The Beach Boys: The Final Nine Analogue Productions Reissues

Analogue Productions recently completed one of the major reissue projects in modern vinyl playback history with the release of the final eight Beach Boys albums in both mono and stereo.

Of course the company’s fourteen Beach Boys reissues do not represent the entire Beach Boys catalog. Analogue Productions chose only what it considered to be the most important titles (and perhaps was contractually forced into releasing Beach Boys Party!.

You may not think all of these titles are important but they are not being sold as a box set so you can pick the ones you want.

The first five are reviewed here. Rather than wait for all of these Analogue Productions reissues to arrive before reviewing Pet Sounds, which showed up with the first five as mono and stereo test pressings I reviewed it here.

These are deluxe reissues cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Mastering using analog master tapes or “best available sources”, pressed on 200 gram vinyl at Quality Record Pressing and packaged in “Tip On” laminated paper over cardboard jackets. The reproduction of the cover art is superior to the originals on all of these reissues

There’s no doubt about how these records look and feel: they are examples of the best that is possible, which is true of all Analogue Productions’ recent reissues.

However, Analogue Productions is not exactly being forthcoming about two things: first, which of the reissues were cut from analog master tapes and second, if it’s cut from something other than a master tape, what exactly is the “best available source” used? Was it even analog? We do not know.

Analogue Productions does specify the new “first time in stereo” releases involved an intermediate high-resolution digital transfer mixed to 88.2/24 bit digital and then transferred to analog tape. Ultimately of course, what really counts is how these records sound whatever the source. What counts even more is, after all these years, whether or not you care about The Beach Boys’ music. If you’ve gotten this far, to one degree or another, you obviously do! That said, let me make clear that while I am a Beach Boys fan, I am not a Beach Boys historian and that includes the history of the tapes and what’s been done to them over the years. If you want to read that backstory you can find much on the Steve Hoffman Forums, but please take everything you read there with many grains of salt!

The Beach Boys came arrived in the early 1960s at a time of great musical transition. Growing up, Brian Wilson was a big fan of vocal groups of the ‘40s and ‘50s, both smooth pop and doo-wop. Despite all of the group’s musical changes, the sonorous harmonies remained a signature. Add some Chuck Berry and Dick Dale, and you have an enduring sound built upon a strong musical foundation. Add the Southern California “youth culture” and surfing scene and you have music that’s as “classic” as the era’s muscle cars that are still the object of enthusiasts of all ages.

Listening to all of these reissues, one after another re-opens a musical, cultural and emotional window onto iconic decades in American history, a period of profound societal change that’s only partly reflected in the music because this was, after all The Beach Boys and both the label and the fans had certain expectations.

All Summer Long (T/ST 2110)

The sixth Beach Boys album and second 1964 release began production in October of 1963 before the Kennedy Assassination, was completed the next spring and was released in July, 1964. Its consistently sunny disposition gives no indication that the national tragedy had any effect on the music.

Though it runs less than a half hour in length and has some filler (“Our Favorite Recording Session” and “Carl’s Big Chance”), All Summer Long is the Beach Boys album that epitomizes the group’s spirit and perfectly captures the mood of young people at the time, despite the assassination. In fact, like the arrival of The Beatles, the album provided the light in the darkness.

“I Get Around”, “All Summer Long”, “Little Honda”, “Wendy”, “Girls on the Beach” and “Don’t Back Down” captured the group’s magical vibe, though there’s only one each song about surfing and cars. The cover of “Hushabye”, considered filler back in 1964, now showcases the group’s superb vocal abilities. Even “We’ll Run Away”, which sounded like teen angst hack-work in 1964 (even to this teenager), now sounds charmingly nostalgic. Overall, All Summer Long is a gem of a time capsule and an album on which the group plays the instruments though Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell and others also contribute. Recorded at United Western Recorded by Chuck Britz. No doubt for me: the stereo version is the one to have. The mono adds nothing and subtracts the space. This is a beautifully recorded album and worth lights out listening.

The Beach Boys Today! (T/ST 2269)

Recorded between June, 1964 and January, 1965, the group’s eighth studio album was a true Brian Wilson production that was the lead up to Pet Sounds-style instrumentation and to that album’s awful cover art. This one has an equally awful “throwaway” look though the music was anything but. The album was a commercial success (reaching #4 on the album charts), but its critical acclaim came later, even being compared favorably toPet Sounds.

