Alright…You Picked It! It was the closest battle yet and here it is. The one you picked was The Beach Boys – “Pet Sounds”. The votes were as follows:
- The Beach Boys – ‘Pet Sounds’ – 5 votes
- Miley Cyrus – ‘Plastic Hearts’ – 4 votes
- John Coltrane – ‘A Love Supreme’ – 3 votes
- Rage Against the Machine – ‘Renegade’ – 2 votes
- B-52’s – ‘Cosmic Thing’ – 2 Votes
Thanks to all for participating. The February choices will be up on Saturday!
THE BEACH BOYS – ‘PET SOUNDS’ (1966):
I will be honest, this is a daunting task to review an album that is so loved by critics and the world. It has been listed as one of the greatest albums of all time. No pressure at all to review this. When you start researching the album, there are pages upon pages of information and every aspect of the album and at times it is overwhelming. As a result, there is no way I am going to summarize any history and go in to much detail about the making of the album and all the nuances of it either. We are going to just dive on in to the music and what I felt overall about the album. Otherwise, this could easily hit 10,000 words or more and I am not up for that and neither are you.
First, I will give you the basic information. The album was released on May 16, 1966 and was only slightly successful reaching as high as #10 on the Billboard Charts. In the UK it did a little better going all the way to #2 on their charts. Brian Wilson wrote and produced the entire album, but he wasn’t alone all the time as he had help on lyrics by Tony Asher and of course fellow Beach Boy Mike Love contributed as well. This was supposed to Brian Wilson’s masterpiece and over time, it has become one of the most influential albums of all time. So, I guess he succeeded. But I will feel that way? We will see, but with all the hype this album has gotten over the years, it is now a pretty high bar to hit.
The album opens with the classic Beach Boys song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”. The song is light and airy and sounds quite beautiful. There is a psychedelic feel and peaceful vibe to the song. I love the the pleasant sound of the guitar and the happy vibe of the accordions which was an interesting instrumental choice. But it all works and starts the album off with an amazing track.
The next song up is “You Still Believe In Me” which is about a guy that has been quite unfaithful to his partner and is so amazed by their still undying love for him after all he’s done. It has this ballad, love song feel and is so earthy sounding as well. I did find the song to be almost childlike in its presentation and with the bicycle horn at the end, that confirmed my impression. It is a pleasant enough song and has shown me that the band’s choice of instruments is going to be quite varied.
“That’s Not Me” is next with Mike Love taking over most of the vocals and is the type of Beach Boy song I am used to hearing and is more like a typical rock song of the time. For that reason, I really enjoyed it and who doesn’t love Love’s voice. It is so unique and defining. The song has a great beat and its use of the tambourines gives it a great 60’s vibe.
“Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” is another beautiful song full of harmonies and string orchestration and sounds quite complex with all that is going on musically and yet feels so simple and sweet. It is a really slow song and almost lulls you to sleep with Brian’s lullaby vocal delivery. Not my favorite track on the album.
But this next one is one of my favorites. “I’m Waiting for the Day” has a great opening drum beat and then slows down a little while Brian delivers the lyrics. The song builds up and the drums come back and the song explodes giving us an old time, 50’s rock sound, but at the same time there is a jazzy little feel to it as well. The song goes back and forth with the slowed tempo and the heavier uptempo beat. I found this one pretty cool.
Then up next was an instrumental with “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” which surprised me as I didn’t realize they did instrumentals. There is practically a full orchestra going with strings and horns and the whole thing has an almost feel like you are floating in the sky. It isn’t very exciting, but it is interesting at least.
The final song on the first side is another one I’m familiar with called “Sloop John B”. I found out the song was included to make the Label happy as they needed a hit song. And the song doesn’t quite feel like the other songs, but it is still a fun song that is a little rock and a little marching band. There is an island feel as well and gets you dancing and moving a little. Plus, I like the fact Mike Love and Brian Wilson are sharing vocals.
Side 2 opens with the grand “God Only Knows” and wow, what a song. The vocals on this one include Carl Wilson with Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnston. I am not sure how to describe everything that is going on, but it is another song that is slow tempo and has an airy, light vibe also a little psychedelic. All I know it is a beautiful song both lyrically and musically. Vocally there is so much going on that it is hard to keep up, but all blends the harmonies together so well.
“I Know There’s An Answer” is up next with Mike Love and Al Jardine on vocals. A more upbeat song and a lot of orchestration and tambourines on this one. I can’t keep up with all the instruments being used in these songs and it is quite fun to try and guess. There is a really cool organ type sound (maybe a harmonica?) that gives a very usual sound, but still pretty cool. Another very interesting track.
Then we get “Here Today” which is another Mike Love song and includes a cool bass line and some funky sounding horns. It is an uptempo song with loads of tambourines again which they seem to like to use. Not a bad song, but nothing special about overall for me.
“I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” sees Brian back on vocals and another song full of instrumentation and cool sounds. As far as instruments, from what I can find you get all of the following: harpsichord, tack piano, flutes, temple blocks, timpani, banjo, harmonica, Fender bass, and most a theremin. Also the vocal harmonies are layer upon layer of Wilson’s vocals. You would think with all this it would be incredible and it might be to some, but I found it a little dull overall.
Talking about different sounds, we now get another instrumental with “Pet Sounds” and this one is very interesting. Great beat, great vibes and even a little surfing feel to it, but not exactly a full out beach song. I believe there was hope that this was going to be a James Bond song in its original form, but sadly didn’t make it.
We are finally to the end with “Caroline, No” which is a love song and for me a strange choice to end the album as it isn’t upbeat and a little sad. But I do like the percussion and the jazz vibe to it. It ends with a train coming to a railroad crossing signal and a dog barking which I have no idea why.
And there you have it. Now, is one of the great albums of all time? I couldn’t tell you as I haven’t listened to all of the albums in the world. I will tell you I did enjoy it overall some songs got better with every listen. I do think the last half of Side 2 was the weakest part of the album, but overall I did love the vibe of the whole album. With the exception of “Sloop John B”, there was a cohesive feel to the songs and the experimentation with all the sounds and instruments made for a cool listen. But best album ever, I don’t know about that. I will give the song a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars as what I liked I really liked and what I didn’t, I didn’t hate, they just didn’t grab hold of me. I will say this is the best Beach Boys album I have ever heard though. I am glad I finally sat down and truly listened to it as there is so much more there than I thought Beach Boy albums would ever have.