock act, but their sprawling body of work doesn't lend itself to easy anthologizing. The band's catalog follows a fairly linear trajectory up until Brian Wilson's post-Smile flameout, at which point it breaks down into three decades' worth of small triumphs, creative dead ends, and commercial miscalculations. Whether or not Made in California is the best Beach Boys collection is debatable, but the career-spanning 6-CD set is the first to succeed in capturing the maddening mix of transcendent, life-affirming brilliance, and bush-league philistinism that makes the Beach Boys an alternately rewarding and frustrating pursuit.
In the beginning, there were the Beach Boys. Arguably the most influential American band of all time, they elevated pop music from the doldrums inflicted by the greased back, sanitised teen idols who preceded them, and then successfully held their own against the British invaders that sought to overrun the domestic front in the heady days of the early to mid ‘60s. And while their squeaky clean image and celebration of surfing, sports cars, California girls, high school, and all the other idyllic aspects of their teenage years seemed so one-dimensional early on, the genius of Brian Wilson expanded that conceit into realms that were, at the time, otherwise unimaginable.