Though it starts out meekly with a cover sung by Dennis of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance?” (that almost made the Top 10) in retrospect the arrangement is a fascinating swirl of instruments and reverb tucked behind the vocals. “Good to My Baby” represents a startling shift as Wilson sings an unusually personalized love song. The arrangement is also densely packed, with the more familiar guitar/bass/drum sound of previous albums buried in the mix that on kiddie phonographs must have sounded like mud. Now it makes sense—especially on this reissue!

On the charming yet anxiety-ridden When I Grow Up Wilson adds a harpsichord and folds a harmonica into spaces between the more familiar rhythm guitar comps.

The Help Me, Ronda here is not the more familiar #1 hit single version recorded later (and differentiated with an “h” in Rhonda). This one has a complex “wall-of-sound” feel and multiple false fade-outs.

How complex are the arrangements? Well, in addition to the core group, there are more than a dozen studio guys including Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Carole Kaye, Barney Kessel, Larry Knechtel, Don Randi, Ray Pohlman, Leon Russell, Julius Wechter, Billy Strange and Earl Palmer (look any of them up if you’re unfamiliar!). The core group later became known as “The Wrecking Crew”.

Instruments include multiple guitars, accordion, harpsichord, grand piano, Wurlitzer electric, Hammond organ, Farfisa, woodwinds, strings (including mandolin, ukulele, mandolin, cellos) and more.

Side two’s mood heads in an altogether more introspective direction. This was around the time Brian began using marijuana, became physically and emotionally drained and announced he’d stop touring to devote his attention to songwriting.

For Wilson, songs like “Please Let Me Wonder”, “She Knows Me Too Well” and “In the Back of My Mind” break new expressive emotional ground and feature complex arrangements buried on the original pressing but fully flowered on the astonishing mono reissue. Fans of Pet Sounds unfamiliar with Beach Boys Today! need this reissue, which originally was only released in mono (plus “Duophonic”). It’s not consistently essential like Pet Sounds, but enough of it is, and now that you can actually hear well into the complex mono mix, even the lesser tracks offer something of value (though nothing can save “Bull Session With The ‘Big Daddy’”.

Because the production involved a three track recorder mixed down to one and returned to one track of a fresh tape on the three track recorder with additional tracks added (etc), producing a new stereo version must have required finding the original work tapes and assembling them digitally to produced sufficient separate elements for a stereo mix.

Under the circumstances the stereo version succeeds if just as an example of dogged forensic engineering. Still, as with Pet Sounds I prefer to stick with the original mono, which has plenty of depth and greater slam and overall “gravitas” as well as far superior transparency and honest “sparkle”.

Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)(T/ST 2354)

Recorded February through June of 1965 and released July 5th, Summer Days… has the look of a return to “beachy” themes but the instrumentation and arrangements were similar to those on ….Today! even if the subject matter was more “old school” Beach Boys.

The album starts with the “answer song” “The Girl From New York City” responding to the catchier Ad Libs’ tune “The Boy From New York City”. “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” has Wilson again being bi-coastal. The carnival barker, annoying in 1965 today rides a wave of nostalgia. The lyrics reference the N.J. Steel Pier, Steeplechase, Coney Island and Disneyland.

A castanet drenched cover of Then I Kissed Her pays homage to Phil Spector but with more of a “partition of sound” than a wall. “Salt Lake City” is yet another Beach Boy travelogue. It’s fluff and pleasant fluff with a complex backdrop.

Then you get to Girl Don’t Tell Me, the first Wilson song where The Beatles/British Invasion influence hits you hard over the head. It features an unusual melodic construct unlike anything Wilson had previously produced (sung by Carl) and it has a “Ticket to Ride” like feel anchored by what sounds like a twelve-string guitar. That’s followed by the single version of “Help Me Rhonda”.

The mostly excellent side two opens with the iconic “California Girls” followed by “Let Him Run Wild”, a breezy bit of melodic genius that slowed down could have been covered by Dionne Warwick(e).

Next up is “You’re So Good to Me”, another standout with a Four Seasons feel.

That signals “that’s all we’ve got for this album” (which was plenty), because up next is a mundane instrumental that Wilson saves with a lush string-drenched “Theme From a Summer Place”-like backdrop, followed by the dispensible Murry Wilson kiss-off “I’m Bugged At My Ol’ Man” and then an absolutely gorgeous a capella send off as the album runs out of gas.

Again, the arrangements are deceptively complex and feature a huge cast of supporting musicians many if not most of whom appeared on ….Today!. Because of the arranging complexity the recording process mirrored that of …Today! necessitating a mono only release (plus Duophonic). I remember at the time wondering why the earlier albums were in really good stereo and the later ones were not. This made no sense to me then but now it does.

