The headline to this review is not a slam. It is just a reality point I think you, Dear Readers, will appreciate. The Beach Boys — with their leader, Brian Wilson — are one of the most influential bands in pop music history, so any new release relating to them can have relevance and import.
And this one will be viewed as important to a certain subset of Beach Boys fans — particularly the hardcore fans, of which there are still very many out there in the land of all things records and music collecting.
Becoming The Beach Boys : The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions gives you (as far as I know) the first complete look at all the earliest recordings and sessions made by the group before they were discovered and signed to Capitol Records. It includes material that many Beach Boys collectors have heard before with varying levels of sound quality, many on budget label collections of dubious origin both on LP and CD. I remember there was a fairly comprehensive single disc collection by DCC from the 1990s which was pretty good for its time; there may have been others licensing some of this material.
So, yes, on this new set you get all the original tracks from those rare-as-hens-teeth 45s that appeared on even-then-obscure indie record labels such as “X,” “Randy” and “Candix.” These are records most average Beach Boys fans (myself included) have rarely — if ever — seen in person, much less owned. All those early tracks are there including “Surfin’,” “Luau,” “Surfin’ Safari,’ “Barbie” and others.
But the really cool thing here is you get all all the available outtakes and demo recordings made for the period giving the listener a fascinating insight into the development of the band’s sound and how the recordings were made.
Frankly, some of the demo versions, done with just an acoustic guitar, I almost like better!
Over two CDs — yes, two discs of early Beach Boys — you hear all this music unfold and The Beach Boys sound take shape before your very ears. This is the music that led the band to get signed to the major label that put them on the map around the world.
It was quite a leap for them to take those few steps from The Pendletones into The Beach Boys and those cautious moves are documented on this fine set. That is one of the amazing things you realized when listening to these recordings: much of the architecture of that Beach Boys sound was in place, it just needed fine tuning and shaping.
A couple of years later, Brian Wilson would write a sophisticated pop song called “When I Grow Up To Be A Man.” Here you get to hear them first grow up into Beach Boys.
Its the birthing of a group that went on be the 100-million-selling, Grammy-winning, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legends known as The Beach Boys.
Indeed, Surfs up!