This series will focus on one Beach Boys (or related) album at a time, starting off with their officially-released albums, chronologically. So we kick off with Surfin’ Safari, the one that started it all more than 50 years ago.
And it’s not awfully good. Sure it’s got the title track, their first song Surfin’ and 409, but so much of the rest of it is painfully mundane and packed with filler tracks. For those who aren’t fans of Mike Love‘s nasal vocals, it’s a bit overkill on those too.
The production is pretty thin, which doesn’t help the slighly basic compositions on offer, and doesn’t protect them from sounding like the kids they were when they made it. And that’s something you have to keep reminding yourself. David Marks was just 14 when it was released.
Remembering stuff like that certainly serves to make the highlights more impressive, with Surfin’ Safari and 409 both excellent songs. County Fair is also pretty good and a rarity to hear Mike singing a song that ends in romantic defeat and vulnerability.
It always surprises me that Dennis got a moment to shine so early on, taking lead vocal on Little Girl (You’re My Miss America), playing up to his role as the obvious surf hunk of the group and doing a great job.
David got his go on Summertime Blues, but unfortunately it’s just a fairly perfunctory cover, even if it’s nice to hear him get a chance to sing. Poor Carl’s glory days of heavenly lead vocals were a way off yet.
And then there’s Brian, who I’ve not even mentioned so far, even though his fingerprints are all over this album. He only gets one lead vocal on the throwaway Cuckoo Clock, and there’s no real trace of his production skills (the album was officially produced by Nick Venet) either.
But there’d be plenty of time for all that. From small things…