Greatest Hits: 50 Big Ones
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Two discs packaged in a lift top box including an extended booklet with newly written liner notes by Rolling Stone contributing editor David Wild + 7 collectible band postcards.
The Beach Boys' new 50th Anniversary Greatest Hits: 50 Big Ones collection features the band's most popular songs, including "California Girls," "Good Vibrations," "Surfin' U.S.A.," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows," "Kokomo," and two songs from the band's newest studio album -- the title track "That's Why God Made The Radio" and a new single version of "Isn't It Time,"
For five decades, America's first pop band to reach the 50 year milestone has recorded and performed the music that has become the world's favorite soundtrack to summer. Founded in Hawthorne, California in 1961, The Beach Boys were originally comprised of the three teenaged Wilson brothers: Brian, Carl and Dennis, their cousin Mike Love, and school friend Al Jardine. In 1962, neighbor David Marks joined the group for their first wave of hits with Capitol Records, leaving in late 1963, and in 1965, Bruce Johnston joined the band when Brian Wilson retired from touring to focus on writing and producing for the group.
The Beach Boys signed with Capitol Records in July 1962 and released their first album, Surfin' Safari, that same year. The album spent 37 weeks on the Billboard chart, launching the young group known for its shimmering vocal harmonies and relaxed California style into international stardom. The Wilson/Love collaboration resulted in many huge international chart hits, and under Brian Wilson's musical leadership, the band's initial surf-rock focus was soon broadened to include other themes, making The Beach Boys America's preeminent band of the 1960s.
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SONG SELECTION: As you might expect, most of the songs on the set are from the '60s, the period during which the group had the vast majority of their (Top 40) hits, and did the other songs that they are probably most known for. Almost all of their hits are included, and there are also many non-hit single sides and songs that only appeared on albums. I like all of the songs here, though of course (as is the case with any artist's music) some are better than others. Also of course, probably every fan (including this one!) has certain favorite songs that weren't included. A couple of exclusions that I find particularly odd are "Be True To Your School" (the single version) and "Come Go With Me," both of which were hits for the group. (Although the former song WAS included on this set's condensed, single-disc "counterpart," The Beach Boys' Greatest Hits, and is the only song there that isn't here also.) I would also have liked it if the songs "Break Away" (the "original" stereo mix, not the one with some different vocal parts that has appeared on a couple of other collections, including the Made In California box set), "Long Promised Road," "Marcella," and "California Dreamin'" had been included, for a few other examples. ("Break Away" and the single version of "Cottonfields" [which IS here] were the group's last two pre-'80s Capitol single A-sides; if *I* was going to put one but not the other on a compilation, "Cottonfields" is the one I would leave off.) And, there WAS room on the set for more than 50 tracks, so I think it would have been better if they hadn't gotten "poetic" with the 50th Anniversary thing, and had put more on it. But I also think it's probably the best 2-CD BB collection that I know of.
TRACK SEQUENCE: The track order on this set is very weird. Not only does it not go in a straight line from the earliest tracks to the latest, but certain songs are positioned around ones that it doesn't seem "natural" (at least not to me) for them to be around. For a few examples: the post-'60s recordings "Getcha Back" (from '85), "It's OK," and "Rock And Roll Music" (both from '76), which are the only post-'60s recordings on CD 1, each appear lodged between tracks from the mid-'60s; "In My Room" (from '63) appears on CD 2 between tracks from '67 and '72; and CD 2 opens with "Kokomo" (from '88) and closes with "Good Vibrations" (from '66)! Probably the best example of strange track placement on this set is "Kiss Me, Baby" (on CD 2), a track from '65, which is sandwiched between the 2012 "reunion" tracks "Isn't It Time" and "That's Why God Made The Radio"! The track order here really isn't a major problem, although I can't help wondering just why the songs included on BB comps are almost never in the order that they were released!
THE MIXES: Most of the tracks on this set are in stereo; the exceptions are "Do It Again" (although, somewhat oddly, that one is in a 2012 stereo mix on the Made In California box set), "Surfin' Safari," "I Get Around," 'The little Girl I Once Knew," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Fun, Fun, Fun" (those last two are the single versions), and "Good Vibrations." The other tracks are in either their originally-released stereo mixes or in later, more recent stereo mixes. Most of the "later" stereo mixes are of songs that weren't originally released in true stereo. Those who may want the original mono mixes of the songs may be disappointed, but since I personally prefer stereo, I appreciate the fact that this set is mostly stereo. However, it seems to me that some of the "later" stereo mixes work better than others. I think the least effective one here is the one of "Do You Wanna Dance"; it sounds to me like the volume on the lead vocal wavers up and down (or like the vocal, well, "dances" from front to back in the mix), and like the guitar solo has been pushed way into the background. I find this disappointing, as I was looking forward to hearing that song in stereo! I like MOST of the mixes here, though.
