on February 28, 2006
I'm a Beatles connoisseur. A die-hard. I've walked across Abbey Road (with a cigarette in hand, though it was too brisk to go barefoot), quaffed pints in the Reeperbahn, and could point out fifty "Paul is Dead" clues. I've burned through a bookshelf of biographies about the band and I noticed that the Beach Boys' 1966 album Pet Sounds is continually mentioned whenever the end of the Beatles' touring days and the start of their `studio years' is discussed. With its 40th anniversary looming I started to wonder about Pet Sounds.
I always dismissed the Beach Boys as a half-baked band who parlayed a bunch of sunny tunes into a bubblegum legacy. While Brian Wilson could be considered the group's only gifted musician, but the boys could definitely sing. Gorgeous harmonies filled their 45s, but their words were always about things which were alien to me like surfin' and California sunshine. So, why the hubbub surrounding Pet Sounds? "No one is educated musically until they've heard Pet Sounds...It is a total classic record that is unbeatable in many ways", Paul McCartney proclaimed. Wow. Powerful, yet not as bold as what Beatles Producer George Martin said: `Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn't have happened... Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds." What the hell made Beatle Paul, Sir George Martin, and countless other music luminaries bow to 1966's Pet Sounds? I was about to find out.
The other night I dug out my copy of Pet Sounds, which I half-heartedly listened to a few years ago before tossing it to the back of my collection, and I listened to it...and listened again. My original lukewarm judgment of the album mirrored the American record buyers of 1966 when LP peaked at #10 and failed to go gold. I spent the evening playing and replaying the album. A hearty auditory diet of Pet Sounds followed for the next few days. It became the soundtrack of my driving, my meals, and even my showering and shaving. The songs grew on me like a suntan-and I became more and more engulfed in its richness and splendor with each listen. As Pet Sounds connected with me through my earphones, I thought about how striking the sounds were and how naive I was to have dismissed them years ago....
After suffering two nervous breakdowns, twenty-three year old Brian Wilson stayed home in L.A. while the Beach Boys (with Glen Campbell filling in for Wilson) continued to tour in autumn of 1965. He suddenly had time to work on his new project- a project that was to show his newfangled musical vision- but was unsure of his direction until the Beatles' Rubber Soul became the catalyst for his new mission. "Rubber Soul was a collection of songs ... that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, 'That's it. I really am challenged to do a great album." Fueled by barbiturates and good vibrations, Brian Wilson diligently worked through January and early February 1966 with lyricist Tony Asher penning songs with lyrical themes which evoke both the passion of newly born love affairs and the disillusionment of futile romances. Brian looked beyond the conventional guitars and keyboards when he hired and recorded some of the industry's best session musicians to play the backing tracks for the new material. Breathy saxophones, rolling accordions, piping flutes, Baroque harpsichords, pounding tympanis, regal English and French horns, and even some melodious oddities like Coca-Cola bottles, bicycle bells, and a ghostly sounding theremin are all interwoven into the album's rich fabric. When his band mates returned from their three-week tour of Japan and Hawaii, they laid down the immaculate vocals that blanket the record.
The result is an astonishing and harmonious orgy of sound. Wilson painted a dense and melodic landscape whose hills far out number its valleys. Pet Sounds is a gem from the opening blissful guitar plucks of the youthful anthem Wouldn't it be Nice to the crestfallen sounds of the barking dogs and passing train of the dirge Caroline, No. Brian's buttery voice on You Still Believe in Me and Don't Talk (Put your Head on my Shoulder) sends shivers down my spine. The heavenly God Only Knows, with its wintry sleigh bells and clip-clop percussion, melting vocals and marriage of horns and strings, make this an album highlight. Brian hands younger brother Carl the lead and the band recorded one of the loveliest and most divine songs ever heard on a pop album. " It's a favorite of mine...very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me," McCartney said of the song. The song's unorthodox opening line of "If I should ever leave you," is the cherry on top of the sundae for me. Perfection.
Pet Sounds is the crest of Brian Wilson's wave. He was able to use inspiration from across the pond and thread it into a richly textured and intricate piece of stunning pop. It was his vision, his baby, his masterstroke. His soul breathes through the vinyl.
on September 9, 2006
Just wanted to post a correction to the last review. The CD in the new set is not the same as the 2001 edition. The mono album has been remastered from a much better original source tape resulting in a great improvement in the sound if the original album. In addition the bonus track has been changed to the more finished version of "Hang On To Your Ego" which fans have been asking for. Sadly the credits for the disc omitted this info by mistake. While a hi-res 5.1 mix would sound better than the dolby digital , the vocals are not just in the rear speakers. In fact they truly surround the listener.
