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Surfin' Safari / Surfin' USA
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(2001/CAPITOL) 27 tracks, two original albums from 1962 & 1963 on this CD plus three bonus tracks, a 22-page booklet and an exclusive commentary by Brian Wilson.
Ten Little Indians
Little Miss America
Heads You Win - Tails I Lose
Let's Got Trippin'
Cindy, Oh Cindy
The Baker Man
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"Surfin' Safari" et "Surfin' deviendront des classiques" (à noter qu'en chantres de la surf-music, les Beach Boys ,hormis Dennis Wilson,n'ont jamais surfé). "County Fair" et sa mélodie haut perchée donne la même impression de tournis qu'un manège de fête foraine, amplifiée par l'orgue singeant un limonaire. "409" (four-0-nine) et son intro de V8 est dédié aux hot rods et figurera sur l'album Little Deuce Coupe. La sympathique reprise du "Summertime Blues" d'Eddie Cochran est un peu édulcorée mais pas émasculée pour autant (on est encore à des miles du Live at Leeds). Le son est meilleur et plus ample sur les instrumentaux, sur les autres les instruments sont sous-mixés, surtout la basse (papa Wilson est encore aux manettes!). Avec le recul, on se rend compte que cette musique a beaucoup plus influencé la vague "yéyé" en France que ne l'ont fait les Beatles à cette époque.
Surfin'USA.le deuxième album est d'une autre tenue. Il commence par la chanson titre "Surfin'USA" adaptation du "Sweet little sixteen" de Chuck Berry. Les vocaux sont beaucoup plus aboutis que sur le premier album. Si Mike Love tient souvent la voix solo, Brian se fait de plus en plus remarquer avec sa voix en falsetto.Lire la suite ›
Et le monde découvre 1 jeune bassiste un peu gauche: Brian Wilson...
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There was a lively surf music scene, with Dick Dale and the Del Tones, the Ventures, and Jan and Arnie (later Jan and Dean). The Beach Boys started working in this genre as this disc indicates-Moon Dawg, The Shift, Surfin' Safari, Surfin' USA, and the two Dick Dale covers. But the Beach Boys had something different. Not quite a different sound, since they just had Chuck Berry rock and roll riffs combined with the Four Freshman harmonies. But you can feel the soul of their music, specifically Brian Wilson's soul shine through in tracks such as Cuckoo Clock and Farmers Daughter. And Lonely Sea is really the first "Pet Sounds" track, indicating the direction Brian Wilson could and did go.
Yes, music has progressed (somewhat) since these two LPS were recorded, and bands (some at least) have gotten better, but these tracks are engraved moments in time. You see the Beach Boys starting out as just another surf band, but with the seeds of something different. You get shadows of "Pet Sounds" with this music.
On the SURFIN' SAFARI album, there are several track of note. The first is "County Fair," which prefigures "Amusement Parks USA," which was a sideways tribute to "Palisades Parks."
"Heads you win, tails I loose" is one of my favorites, due to the theme and the wit of the lyrics. Libretto-ing was Brian Wilson's weakest point, and he relied primarily on Mike Love to put words to his hymn-melodies. Mike Love (or whomever) came up with some catchy words that would make the Beatles (Please Pease Me, She Said She Said, Hello Goodbye) envious.
The gem on "Surfin Safari" is "Mr. America." What would be a nominal top-ten hit for another band takes on a luminous quality as rough-voiced Denny Wilson croons the lead. This is his first solo recoding and he does exceptionally and memorably well. We see the beginning of such songs as "Forever," "Celebrate the News," "Slip on Through," and "Fourth of July."
SURFIN' USA also has gems. "Finders Keepers" has catch music and an interesting thematic development. It's nice, clean, feel-good music.
The album has some weak covers (rehashes?) of two Dick Dale and the Deltones classics-Misrilou, which was made famous by the "Pulp fiction" Soundtrack, and "Let's Go Trippin." The Concert Album indicated that they still played this song on their tours, and frankly they, especially Carl Wilson, did a better job of it live.
They were still perceived as just another surf band with the inclusion of "Surf Jam," and "Stoked," which is another one of my favorites. It conjures up an opium den or some drug house. I don't know . . .
Plain and simple "Lonely Sea" is worth the price of the CD. It is a classic Wilson ballad, with absolutely heavenly guitar work and an angelic choir. In fact, the Beach Boys singing a capella makes me weep. I am surprised that this track hasn't caught on in movie soundtracks since it is perfect make-out music.
One of the bonus tracks is "Land Ahoy," an out-take from Surfin Safari, and was originally released on "Beach Boys Rarities." It is nice to have this one back.
The other 9 songs that make up this album are mostly goofy novelty numbers. They all last about 2 minutes, have dumb lyrics, and sound pretty much the same. They aren't horrible, but they really don't have any reason to exist now that 1962 is long gone. Dated in the extreme. The highlight of this section is easily "Moon Dawg," which is a fun surf instrumental, and I've got a thing for fun surf instrumentals. I like "The Shift" too, which is a fun rock number. Elsewhere, though, mediocrity abounds. Songs like "County Fair" (with a stupid voice over section), "Heads You Win, Tails I Lose," "Chug A Lug," and "Little Girl (You're My Miss America)" are okay, but really now, is there any reason to pull out this album and listen to them? Not really. And even the highlights don't hit me THAT hard - let's face it, as cool as "Surfin' Safari" and "409" are, neither is exactly that great.
