I’m not a big collector of physical stuff these days, so I’ve only got the digital version of the box. This might seem odd when it’s a new, lush-looking box-set from my favourite band of all time, but I just know that I’d look at it all once, copy the discs into iTunes and then it would sit on the shelf.
But that’s just me, I’m not here to debate physical vs digital. The important thing is the music and Made In California is a fine successor to that Good Vibrations box-set, which was a really good collection of music in itself, not least because of its Smile snippets.
Of course, we’ve now had a box-set with almost every conceivable version of the Smile sessions recordings, but that doesn’t mean that Made In California isn’t able to pull some surprisingly great new stuff out of the bag.
Indeed there’s a whole disc of rarities that are exclusive to this box, as well as choice cuts scattered across the rest of the discs and some of them make you wonder exactly how they have gone this long without being released before.
Some are alternate versions of songs that we’ve heard before, like California Feelin’ and Sherry She Needs Me, both of which were eventually released as Brian Wilson solo songs (the latter as She Says That She Needs Me) but work better in their original forms.
Soul Searching is another of those, a Carl Wilson vocal that was then turned into a posthumous duet for Brian’s Getting In Over My Head album, so already sounds pretty familiar. I’d probably say I prefer the duet actually.
Back Home has long been a favourite in its slightly rough and ready version from 15 Big Ones but there’s two alternates for it here, one from the 60s and one from 1970, both quite different (especially the 1970 one) from the one that was eventually released and both very interesting to hear.
And then there’s ‘new’ songs that have been floating around for years in various forms, like Mike Love’s Goin’ To The Beach (which is really rather good) and covers of Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love and Da Doo Ron Ron, all of which are surprisingly decent songs from a fairly dark time in Beach Boy quality levels.
Along with the largely forgotten but really good It’s A Beautiful Day, they offer hints of what the band could have been putting out on albums like Keep The Summer Alive. Though of course, the greatest injustice was adding Student Demonstration Time to Surf’s Up in place of (Wouldn’t It Be Nice To) Live Again, which is a stunning song and finally comes out here.
The From The Vaults disc at the end is packed with treats for die-hard fans, from a capella tracks like Slip On Through and This Whole World (which barely needed instrumentation) to instrumentals of stuff like Had To Phone Ya and Transcendental Meditation, which add new depth to songs that I hadn’t really treasured before.
I could go on (and on) but I should also mention the more obvious songs, because Made In California is more than just rarities, packed with all the hits from Surfin’ to That’s Why God Made The Radio. Obviously, I could quibble over songs that have and haven’t been included, but the sound quality of them all is fantastic.
The only real let down is that they didn’t end the chronological section with the closing suite from TWGMTR, which would have been the perfect ending. But then again, finishing disc six with a coda from Carl Wilson is pretty much perfect too.
Basically, if you like the Beach Boys, you need this in your life.