Pet Sounds  From Analogue Productions

The best album with one of the worst covers ever (well, at least of that era), has only grown in stature since it was first released in the Spring of 1966.

This record was the lynch pin around which the recent Brian Wilson bio-pic "Love and Mercy" spun. I highly recommend that movie to anyone who is a Wilson or Beach Boy fan.

This record has so often been written about and reviewed that all I want to do here is get to the sound of this recent reissue mastered by Kevin Gray from the original analog tape, and compare it to previous issues.

So, I spent the better part of last evening comparing this latest mono mastering by Kevin Gray at his Cohearent Audio mastering facility, with: 1) a mint original Capitol issue, 2) the Brothers Records "twofer" with Carl and The Passions' So Tough (2MS 2083), 3) The Brothers Records stand-alone reissue (MS 2197), 4) The DCC Compact Classics reissue mastered by Steve Hoffman (cut by Kevin Gray) and the Capitol reissue of a few years ago.

Fortunately, this is a record I never tire of listening to! The track upon which I concentrated was "Let's Go Away For Awhile." Why? Because it has monumental bass, a thunderous, reedy bass saxophone, wood blocks and other elements that add up to a sonic spectacular difficult to musically pin down, and even more difficult to master and reproduce at home.

The album is "psychedelic" only because of its eclectic mix of acoustic and electric instruments, sound effects and musical structures that roam from Martin Denny exotica to rock to jazz—you name it.

Wilson spent almost a half-million 2015 dollars producing the record to his definition of musical and sonic perfection, mixing it to mono, his preferred format, in part due to his hearing in mono.

I went into this listening session believing that the Carl and the Passions "twofer" offered the best sound. I came away thinking that this new one from "Analogue Productions was overall the very best, though in a few small ways the Carl and the Passions "twofer" was at least as good in some ways, better in some and not as good in others.

The original has the right spirit but lacks the distinct instrumental layering and image focus found on both the Brother Records' twofer version and the new one from Analogue Productions. The bass is also somewhat soft.

The more recent Capitol edition mastered by Ron McMaster definitely captures the spirit of the original, but the bass is soft and squishy and the distinct instrumental layers are softened and mushed together.

The Brothers single LP version is the same mastering as the one included in the Carl and The Passions twofer, but the wood blocks on "Let's Go Away For Awhile" are softer and everything seems weaker, which could be the result of a tired set of stampers. I know this sounds like a lot of picayune navel-gazing bullshit, but what's resolved on the twofer edition and especially on this new one from Analogue Productions adds immeasurably to the listening pleasure.

Yes, I once declared the DCC Compact Classics edition best but I think that was before I heard the Carl and the Passions twofer! Now it's no contest.

Overall though, this new reissue is the best sounding of all. The bottom end has more weight and solidity and the instrumental separation and front to back layering is nothing short of astonishing compared to the pleasing mush offered up by the other editions.

The stereo version lovingly mixed to analog by Mark Linett is very well done but for me, the original mono mix is the most sublime of all and has the greatest overall power (by the way, that's Linett playing the part of engineer Chuck Britz in the bio pic "Love and Mercy"). If you go into listening thinking mono is a limitation, you'll come away thinking otherwise.

Pet Sounds belongs in every serious rock record collection and if you're going to have but one version this one from Analogue Productions is the one to have.

COMMENTS
Steelhead's picture

Thanks for your review.

This is a must buy for me. If it is even close to AP's Surfer Girl I will swoon in the room.

recordhead's picture

I have a clean copy of the twofer version that I'm happy with. I love this album but do I need to hear this one or be happy with what I've got?

Michael Fremer's picture
The new one has really nicely produced original jacket and it does sound amazing but do you HAVE to have it? I can't answer that one!
Puffer Belly's picture

...how does it compare?

Michael Fremer's picture
I don't have that, but vinyl cut from analog master is how I like things...but you know that!
Puffer Belly's picture

...I know that, but I also know that you have many SACDs and DVD-As with an excellent DAC. Just wondering is all.