Mark Linett- engineer/ producer
This really is one of the great albums ever, and the remastered sound is very good. The only big difference between this MP3 version and the two-disc set of the same recordings is that the set gives you a DVD with a "making-of" documentary and both the original mono mixes and new stereo mixes, plus a bonus track. This MP3 set has only the remastered stereo mixes.
"Pet Sounds" was a groundbreaking record, and had a huge impact on other musicians. It is definitely the high-water mark for the Beach Boys. This is not anything like their early Jan & Dean-inspired surf music. It invented a whole new vocabulary of sounds and forms for pop music.
More than ever before, the Beach Boys' leader, Brian Wilson, decided he was going to go in a new direction and write a cohesive album, over the protests of many others in the band. He was definitely right. The Beach Boys never reached this level of creativity again, but "Pet Sounds" was enough to put them in the pantheon of the greats, even if this quality of artistic achievement was not sustained over time.
Wilson says he was inspired to make the record by the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" album. The Beatles in turn credited "Pet Sounds" as the inspiration for "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Paul McCartney still says he is crazy about the album, John Lennon even acknowledged it, and George Martin said Sgt Pepper's would never have been made without "Pet Sounds". Eric Clapton says it's one of the greatest pop albums of all time and Elton John talks about how it changed the way he and everyone else approached recording. I say this just to underline that it's hard to underestimate the impact this record had on the development of popular music as we know it.
There are plenty of "greatest hits" here. The album starts out with the classic "Wouldn't It Be Nice", one of the most optimistic and upbeat romantic pop hits ever -- and which also includes incredible layers of sound that deserve a good listening to with headphones. "God Only Knows" was the B-side to that single, but became a major hit on its own. "Caroline, No", "Sloop John B", "Let's Go Away for a While" and "Here Today" were also singles and are probably known at some level by most listeners.
But don't just get it for the hits. A lot of the other songs are slower and more complex, but are really marvels of both pop composition and sound engineering, especially when you think about the 1960s technology they were working with. There are layers upon layers of crystal-clear sounds to enjoy and get lost in.
This album is every bit as impressive a recording as something like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" -- it just seems "lighter" because, well, it is. It's an optimistic, feel-good record even when its gets sad and melancholy, which it does pretty often. I still can't figure out quite how Brian Wilson pulled that off.
If you don't know Pet Sounds, this deal can't be beat, especially at the $1.99 "Deal of the Day" price on May 1, 2009. Once the price goes up again, also consider one of the CDs or CD sets available out there. You won't regret it!
on August 31, 2006
First of all, this review has nothing to do with the quality of the album. We all know how great this album is. Just a couple of thoughts about this specific product. This is why I'm giving 4 stars.
First,all of the content on the CD is exactly the same as on the previous mono/stereo release. But, that's to be expected, right?.
You're probably saying to yourself that the real value is in the DVD. Well, all of the DVD material has been released before, except the "Good Vibrations" promo and a short featurette from the BBC where George Martin visits Brian and they discuss songwriting and arrangement. The "documentaries" are edited together from the Endless Harmony DVD and the promo material found on the DVD Audio version of the album. Also, some of the interview footage found on Brian's Pet Sounds Live DVD is also included. You also get the hi-res stereo and 5.1 mixes of the album that were included on the above mentioned DVD-A.
So basically, if you already own the original album, the DVD-A version, and the Endless Harmony and Pet Sounds Live DVDS, you already have everything on this set except for a brief George Martin interview and a "Good Vibrations" video.
I was kind of disappointed with the limited edition packaging, as well. The two discs are housed in a velvet-type covered case with the original CD booklet with all of the production and mixing notes stapled in the middle. This booklet appears to be the same old one that was used with the mono/stereo combo disc, save for the DVD credits. The actual liner notes appear the same.
You know, I feel like Capitol has wasted two great Beach Boys opportunites with the products they released for the anniversaries of Good Vibrations and Pet Sounds. It seems that they just throw previously released material together in one package and tack on one unreleased item for each and put it out for the fans to buy (again, for the most part). You would think that they would have more respect for the legacy of these recordings.
