A review of the Beach Boys' "The Pet Sounds Sessions"

by Steve Marinucci

Well, it's finally here. And even with the delay, The Beach Boys' "The Pet Sounds Sessions" boxed set was well worth the wait.


"The Pet Sounds

The jewel of this great set is the new stereo mix. There will be those who think this should never have been attempted. But listening to it gives the album a new depth. One can hear the interaction between the instruments more clearly than ever before. And the separation on the official stereo mix beats the "Leggo My Ego" bootleg version by miles.

Listening to the session outtakes makes the beauty of the album all the more apparent. If only more artists that have resisted releasing outtakes (such as the Rolling Stones) would get the hint that releasing tapes of creativity in progress does not mar the past, but only enchances it.

Besides making a tape of the stereo mix, we also made tapes of the instrumental-only and vocals-only mixes in album order. Listening to these alternative versions of the album, especially the vocals only, is fascinating. Although the vocals-only mixes were lined up in album form on the set, the instrumentals were not. (You can make one, but it takes a bit of programming in your CD player.) This was a mistake on the part of the set's designers, but that's a minor quibble in an otherwise perfect set.

During the long delay, the set was the subject of much speculation on the Internet as to whether it would ever appear. (A Washington Post story cited problems with the documentation and some of the mixes used.) Fans blamed everyone from Capitol Records to a certain Beach Boys lead singer. Indeed, a change from the advance copies when the set was first announced to the released version is the addition of comments by Mike Love in the small CD-sized booklet. If this is what held up the set for a year and a half, that's a shame, but if any fingers are to be pointed, point them at the reason his comments were left out of the set in the first place. Consider the fact that, outside of Love, the advance copies had comments by almost every studio musician who played on the sessions, plus every Beach Boy member, including the late Dennis Wilson! Love's comments about the album had a right to have been there in the first place since he was one of those who had a central role in its creation.

But the set is a tremendous accomplishment on many levels. It brings to the forefront the beauty of "Pet Sounds." Certainly, this was evident before, but the outtakes and the new stereo mix do even more to certify its place as one of the top rock albums of all time. The fact that the Beach Boys as a group and Capitol Records were able to buck the usual marketing strategy and put out such a narrowly focused set is a reason to thank both of them. As demonstrated by this set, the members of the Beach Boys especially ought to be quite proud of their individual roles in the album's creation.

The set's release also concretely certifies the legend of Brian Wilson. The fans who have disdained the oldies-filled nature of the group's concerts in the past few years can now point to this set and say, "This is what the Beach Boys are all about."

And they will be right.

Created Saturday, November 22, 1997

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