SOUND QUALITY: Wow, that's one subjective subject! People don't all have the same ears or the same CD players, and not everyone notices or pays attention to every nuance, so it can be hard if not impossible to really say how the sound of any particular release "is." As for this set, as far as I (as a non-audiophile) am concerned, the sound quality kind of alternates between being at least acceptable and being very good if not great. I have heard other BB CDs that I think have better overall sound quality, but I still find this set to be quite listenable, or the majority of it anyway.
OVERALL: I would say that this is a good set. It isn't perfect, at least not in my opinion, but I don't regret buying it! If you're a longtime fan and already have other BB comps and aren't a collector, it may not be needed, but I think it would be a good purchase for people who are less familiar with the group's music and don't have much of it (and who aren't sticklers for great sound quality!).
This collection is excellent value for the money. I'm looking forward to the eventual release of the 50th Anniversary box set (it's here: see my review of Made In California) to see what further surprises are in store for us.
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Previous reviews have complimented the standard of Mark Linett's remastering and the new stereo mixes he has created for many of these songs sound genuinely stunning. The Beach Boys' early 1968 single 'Darlin'' (a personal favourite of mine) sounds particularly impressive, while the spaciousness he seems to have added to the sound of the set's opening track, 'California Girls', particularly during the song's beautifully ethereal intro, is quite striking. However, not everything here has been worked over. 'Good Vibrations' and 'The Little Girl I Once Knew' are two singles which remain in their original mono format, while selections from the classic PET SOUNDS album ('God Only Knows', 'Sloop John B.' and 'Wouldn't It Be Nice') are Linnett's stereo mixes from his 1996 reissue of the album; however, they still sound terrific here alongside his 2012 mixes of other songs and I suppose it was felt that they could not be improved upon.
Despite containing 50 tracks, there are nonetheless some surprising omissions. Other reviewers have mentioned the absence of the band's summer 1969 UK Top Ten hit 'Breakaway', but I am a little disappointed that Al Jardine's song 'Lady Lynda' (a UK Top Tenner in 1979) has somehow fallen by the wayside too; I would have taken it in place of lesser stuff like 1985's 'Getcha Back' any day of the week. Still, with everything else that HAS been included, like Carl Wilson's wonderful vocal and production job on 'I Can Hear Music' (the youngest Wilson brother's finest achievement, perhaps?), 50 BIG ONES is still a feast.
Packaging-wise the presentation box is nice, containing the two CDs in sleeves with a booklet and a set of black-and-white portraits. The booklet features a nostalgic introduction from writer David Wild, followed by a tracklisting containing some basic information about the tracks themselves, such as whether Brian Wilson or Mike Love are singing lead, the album from which the track was taken and its highest position on the BILLBOARD singles' chart. Photos from throughout the band's history complete the booklet. The box itself is a little tough to open, however, and you seem to have to slowly jiggle the lid off the container to get the contents out, while the box actually seems a bit large considering what is housed inside it!
But I feel that I am starting to nit-pick now. In terms of sound quality and with magical recordings like 'Don't Worry Baby', 'I Get Around', 'All Summer Long', 'God Only Knows', 'Good Vibrations' and 'I Can Hear Music' all present and correct, together with less obvious tunes like 'Please Let Me Wonder', 'All This Is That' and 'California Saga', 50 BIG ONES is sure to keep all our summers alive for years to come.
(The writer apologises for slipping into an over-used Beach Boys cliche during that last sentence.)
There was several omitions here like Then I Kissed Her/long version of Barbara Ann/Breakway/Girl Don't Tell Me/Here Today and more. They should have brought out two 30 track CDs and stuck to the Capitol Records stuff and left the inferior Brother Records stuff out of it and maybe, release a best of their Brother stuff on a single CD.
The missing omissions can be found in stereo on i tunes but you must look hard.
Suggestion: Download the missing tunes and transfer them on to the safety of a blank CD.
worth the money, if you are a fan you will want this for your collection.