Puffer Belly's picture

...someone else may have the DVD-A and a vinyl version of the album who has made a comparison they'd be willing to share.

rakalm's picture

I am with Michael in that I love my vinyl but I do have a South American version of the DVD. It's cool, that it's so inclusive. CD in Mono/Stereo, 1 extra track. Plus the DVD with the George Martin/Wilson Rhythm of Life and all of the surround sound mixes just for a bit of fun. PCM 96/24 stereo and mono, Dolby Digital 5.1 as well. It was less than $10 new, so I jumped on it. Love that it lists each musician from each session for each song, Glen Campbell really played his part on this one. Not sure how this compares to the American Version. Mine is in a single CD case with flip case to house both discs, well worth the money for the extras alone. The Making of Pet Sounds, Promo Films (Good Vibrations/Sloop John) and a few other videos. I think I need them all for this one. Can't wait till XMAS for the QRP one though!!!

gubarenko's picture

I first heard this album the i bought RM version from Capitol Vaults and liked it from the first hearing (prior to that i've heard Beach Boys only in Big Love TV series). When i hear it will be rereleased i've immediately thought i need that version. Now after reading i've went to amazon and bough it. Thanks.

sunderwood's picture

Now that you have heard both the capitol version and this one what would you say are the differences in the two? The Capitol version has been readily available in Books a Million And Barnes and Noble for a good while. I almost bought it, but thought I had better be patient and get other's opinion on the sound difference.

gubarenko's picture

They are still preparing it for shipment :)

atomlow's picture

I bought that reissue a few years back when I saw Best Buy had it. They actually sold records for a short time, no idea why they got out of it when sales keep climbing. Anyway, I thought it sounded horrible. I have a DTS surround sound version that sounds amazing so I know this album can sound great. I can't wait to get this reissued MONO version. I believe the version I bought but had this Capitol sticker. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51j9Y0he4ML._SX425_.jpg

Kurt's picture

You turned me on to the Carl and the Passions pressing a few years ago, and I picked up a mint copy for $15. Many thanks.

Vinyltarian's picture

I have the Carl and the Passions "twofer" and it does sound great. Not sure I need to spend another $30 on the AP. I bought the first 5 AP mono releases. They do sound great, but unfortunately, AP seems to be having a problem with their pressings lately. Many have one side pressed off center. For $30 I expect better and I'm now a little hesitant to pick them up. I am looking forward to their Smiley Smile reissue though.

rakalm's picture

I bought Carl and The Passions years ago in a bargain bin. Just ordered 2 copies of this one 3 days ago (1 for a very lucky daughter) and one for ME.

sparky7's picture

Bought last week its a great LP. Have to give props to " The Wreaking Crew "

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwiTas70pAo

Auric G's picture

netflix.

kenkirk's picture

If you have not seen the music documentary "The Wrecking Crew " it might change the way you think about all of the wonderful hit songs that came out of LA back in those early 60's. Including the great stuff by Brian Wilson. Netflix carries it. One thing for sure, everyone who worked with Brian Wilson in the studio and was in the documentary all said he was a genius like non other in our times. Very interesting to actually put names and faces to the studio musicians that played on so many of the hits from that era.

sunderwood's picture

I happened to find it on HDNet last night while channel surfing. Very interesting. I only missed about the first 15 minutes.

sparky7's picture

If you want to watch " The Wreaking Crew " its available on Netflix streaming.

Paul Boudreau's picture

What is the source for this latest mono version? I've been told that the original tapes are no longer usable or are missing.

Paul Robertson's picture

Like Mike said, so much has been written about this album over the years and with such praise. I've always been curious, but have never heard it. Sorry, kind of pathetic I guess. My tastes are eclectic from commercial to the bizzare, and into the mid-late 60's.......but again kind of embarrassing to admit but I don't really know the Beach Boys at all, outside of a few of their AM hits I know and don't care about too much. After Mike's review now though, it's time to join the club. Just to understand and appreciate this album should be enough. If I really like it or love it, that will be a bonus!

rakalm's picture

Interesting that my 2wofer reads Stereo on the Pet Sounds label yet has a small notation indicating that it is in fact Mono. I have never seen that one before.

