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on January 18, 2007
Again, it is wonderful to have these classic LP's re-mastered with the sound fresh and vibrant, minus all of the snap, crackle, and pop of an old record. When you listen to these CD's you are reminded that these guys started off as a bunch of fresh-faced, young high school boys. Basically a super-talented local garage band that rented equipment to make a demo. They came from a musically talented family, but no one then knew exactly what a genius Brian Wilson would ultimately turn out to be. In addition to the hit singles, you will recognize there are some songs that are slightly rough musically & vocally. But the potential is clear and the talent shines through the immaturity. With every new album they made you could hear the quantum leaps they were making in musical maturity. It is fun to remember where their journey began back in the early 60's, and it is a reminder to all of us that were fortunate to grow up in So. California back then, of great times past. Get it as an essential part of your collection and fondly remember.
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on January 25, 2002
There is something about listening to a band's first album that is quite revealing. Get and play "Please Please Me," then listen to "Let it Be." Or Get "Boy," then play "All That You Can't Leave Behind." Bands evolve, and bands grow, but with the first album there is a universe of possibilities. Some of these possibilities are abandoned, but some of the roads are taken and added upon. These albums give you a glimpse into the early work of the Beach Boys, and hear the different sound that Brian Wilson was experimenting around with.
There was a lively surf music scene, with Dick Dale and the Del Tones, the Ventures, and Jan and Arnie (later Jan and Dean). The Beach Boys started working in this genre as this disc indicates-Moon Dawg, The Shift, Surfin' Safari, Surfin' USA, and the two Dick Dale covers. But the Beach Boys had something different. Not quite a different sound, since they just had Chuck Berry rock and roll riffs combined with the Four Freshman harmonies. But you can feel the soul of their music, specifically Brian Wilson's soul shine through in tracks such as Cuckoo Clock and Farmers Daughter. And Lonely Sea is really the first "Pet Sounds" track, indicating the direction Brian Wilson could and did go.
Yes, music has progressed (somewhat) since these two LPS were recorded, and bands (some at least) have gotten better, but these tracks are engraved moments in time. You see the Beach Boys starting out as just another surf band, but with the seeds of something different. You get shadows of "Pet Sounds" with this music.
On the SURFIN' SAFARI album, there are several track of note. The first is "County Fair," which prefigures "Amusement Parks USA," which was a sideways tribute to "Palisades Parks."
"Heads you win, tails I loose" is one of my favorites, due to the theme and the wit of the lyrics. Libretto-ing was Brian Wilson's weakest point, and he relied primarily on Mike Love to put words to his hymn-melodies. Mike Love (or whomever) came up with some catchy words that would make the Beatles (Please Pease Me, She Said She Said, Hello Goodbye) envious.
The gem on "Surfin Safari" is "Mr. America." What would be a nominal top-ten hit for another band takes on a luminous quality as rough-voiced Denny Wilson croons the lead. This is his first solo recoding and he does exceptionally and memorably well. We see the beginning of such songs as "Forever," "Celebrate the News," "Slip on Through," and "Fourth of July."
SURFIN' USA also has gems. "Finders Keepers" has catch music and an interesting thematic development. It's nice, clean, feel-good music.
The album has some weak covers (rehashes?) of two Dick Dale and the Deltones classics-Misrilou, which was made famous by the "Pulp fiction" Soundtrack, and "Let's Go Trippin." The Concert Album indicated that they still played this song on their tours, and frankly they, especially Carl Wilson, did a better job of it live.
They were still perceived as just another surf band with the inclusion of "Surf Jam," and "Stoked," which is another one of my favorites. It conjures up an opium den or some drug house. I don't know . . .
Plain and simple "Lonely Sea" is worth the price of the CD. It is a classic Wilson ballad, with absolutely heavenly guitar work and an angelic choir. In fact, the Beach Boys singing a capella makes me weep. I am surprised that this track hasn't caught on in movie soundtracks since it is perfect make-out music.
One of the bonus tracks is "Land Ahoy," an out-take from Surfin Safari, and was originally released on "Beach Boys Rarities." It is nice to have this one back.
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on February 6, 2003