Anyway, I'm through ranting. If you already have Pet Sounds but you want something extra, pick up the Pet Sounds Sessions box set and skip this CD/DVD. The box is pricey, but you get a better sense of what went into the album.
on March 7, 2006
It sounds silly to say this, but the Beach Boys really did change my life...I'm not sure when exactly I discovered that they were more than the fun songs I heard on the oldies station when I drove somewhere with my parents.
But, reading an editorial in my local newspaper one day, I noticed they mentioned that Brian Wilson was a musical genius. This greatly intrigued me, and I just had to discover who this Brian Wilson guy was...then I continued reading and found that he was the leader of the very familiar band, The Beach Boys. I immediately found the one Beach Boys c.d. that my dad had and put it on, this time listening deeper than I had ever before listened to The Beach Boys. I found that whoever wrote the newspaper editorial was correct...Brian Wilson was a musical genius...amazing vocal harmonies...outstanding instrumental use...a different and creative sound...and simply great songwriting!
This epiphany occurred about two years ago, and has left me obsessed with Brian Wilson ever since...which is no easy thing to say when you're eighteen years old and everyone else around you is listening to Fall Out Boy and The All American Rejects...and I actually really like both of those bands...they're fun to listen to and I like them, but I can admit that it's not great music. And sometimes, when I'm listening to bands like them, I wish that bands did it the way they used to...more about the music and less about the image. Nowadays, it seems like vocals is not a big part of music...because, in most current bands, the drummers and guitarists are pretty good and the singers sound like crap...I miss hearing good voices...such as the sweet soaring sound of Brian Wilson's falsetto, and the sounds of other harmonic groups, such as The Mamas and the Papas...The Association...The Grass Roots...Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young...the Beatles.
Anyway, I'm well aware that I am very off-track here...I'm supposed to be talking about how awesome Pet Sounds is, not how I feel about every musical group ever! So, Pet Sounds...what can I say that hasn't already been said? It's an amazing album...I don't feel that any words can do it justice.
I've read a few reviews on this album that state that people just like Pet Sounds and say it's the best album of all time because that's what they've heard the "intellectuals" say. Ummm...no. I could really care less what these alleged "intellectuals" have to say...I feel that Pet Sounds is the greatest album of all time because listening to it makes me feel indescribably happy...that's all...it soothes me...takes my problems away...reassures me that everything's going to be okay...that's how I know that it's the greates album of all time. It may not be some people's kind of music, but that's fine...everyone has their own opinions...but if you're eighteen and you love The Beach Boys just as much as I do, even though none of your friends and peers can understand why, don't worry...you're not alone...you're in a very elite club full of the most awesome people on earth...just kidding...but honestly...be reassured because there are a few others out there.
on May 6, 2009
There are some good and bad aspects of this release.
- The sound is much better than the official CD and marginally better than the bass-heavy DCC. If you like the DCC's sound, then save your $30. If you think the DCC is a little bottom-heavy, then splurge on this. It is more open and present, though one should keep in perspective the fact that we're talking about a mono recording from the '60s. It's no sonic marvel.
- That's about it. Try before you buy on your local BitTorrent tracker to see whether the sound is for you.
- A weird tape drop-out at the beginning of "I'm Waiting for the Day" that is not present in the DCC or any other CD versions.
- A huge gap between "Sloop John B" and "God Only Knows" that supposedly mimics the time in between flipping a record. One of the nice things about listening to CDs is that you don't have to take time to get up and change sides. I have never noticed this on any other digital release and think it's annoying. Others may disagree.
- Why and how does this sound different from the DCC? Both of them say they were from the original master tapes, which is obviously false information as noted in previous reviews. I don't buy this stuff about the so-called Kensei Audio Transformer--there has been EQ tweaking on the DCC, the AF, or both. This is either a good or bad thing depending on your opinion of the results.
- The packaging, advertised as "deluxe," is embarrassing. The slipcase looks like it was printed on grandma's 10-year-old inkjet and my copy has little bubbles under the sticker on top of the CD. I have read a lot about broken teeth and cracking, which is not surprising given the flimsiness of the case. Audio Fidelity is clearly a slapdash operation skating by on Hoffman's name recognition.
- The price. Then again, it's cheaper than a used copy of the DCC.