Again, a stereo mix was created using original work parts digitally synched and mixed. And again it’s an impressive forensic accomplishment but I’ll take the original mono mix and not because of the absence of digits. I just think it’s fuller-sounding, more dynamic and impactful. It’s also more transparent (as above). I did not have an original to compare but based on The Beach Boys Today! comparison I’m sure the reissue smokes the original.

Beach Boys’ Party! (MAS/ST2398)

One imagines this among the reissues because it was required by the terms of the licensing agreement between Analogue Productions and Ume, which controls the catalog. Interestingly it’s the only reissue not featuring a laminated cover, though it is a “Tip-on” gatefold jacket.

This album, the group’s tenth studio album, was created as “filler” to give Brian Wilson time to complete Pet Sounds.

Despite its cheesy nature (a studio recording with a faked party overdubbed) the record reached #6 on the Billboard album charts and a lame cover of The Regents’ “Barbara Ann” reached #2 on the singles charts.

Originally released in mono and Duophonic “fake” stereo, it’s here in mono and “real” stereo produced as previously described. If you are a BB fanatic, you’ll probably want this but otherwise it’s more of a curiosity. There are a few good Beatles covers (“I Should Haven Known Better” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”), and a really good one of The Everly Brothers’ “Devoted to You”. While “eavesdropping” on Beatles sessions affirmed how cool they were, these Beach Boys talking sessions—here and on other albums—make them sound like giggling dorks. They subtract rather than add to the group’s legend. Mono or stereo, who cares?


rshak47's picture

Thanks so much for filling in some history I had not known. I bought all of the APO Beach Boys reissues and concur that the quality of the pressings is superb. As for *Beach Boys' Party!* - I find it quite enjoyable - - its cheesiness is quite charming.

Grant M's picture

In the review of the first batch of reissues, "For those who are not massive Beach Boy fans but who wish to add to their collections a few of their early albums, I’d recommend the mono version of Surfin’USA and the stereo version of Surfer Girl". Now at the end of this review, Michael is recommending the stereo version of Surfin' USA. Did you change your mind?

Thanks for all the work on these reviews, the only title I disagree with Michael on is Pet Sounds mono, which I found to be just awful sounding, completely lifeless with boomy bass, a strange combination. I bit the bullet and also bought the Stereo, and it's just so much better it's difficult to describe how disappointing the mono is on contrast. So much so I remain curious as to what others are hearing in the mono that i am not. One of life's mysteries i suppose.

i'm also a big fan of AP, and happily support many of Chad's releases, keep 'em coming!

Michael Fremer's picture
I didn't go back and read what I wrote back then and made an incorrect assumption that I will change. However if the Pet Sounds mono sounds boomy on your system I have to blame something about your system (sorry, I know that's like criticizing one's mate) where it can't handle the huge amount of low bass information....perhaps I should post a track and then you can decide if it's your front end, or if it sounds boomy still, it would be the rest of the system because here it sounds amazing. Deep, powerful and very well controlled....
Grant M's picture

I'm sure various vinyl playback systems (and rooms) are going to make a difference. My Rega RP-8/apheta/aria phono stage/Brio-R with Royd Abbot speakers aren't in the league of many people's system, but most quality vinyl sounds pretty darn good. The overall impression of the Stereo Pet Sounds is just in another league to my ears, obviously YMMV.

Michael Bear Arlt's picture

I agree with the above poster, the new reissue of Pet Sounds is kind of on the muddy side. As you may know, the mono (west coast) mastertape has been missing since the mid-90's and the east coast copytape was used on the reissue. That explains why the DCC issue sounds so good. AP should have used the tape that Carl Wilson prepared for the 1972 reissue that was used for the Pet Sounds 50th anniversary set which sounds helluva lot etter.

AnalogJ's picture

A couple things-

One, on your top 10 list, you list Today! (mono) twice.

Secondly, in your Monday vinyl radio show, you mention a slight suckout EQ in these reissues, though you suspect that the EQ may exist on the masters. My originals tend to present vocals with a fuller body and more up front. The reissues present the vocals deeper in the soundstage. I'm wondering if there is a slight recess in the midrange that a bit of reverse EQing might have helped.

Michael Fremer's picture
I think the originals are more "midrange-y" too but not sure if that's because they tend to be leaner in the mid bass and fuller in the deep bass and somewhat brighter (in a good way) on top....
jblackhall's picture

You should definitely post a track (regardless of the reason!)

soundman45's picture

Michael, I wonder if it would be fair to say that the new digital mixes were captured to DSD, not PCM?

