Written by 4:54 am Audiophile Music

Surfing The Tsunami of Pet Sounds Anniversary Reissues

Mark Smotroff ponders his Beach Boys pet passion


So kids…By now you probably know that this year marks the 50th anniversary of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album. A landmark record no doubt, so much so that I am not going to bring into question it’s import to the music world at large… 

AR-PetSound50thCD225.jpgNor am I going to judge the merits of Mono versus Stereo editions. It is well-established that the mono mix is essential listening to experience Brian Wilson’s original vision for this music, with its densely intertwined presentation of instruments and voices combining to create new sounds along the way. The stereo mix (from 1996) offers a compelling widescreen view of the music — it sounds fantastic, but offers a very different insight to the music. And of course one of my all-time favorite re-purpose-ings (if you will) of Pet Sounds is the just wonderful 5.1 surround sound mix issued in the early part of the new millennium (released on the short lived DVD Audio format).

Pet Sounds is no doubt one of my all-time favorite records and each reincarnation has for the most part been valid and important… 

For the most part… 

Along with each new version, it can become frustrating for some of us — who have been following the record for much of our lives — to have to consider buying yet another reissue just to hear certain rare bonus tracks.

I already have Pet Sounds on an original Mono Capitol Records LP as well as the 1970s version on Brother / Reprise Records which was included as a two-fer along with the Carl & The Passions album… and I have the DCC Compact Classics gold disc CD version… and then there is the 30th anniversary Pet Sounds Sessions box set…. and of course there is the DVD-Audio disc containing the aforementioned 5.1 mix (as well as mono and stereo versions and a plethora of outtakes and rarities, all on that one disc!).

I skipped the 40th Anniversary re-packaging in its nifty felt packaging with its standard DVD offering the 5.1 mix again plus a handful of previously unreleased things.  

Which is why I am asking myself: do I really need to buy yet another expensive box set just for the Blu-ray Disc containing surround-sound versions of the instrumental mixes and handful of newly released live recordings?

AR-PetSound50thLogo225.jpgWith this in the back of my mind, my ears perked up when my music collecting buddy Frank told me about a special edition of Pet Sounds that was available exclusively at Best Buy. The set has a disc containing the Mono and Stereo mixes. Plus, it has a second disc containing a completely instrumental, vocal-free version of the album — a fun complement to the a cappella, vocals-only version of the album that was included in the 30th Anniversary box set! That second disc also includes a number of live recordings of The Beach boys performing Pet Sounds songs, recorded between the mid 60s and the early 90s.  

And…. you also get an exclusive mail order-only, free 7-inch 45 RPM yellow vinyl single of “God Only Knows” backed with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”! 

Operators are standing by…

I picked up a copy of this special Best Buy edition package on Saturday and filled in my online order form for the 45 on Sunday… By Monday morning I received an email back from Universal Music confirming that my bonus 45 had been processed and shipped to me!

Pretty amazing service when you stop to think about it!

That said, I was curious to do a little informal comparison contrast of the various CD versions that I have to this new 2016 edition. 

This is Audiophilereview dot com, after all, right?

The funny part about this new 2 CD set is that while the second disc of instrumental mixes and live recordings sound pretty solid, the first disc — containing the album in Mono and Stereo — doesn’t sound very good to my ear. 

Not sure what happened there. 

AR-PetSounds50BoxSet225.jpgOf the three CD versions that I own, I preferred the sound on the 30th anniversary version as it felt the least compressed and most true to the music. The new version as well as the DCC gold disc version display sonic anomalies that were unpleasing to my ear.  

In short, those CDs sounded a bit harsh, bearing a hard edge that took away from the listening experience, especially as you turn up the volume. 

The sound gets a little wonky… 

Looks like I’ll be getting rid of my 1993 gold disc DCC copy now after all… 

]]>All that said, my suggestion for those of you out there who are facing a similar dilemma is simply this: if you are a long time Beach Boy fan and already have a copy of Pet Sounds that you like, chances are it’s going to serve you just fine for the immediate future. If you are like me with multiple versions of the same album as well as box sets, I would recommend getting this Best Buy version because it’s a good value all things considered and the least expensive way to get a taste of the genuinely “new” things that have been issued for the 50th Anniversary celebration. Plus, if you get it early enough you’ll receive a nifty bonus single!  

Of course, the question remains: will I ever buy the new Pet Sounds boxed set just to hear the Blu-ray Audio disc version that is there? 

Perhaps… 

If the price comes down on the set … or if I find a used copy…. 

AR-Pet Sounds Coupon225.jpgOr… I may end up just buying the Pure Audio Blu-ray Disc version that I just discovered is being sold on its own (for about $30 at places like Music Direct and The Elusive Disc). It is a little confusing as some of the websites touting that version of the album don’t detail whether it contains the 5.1 mix on it (thus I didn’t include links to it here, Dear Readers).  

At some point I’ll get my hands on a copy and if it indeed has the surround mix on it I’ll post an update in the comments section below.

The Who took that approach with its Quadrophenia Pure Audio release which was a blessing for those of us who’d already bought the fancy super deluxe box set (which only had half of the 5.1 mix presented in demo form at that time). 

So, yes, I would get a Pure Audio disc version of Pet Sounds if one is available that contains the complete 5.1 mixes (instrumental as well as with vocals) and all the bonus goodies

Clearly, there is a tipping point where even the most hardcore of fan has to draw a line in the sand between sensibility and madness. 

Just say Caroline No…  

Besides… I kinda would like to get the Stereo edition on vinyl someday…

(sigh) 

I guess I just wasn’t made for these times… indeed…

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