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The Beach Boys: Endless Harmony Soundtrack


The Beach Boys

Album: Endless Harmony Soundtrack
Label: Capitol

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There are essentially two ways people perceive The Beach Boys, both of them incomplete. Some never get past the fun-sun-and-surf image of the group's early, perfect hit singles. Others get caught up in the melancholy, experimental genius evident on Pet Sounds and, intermittently, the albums released in the wake of the collapse of Smile, troubled leader Brian Wilson's never-completed masterpiece. Neither, of course, is accurate, as both sides feed off each other. But aside from the sprawling box set Good Vibrations, no Beach Boys greatest-hits package has captured the spirit of the group; years of radio and barbecue play have sapped the hits of some of their potency when heard back to back. While Endless Harmony, the soundtrack to the shallow but enjoyable VH1 documentary of the same name, is a collection of alternate mixes, live tracks, and a handful of previously unreleased songs, it also provides a surprisingly good, if incomplete, overview of the group's multifaceted career. Alternate versions of "Surfer Girl" and "California Girls" and a demo version of "Heroes And Villains" capture the scope of The Beach Boys' work. Oddities like an incredibly tight rehearsal version of "God Only Knows," a couple of interesting Dennis Wilson solo tracks, and even "Brian's Back," Mike Love's insufferable ode to Wilson, round out the portrait. Collectors will want to pick it up for the inclusion of completed versions of the late-'60s songs "Soulful Old Man Sunshine" and the eccentric "Loop De Loop (Flip Flop Flyin' In An Aeroplane)," as well as a beautiful alternate mix of "'Til I Die." For others, it's a decent introduction, a good set to pick up after the requisite purchase of the masterpiece Pet Sounds. There's a bit of that album's magic on Wilson's new solo effort Imagination, though not enough. Only his second proper solo album—it follows his eponymous 1988 release, the never-released Sweet Insanity, and the interesting Van Dyke Parks collaboration Orange Crate Art—Imagination sounds like Wilson running in place. In addition to sharing co-songwriting credits with lesser lights Carole Bayer Sager and Jimmy Buffett (who adds guest vocals on one track), Wilson has included both an incompatible faux-blues guitar part on "Cry" and marred the otherwise good "Lay Down Burden" with some cheesy touches in the instrumental introduction. Reworking two Beach Boys songs is unlikely to inspire favorable comparisons, either. The title track, if you can get past the fact that it sounds like a toy commercial, isn't bad, and the fact that Wilson provides both lead and background vocals on all tracks but one lends a new meaning to the phrase "endless harmony." But those seeking the full scope of Wilson's talent are better off looking to the past.