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Do You Need The Beach Boys’ New Feel Flows Five CD Super Deluxe Edition? Part 2

Mark Smotroff continues his swim into cool cool 1970 waters…

Yesterday I began to explore The Beach Boys’ fabulous new five CD super deluxe boxed set called Feel Flows, mostly talking about the two featured albums it is built around, Sunflower and Surf’s Up.  But there is so much more on this deep dive collection that is simply jaw-dropping for fans of the band.  If you missed Part 1 of this series, please click here to read and catch up.

So, where do we start exploring the rarities in this rich set of music?  

While you can certainly listen to the five discs chronologically, personally I was eager to hear the new 2019 remix of Brian Wilson’s lead vocal on the 1971 take of the title track of “Surf’s Up.” Arguably a centerpiece song from that same-named album — if not the whole set — it is a very good place to begin especially when you go back to compare Carl Wilson’s equally amazing (some might say better) vocal on the final 1971 studio version.

For those reading this not in the know, that track was central to Brian Wilson’s legendary once-abandoned-but-eventually-completed (in 2004) opus known as SMiLE (click here to read more about that epic album’s evolution). In 1971, it was one of the earliest songs to surface from the already mythic SMiLE sessions, so there is much Beach Boys’ history and legacy effectively built upon “Surf’s Up” as eventually completed by the rest of the band. Hearing these different levels of its architecture (if you will) is a powerful listening experience. That said, the bonus live recording of this song from 1973 is quite spectacular and Carl pulls off all those high falsettos on stage without a net — he had one of the most angelic voices in the group and this track is a showcase for his gifts.

Carl Wilson

Dennis Wilson’s stunning “(Wouldn’t It Be Nice To) Live Again” could have been an FM radio hit had it been released back in the day. Presented here in an extend version which clocks in at just under seven minutes, the song first appeared on an earlier Beach Boys retrospective in edited form. Dennis also shines on the hard-rocking 1971 live take of “It’s About Time.” 

Dennis’ fantastic 1970 UK-only single track “Sound Of Free” and its B-side “Lady” are nice to have here in context with music from the period. I only had these songs a somewhat rare Australian compilation of Brian Wilson rarities which was released in the ‘80s (although I’ve since learned the was released on CD in 2013 on the Made In California compilation which I admit I overlooked and need to hear!). On Disc Five there is at least an album’s worth of tracks by Dennis Wilson alone (!) in addition to the many other rarities offered there — I found this disc a compelling end to end listen in its own right, actually.

Dennis Wilson

Listen for unreleased songs like Brian’s “Where Is She” which sounds amazingly  modern with its sparse keyboard, snare drum and electric guitar arrangement — Brian’s voice is remarkable at times hinting at an Eddie Holman (“Hey There Lonely Girl”) falsetto. The eerily joyful circus organ take of “Carnival” (a waltz time merry-go-round type theme also known as “Sobre las Olas, or “Over The Waves” by Mexican composer Juventino Rosas) could fit on a Tom Waits record. 

The backing track for Brian’s haunting pipe organ-fueled “A Day In The Life Of A Tree” is just mesmerizing. 

Brian Wilson

Outside of hardcore fans, “rocking” is a term not often applied to The Beach Boys’ music. We know better and it is important to point this out for those who still only consider the group’s innocent red-striped surfer boy image from their earliest material (which, by the way, did in fact rock in its time and place). The reality is that The Beach Boys were a great and massively influential group which grew up and eventually changed with the times.

They no doubt had their ups and downs and moments of being out-of-sync with music trends, but by the early 70s they certainly got their live “rock” act together to keep pace with all the biggest bands of the era (they even played shows with The Grateful Dead!).  And they were really good live as you can hear on these recordings. So don’t be surprised when you hear the ripping version of “Student Demonstration Time” (a remake of Leiber-Stoller’s classic “Riot In Cell Block #9”) on Feel Flows. The live version of Carl Wilson’s “Long Promised Road” from 1972 is a powerhouse performance.

And so it goes on this fine fine boxed set…

Now, as handy as it is to have Feel Flows streaming (which I explored in Part 1 of this series), I would recommend buying the CD package if you can. It comes to you as a very deluxe, hardbound book which makes it quite easy to read the copious liner notes and recording details which you don’t get with the online versions. The layout is really quite nice and for many of us aging Beach Boys fans it is admittedly nice to be able to not have to squint (or put on glasses) to read all the great background information about these legendary recordings.

So, if you were on the fence about Feel Flows, you might want to seriously consider getting this very special set. There is so much fine music here that doesn’t feel like throwaway material and which — if you are even a moderate fan — will probably find yourself listening to more regularly than you might expect. I know I will be going back to this regularly.  

Indeed the title of this set Feel Flows is quite appropriate, especially when you look at some of the lyrics to the song (below, excerpted, not in complete form): 

Unfolding enveloping missiles of soul…

Mirage like soft blue like lanterns below…

To light the way gladly…

Unbending, never ending tablets of time…

Record all the yearning…

Unfearing, all appearing message divine…

White hot glistening shadowy flows…

Going back to the headline for this review series, I think the answer is obvious that, yes, you know that you probably need this fine new Beach Boys Feel Flows boxed set…

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