After an acrimonious split with their original record label at the end of the 1960s, the Beach Boys moved over to Warner Bros., ostensibly to capitalize on their phenomenal early successes. But the move also coincided with... more » band founder/creative genius Brian Wilson's burgeoning health problems and subsequent artistic abdication. That the boys were able to come up with what remain two of their more interesting albums is an enduring testament to the band's willpower. Sunflower, originally released in 1970, was a drastically revamped version of an unreleased album called Landlocked, and has an upbeat consistency that both built on the band's vocal strengths and somehow overcame schmaltzy pop and even the embarrassing, halting espanole of "At My Window." Perhaps the album's greatest revelation is the brief flowering of Dennis Wilson as a writing and singing talent, especially on the lovely "Forever." With Dennis largely succumbing to older brother Brian's demons, '71's Surf's Up is marred by cloddish efforts at agit-prop hipsterism (Mike Love's "Student Demonstration Time") and a nascent environmentalism that ranges from the na´ve ("Don't Go Near the Water") to the bizarre ("A Day in the Life of a Tree"). Carl Wilson rescues the collection somewhat with "Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows," but the album's twin jewels are both salvaged Brian Wilson efforts--the title track was one of the centerpieces of the unreleased Smile (cowritten by lyricist Van Dyke Parks and here given that album's "Child Is Father to the Man" as a glorious coda), while "Til I Die" hails from the scrapped Landlocked and remains one of Brian's most hauntingly introspective works. Both albums have been remastered on a single disc and include new liner notes by Wilson biographer Timothy White. --Jerry McCulley« less
After an acrimonious split with their original record label at the end of the 1960s, the Beach Boys moved over to Warner Bros., ostensibly to capitalize on their phenomenal early successes. But the move also coincided with band founder/creative genius Brian Wilson's burgeoning health problems and subsequent artistic abdication. That the boys were able to come up with what remain two of their more interesting albums is an enduring testament to the band's willpower. Sunflower, originally released in 1970, was a drastically revamped version of an unreleased album called Landlocked, and has an upbeat consistency that both built on the band's vocal strengths and somehow overcame schmaltzy pop and even the embarrassing, halting espanole of "At My Window." Perhaps the album's greatest revelation is the brief flowering of Dennis Wilson as a writing and singing talent, especially on the lovely "Forever." With Dennis largely succumbing to older brother Brian's demons, '71's Surf's Up is marred by cloddish efforts at agit-prop hipsterism (Mike Love's "Student Demonstration Time") and a nascent environmentalism that ranges from the naïve ("Don't Go Near the Water") to the bizarre ("A Day in the Life of a Tree"). Carl Wilson rescues the collection somewhat with "Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows," but the album's twin jewels are both salvaged Brian Wilson efforts--the title track was one of the centerpieces of the unreleased Smile (cowritten by lyricist Van Dyke Parks and here given that album's "Child Is Father to the Man" as a glorious coda), while "Til I Die" hails from the scrapped Landlocked and remains one of Brian's most hauntingly introspective works. Both albums have been remastered on a single disc and include new liner notes by Wilson biographer Timothy White. --Jerry McCulley
Really-Good-But-Not-Great Cousins To Pet Sounds...
John Orfield | Cincinnati | 11/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit that I've always been more of a Brian Wilson fan than a true Beach Boys fan. But Sunflower and Surf's Up, recorded largely without Brian, still sit very comfortably on the same shelf as the inspired, landmark Pet Sounds album.Especially Sunflower, which has got to be one of the most underappreciated albums in pop history and is full of pop classics such as Add Some Music To Your Day, Brian's bouncy This Whole World, the beautiful All I Wanna Do, Brian and Bruce's Deirdre, Dennis's heartfelt Forever, and the simple, flowing Cool Cool Water. Surf's Up is a little more muddled, a little more bizarre, and it never grabbed me as much as Sunflower did. There are so many contrasts here. On one hand you have two great Brian Wilson songs (the epic title track and the especially brillant, wide-eyed, sweeping 'Til I Die) and a handful of other good-but-not-great tunes like Bruce's wistful Disney Girls. But, on the other hand, you have Mike Love's horrid Student Demonstration Time which grates on you even a few seconds into your first listen and Brian's organ-drenched A Day In The Life of a Tree which is a fairly decent song that almost buckles under the weight of its own melancholy.Members of my generation who follow Matthew Sweet, Velvet Crush, The Apples In Stereo and the Elephant 6 collective would be remiss in spending all of their time memorizing Pet Sounds while overlooking these two albums, especially Sunflower. While these two albums don't have the same simple, earnest emotion of Pet Sounds, they come pretty close and would be a welcome addition to any pop collection."
