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The Beach Boys - Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 Music Album Reviews

The Beach Boys - Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 Music Album Reviews
Tracing the Beach Boys’ long road back to the spotlight, this five-disc set showcases a complicated era and a creative peak.  

As the 1960s came to a close, even the Beach Boys knew it wasn’t cool to be a Beach Boy anymore. Brian Wilson floated the idea of simplifying their name to “The Beach,” arguing, “We’re not ‘boys’ anymore, right? We’re men!” The rest of the band rejected the notion. They brought their past with them whenever they performed on stage, still dressed in the matching surfer uniforms from before the psychedelic epiphany of 1966’s “Good Vibrations.” The hits dried up, and the downturn coincided with Brian Wilson’s breakdown during the 1967 sessions for Smile, his abandoned project intended as the sequel to Pet Sounds. Left rudderless without their leader, the Beach Boys stumbled through the remainder of their contract with Capitol Records, often making good music while slipping further away from the center of public consciousness.

Documenting this complicated era, Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 is a five-disc box set featuring augmented remasters of the band's first two albums for their new label Reprise alongside unreleased songs, alternate versions, live tracks, session highlights, and a cappella tracks. This music traces the group’s long road back to the spotlight. It was not an easy journey. Embroiled in an ugly divorce from Capitol, the Beach Boys searched for a new label home and discovered that most companies were reluctant to sign them due to concerns about Brian’s health. While the labels and press were focused on their primary songwriter, his brothers Carl and Dennis, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston kept themselves busy on the road and in the studio, figuring out how to be a band without Brian. When it came time to record their first album for Reprise, they had a surplus of material ready to go—more than could possibly fit on a single album.

Feel Flows illustrates just how fruitful this period was for the Beach Boys as a collective. Sequenced within the unreleased material are songs that would become highlights on subsequent albums, fascinating variations on familiar songs, and oddities and castaways that highlight in particular the growth of Dennis Wilson as a songwriter and Carl Wilson as a bandleader. Much of this progression was evident on 1970’s Sunflower, an album whose cover pointedly depicted the Beach Boys as “Beach Men” surrounded by children they’d fathered. A highlight in their discography, it also showcases the band’s evolution from AM pop to FM rock. Dennis adds some grit to “Slip on Through” and “Got to Know the Woman,” and the band matches his urgency on “It’s About Time.” Dennis also contributes the gorgeous, shimmering “Forever,” a song that finds a counterpart in “Our Sweet Love,” a collaboration between Brian, Carl, and Jardine, graced by a soaring lead vocal from Carl.

As good as it was, Sunflower flopped. Audiences couldn’t be bothered paying attention to an oldies act, so the Beach Boys decided to revamp their image. Enter Jack Rieley, a radio DJ who frequented the Radiant Radish, a health food store owned by Brian Wilson. Rieley got the Beach Boys to ditch their old-fashioned stage clothes and perform for hip audiences at the 1970 Big Sur Folk Festival and the Fillmore East, prestigious gigs that helped change the band’s public perception. By the time they released Surf’s Up in 1971, the audience was primed to accept that the Beach Boys were making relevant music again; where Sunflower peaked at 151 on Billboard’s Top 200, Surf’s Up went all the way to 29.

It helped that Rieley encouraged the group to write topical material. With assistance from Jardine, Love wrote the pro-ecology “Don't Go Near the Water,” and he reworked Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller’s R&B chestnut “Riot in Cell Black 9” as “Student Demonstration Time,” a protest song against protesters. “Student Demonstration Time” isn't the only indication of a conservative streak: Jardine’s wistful remembrance “Disney Girls (1957)” offers a bit of honeyed nostalgia. These breezes from bygone days forecast how the Beach Boys would struggle to shake their past and move forward. Even if Carl and Dennis were coming into their own—Carl’s dreamy “Feel Flows” stands proudly alongside his older brother’s mind-expanding psychedelia—Brian remained the marketable star, so much so that Reprise required a certain number of his compositions on the tracklist. Brian delivered the exceedingly odd tone poem “A Day in the Life of a Tree” and the exquisite “‘Til I Die,” but it was up to Carl to dredge up “Surf’s Up” from the Smile sessions, editing together old tapes to give it the illusion of being completed.

The excavation of "Surf’s Up" underscores how much music the Beach Boys left behind in the studio—a point which the very heft of Feel Flows proves with ease. The box set includes multiple attempts at songs that would surface later: The rambling rocker “Back Home” would be re-recorded for 15 Big Ones, while Love’s gorgeous “Big Sur,” a sparkling revery for the West Coast which ranks among the best songs he ever wrote, found a home on 1973’s Holland. Compilation producers Mark Linett and Alan Boyd expand the timeline further with live renditions of Surf’s Up material from as late as 1993. Focusing on the era at large, the sequencing muddies distinctions between the albums and the outtakes: The proper albums are expanded with bonus tracks and presented in succession, then followed by session tapes and outtakes. On the vinyl edition, the bonus tracks are tacked onto the ends of LP sides, disrupting the flow of the original albums.

Part of the joy of listening to Sunflower and Surf’s Up is hearing the Beach Boys’ perspectives intertwine, and Feel Flows shows how those records merely skimmed the surface of their dynamic during this vibrant period. Brian looms over the proceedings but he’s not at the center. When he does surface, his goals are often diametrically opposed to the rest of the group: Witness his monster movie shtick on the genuinely strange “My Solution,” or how he forces Love to sing about enemas on the ode to health food, “H.E.L.P.” Where the comparable Pet Sounds and Smile box sets placed Brian directly in the spotlight, here the attention is drawn to Dennis and Carl, with Love, Jardine, and Johnston providing compelling grace notes. With each member given ample room for individual showcases, and each coming up with indelible songs and melodies, Feel Flows offers new insight into a creative peak.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Beach Boys - Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 Music Album Reviews The Beach Boys - Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, September 07, 2021 Rating: 5

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