As is typical for albums released about this time, their souls were owned by the record company. They had little creative control, and wouldn't for a few albums. So the results of this debut album are predictably sketchy. The album was rushed out REALLY fast, recorded very quickly with whatever songs the group happened to have lying around in their songbooks, plus a single or two. As you could imagine, the album is thus really inconsistent, with just a few indicators of their genius for singing and crafting melodies. As you would expect, the singles are the best songs here. And one of them is totally classic. The opening "Surfin' Safari" is the ultimate surfing ode, loaded with great vocal hooks. Sure, it's naive, but it's fun! Another big single, "409," is also a fun, catchy, hook-filled song, this time about cars instead of surfing, and it's pretty good. The Boys' vocals on these tunes aren't as excellent as they got later, and most songs really don't even have vocal harmonies of any merit, but that's to be expected. Brian was still learning, and this album was slapped out quickly.
The other 9 songs that make up this album are mostly goofy novelty numbers. They all last about 2 minutes, have dumb lyrics, and sound pretty much the same. They aren't horrible, but they really don't have any reason to exist now that 1962 is long gone. Dated in the extreme. The highlight of this section is easily "Moon Dawg," which is a fun surf instrumental, and I've got a thing for fun surf instrumentals. I like "The Shift" too, which is a fun rock number. Elsewhere, though, mediocrity abounds. Songs like "County Fair" (with a stupid voice over section), "Heads You Win, Tails I Lose," "Chug A Lug," and "Little Girl (You're My Miss America)" are okay, but really now, is there any reason to pull out this album and listen to them? Not really. And even the highlights don't hit me THAT hard - let's face it, as cool as "Surfin' Safari" and "409" are, neither is exactly that great.
The Surfin' USA LP was a huge improvement over its predecessor. "Surfin' USA" was tearing up the airwaves as people listened in awe, completely unaware that the song was stolen note for note from Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen." Ripoff or not, the song is undeniably catchy, and, in my opinion, is a lot better than the Berry original. The song featured use of vocal overdubs and lots of backup vocals, which were soon to become a Beach Boys/Brian Wilson mainstay. If there was ever a track that announced that the Beach Boys were here to stay, that was the one.
Huge hits aside, though, what is it about this album that makes it better than the last one? Well, there's lots of stuff. For one, the band had more money this time, so the production is a little fuller sounding. The vocals are also much better than before - the leads are more in tune and gorgeous (as on the fantastic dark ballad "Lonely Sea"). Plus, as I mentioned, due to overdubbing, the background vocals have elevated to an important part of the music. The songwriting is better, too. The songs don't seem like novelties anymore, for the most part (well, the album closing "Finders Keepers" certainly reminds me lyrically of "Head You Win, Tails I Lose"). Plus, the arrangements are light years ahead of the ones on the last album. Brain was learning fast, and though he was far from the peak of his abilities here, you could tell he was evolving quickly.
Now, as for the actual songs - they actually sound sort of like the ones on the last album, only with more precise instrumentation and better production. There are no real embarrassments here, though. Plus, there are a handful of really good songs. The highlight is the haunting ballad "Lonely Sea," which presages some of their best later work. "Farmer's Daughter," another ballad, has a great vocal arrangement. And there's the song here everyone knows - "Shut Down," a thrilling rocker about drag racing. Out of the bonus tracks, "Cindy Oh Cindy" is my favorite.
Of course, this was still pretty rushed out and corporally controlled. Plus, the boys weren't at the peak of their skills yet, so the album is far from being great. The album is short (about 24 minutes), and much of it is taken up by instrumentals, one of which is great ("Miserlou") and the other four of which are just okay - the band just didn't have the precise attack to make these numbers come to life, which is a shame, because had they recorded these a couple of years later, they would have been amazing. And some of the songs are a bit generic. Still, this is a very fun record, with some very good material and no truly bad material. Worth picking up if you're into the early surf rock sound, though the band was improving rapidly, and this is still too early to really be one of their best efforts. It shows tons of potential though, which Safari showed in very few places. You don't really need Safari at all, but picking it up as a two-fer along with Surfin' USA is a good deal, as the latter is far more superior. All Beach Boys albums are available as two-fers now, so pretty much any of them make a decent buy.
