Saturday, September 02, 2006

Review #1: Pet Sounds

Welcome to the first review on this blog. I did several reviews on Paul McCartney's solo albums at his official site's forums. These reviews went largely unnoticed, but a few people did read them and respond. In those reviews, I wrote song-by-song annalysis of each album. All songs were given a one through ten rating. The final grade for the album was an average of all the scores for each song and the rating I gave the album's packaging. This time around, I'm writing overall reviews and it will be on a 1-5 star rating. Five being the best, one the worst. Anyone who reads these reviews...I strongly reccomend that you leave comments. I really would like to know your thoughts.
For the first review, I chose one of the most important albums of the twentieth century, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, which on August 29th, 2006 was given the big anniversary treatment by Capitol Records. This album has been on CD several times before, so what makes this new version different? Well...that's what the review is for! on!

In 1966, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and Alan Jardine (with some help from Bruce Johnson) released Pet Sounds. Largely, no one knew what to think about it. It was different than anything they did before. Who knew that these five men who four years ago sang only about surfing, cars, and girls could produce something as complicated as this?
In a way, it is almost like Walt Disney's Fantasia, which in 1940 was a commercial bomb...but now is heralded by anyone who has seen it. Just like Pet Sounds it was so different and so challenging to the average person to comprehend. Disney was expected to make young children's movies based on fairy tales...and The Beach Boys were expected to make records about 'fun in the sun'.
...But is Pet Sounds really as good as critics and experts say?
Simple answer: Yes.
Not a single track on Pet Sounds is bad. Most albums, even the masterpieces, have faults (example: 'What Goes On' on The Beatles' Rubber Soul, though good, is hardly great in comparrison to 'Michelle') but not one can be found in Pet Sounds. You have the soft, sweet ballads (Don't Talk [Put Your Head On My Shoulder] and Caroline No), the loud catchy songs (Here Today and That's Not Me), an amazing opening (Wouldn't It Be Nice), quirky instrumentals (Let's Go Away For Awhile and the title track) and three amazing hits ('Wouldn't It Be Nice', Sloop John B and God Only Knows). Most of the songs (except the two solo-Brian Wilson tunes, 'Don't Talk' and 'Caroline No') have some amazing harmonies and you will find the two instrumentals to be an engaging listen.
The 40th Anniversary edition presents no new tracks on the CD. It has the basic album in the original mono and in the 1997 stereo mix plus the bonus track, Hang On To Your Ego (the original version of I Know There's An Answer). This is the same stuff that was included in the 1999 reissue. I really recomend listening to the stereo mix as it sounds so much more incredible (personally, I think 'Sloop John B' sounds the best).
The new DVD included has some neat stuff. However, not much is created just for this. The "Making Of..." documentary is an edit of '1997 promotional material' and the 'Pet Stories' is an edit of an interview with Brian from the 'Pet Sounds Live In London' DVD. There's also a segment from a BBC show that has Brian with Sir George Martin, that was previously unreleased. It also includes promo films of 'Good Vibrations' (previously unreleased), 'Sloop John B' and 'Pet Sounds'. Finally, there's a photo gallery from the 'Endless Harmony' DVD. All this only lasts 53 minutes, which is a little disapointing.
Also on the DVD is the entire album in 5.1 surround sound and in Hi-Res 96 kHz/24-bit PCM stereo, along with 'Hang On To Your Ego' in mono. It shows the lyrics on the screen as the album plays, which is nifty.
There's two styles of packaging available...a regular jewl case and a fuzzy case. I got the fuzzy case, which is only a couple of dollars more, depending on where you go. The booklet has different essays than the 1999 edition, but reprints Brian's letter from that version. The essays are by Mark Linnet (who discusses the 'technical notes' of the 5.1 mix) and David Leaf (who basically gives a little background, although his essay is reprinted from the Pet Sounds Sessions box set).
Another thing to note is that if you get it at Best Buy, it includes a bonus code for live versions of 'God Only Knows', 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and 'Sloop John B'.
I think Pet Sounds is one album that everyone should listen to in their lifetime. It might not change your view on things, but it will make you happy. From "Wouldn't it be nice if we were older..." to the dogs' barks and the train noises...every second is fun. It's not a chore to listen to it...but it's like watching Fantasia, eveytime you'll notice something new and hopefully like it even more.

Album: *****
Packaging: ****
Overall: ****1/2

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