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The Beach Boys

Brother/Reprise RS 6382
Released: September 1970
Chart Peak: #151
Weeks Charted: 4

Bruce JohnstonAl JardineDennis WilsonMike LoveCarl WilsonBrian WilsonAfter a long period of recovery, medicrity, and general disaster, the Beach Boys have finally produced an album that can stand with Pet Sounds: the old vocal and instrumental complexity has returned andthe result largely justifies the absurd faith some of us have had that the Beach Boys were actually still capable of producing a superb rock album -- or, more precisely, a superb rock muzak album. "Add Some Music to Your Day"; hip supermarkets might program this album for contented browsing among the frozen vegetables and canned fruit.

As a reassuring note, most of the lyric impotence of the group remains, though not so prominently displayed as on such colorful recent outings as Friends. In what is mainly a simple collection of love songs, Dennis Wilson has explored some aspects of rhythm and blues while Brian continues to work within his own distinctive framework. Thus on the one hand we have "It's About Time" and "Slip on Through," hints of the soft hard rock that marked "I Get Around," "Help Me Rhonda," etc., transferred to the domain of contemporary Motown. Dennis even pulls off a rib-tickling imitation of Barry Melton imitating James Brown on "Got to Know the Woman." All of these tracks are executed with a certain aplomb that often was lacking in post-"Good Vibrations" Beach Boy music, as if the self-consciousness of such homogenizing enterprise as making a new Beach Boy record has been again overcome. As a result, the naivete of the group is more astounding than ever -- I mean, good Christ, it's 1970 and here we have a new, excellent Beach Boys' epic, and isn't that irrelevant?

The Beach Boys - Sunflower
Original album advertising art.
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Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review: Surf's Up

Album Review: Holland

Album Review:
The Beach Boys In Concert

Album Review: 15 Big Ones

Album Review:
The Beach Boys Love You

Album Review: That's Why
God Made the Radio

Album Review: Dennis
Wilson -Pacific Ocean Blue

Album Review: Brian
Wilson - SMiLE

Album Review: Brian
Wilson - No Pier Pressure

Beach Boys FAQ

Beach Boys Lyrics

Beach Boys Videos

Brian Wilson Mugshots

In any case, Brian's new stuff is great, especially "This Whole World" and "All I Wanna Do." Which brings up the engineering and production work on this album: it's flawless, especially in view of the number of overdubs. There is a warmth, a floating quality to the stereo that far surpasses the mixing on, say, Abbey Road. The effects are subtle, except for the outrageous echo on "All I Wanna Do" that makes the song such a mind-wrenching experience. And then there is "Cool, Cool Water," Brian's exquisite ode to water in all its manifestations, which, like "Add Some Music," is encyclopedic in its trivial catalogue of the subject at hand. "Cool, Cool Water" pulls off a Smiley Smile far better than most of the material on that disapproving venture.

The inevitable saccharine ballads are present in abundance. "Deirdre" and particularly Brian's "Our Sweet Love" rejoin the ongoing tradition of "Surfer Girl," although "Our Sweet Love" is most reminiscent of the mood of Pet Sounds. Of course there is some lesser stuff here, like "At My Window." No matter: as a whole, Sunflower is without doubt the best Beach Boys album in recent memory, a stylistically coherent tour de force. It makes one wonder though whether anyone still listens to their music, or could give a shit about it. This album will probably have the fate of being taken as a decadent pice of fluff at a time when we could use more Liberation Music Orchestras. it is decadent fluff -- but brilliant fluff. The Beach Boys are plastic madmen, rock geniuses. The plastic should not hide form use the geniuses who molded it.

- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 10/1/70.

Bonus Reviews!

Pop music and the Beach Boys are an historic alliance, and the Beach Boys' unmistakable soaring harmonies from the heyday of California rock 'n' roll still color the more studied material of this debut LP from their own label. Some of the cuts are heavier Beach Boys, as in the production, but harmonies prevail like yesteryear on "Slip on Through," "It's About Time," and "All I Wanna Do." Chart hits for the tapping.

- Billboard, 1970.

If you can feature the great candy-stripes grown up, then this is far more satisfying, I suspect, than Smile ever would have been. The medium-honest sensibility is a little more personal now, soulful in a Waspy way. Maybe they weren't really surfers or hot rodders, but they were really Southern Californians, and that's what their music was about. It still is, too, only now they sing about water, broken marriages, and the love of life. Still a lot of fun, too. A-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The group's first new '70s album, and a highpoint for all concerned, from the transcendental doo-wop music of "This Whole World" to the simple pleasantries of "Add Some Music." * * *

- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

A year after they were dropped by Capitol, and just as Brian Wilson began his psychological descent, the Beach Boys scraped together the remarkable Sunflower. The warm harmonies and dreamy textures of "Cool, Cool Water" and "Forever" show Carl and Dennis Wilson stepping up to fill Brian's place.

Sunflower was chosen as the 380th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

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