Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: 'The Beach Boys Pet Sounds: Classic Albums' Blu-ray

Next year the BBC’s Classic Albums documentary series turns 20, and it’s kind of amazing that the album many would rate as the definitive classic album has taken so long to be featured. Turning fifty this year, Pet Sounds has finally found its place in the series’ canon with most of the major players showing up to sing its praises and give an interior perspective of its making. Brian Wilson is there, and though he is most responsible for creating The Beach Boys’ most lauded work, it is the other guys who often make this discussion of such a much-discussed record fresh and interesting. Al Jardine provides the most candid perspective, admitting to bitter feelings about being shut out of the session for “Sloop John B.” after he’d done so much to develop it as a Beach Boys record and describing the arduous “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” vocal sessions in less than romantic terms. Mike Love bats down his “Don’t fuck with the formula” reputation and admits to his discomfort with the acid-tinged lyrics of “Hang on to Your Ego”.

The most fun part of any Classic Albums doc is when an engineer starts fading the original multi-track recording in and out, spotlighting various instrumental and vocal bits, and though the album under discussion has already received this treatment on the Pet Sounds Sessions box set, it’s still fun to see remastering engineer Mark Linett sitting down with Brian to pull out additional choice segments of the ultimate mono album.

The importance of Pet Sounds’ mono mix, however, is one of the important issues that got passed over in the broadcast edit of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds: Classic Albums. Fortunately, that discussion has found a place among the significant bonus material on Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new Blu-ray of the documentary. Amazingly, “Caroline No” is another essential piece of Pet Sounds left out of the broadcast version that gets addressed in the bonus interviews, as is “Good Vibrations”, an important example of how the group continued to build upon their Pet Sounds developments. Unfortunately, SMiLE is not discussed at all (though footage from the “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” promo makes up the bulk of a full-length “Good Vibrations” video included on the disc). I’d like to think that this is because a SMiLE: Classic Albums documentary is on the horizon, but if it takes the BBC another twenty years to make it, we probably won’t be getting much insight from the boys who made it.
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