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on September 23, 1999
What a pleasure to see the "twofer" (two albums on one disc plus bonus tracks) CDs available again! Having been issued in 1990 and very quickly deleted, the series of 8 "twofers" discs have recently reappeared. With the earlier disappearance of these albums I was sure I would never be able to complete my Beach Boys collection......but here they are! Make sure you don't miss out this time round as they are good value for money. The albums are probably more suitable for the keen fan but are, nevertheless, a valuable insight into the prolific song-writing of Brian Wilson and family. This disc, covering their first two albums SURFIN' SAFARI and SURFIN' USA, includes the hit "Surfin' USA". One little gem you'll come across is "Farmer's Daughter", a Wilson original, that was later covered by Fleetwood Mac. When you consider that at this stage only two members of the group were out of their teens, the harmonies are great - a sign of what was to follow. Yes, I am a fan of this stuff but this music re-creates an era when the only important things seemed to be sun, beach, surfing, girls and hot-rods.....and not necessarily in that order. Put on your headphones, close your eyes and drift down the California coastline with these tunes. Wonderful stuff.
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on July 4, 2011
I know that many feel that these two albums were a little too juvenile, and that is why many look to their mid sixties albums for their more mature, yet still young and fun sound. I really love vibing and cruising to this two-fer. I feel like a kid again when listening to the albums. 1962's Surfin' Safari, I feel, has some great tunes. I love "Surfin,'" one of their very first recordings from 1961. I love the harmony and uptempo music and vocals. They do a decent cover of Eddie Cochran's 1958 classic "Summertime Blues." They can also doo-wop pretty well on "Little Girl (You're My Miss America)." I will admit that I find "Ten Little Indians" a little too silly for my tastes, but I do like the music and harmony. "Chug-A-Lug" is a little silly as well, but it is better than "Ten Little Indians," and it is a song about guys chasing girls comparing what they have under the hood of their cars, and naturally heading up to the root-beer stand and gulpin' the carbonated beverage. I think it is a fun song, and I blare it in my car when driving. I love "409," one of the many racing car songs the Beach Boys would record, which would also influence the then folkier Jan and Dean to expand their horizons in short order. the title track is another fun surfing song, and highlights them honing in their signature harmony. Though the album has some misteps, I totally love this album, and shows that the Boys are having so much fun recording it. Music can be lyrical and complex, or simple and fun like this. 1963's Surfin' USA is similar, but has many more instrumentals, and is also fun. The instrumentals are "Let's Go Trippin'" a cover of Dick Dale and the Del-Tones' famous instrumental from circa 1961; there is also Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk." The Beach Boys also create their own instrumentals like "Surf Jam," which is guitar-driving, adrenaline pumping fun. I love the Chuck Berry musical composition on "Surfin' USA," of course with surf lyrics. Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" is totally transformed into a new classic. In fact, So many of the musical elements found in their music is indebted to Berry's rollicking rock-n-roll stylistics. Are the beach boys juvenile in the first couple of albums? Sure, but that is because they are really young, having fun, and are developing their sound. I believe it takes nearly nothing from the pleasure of listening to their music, and often adds to it. I truly take my passion for hearing music seriously, and I seriously enjoy the fun sound of the Beach Boys, especially when day-dreaming of my kid days while stuck in traffic going to or from work. These 2 albums and their ensuing albums have along lasting legacy in music, for their sounds have been emulated in so many movies and shows that have scenes at the beach. Just sit back or cruise and enjoy the soundtrack of youth and reminisce.
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on November 26, 2012
There were a couple of singles in the genre of surf rock that reached the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961, but it was not until the following year that the Beach Boys popularized nationwide the music that was all about sun, sand, surf, girls, and cars.