Steve 6's picture

Michael,

Thanks for the review. You laid out clearly why I prefer the original version; I don’t want the instrumental layering present in the newer versions. Is the image focus important? Wouldn’t a tighter image focus reduce the listening space to one person? This is important to me since I never listen to music alone at home.

I’ve used the original Pet Sounds as a reference since 1969, and part of the soundtrack when there is a surfboard on the roof of my car. I own the Carl and The Passions twofer as well. Since the “County Line” is currently 427 miles away I listen to both on a regular basis.

Overboard's picture

Today (December 21,2015) was to have been the latest release date for the second batch of stereo vinyl Beach Boys releases from Analog Productions(AKA "Acoustic Sounds"). These were "All Summer Long", "The Beach Boys Today", "Summer Days...and Summer Nights", "Beach Boys Party" & "Pet Sounds" . These releases would have marked the vinyl debut for the 2012 stereo remixes of "The Beach Boys Today", "Summer Days...and Summer Nights" & "Beach Boys Party", and this batch of L.P.'s had already been postponed THREE TIMES. I decided that I would visit Acoustic Sounds' website, and let them decide whether I would ever have the stereo vinyl releases of "Today", "Summer Days" & "Party" in my collection, because, if they were to be postponed yet again, they would be subject to the price increase (from $30 to $35) that Acoustic Sounds intends to impose for all of their vinyl L.P.'s effective Jan.1,2016.
Not surprisingly, Acoustic Sounds postponed these five stereo vinyl L.P.'s to January 8,2016 to ensure that no one would be able to buy them at $30 each. By the way, the two other dealers who are permitted to sell Acoustic Sounds vinyl L.P. are subject to price fixing agreements.
Acoustic Sounds made my decision for me. I will no longer buy any of their vinyl products. There is no reason to think that the Jan.8,2016 release date will be for real either. Will Lucy ever permit Charlie Brown to kick the football? Not in your lifetime!
Acoustic Sounds' L.P.'s may feature heavier album covers than regular Capitol L.P.'s, but it's not the album cover that you play. As for the idea that Analog Productions' pressings area necessarily better than regular Capitol vinyl, that may not always be true. Some people on the Steve Hoffman forums who bought Analog Productions' mono vinyl reissue of "Pet Sounds" have reported off-center grooves on "Side One", and have stated that it is audible.
The shenanigans affecting Analog Productions' remaining Beach Boys vinyl and SACD titles are now entering their second year. Undoubtedly, the 96Khz and 192Khz downloads of The Beach Boys mono & stereo albums (available from several online download sellers) will sound every bit as good as Analog Productions proposed SACD releases.
As for the stereo vinyl debuts of "The Beach Boys Today", "Summer Days...and Summer Nights", "Beach Boys Party" & "Smiley Smile", there is no reason why Capitol Records themselves couldn't offer those stereo mixes on vinyl. Capitol owns the recordings, after all.
The credibility of Analog Productions is at an all-time low point, and their motive (for postponing the next batch of Beach Boys stereo vinyl releases until after the price increase) is obvious and odious. This "Charlie Brown" won't be kicking the football any more. I've had it with "Analog Productions"/"Acoustic Sounds".

SpinMark3313's picture

And pre-order the stereos. $30 each. Problems, delays, off-center spindle holes aside, these are great gifts to us BB fans. I am grateful AS is doing this, and I for one would rather have the problems than none of these great re-releases at all.
Catch a wave...

Paul Boudreau's picture

...is only for in-stock items above $99, I think. In this case, pre-ordering might be the way to go.

Overboard's picture

I'm relieved to not be buying the endlessly postponed second batch of Beach Boys stereo vinyl L.P.'s from "Analog Productions"/"Acoustic Sounds". Off center grooves? You expect that on mediocre stereo Beatles vinyl from a pressing plant like Rainbo, but on a premium-priced product (soon to become even more premium-priced!) from a pressing plant claiming to manufacture an audiophile product? No way. How can anyone consider records with off-center grooves to be a "Great Gift" to Beach Boys fans unless you enjoy hearing the last song (or songs) on a side with unsteady pitch.

SpinMark3313's picture

I've got 9 monos, and not one problem. So they can't all be bad. Just put them back in the box and return them to AS via media mail if you have a bad one or two. Not the end of the world, and no need for angst. There's plenty of brokenness in this world to be concerned about vs. some poorly pressed records.
Peace and Merry Christmas.

Overboard's picture

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you. Yes, there are problems in the world much bigger than whether Analog Productions ever releases those L.P.'s that I had considered buying. It's not as if I don't already have several releases(vinyl/CD/downloads) of those albums already.
In June 2016, I'll be 60, and next August would have marked 50 years of collecting recorded music. I'm getting more & more inclined to just kick back, relax and enjoy the huge collection that I've already got. For example, if I want to listen to "The Beach Boys-Summer Days...and Summer Nights", I have numerous options:
Original 1960's "Duophonic'(simulated stereo) L.P.
1990 "Beach Boys Today"/"Summer Days" "Two-fer" mono CD w/bonus tracks
2001 remastered CD of the "Beach Boys Today"/"Summer Days" Two-fer w/bonus tracks
2012 CD with original mono version and stereo remix
96Khz/24-bit download of 2012 stereo remix

In short, the music is here for me to enjoy. The idea of having the 2012 stereo remix on vinyl appealed to me as a collector, but it is not crucial. And you wouldn't believe how many editions of "Pet Sounds" that I have. More than a dozen!

Overboard's picture

Before I get started, let me emphasize, that when I mention anything that I've seen posted on Steve Hoffman's forums, that i have not been a member of the forum for more than 4 years, therefore the opinions that I mention are not my opinions.
Over at Hoffman's forums there are serious rumblings of discontent towards Acoustic Sounds/Analog Productions owner Chad Kassem, and even one consumer who professed to be a fan of Kassem's products suggesting that he needs to administered some "tough love" by his customers, and referred to Mr.Kassem as "A Greedy Bugger".
And what triggered this discontent? Not only his upcoming price increase on vinyl(some 2x "12 45RPM titles will go to $75, and some 1-L.P. 33RPM titles that were already $35 will go to $50), but the announcement of a stereo-only 4-SACD "Blood Sweat & Tears" boxed set at an astronomical $180. Chad seems oblivious to the fact that the group's first two albums are presently available on more reasonably priced $30 SACD's from Audio Fidelity, and the group's 3rd album was once offered on a $30 SACD by Mobile Fidelity. And, by the way, the two Audio Fidelity SACD's have both stereo & surround mixes (versus Chad's stereo-only product). So, The Analog Productions SACD box is (excepting the SACD debut of "Blood Sweat & Tears-4") redundant and, in effect $45 per disc.
I guess that Mr.Kassem is largely marketing to millionaire Hedge fund managers. The fictional character Gordon Gecko once said "Greed is Good". I'm not so sure.

Overboard's picture

Do these audiophile vinyl labels operate as a cartel? Certainly it appears so, since Music Direct's "Mobile Fidelity" label has imposes January 2016 price increases identical to those imposed by Acoustic Sounds' "Analog Productions" label.
Both companies have decided that their future is with very wealthy consumers; the people who can afford $27000 turntables and $14000 Japanese phono cartridges(made from exotic wood or gemstones). The vinyl price increases won't faze those consumers, but the rest of us (the "lowly" middle class) should "Just Say No", and show these companies that we are music consumers and collectors. We are not music addicts.
This much is apparent. Audiophile vinyl releases are not always well pressed , while the $22-$23 pressings from the major labels are not always bad.

stretch35's picture

likely price increases from pressing plants like RTI. price of pvc pellets going up as price of oil coming down ...curious.

