Capitol, which had already released ten Beach Boys
albums in three years, was bugging the group for product that it could release in time for the 1965 Christmas season. To buy time while Brian Wilson
began conceiving the Pet Sounds
masterpiece, the group issued a set of covers, featuring '50s rock and R&B hits they had listened to as schoolboys, plus some newer sounds. Packaged as if it had been recorded at an actual party, it was in fact recorded in the studio over a few sessions, with friends, family and romantic partners adding sounds and vocals to create an informal atmosphere. With the exception of a bass guitar, all the instruments were acoustic; the acoustic guitar-and-bongo arrangements, in fact, give this a hootenanny campfire feel. Since its release, this album has gone up a few notches in critical esteem, praised for its loose, casual feel and insight into the group's influences. Realistically, though, its lasting appeal lies mostly with dedicated fans of the group, as fun and engaging as it is. It does have the massive hit "Barbara Ann," which actually features Dean Torrence
(of Jan & Dean
) on much of the lead vocals; other highlights include a rousing run through "Mountain of Love," an unexpected version of "The Times They Are a-Changin'" sung by folk fan Al Jardine", and three Beatles
covers. [The 2015 reissue of the album collects everything recorded at the sessions for Party! along with a remastered version of the original album. Along with many, many snippets of dialog that feature the Boys cutting up and cracking wise, there are multiple takes of the songs that feature on the final album (sans crowd noise, as are the rest of the session takes) and quite a few that didn't make the final cut. Mike Love's versions of Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" and Sonny Bono's "Laugh at Me," takes of "Ruby Baby," "(I Can't Get No (Satisfaction)," "Blowin' in the Wind," and their own "California Girls" and "Don't Worry Baby," among others, were deemed not up to par. It's a lot to wade through, but if you really love the Party!
sessions, it's time well spent. As a bonus, with a little detective work, one can piece together the original album minus the party sounds from the various sessions.]