This CD contains the Beach Boys' first two albums. "Surfin' Safari" and "Surfin' U.S.A." were released in late 1962 and early 1963 respectively--they only yielded three Top 40 hits for the group, but there is very little filler and a LOT of great stuff here, including the iconic title tracks for the two albums.

The Beach Boys sound less polished here then they did when they attained greater popularity, and the two albums contain several of the instrumentals that were more common in the early days of the genre, including the outstanding "Moon Dawg," "Misirlou," and "Stoked." The gorgeous "Lonely Sea" presages some of the amazing ballads the group would release in later years.

Many of the other songs, though, like "County Fair," "Chug-A-Lug," "409," and "Surfin'" are straight-ahead surf songs that celebrate teenage life in a more innocent time. The Beach Boys are considered one of the greatest American rock bands ever (IMHO, the greatest ever), and anyone who likes the band but is unfamiliar with much of their earliest work would find many great songs here that they had previously not heard.
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How ironic that Brian Wilson--the fragile genius behind the Beach Boys--is the only one of the Wilson brothers to survive into the new millennium. While this virtually eliminates any chance of new Beach Boys' product (although I thought the same thing of the Beatles before the Anthology series), this two-fer offers newcomers and longtime fans a chance to re-examine the Beach Boys' legacy beginning with their first two albums released in 1962 and 1963.
Like a lot of albums of the era, both albums contain some filler among the chart singles. What you need to keep in mind while listening to these recordings almost forty years after they were first recorded is that the Beach Boys sound and Brian Wilson's songwriting would not be fully developed until at least 1964.
Their first album, Surfin' Safari (tracks 1-12), contained their first Top 40 hit "Surfin' Safari" (No. 14) and its b-side "409," which would establish two of the Beach Boys' principal topics--surfing and cars. You also get the minor hit "Ten Little Indians" (No. 49) and a re-recording of their first hit "Surfin'" (No. 75). Brian co-wrote nine of the twelve songs, including all of the hits, but some of the songs are fairly lightweight. "County Fair" with its carnival barker is a annoying after a few listens. "Cuckoo Clock" is a bit goofy. "The Shift" isn't about cars at all, but rather refers to an anrticle of clothing. Of the non-originals, "Moon Dawg" is a surf instrumental which allows Carl to show off his chops. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Denis's vocal on "Little Miss America." It's a wonder he wasn't given more songs over the course of the Beach Boys' history.
Their second album, Surfin USA (tracks 13-24), marked a huge change in that the Beach Boys were now given complete control over song selection, contrary to a long-standing industry practice of having an A&R person select all the songs. As a result, there were fewer covers this time out, and all the covers were instrumentals--the Dick Dale classics "Misirlou" and "Let's Go Trippin'," and Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk." They would also record "Stoked," one of the few instrumentals Brian ever composed, and Carl's "Surf Jam." [Five instrumentals may seem excessive, but keep in mind the popularity at the time of instrumental acts like Dick Dale, the Ventures and others.]
The highlight of their second album was the Chuck Berry-influenced "Surfin' U.S.A." (hence the Berry songwriting credit). It also gave the band its first Top Ten hit. The flip side, "Shut Down," was also a modest hit at No. 23. With the artistic freedom he now enjoyed, Brian would show his more introspective side on the melancholy "Loney Sea." [This would lead directly to songs like "In My Room," which would appear on their third album, Surfer Girl.]
The bonus tracks (25-27) are not especially revelatory, but the cover of "Cindy, Oh Cindy" shows off the group's harmony singing to nice effect. "The Baker Man" is an obvious rewrite of the Olympics' "Hully Gully." The final bonus track, "Land Ahoy," will sound familiar to fans. The melody was recycled for the album Little Deuce Coupe where it appeared as "Cherry Cherry Coupe."
All told, three stars for the music and an additional star for the opportunity to listen to the musical evolution of one of pop music's most inspired bands. RECOMMENDED
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on October 8, 2005
Don't listen to any of the clowns on here giving these albums a low rating. There are some real gems on here that were not hits and you will hear Brian's genius in it's rawest form from Denis singing Miss America to Mike on County Fair. I now have all of the Beach Boys albums and each one is a treasure with a lot of hidden surprises on them and these are no exception.
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VINE VOICEon March 3, 2005
Important mostly for historical purposes rather than merit, this CD collects the first two Beach Boys albums and three bonus tracks-- 27 tracks, each under three minutes.

The first album (Surfin' Safari) is largely throwaway, there's a couple great moments ("409" is a decent rocker, "Surfin' Safari" is very listenable, and Dennis' oddly sensitive lead on "Little Miss America" all point to the future), but even those pale in comparison to later (even the next album) material. And the bad material, rife with tacky lyrics ("County Fair", "Ten Little Indians", "Chug-A-Lug", "Heads You Win - Tails I Lose") are largely forgettable.

Surfin' USA shows an evolution, but still is foreshadowing rather than actually strong. "Surfin' USA" is probably the quintessential surf song, and "Farmer's Daughter" and "Lonely Sea" highlight the ballads that were soon to become prominent in the Beach Boys future. Unfortunately, several largely disposable instrumentals and a couple filler tracks don't round out for a great album.

If you're a Beach Boys fan, you probably already have this, if you're not, this probably isn't the best place to start.
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on December 1, 2011
The Beach Boys/ Surfin' Safari & Surfin' U.S.A. (Capitol - two albums on one CD):

The first album on this CD is `Surfin' Safari', The Beach Boys first album. The title song was a big hit single and Capitol chose some of Brian's other early songs, had the Boys do a few covers, and put this album together. Clearly they are learning to write songs and create singles, and even though their youthful enthusiasm is evident on this album, the album is at best a Four star effort.

The Second album on this CD is `Surfin' U.S.A.', which is their second album. Already there is improvement from the first album in their choice of songs and in their performance. Nearly half the album consists of instrumentals, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The instrumentals are very good. This may not be The Beach Boys best album but it just might be the perfect surf music album as it represents the emergence of that genre in 1963 better than any other I know of. This album has just enough going for it to make it a Five star effort.

Make sure to buy the CD that has the three nice bonus tracks on it.

This CD has a few key hits (Huge hits) on it and the albums are enjoyable, but overall this CD gets Four stars. However, for its importance in the history of 1960's music, this is still a CD that you ought to get.

Personal note: I had written a rather blistering review of the Beach Boys box, and I stand by that review, but I am grateful for it in one drove me to replace my old Beach Boys LPs with this very good series of double album CDs (although I hope that one day they come up with a proper Beach Boys box for those who want their best but do not want to buy every album in order to get it).
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