Tuesday, 22 September 2015

"Pet Sounds" by THE BEACH BOYS (2001 Capitol HDCD Stereo & Mono Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Made For These Times..."

On Page 6 of the chunky 28-page booklet accompanying this 2001 CD Remaster of the mighty "Pet Sounds" both Beatle Paul McCartney and their Producer George Martin gladly admit to what many fans have known for decades – that without this 1966 vinyl meisterwork there would have been no game-changing "Sgt. Peppers" in 1967 and our world would have a drabber place indeed. That's heavy-duty praise from two heavy-hitters to say the least...

And as I listen back to this amazing record for the umpteenth time I'm still struck by its beauty and innovation – presented to us here in truly gorgeous Remastered Audio. Man does this HDCD reissue step up to the sonic plate – you can hear the staggering care taken in these Mono and Stereo Transfers (this thoughtfully presented CD sparkles – it really does). So with that said – it’s once more unto the bottle-fed does and deer’s. Here are the Sloop John B's...

UK released August 2001 – "Pet Sounds: The Complete Album In Stereo And Mono" by THE BEACH BOYS on EMI/Capitol 526 2662 (Barcode 724352626625) is a HDCD reissue that offers the 13-track album in both Mono and Stereo mixes and comes with one bonus track. It plays out as follows (76:50 minutes):

1. Wouldn't It Be Nice
2. You Still Believe In Me
3. That's Not Me
4. Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulders)
5. I'm Waiting For The Day
6. Let's Go Away For Awhile
7. Sloop John B
8. God Only Knows [Side 2]
9. I Know There's An Answer
10. Here Today
11. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
12. Pet Sounds
13. Caroline No
Tracks 1 to 13 are the MONO mix of "Pet Sounds" – released May 1966 in the USA and UK on Capitol Records T 2458

14. Hang On To Your Ego – an outtake from the sessions (alternate version of "I Know There's An Answer") originally issued as a bonus track on the June 1990 CD remaster

Tracks 15 to 27 are the album "Pet Sounds" in STEREO – released May 1966 in the USA and UK on Capitol Records ST 2458

At 28-pages the booklet is a fantastic feast of info starting (not surprisingly) with notes from principal songwriter Brian Wilson on his revered baby. It then moves onto a massive essay by DAVID LEAF on the technological challenges of recording such a densely layered album (Leaf penned the booklet for the huge 6CD Box Set "The Pet Sounds Sessions") and even goes into song-by-song breakdowns. There are colour photos from the album artwork photo-shoot (the boys with all manner of animals) and repro’s of some key American 45s – "Wouldn't It Be Nice", "Sloop John B" and "Caroline No". But the big news is the Remaster done by MARK LINETT and JOE GASTWIRT from 2, 4 and 8-track original mastertapes using the HDCD Process to get the best fidelity. I think both mixes offer different things – but both are beautifully clear. It's probably sacrilege to one-channel purists – but I find the Stereo mix to be utterly beguiling. I keep going back to it...

The album opens with the familiar pings of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" – a soundtrack favourite for five decades now. I find the Stereo mix is far better - taking the density of the soundstage out of that 'Wall Of Sound' mode it has in Mono. Al De Lory's Harpsichord on the impossibly pretty "You Still Believe In Me" compliments those lush and beautifully arranged harmony vocals – the boys following Brian's Falsetto Lead. "...I wanted to show how independent I'd grown now...but that's not me..." - Wilson sings on "That's Not Me" – another winner with Carl Wilson on Guitar and Dennis on the Drums (the Tambourine is either Terry Melcher or Alan Jardine – no one really seems sure). The drums pack a real punch now in "I'm Waiting For The Day" - but I've a soft spot for the Burt Bacharach-sounding instrumental "Let's Go Away For Awhile". It's beautifully clear in the Stereo version – all those Saxophones matching the Acoustic Guitars of Al Casey and Barney Kessel. Hitsville USA ends Side 1 with the 'drunk first-mate' song "Sloop John B" – an impossibly catchy Beach Boys tune with stunning intricate vocal arrangements.

Where would Richard Curtis be without the wonderfully touching "God Only Knows" (he used it to great effect in the airport sequence of "Love Actually") – or indeed hundreds of Summer CD compilations for that matter? The carnival comes to town with "I Know There's An Answer" where Brian gets deep with his lyrics "...they come on like they're peaceful but inside they're so uptight..." With almost childlike charm Wilson then explores brand new love affairs on "Here Today" (the Carol Kaye Bass is very clear) - followed hotfoot by what many feel is his inadvertent signature song about searching for a peaceful place in this world. "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" is also probably the most Phil Spector of tunes on the album. The second instrumental on the record and the album's title track ("Pet Sounds") precedes the records truly lovely finisher - "Caroline No". And again in each case – you’re struck by the stunning Remaster – swirling melodies and layers of instruments unfolding...

"...I know you're going to lose the fight..." - Brian Wilson sang on the Bonus Track "Hang On To Your Ego" - an Alternative Lyric Version of "I Know There's An Answer". 
And subsequently (as we all know) Brian almost lost his mind for this slice of genius - not a price many of us would be willing to pay. 

But at least we have this affectionate and respectful reissue to celebrate that musical high. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" - well this HDCD reissue is a whole lot more than that...

This review and hundreds more like it are available in my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series. Click the link to download COOL 1960s MUSIC from Amazon...

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