All in all, I don't regret my purchase but I'm close. The 1970s C&TP vinyl reissue is better, but this is probably the best available digital version.
on November 29, 1999
Few will argue that PET SOUNDS is one of the most significant musical releases in the 20th century. Some call it the best album of all time, and while I feel it is impossible to give any musical piece a definitive "best" distinction, PET SOUNDS is a required album in any genuine collection of modern music. What makes this particular reissue exciting is the stereo remixing. While this remixing was initially created for the 4CD PET SOUNDS SESSIONS, the remastered mono and stereo versions now fit on one inexpensive disc. I don't have the historical perspective to decide which version is better (after all, PET SOUNDS was released before I was born). However, after hearing the mono version for dozens of times (on the 1990 CD release), the stereo version on this 1999 remaster is a captivating revelation. The problem I have with mono recordings is the lack of soundstage depth and imaging. After all, you cannot reproduce the original 3D sound event with one channel. The stereo tracks blast this album wide open. Instead of everything emanating from the center, voices and instruments are placed in lifelike, floating space. Sonic texture and detail is improved significantly and you can hear the "air" around the instruments for the first time. The opening transition of "You Still Believe In Me" is smooth, unlike the cut-and-paste sound of the original mono version. Placing all of the harmonious voices in "God Only Knows" is easier and the articulate positioning invites close study of the arrangements and production. The only problem with the stereo version is that it is a hack. While the stereo remixing was performed under Brian Wilson's supervision, Mr. Wilson probably made different decisions during the modern remixing sessions than he would have made back in 1966. So the mono version remain the only true statement, from a historical perspective at least. Fortunately, since both versions occupy this disc, it doesn't necessarily matter which is better; both appear in glorious form.
Just to fan the PET SOUNDS vs. SGT PEPPERS flames a little, the stereo remixing reveals that Brian Wilson's offering is superior to the Beatles. The little details and encompassing sounds of the remixing suggest PET SOUNDS features the better production and creative insight. But what remains, stereo remixing or not, is that PET SOUNDS is personal emotion distilled into a 35 minute album. SGT PEPPERS, as whimsical and confident and incredible as it is, is too self-aware and pretentious (although it can be argued that pretension is derived from genius). It tries so hard to be the best there ever was that some of that genuine musician-listener connection is compromised. I speculate that SGT PEPPERS receives its "best album of all time" distinction because it is a Beatles release. It seems contradictory to award that distinction to a somewhat ordinary West Coast band that the Beach Boys were. After all, the Beach Boys had PET SOUNDS, but they didn't have REVOLVER, RUBBER SOUL and ABBEY ROAD in their canon.
Possibly a more challenging question is: PET SOUNDS or KIND OF BLUE?
on September 3, 2008
A caveat - the 5 stars are for the music. 4 stars for pressing!
Re: Pet Sounds and OK Computer Capitol vinyl reissues:
These are better than the abysmal (imo based on disraeli gears and tea for the tillerman) "back to black" reissues.
both the capitol reissue of ok computer and of pet sounds that i bought today are dead quiet and neither suffer from obvious digitalis. they do not sound as if they were recorded using the cd as the source, which many people have felt about the b to b pressings.
the lead vocal on pet sounds is a tiny bit on the bright side (though it may simply be more revealing of whats there - and my system is extremely revealing and cuts no slack in this direction), but it's not brittle like tea for the tillerman is in places in the b to b series. comparing this mono pet sounds to the generally well thought of 1999 mono cap reissue i am hearing slightly better defined detail and slightly increased bass. the more distinct detail may proove to be an improvement or a detrement in the long run. i have to get used to it before i'll be sure which i prefer; but i sure as heck prefer the silence of this vinyl to every pressing i've ever owned of pet sounds. its just great to hear no distracting noises during the oh so many sublime moments that Brian Wilson created for us!
this pressing of ok computer is more dynamic than my uk parlaphone which til now has been my preferred pressing. i have never been wowed by any vinyl or cd of ok c. it aint a sonic pleasure like the radio head lps that have come after it. this does not reverse that assessment of its sound quality (the recording quality of ok c is what it is), but this does seem to be an improvement, at least a bit.
certainly compared to the huge bummer that the back to black series offers, and especially as many of us have been afraid that it foretold that this was all the big record companies were prepared to offer, this comes as a positive tasting of the capitol reissue waters.
so, at first listen i'd say these will at minimum fill the void for those not having quiet (or any) copies of these titles and perhaps bring some small improvements for those lacking pristine wlp's or first pressings. of course the rest of this series may be all over the place by comparison. this is a very hopeful 1st sampling though.
