Best of 2011-Album of the Year # 1 – The Beach Boys

December 23, 2011

Favorite song: SMiLE Backing Vocals Montage

I have to be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Beach Boys. Sure they had some classic singles and their contribution to popular music was undeniable, it’s just that I always felt they were sort of ‘vanilla’. I grew up with psychedelic rock which was to surf music in the late ’60’s what punk was to prog rock in the late ’70’s. I always thought The Beach Boys were ‘square daddy-o’.

In March it was officially announced that band’s long lost masterpiece SMiLE would finally be released. This news did pique my interest a little. Just how good was this music that was so revered over the years? I won’t go into the history or story of why it was finally being put out. You can watch all that yourself in these excellent webisodes. As with the The Beatles catalog being remastered in 2009, I started perusing the excellent Steve Hoffman Music Forums for info about this project. After reading seemingly thousands of posts, I was actually starting to get somewhat excited about this thing. I ended picking up The Pet Sounds Sessions and beginning to appreciate the genius of the band and particularly Brian Wilson.

When I was finally able to hear it in November, I have to say I was instantly blown away. The album itself is pop music perfection. Dare I say that it is even better than it’s much lauded second cousin Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Hard call. The four bonus discs of studio outtakes, alternative versions and embryonic song ideas on the box set are a bit much for the casual fan. It was almost a chore to get through the first time. An hour alone of ‘Good Vibrations’? As I started to get more familiar with the music, I eventually appreciated the fact that they were able to include this bonus material and find myself actually enjoying the wealth of stuff here as a companion to the album.

My main appreciate revolves around the incredible harmonies these guys were able to produce around a microphone. They were awesome vocalists and these amazingly complex songs seem almost impossible to perform. The Beach Boys were able to pull it off and that is what continues to astound me. Not only is this my favorite record of the year, it has quickly become one of my favorites of all time.

Believe it or not, I was very close to getting Brian Wilson’s participation in my First/Last series and hopefully will in the upcoming months as the band celebrates their 50th Anniversary in 2012. Until then, enjoy this First/Last with the album’s lyricist Van Dyke Parks from last September:

  • The first album you ever bought?
  • An EP- Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Divertimento in D.
  • Your last album bought?
  • Paolo Conte “Reveries” on Nonesuch.
  • Favorite album of all time?
  • Yo Yo Ma—Bach Cello Suites.
  • Least favorite/most disappointing album?
  • My lips are sealed.
  • First concert attended?
  • Aida—’48—Chautauqua.
  • Last concert?
  • Rufus Wainwright at Hollywood Bowl.
  • Favorite concert ever?
  • Toscanini Mephistophele Prologue, Carnegie Hall ’54.
  • Least favorite concert?
  • Beck.
  • Any thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
  • Parks Township, inc. 1742, a 10 Sq. mile tract, was granted to my direct ancestor Robert Parks, by Wm Pitt the Elder, by George II. It sits on Delaware land. On the banks if the mighty Kiskiminetas River, whose waters spill into the scenic Youghiogheny–from thence to the Monongahela, the Allegheny, and Ohio. Parks waters quench the historic thirst of this metropolis. If anyone asks you the secret of Pittsburgh’s enlightenment, just say “…it’s the water.”! I went to Carnegie Tech. Although I never graduated, I adopted Carnegie’s motto early on, to wit: “My heart is in the work”.

©Jasper Dailey – Courtesy of The Peter Reum Collection