The Beach Boys after the Good Vibrations
Wes Saylors Jr. | Boone, North Carolina | 07/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Both "Sunflower" and "Surf's Up" represent the Beach Boys most people aren't familiar with. Brian Wilson was, at the time these albums were made (early 70s), pretty much out of the picture, and the Boys explored the Brian-less decade without the need to resort to songs about babes, the beach, and hot rods. "Sunflower" may actually be the best album the Beach Boys ever did. ("Pet Sounds" is the best album Brian Wilson ever did.) Each member is highlighted and the songs are edgy, sweet, melodic, and goofy - all at the same time. That is not to say that the songs only work as novelties. Real rock n' roll is here. The standout, of course, is Dennis Wilson singing "Forever", one of the most beautiful pop ballads ever. Carl Wilson takes over the lead singing duties on most songs and proves himself a more soulful singer than brother Brian. "Surf's Up" is almost always remembered (if it is remembered at all) for the two Brian Wilson songs: "Surf's Up" and "Til I Die." They're good, but the best song is Bruce Johnson's "Disney Girls, 1954." It's the sort of song you hear and never know you are listening to the Beach Boys. But - as the 70s proved - the Beach Boys were more than just a car and beach band in Pendleton shirts. They were a talented and adventurous band who could rock with the best of them. "Surf's Up" and "Sunflower" (conveniently placed on one disc)will introduce a lot of people to a band that will not only surprise them ("that doesn't sound anything like Surfin' USA"), but delight them as well. Two great albums, all in one place."
Two by Sun Or Sea, But None By Land
Wes Saylors Jr. | 10/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Getting these albums together is a great idea, since they're so important but also have big overlapping associations to each other. This is obvious in the good new interview with Brian included in the booklet (but, hey how come this is the only Capitol Brother reissue in which we get a Brian interview?) However, comments made by others on this page about the so-called "Landlocked" album project are incorrect. As the booklet accurately says, that name was under consideration for just a little while as a title for "Surf 's Up," but other theories about it were just fuled by dumb rumors and booklegs, the most recent in 1990. And one lineup circulated with an ad was a big hoax. As Bruce Johnston has admitted, fans have really taken some jokey remarks in interviews over the years too seriously. But the music always speaks for itself, and this music here is remastered now to a new level you couldn't hear on the vinyl copies, so it's truly fabulous to own."
A Lost Gem
Wes Saylors Jr. | 07/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a shame this material has never before been available on CD!If all you've got from "Sunflower" are the songs on the Good Vibrations Box Set, you're missing a few good ones - like ALL OF THEM. Seriously, "Sunflower" is a solid effort; a "lost gem" clearly among the Beach Boy's best, just as I'd heard.Unlike the "sparse production," of prior albums, beautiful harmonies and rich vocals have returned in all their glory that is Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Joyous, uplifting, and at many times, beautifully haunting, you can't help but listen to "Sunflower," and think, "this is the Beach Boys?" No album showcases the group's diverse musical talents as "Sunflower" does.Included from the Box Set, of course, are the fantastic, "Add Some Music To Your Day," "This Whole World, and "Our Sweet Love." Dennis as an artist REALLY shines on this album, bringing us the wonderful ballad, "Forever," the bluesy "Got to Know the Woman," and the fun rocker, "Slip on Through." And of course, there's more magic from Brian Wilson, including the haunting, "All I Wanna Do" - a fantastic collaboration with Mike Love - and "Dierdre," - a pleasant, melodic collaboration with Bruce Johnston that just grows on you. Other highlights from the album include the high-energy, Santana-esque, "Its About Time" - a great rocking tune by Carl - and the legendary "Cool Cool Water" - more genius from Brian Wilson.Peaking at only #138 in the States after its release, this album went right over your head, America. Too busy rocking out to the Partridge Family and Cher, I guess.I must admit, I'm not as much of a fan of "Surf's Up" - an even more eclectic album than "Sunflower" - but one that fails to pull it off. Definitely NOT a cohesive album, many tunes are an awkward attempt to make the Boys "socially relevant," complete with political and ecological themes and lyrics. But it just doesn't sound or feel like the Beach Boys - and even the Beach Boys know it (Brian Wilson hated the tune, "Student Demonstration Time," for example, saying, "its just not the Beach Boys.") If only America had embraced the wonderful "Sunflower" . . .In any event, in addition to the lows, the album does have some incredible peaks - there's a revamped version of Brian Wilson's "Surf's Up," from the aborted "SMiLE" album and "`Til I Die," - two of Brian Wilson's most introspective and stunning works, if not his finest hour as an artist and songwriter. Also included are fan favorites, "Disney Girls (1957)" - from Bruce Johnston, and "Long Promised Road," from Carl Wilson.Although all these tunes are available on the box set, its still worth having "Surf's Up," for the sake of owning it. You MUST buy this two-fer, its a classic - you can't beat the price and you get "Sunflower," on compact disc!"