on March 6, 2000
Most young today people associate The Beach Boys music with surfing,cars,chicks and fun,fun,fun.Thus when the songs,Wouldn't It Be Nice,Sloop John B,and God Only Knows are recycled for the umpteenth time on a compilation album,it's easy to overlook the wonderful production,as well as the depth of its parent album Pet Sounds.Since it set the standard for albums for the last 34 years,most seemed lost on its impact.But when you truly listen and get inside these songs that you really experience the beauty of this album.The aforementioned themes are replaced with songs of introspection and more adult themes.Brian Wilson's need to compete with The Beatles turned into burning creativity as he recorded Pet Sounds with meticulous attention to detail.Using some of Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew as well as the famed Wall Of Sound technique,the albums complexity was nothing short of amazing.Songs like That's Not Me,Here Today and Caroline No display both beauty and sadness in their own unique way.Wouldn't It Be Nice, God Only Knows,and Waiting for the Day are rays of light that seems on the brink of turning into dashed dreams.The Beach Boys harmonies are flawless though since Brian sings most of the leads,you'd almost think they're guest stars on their own album.Even for all its accolades,Pet Sounds was deemed a failure back in '66(due to the general publics as well as Capitol Records inability to understand and embrace the record)But over the years it has left the other Beach Boys albums in the dust,as well as accorded its own boxed set.In '66 it seemed way ahead of its time,nowadays it just exist outside of time.
on March 27, 2006
Surely one of the great albums of all time, Brian Wilson used his troubled genius to unsurpassed effect, pouring heart and soul into this collection of 13 masterpieces. In the Beach Boys he had at his disposal an incredibly skilled vocal group whose voices could blend and mix in the empathetic way that only comes from a family group who have grown up singing, and who were also perfectly capable of recreating the core of the album's sound in live performance.
Brian Wilson had worked hard for the group for several years, composing many of the songs, singing lead, arranging the harmony vocals, playing bass guitar and piano and honing his production skills, which were greatly inspired by the work of Phil Spector. He used the same pool of musicians and occasionally the same studio in Hollywood, and like Spector he was an innovator and pioneer who could brilliantly combine unusual pairs or multiples of instruments to create a unique single sound.
It all came together on this album, by which time he had retired from the touring group to concentrate on his composing and record-making. The beautiful melodies and the "pet sounds" he created were matched by some exquisite lyrics that were written in collaboration with Tony Asher and other writers. Brian Wilson had been inspired by hearing Rubber Soul and was fuelled by an ambition to match it in which he was wholly successful. In turn, Pet Sounds inspired the Beatles to go on to create Sgt Pepper. It was this spirit of competitive creativity that led to his unfortunate burn out during the creation of Smile, his response to Sgt Pepper.
Although not exactly a concept album, everything was recorded specifically for the album apart from the traditional song Sloop John B, which had already been released as a single and was included on the insistence of the record company. It does not sound too out of place. The first single from the album was the heartfelt God Only Knows (What I'd Do Without You). This got to number 2 in the UK, but suffered in America from lack of radio exposure by nervous radio stations, who began playing the flipside instead. This resulted in Wouldn't It Be Nice, surely an A-side in its own right anyway, reaching the US Top Ten.
The title song Pet Sounds is an instrumental that was originally called Run James Run, inspired by James Bond, and when heard with this in mind takes on a whole new meaning for the listener. The closing track, Caroline No, ends with more pet sounds: Brian's puppies Banana and Louie barking as the song fades. This had also come out on a single before the release of Pet Sounds, but under the name Brian Wilson, and without the beagle and weimaraner or other sound effects.
Of course, the original album already resides on everyone's CD shelf in mono. Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear and so preferred to work monaurally, again like Phil Spector. He also felt that he could present the sound to the listener in exactly the way he wished, without interference from any stereophonically knob-twiddling listener.
However, a stereo edition was produced and engineered by Mark Linett in 1997 for the Pet Sounds box set, created under the close supervision of Brian Wilson himself, and this edition follows the original album with this scrupulously remixed true stereo version. Not only are these versions often slightly longer, the additional clarity afforded by the sound separation adds a whole new dimension to hearing them, and takes away absolutely nothing. Technological improvements since 1997 have meant that the new stereo mix of Wouldn't It Be Nice on this edition is less different from the original mono mix than on the box set