Friday, September 10, 2021

Beach Boys 20: Feel Flows

The so-called copyright extension program continued in Beach Boys Land. 2018 brought two digital-only collections from the sessions for Friends and 20/20 respectively, accompanied by the 114-track On Tour: 1968. A comparatively skimpy three-song EP the following year was all that represented 1969, until it was revealed that a larger project was underway. Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 not only expanded two very popular albums, but added session outtakes and live versions on the consumer’s choice of a two-disc or five-disc set. (The five-disc version didn’t merely add three more discs to the two-disc version, which picked and chose among its extras from all over the total offered.)
The live performances that follow each album proper are somewhat confusing, since only a few songs come from the early ‘70s. Two of the songs were originally recorded for Sunflower but not released till 1976, so it makes sense that their live versions date from then, but does anybody really want to hear anything from the ‘80s or ‘90s? More enjoyment comes from the various singles and one-offs from the same period that would have better bolstered the two-fers of these albums that came out in 2000 with zero extras. Granted, those include Brian’s odd mad scientist imitation on the Halloween-themed “My Solution” and the band’s premiere recording of Terry Jacks’ “Seasons In The Sun”, but also such surprises as the aptly titled “Sweet And Bitter”, a brief instrumental of “You Never Give Me Your Money”, and some rare Dennis-penned material, mostly with future The Captain, Daryl Dragon. Various songs that would be redone for future albums or emerge on CD-era compilations fill out the story as well.
Much of the sessions discs for both albums is dedicated to new mixes that focus on the backing tracks plus harmonies. On the best tracks, the tightness of the band is underscored, while the worst show up the dated instrumental choices of the era, usually horns or flutes. (Sunflower included a lot of input from Dragon and the Wrecking Crew; for Surf’s Up they apparently worked on their own.) In all cases, their skill at concocting a vocal blend no matter the track or style is unparalleled. There’s an awful lot for fans here, and it’s not all awful, either.

The Beach Boys Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 (2021)—3

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