Friday, May 11, 2012

Beach Boys 4: Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)

Despite the leaps and bounds taken on their last album, the Beach Boys were still obligated to make hit records. Therefore Brian, as the band’s architect, had to gradually introduce his new production ideas while the other Beach Boys spread the gospel of the California dream to arenas full of screaming kids.
Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) arrived on schedule with optimistic packaging belying some of the content. And again, Brian’s progression as a record-maker isn’t immediately obvious, since they take a step back with a side full of pop.
Despite its charms, “Girl From New York City” is a blatant ripoff of “Boy From New York City”. “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” is exactly the type of song they should have left behind by now, particularly the spoken sections. “Then I Kissed Her” is a straight cover of the Ronettes song, albeit with a gender switch, yet stays pretty close to the original. “Salt Lake City” is musically interesting, but is basically pandering to the fans in that town. Teenage Carl takes the lead on “Girl Don’t Tell Me”, a song that sounds a little unfinished, but that’s probably because it didn’t use any session guys. The single rerecording of “Help Me Rhonda” uses a different spelling and a tighter arrangement with no fades.
As with Today!, the best is saved for side two. The stately opening of “California Girls” is practically symphonic, and no amount of David Lee Roth can destroy the perfection of this production. It’s an even bigger leap with “Let Him Run Wild”, which pits a fairly ordinary plotline against a truly masterful backing of minor-sevenths and diminished chords, predicting the craftsmanship of Brian’s next real project. “You’re So Good To Me” lifts the mood and the beat with another song that could have been made for Ronnie Spector. “Summer Means New Love” offers a romantic instrumental, a surf guitar playing the melody, but then “I’m Bugged At My Ol’ Man” provides a joke in the form of a novelty song that should have been left for a B-side. The last word goes to the lovely a cappella “And Your Dream Comes True” for a happy ending.
The pairing of Summer Days with Today! made an excellent two-fer, even if it underscored some of the less successful tendencies. (After all, they were just kids.) Still, the best aspects of both albums emerge to prove why they’ve remained so fresh. One key bonus track is “The Little Girl I Once Knew”, a majestic flop that showed that not only was radio not ready for such elaborate production, but neither was Brian.

The Beach Boys Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (1965)—
1990 CD reissue: same as 1965, plus The Beach Boys Today! album and 5 extra tracks

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