Pretzel Logic's picture

Would really like to know why this title isn't part of the series. What a disappointment!

Michael Bear Arlt's picture

I'm also disappointed that Wild Honey wasn't part of the series, it would have been a better pick than Beach Boys Party. I'm hoping that either Audio Fidelity will finish off the series with Wild Honey, Friends, and 20/20. I have all the discs starting with Shut Down Vol.2 up to Holland, the only disappointment is the murky sounding Holland. My hat is off to AP for giving us fans the ultimate Beach Boys reissue series.

Moodeez1's picture

I wouldn't buy one of these selections because you could fit all of the noteworthy Beach Boys tunes on a double LP. I can't see one album here that isn't mostly filler. It's no wonder younger people aren't embracing the high end and audiophile vinyl.

Michael Fremer's picture
But I can't agree. Especially "Pet Sounds" and "Sunflower" and "Surf's Up" and a few others.
Moodeez1's picture

I just feel there are many other artists SO much more deserving of a catalog makeover than these guys. Of their entire recorded output, they have (maybe) one "must have" album.

azmoon's picture

is not what everyone thinks. This is a great reissue series by AP. And I am bot a BB fanatic....or wasn't until I heard these new LPs!

cdlp4578's picture

I have the same opinion about the Beach Boys' music, but in my opinion they are probably more deserving of a catalog makeover than most.

There isn't any doubt that Brian Wilson tried to make good sounding records. There also isn't any doubt that - at the time of the original releases - the overwhelming market for their music was teenagers who didn't have high fidelity equipment. At the rates most of these records were selling, you can't even blame Capitol at the time for serving the Beach Boys' market as job #1.

I'm not a Beach Boys' fan but I do have the DCC Pet Sounds which didn't win me over. And I picked up the Good Vibrations 78 which at least did prove to me that there was a lot of production care that should be preserved before its too late to do so. It may sound morbid, but time is running out - on the life of the source tapes and the original producer. Kudos to AP for getting this done because if it were left to UMe alone it would not be done with as much care.

sandyu's picture

Sorry, but cdlp4578 is just flat out wrong when he says, “There also isn’t any doubt that - at the time of the original releases - the overwhelming market for their music was teenagers who didn’t have high fidelity equipment.”

In fact, Mikey has neglected — or forgotten! — to mention that “Surf’s Up” was a “4-channel” (or “quadraphonic”) release, intended for listening using four (identical) speakers: The “front” pair was wired normally, but the “rear” pair was wired with the “ground” (black) terminals connected and only the left and right channels coming from the amp. The intended effect puts you in the middle of the band, not in a concert hall with a a naturally accoustic reverb. (Another “4-channel release: “Illuminations” by Buffy Ste.-Marie.)

In fact, “quadraphonic”/“4-channel” was the very latest thing in audio. Electro-Voice, a speaker manufacturer, made a special 4-ch. decoder, which you might find today on Ebay, if you look for awhile. Dynaco also made a decoder.

Also, I believe I can shed some light on “There’s A Riot Going On.” Because those shot at Kent State weren’t protesting, they were just walking by, Mike Love isn’t claiming they were saints, Mikey, he was warning that nobody’s safe unless you’re far, far away from any “peace” protest. (Or any protest at all.) No Guardsmen were charged in the killings, just students.

And one week after that, two students were killed by city and state police at Jackson State: Every window in the dormitory was shot out in the middle of the night. This time, nobody was even charged.

The song was, at the time, more controversial than it would be today to say, “Refuse to attend public protests, no matter what the cause or peaceful intent,” because there was, in those days, no other way to publicly object to a war with 500,000 troops involved, or to racial injustice (“civil rights”) government-enforced policies: The Web didn’t exist, and there were no cellphones or even desktop publishing to paper.

Basically, Love was telling us: Stay home and stick to meditation to cure the world’s social ills. And I can’t say his message was well-received at the time. (Nor, arguably, should it have been! Even today I thank God for Pussy Riot and other artists, like Neil Young, with the courage to speak out!!)


Sandy Untermyer

SimonH's picture

Well every one is entitled to thier opinion but personally I think they are all great - a fantastic set from AP that is up there with the best re-issue series ever.

And when you listen to them you will realise what masterpieces they were.

Would love to see Wild Honey, Friends, 20/20 and Carl and the Passions added.

howardk's picture

Mike, did you ever review the stereo Pet Sounds AP reissue? I don't recall ever seeing it.