The Surfin' USA LP was a huge improvement over its predecessor. "Surfin' USA" was tearing up the airwaves as people listened in awe, completely unaware that the song was stolen note for note from Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen." Ripoff or not, the song is undeniably catchy, and, in my opinion, is a lot better than the Berry original. The song featured use of vocal overdubs and lots of backup vocals, which were soon to become a Beach Boys/Brian Wilson mainstay. If there was ever a track that announced that the Beach Boys were here to stay, that was the one.
Huge hits aside, though, what is it about this album that makes it better than the last one? Well, there's lots of stuff. For one, the band had more money this time, so the production is a little fuller sounding. The vocals are also much better than before - the leads are more in tune and gorgeous (as on the fantastic dark ballad "Lonely Sea"). Plus, as I mentioned, due to overdubbing, the background vocals have elevated to an important part of the music. The songwriting is better, too. The songs don't seem like novelties anymore, for the most part (well, the album closing "Finders Keepers" certainly reminds me lyrically of "Head You Win, Tails I Lose"). Plus, the arrangements are light years ahead of the ones on the last album. Brain was learning fast, and though he was far from the peak of his abilities here, you could tell he was evolving quickly.
Now, as for the actual songs - they actually sound sort of like the ones on the last album, only with more precise instrumentation and better production. There are no real embarrassments here, though. Plus, there are a handful of really good songs. The highlight is the haunting ballad "Lonely Sea," which presages some of their best later work. "Farmer's Daughter," another ballad, has a great vocal arrangement. And there's the song here everyone knows - "Shut Down," a thrilling rocker about drag racing. Out of the bonus tracks, "Cindy Oh Cindy" is my favorite.
Of course, this was still pretty rushed out and corporally controlled. Plus, the boys weren't at the peak of their skills yet, so the album is far from being great. The album is short (about 24 minutes), and much of it is taken up by instrumentals, one of which is great ("Miserlou") and the other four of which are just okay - the band just didn't have the precise attack to make these numbers come to life, which is a shame, because had they recorded these a couple of years later, they would have been amazing. And some of the songs are a bit generic. Still, this is a very fun record, with some very good material and no truly bad material. Worth picking up if you're into the early surf rock sound, though the band was improving rapidly, and this is still too early to really be one of their best efforts. It shows tons of potential though, which Safari showed in very few places. You don't really need Safari at all, but picking it up as a two-fer along with Surfin' USA is a good deal, as the latter is far more superior. All Beach Boys albums are available as two-fers now, so pretty much any of them make a decent buy.
Like a lot of albums of the era, both albums contain some filler among the chart singles. What you need to keep in mind while listening to these recordings almost forty years after they were first recorded is that the Beach Boys sound and Brian Wilson's songwriting would not be fully developed until at least 1964.
Their first album, Surfin' Safari (tracks 1-12), contained their first Top 40 hit "Surfin' Safari" (No. 14) and its b-side "409," which would establish two of the Beach Boys' principal topics--surfing and cars. You also get the minor hit "Ten Little Indians" (No. 49) and a re-recording of their first hit "Surfin'" (No. 75). Brian co-wrote nine of the twelve songs, including all of the hits, but some of the songs are fairly lightweight. "County Fair" with its carnival barker is a annoying after a few listens. "Cuckoo Clock" is a bit goofy. "The Shift" isn't about cars at all, but rather refers to an anrticle of clothing. Of the non-originals, "Moon Dawg" is a surf instrumental which allows Carl to show off his chops. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Denis's vocal on "Little Miss America." It's a wonder he wasn't given more songs over the course of the Beach Boys' history.
Their second album, Surfin USA (tracks 13-24), marked a huge change in that the Beach Boys were now given complete control over song selection, contrary to a long-standing industry practice of having an A&R person select all the songs. As a result, there were fewer covers this time out, and all the covers were instrumentals--the Dick Dale classics "Misirlou" and "Let's Go Trippin'," and Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk." They would also record "Stoked," one of the few instrumentals Brian ever composed, and Carl's "Surf Jam." [Five instrumentals may seem excessive, but keep in mind the popularity at the time of instrumental acts like Dick Dale, the Ventures and others.]
The highlight of their second album was the Chuck Berry-influenced "Surfin' U.S.A." (hence the Berry songwriting credit). It also gave the band its first Top Ten hit. The flip side, "Shut Down," was also a modest hit at No. 23. With the artistic freedom he now enjoyed, Brian would show his more introspective side on the melancholy "Loney Sea." [This would lead directly to songs like "In My Room," which would appear on their third album, Surfer Girl.]
The bonus tracks (25-27) are not especially revelatory, but the cover of "Cindy, Oh Cindy" shows off the group's harmony singing to nice effect. "The Baker Man" is an obvious rewrite of the Olympics' "Hully Gully." The final bonus track, "Land Ahoy," will sound familiar to fans. The melody was recycled for the album Little Deuce Coupe where it appeared as "Cherry Cherry Coupe."
All told, three stars for the music and an additional star for the opportunity to listen to the musical evolution of one of pop music's most inspired bands. RECOMMENDED