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The Beach Boys | Endless Harmony (Capitol)
The Beach Boys' embarrassing, self-parodying releases since 1980 are shamed again by more archive delights. A few standards in Big Stereo and two concert promos that equal zilch still leaves twenty live and studio tracks circa 1966-1975 when they could do no wrong. A live 1966 surf'n'cars medley is still full of youthful zest rather than the distorted metal madness evolving elsewhere. Thereafter their live act, like their image, was ‚?? in the USA at least ‚?? deemed pass√© until a big group of black South African members from The Flame plus help from Chicago boosted their hip cred and their live sound, leaving the sunshine intact. The most interesting live track is Wonderbill, where The Flames' heavy Don't Worry Bill is spliced into the delicate-as-an-orchid Smile tune Wonderful. The studio stuff must originate in Beach Boy heaven. Soulful Old Man Sunshine is The Beach Boys performing big band swing with joy, soul and guts (Carl nearly blows a fuse). Alan Jardine's Loop de Loop should have been featured in Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines but its earlier incarnation Sail Plane Song is very cool. Here the band (minus Mike 'Calendar Girl' Love) play everything themselves and, for once, seem to inhabit the same state/State as the Airplane, Dead and the Prunes. Mike rocks gently on the veranda on his tuneful Brian's Back, a respectful recognition of the mighty oak, which is quite lovely. For some of us though, the other significant Beach Boy is Dennis. By 1972 a powerful, passionate songwriter had emerged. His All Alone ('If I could live my life again...' but it wouldn't be you Dennis, would it) and Barbara are slow, romantic tour de forces from the biggest heart on the planet. Why most of this stuff has been boxed away is crazy but we are talking about the Hawthorne Hotshots. In all a very nicely compiled album from a band once constantly redefining itself, jumping on no-one's bandwagon. They were the bandwagon.

Stephen Ridley
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue