This reviewer is a bit torn over how to approach this triple-CD EMI import of Beach Boys material, mostly because it's almost too good at what it does. It does encompass, in its nearly three-hour running time, almost anything that all but the most totally immersed and dedicated fan could want -- the only notable exceptions are a handful of tracks from the '70s Brother Records library, such as "Add Some Music to Your Day" and "This Whole World," but even that end is covered decently, with the inclusion of such tracks as "Sail on Sailor," "Marcella," "Disney Girls (1957)," "Surf's Up," "Forever," "Till I Die," and "California Saga: California." And in encompassing the Capitol years, the producers have included everything from "Surfin'" to "Breakaway," and in the right versions, and always in excellent sound. There are also some very late-inning cuts, such as "Wipe Out" with the Fat Boys
and "Fun Fun Fun" with Status Quo
that may seem less-than-essential, but they do represent some of the group's more recent high-profile work and can be understood on that level. There's also precious little in the way of annotation beyond an essay by Anthony DeCurtis
, and it can also get a little confusing for the neophyte listener, owing to the loose structure of the programming -- each of the three discs covers a distinct period in the group's sound, but none of them is remotely in chronological order. The listening experience on each disc ends up being a sort of hybrid between a formal retrospective and a good FM radio set devoted to the band. The real reason behind this reviewer's reticence to recommend this collection in unqualified terms is a matter of broader thinking about the Beach Boys -- one doesn't really want to encourage people to forgo the considerable joys of their individual albums; anyone who knows their work will be keenly aware, hearing this collection, how much totally worthwhile material is being skipped over, even on a collection as vast and comprehensive as this.