single minded

The two new Beach Boys compilations Greatest Hits Volumes One and Two have superseded not only Endless Summer but its 1975 sequel Spirit of America, Made in USA and all other extant collections, none of which were comprehensive in documenting the Beach Boys’ singles. A surprising number of the single versions on Greatest Hits Volumes One and Two were not previously available on CD: “Surfer Girl,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” and “California Girls” from Volume One; “In My Room,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Friends” and “Bluebirds Over the Mountain” from Volume Two. Both 20-track volumes (which are predominantly in mono and utilize Brian Wilson’s original mixes) were smartly compiled and faithfully remastered, using copies of the corresponding original vinyl singles as a reference.

Greatest Hits Volume One (subtitled 20 Good Vibrations) collects the group’s singles in terms of chart success, augmented by a sole LP track: “Catch A Wave.” Focusing mostly on the group’s early peak, Volume One begins with the Beach Boys’ many double-sided hit singles that coupled songs about surfing with songs about cars: “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Shut Down,” “Fun, Fun, Fun.” I think the most disturbing record the Beach Boys ever made was 1963’s “Be True To Your School” (which features Brian-affiliated girl group the Honeys as cheerleaders). I’m not sure if “xenophobic” or “nationalistic” is the more accurate descriptor, but it says a lot that it’s the only track amidst the 40 that is dated beyond redemption.

An early Dennis Wilson vocal highlights the Beach Boys version of “Do You Wanna Dance.” Brian’s increasing experimental nature led to the quintessential Beach Boys record, “California Girls” and three Pet Sounds single sides (“Sloop John B,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows”), culminating in his 1966 masterpiece “Good Vibrations.” Volume One concludes with a song that might thematically belong on its recent companion Greatest Hits Volume Three: Best of the Brother Years: the 1988 single “Kokomo,” which unexpectedly became the group’s 4th #1.

Greatest Hits Volume Two: 20 More Good Vibrations deals with the remaining 1960s singles in terms of significance: “In My Room,” “The Little Girl I Once Knew,” Brian’s solo single “Caroline No” (whose single mix is now exclusive to this CD), the first Brother Records single “Heroes and Villains,” “Friends,” “Do It Again,” production debuts by Carl Wilson (“I Can Hear Music”) and Al Jardine (“Cottonfields”), and key LP tracks like “Warmth of the Sun,” “All Summer Long” and “You’re So Good To Me.” Like its predecessor, the first half of Volume Two is dominated by the group’s early period, 1963-1965. It might have benefitted the 2-volume collection to have been presented in a completely chronological fashion, but Volume Two doesn’t suffer from backtracking to what Volume One misses.

The collage sleeves of both volumes are not particularly evocative of warmth and border on being garish. This is the only aspect in which Greatest Hits Volumes One and Two suffer in comparison to their closest antecedent, Endless Summer, the 1974 Capitol compilation that restored the Beach Boys to prominence.

©2000 Rodney E Griffith. All rights reserved.