With artwork supposed to suggest a surfboard but instead resembled plywood (but still not as hideous as the painting used to decorate the individual jewel boxes), Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys served up five discs full of music, including over fifty previously unreleased tracks. As with most box sets covering such a long career, the earliest discs cover the fewest years, leaving the remainder to race through the decades. There could well be somebody thrilled to have “Kokomo” on the same disc as “Sail On Sailor”, but we haven’t met them.
Indeed, due to their productivity and quality, discs one and two cover 1961 through 1966, including all the hits from their very first pre-Capitol single, in their original single mixes as opposed to album mixes. Things get really interesting towards the end of the first disc, presenting a slightly compact overview of Brian’s development as a producer and arranger. But a key enticement for buyers was the 30 minutes of Smile-related music on the second disc. Most of this had never been heard in this form, and even at that advanced date the compilers still hadn’t quite figured out where everything was supposed to fit. (It’s not always easy to tell where “Heroes And Villains” stops and “Do You Like Worms” begins; also, what’s called an intro to “H&V” is really the prelude to “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow”, which people still thought had been destroyed.) Covering the period from “California Girls” through Pet Sounds and just slightly beyond, disc two is likely the one owners play most.
And from there, it’s not quite as dreamy. Disc three valiantly covers up to the Surf’s Up album, choosing some of the more tuneful selections from that period. Disc four jumbles the chronology just a bit to begin with “Sail On Sailor”, and proceeds through the rest of the ‘70s and what there was of the ‘80s to demonstrate what they did after Endless Summer kept them in business. Among the more interesting rarities are Brian’s “Fairy Tale Music” from the Holland bonus EP without the narration, and some samples from the orchestrated solo album he didn’t finish. Finally, the fifth disc, an assortment of session extracts, vocal- or music-only mixes and oddments, lays a foundation for the Pet Sounds Sessions and Smile Sessions sets to come.
As with the entire catalog revamp, the Good Vibrations box is well done and comprehensive. The liner notes very kindly supply what songs came from what albums and when they charted, and even include references to the various compilations that came out in between, making sure geeks like us have everything we need in context. The compilers also worked closely with Brian, who apparently refused to allow “Let Him Run Wild” to be included for reasons known only to him. It may be typical to say, but the Smile material made it worth the purchase, if not essential until the later period got its own best-of CD. Unfortunately, the box didn’t clear out the vaults, either, as further rarities sets added on to the pile, as did another box set 20 years later.
The Beach Boys Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys (1993)—3½