Michael Fremer's picture
I think I reference it in the mono review
polar boy's picture

Any idea as to the providence of the source for this release

Good Vibrations (50th Anniversary Limited Edition 12" Sunburst Vinyl EP)

pconley2's picture

Michael, thank you for the yeoman's work of writing this, I know, listening to all of this is a dirty job, but someone has to do it. I am a huge Beach Boy fan and have several copies of their most important albums and almost all of their "regular" albums. IMHO, the only reason that the Beach Boys are not talked about with the same reverence that the Beatles are is that they (Brian) was late in understanding Albums rather than Singles, which the Beatles knew from the beginning. Although there are songs on Beatle albums that are more or less interesting, they would never have released a song like "Bugged at my old man" or "Sonny Wilson versus Mike Clay" (or whatever that terrible song was called). Given that Brian had to be some combination of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Martin (including writing the orchestral arrangements), the output they had and the staggering song quality they created is amazing. And anyone who had the chance to hear the Beach Boys in concert in the early and mid-70s got to hear an amazing live band, with an enormously deep catalog that could get people dancing and keep them on their feet for hours. I am really happy to have these new albums (expensive as they are) as they give complete analog versions of what I think are definitive four great artists of the 60s. With the analog Beatles from a few years ago, the Mofi 45rpm Dylan catalog, all we need know is definitive versions of the great Stones albums and we are set.

Lothar's picture

I think it is absolutely fantastic AP has reissued these Beach Boys albums. The ones I have are uniformly great and I believe are much better than the original '60s Capitol presses.

While I'm not going to argue with Michael's top recommendations, I'll add some notes of my own.

If you're the kind of fan I am (not obsessed, but huge fan since 1970 or so), you deserve to hear Surfin' USA in stereo. Yes, there's some hard panning on some of the vocal cuts that suggests they were meant to be mono, but the stereo (as always) gets you closer to the voices, especially Brian Wilson's angelic falsetto on Farmer's Daughter, Lonely Sea and Lana. Those and Finders Keepers are the vocal tracks with the worst stereo panning. Surfin' USA and Shut Down sound pretty good to my ears in stereo. I those employed doubt tracked vocals...

But the main reason I prefer the Surfin' USA album in stereo is the real surf music part -- the instros. The tone and clarity of the guitars is so cool in stereo. Man I love it.

While I agree with The Beach Boys Today! in mono being the one to have if you only have one, boy do I ever love the newly created stereo mix! It makes listening to the album a new experience. I really think The Beach Boys were meant to be heard in stereo for all the beautiful choral effect the doubled vocals created. Sure, there are some compromises you hear in the stereo over the mono, but the stereo edition is getting a lot of play at my house.

Smiley Smile is another one where the newly created stereo mix really does wonders for the listening experience IMO. Frankly, I've never liked the album much. The original Capitol mono kinda stunk, as did every reissue I ever heard until the '80s Capitol "Mastered By Capitol" green label mono reissue, which brought it up to "OK" sometimes. But the AP stereo reissue just stands out to my ears. It reduces that compressed, tinny sound in the original mono mix, opens it up and makes the album far more enjoyable on better equipment. I have to give it a serious thumbs up!

I'm also a fan of the AP stereo Pet Sounds, but again, if you're only going to get one, get the mono.

Summer Days (and Summer Nights!) isn't an improvement in stereo IMO. It seems like the stereo image is pretty narrow so there isn't as much to be gained from it as the others I've mentioned.

I haven't heard the AP Sunflower or Surf's Up. I haven't been hugely interested -- I have NM originals, but I love the music so ... hmm...

Lothar's picture

One last thing -- The Beach Boys Party! I'm sure AP did a wonderful job on this, but I went for The Beach Boys Party - Unplugged issue by Capitol. While it won't be up to the wonderful AP remastering standard, I've been wanted the 'party' noise stripped off this recording for decades and finally I got it. Makes for a better record IMO. I may still end up getting the AP at some point, but it's not a priority just now.

MGM Audio's picture

This is the only Analog Productions’ album I’ve bought and I’m highly delighted.
I bought the original LP in the early ‘70s and stupidly sold it some time later.
Aural memory can be distorted by time, but not with this album.
With higher quality playback equipment it sounds so much better than the original.
AP are to be congratulated on this re-issue.
Perhaps I will be tempted by other titles in the BB catalogue...

Americanlifeguardassociation's picture

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mikehardy45's picture

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