Their 1965 live-in-the-studio release coupled with their slightly bizarre 1968 karaoke album, with bonus tracks Help Me, Rhonda; California Girls, and Our Car Club. 30 cuts!
are two of the most unusual conceptions of the Beach Boys' Capitol era. After scoring two hit albums and the smash singles "Help Me Rhonda" and "California Girls" in '65, the Beach Boys' label seemed insatiable. So, literally on the brink of recording Pet Sounds
, Brian Wilson
and company retreated into a studio for a few nights with little more than some acoustic guitars, a couple bongos, and their spectacular voices. Perhaps taking its cue from Trini Lopez
's "If I Had a Hammer" and the early "live" recordings of Johnny Rivers
presented what seemed a spontaneous performance of a few band chestnuts, three cuts by archrivals the Beatles
, some telling oldies, and even Dylan
's "The Times They Are A-Changin,'" even if the "party" was actually a track of laughter and small talk dubbed in later. Ironically, the album also produced one of the band's last big chart hits, their lively cover of the Regents
' "Barbara Ann."
The Beach Boys' plummeting post-Pet Sounds fortunes again inspired Capitol to try and cash in on the band's feel-good hits, releasing Stack-o-Tracks, what was effectively an interactive album: the instrumental tracks of several key hits and album cuts were presented sans vocals (and originally packaged with music, chord charts, and lyrics), allowing fans to sing along. Unfortunately, few in the turbulent summer of '68 were interested in harmonizing to "Catch a Wave" and the album failed to chart. But to hardcore fans it remains a rare window into Brian's remarkable prowess in the studio. This digitally remastered edition features three great new backing track bonus cuts: "Help Me, Rhonda," the still spectacular "California Girls," and "Our Car Club." This long out-of-print twofer package also includes notes from Brian on both albums, as well as the insightful analysis of Beach Boys and the California Myth author David Leaf. --Jerry McCulley