Two 1965 classics, garnished with alternate takes of Dance, Dance, Dance; I'm So Young, and Let Him Run Wild ; a studio version of Graduation Day, and the single version of the Little Girl I Once Knew.
Put simply, this is the Beach Boys at their mid-'60s prime. Ironically, the band's greatest evolutionary leap was spurred by its leader, Brian Wilson, who decided to drop out of the band's live performances after a December 1964 nervous breakdown to concentrate on honing the Beach Boys' studio sound. With Wilson's productions gaining a significant new depth and confidence (note the innovative modulations on "Dance, Dance, Dance"), the first half of Today seems a logical, upbeat step forward from its predecessors. But it's the album's second act that steals the show, setting the stage for the triumph of Pet Sounds. Indeed, it's easy to imagine gorgeous, introspective tracks such as "Please Let Me Wonder," "She Knows Me Too Well," and "In the Back of My Mind" intertwined with the best of Sounds. Set against that standard, the follow-up, Summer Days, feels like a step backward, despite the presence of another Wilson world-beater production, "California Girls," and the band's second No. 1 single, "Help Me, Rhonda." Ever pressured by commercial concerns, Wilson and the band created what was in essence the true follow-up to the All Summer Long album. Still, there's a level of musical sophistication to tracks such as "The Girl from New York City," the Phil Spector tribute "Then I Kissed Her," and especially "Girl Don't Tell Me" and "Let Him Run Wild." Reissued (with 24-bit digital remastering) in a long out-of-print twofer edition to mark the band's 40th anniversary and Lifetime Achievement Grammy, this set features several bonus tracks as well as the insightful notes of David Leaf (The Beach Boys and the California Myth). Bonus cuts include the spectacular "The Little Girl I Once Knew" and revealing outtakes of "Dance, Dance, Dance," "I'm So Young," and "Let Him Run Wild," along with a studio version of a song previously only available on the Beach Boys Concert collection, "Graduation Day." --Jerry McCulley