Overboard's picture

The January price increase appears to have not yet gone into effect, so today (Jan.8,2016), I ordered 3 Beach Boys vinyl L.P.'s from Acoustic Sounds. I ordered the stereo versions of "The Beach Boys Today", "Summer Days..and Summer Nights" & "Pet Sounds". I paid by Paypal, so I've locked in the price. I saw a photo of the album cover of the stereo "Pet Sounds". It has the Capitol "Full Dimensional Stereo" Logo, and an "ST" catalogue number, just like a stereo edition would have had...if there had been a true stereo edition in the 1960's. That sort of stuff just grabs the collector in me.
I hope that the grooves are on-center.

Overboard's picture

I received my stereo L.P.'s of "the Beach Boys Today", "Summer Days..and Summer Nights!" & "Pet Sounds". All were good pressings, but I've noted that, compared to previous Analog Productions L.P., these have larger spindle holes. This is what has led to incorrect reports of off-center grooves. If at first the record's grooves don't appear to be positioned on-center, Stop your turntable and utilize the loose spindle hole to reposition the record. I wish that the records hadn't been made with oversized spindle holes, but that's the way it is...likely intentional. Incidentally, I'm playing the records on a Technics SL1210Mk.2 turntable with an Audio Technica AT 440ML OCC phono cartridge.
By the way, there has been one revision to the stereo mix of "The Beach Boys Today" since its 2012 release on a Capitol CD. When the song "In The Back of My Mind" got its first (official) stereo remix, engineer Mark Linett eliminated Dennis Wilson's double-tracked vocal on "In The Back of My Mind", "for "artistic reasons"(I.E. Wilson's slightly imprecise double tracking). The 2015 remix on the Analog Productions L.P.(and presumably on the SACD) restores Wilson's double-tracked vocal, producing a stereo mix which matches musically with the original 1965 mono mix.

Chemguy's picture

Took awhile up here in Canada, but I finally got my copy. As you said, Michael, one need not be afraid of the stereo version. My copy is dead quiet, beautiful vinyl. The sound is easily the best for Per Sounds that I own: the mono reissue from 1977 green label Capitol and the recent Capitol Vault series release. And not just the bottom end, either; mids and highs are so much better...no harshness, smooth yet crisp.

An absolutely lovingly restored effort, and I praise AP for their most excellent work.

Incidentally, it was an eye-opener for me not to hear Brian's studio directions in the background on Here Today. I suspect that's how it sounds on the stereo version. It confirmed for me that I've listened to Pet Sounds for 40 years only in mono!

middleWave's picture

what is the fuss with such heavy vinyl these days? am i the only one who would prefer an old school 120g over these 180/200g records? there is NO improvement in sound quality, right? also i'm having a really hard time deciding on the reprise two-fer pressing in VG+ for $25, or this new vinyl brand new for $25...

AZ's picture

I thought that tape is either lost or very worn out.

JCapl's picture

This is some kind of hybrid of a master...NOT completely from the original tapes, or possibly tape at all.

Michael Fremer's picture
What is on the Acoustic Sounds website. The statement from original tape or best available sources refers globally to the entire Beach Boys reissue series not to this particular reissue.
JCapl's picture

Michael, I reread and you're absolutely right.

Question: I know you're comparing vinyl versions, but where does Steve Hoffman's 2009 mono from Audio Fidelity stand in comparison to the new Kevin Gray LP/SACD?

middleWave's picture

i agonized over which pressing to get for years...until the AP came out. thanks in part to this review!

but you are mistaken that it is necessarily "difficult to master and reproduce at home" - an 18 year old kid from australia did it a few years ago!

see here: https://joelkoster.bandcamp.com/album/joel-koster-re-creates-the-beach-b...

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