Hopefully, this should bring the Beach Boys some justice
29-year old wallflower | West Lafayette, IN | 07/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After a rocky 7-year association with Capitol Records, the Beach Boys said good riddance moved over to Warner Brothers to continue their exploration of new musical territory, in spite of the fact that they were considered anything but cutting edge at this point. Aside from a few stray hit singles, the Beach Boys had become "persona non grata" on the charts and with most of the "hip" music fans, so sadly, great albums like SUNFLOWER (1970) and SURF'S UP (1971) fell by the wayside without being given a fair chance. Now that these two great albums are widely available for the first time in several years, here's hoping that these uncalled for failures be recognized as anything but.The story goes that after SMILE went bad, Brian Wilson pulled out of the Beach Boys altogether. That's just not true. After the strenuous sessions for SMILE, Brian had just retreated to a simpler, more organic method of both recording and living. Mentally, he had deteriorated almost beyond repair, but when he allowed, he could still let his musical genius shine through. And on SUNFLOWER, the Beach Boys' first album for Warner Bros., it's his songs that make up the high points of the album. Clocking in at just under two minutes, "This Whole World" is simply one of Brian's most beautiful recordings ever (which is saying a lot), and was deservedly revived for his recent solo tour. "Add Some Music To Your Day" is another great Brian production, and once again saw concert exposure on what most Beach Boys fans never thought would happen again: Brian Wilson on a concert stage! Those are the best-known off of SUNFLOWER, but Brian's other contributions are no small potatoes either. "Deirdre" (a collaboration with Brian's stage replacement Bruce Johnston, who also did "Tears In The Morning"), "All I Wanna Do" (not the rocker that was on 20/20), "Our Sweet Love" and "At My Window" are great entries on an even greater album that had to be one of the best-recorded "failures" in pop music history. But with Brian no longer master of the studio, it was up to the other Beach Boys to take up the slack, and they were more than able. Dennis Wilson continued to improve on his latent musical talents with "Slip On Through", "Got To Know The Woman" (a sign of the more rock-oriented direction the Beach Boys wanted to take at the time), "It's About Time" and what has rightfully been called his Dennis' best ever song "Forever". "Forever" has received all the accolades because its declaration of eternal love is nothing less than prayer-like in its execution. I'll bet this has been "the song" at numerous weddings ever since it first appeared. Aside from that, SUNFLOWER'S undisputed highlight is the closing "Cool, Cool Water". Yet another outtake from that fabled SMILE project, how it might have sounded back in 1967 could only be imagined by us. But the version that came to be on SUNFLOWER is just as mindblowing, making for 4 of some of the prettiest minutes ever recorded. When SUNFLOWER spent only 4 weeks on the charts, and peaked at a disappointing #151, the idea of staring anew on Warner Brothers was jeopardized. The prospects of hopefully a resurgence in favor for the Beach Boys seemed to slip away. But 30 years later, SUNFLOWER has begun to finally receive some of the respect it has always deserved as a really great album.Its follow-up SURF'S UP was yet another fine work that wasn't given a close listen (or any at all), and because it was from The Beach Boys, now commercial pariahs, the name alone was enough to sink it before it had a chance. SURF'S UP had the Beach Boys adopting more of a political and social voice. While this may have been an attempt at becoming relevant again, it was still a brave and rather successful one. They take a look at the environment on "Don't Go Near The Water", college unrest on "Student Demonstration Time" (a Mike Love-rewrite of "Riot In Cell Block #9), and poverty on "Lookin' At Tomorrow". As social commentary, they might not have had much impact, but as good music, it's mission accomplished. After being absent creatively for the most part on SUNFLOWER, Carl Wilson makes a great comeback on SURF'S UP. "Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows" (recently used in the ALMOST FAMOUS movie) prove once again that Carl had been taking lessons from older brother Brian and applying them well. Probably the least famous Beach Boy (because he was not named Wilson), Al Jardine also makes a considerable contribution to SURF'S UP on "Don't Go Near The Water", "Lookin' At Tomorrow" and "Take A Load Off Your Feet". From a big fan of folk music, the socially aware sound of those songs is natural coming from Jardine. Bruce Johnston's work is not as present as it was on SUNFLOWER, but his one song on here is more than enough. "Disney Girls" was his tribute to a simpler time and place far removed from the social turmoil that was going on in the early '70s. The literate, Van Dyke Parks-derived lyrics of "Disney Girls" could have easily fit on the forward-thinking SMILE, proving that Johnston was more than just Brian's replacement in concert. Speaking of which, Brian finally get his piece of the action at the end of the album with the final three songs. "A Day In The Life Of A Tree" is another appropriately childlike song from the fertile mind of Mr. Brian Wilson, but the heartbreaking "'Til I Die" was a sign that even Brian thought like an adult. His vocal performance is among his most beautiful ever, and if you don't shed a tear while hearing it, you may need a heart transplant. The remnants of SMILE were still trickling out, and SURF'S UP had the title track as its share of SMILE. Van Dyke Parks highly oblique lyrics are a wonder to behold when coming from the beautiful voices of the Beach Boys (most notable Carl Wilson), and one listen to that song may finally convince some of the skeptics who thought they could never sing about more than just girls and cars. Once again, had it been contained on SMILE, the production would have been even more astounding, I'm sure. But the version on SURF'S UP is an excellent one its own right.While the commercial backlash against the Beach Boys continued, they weren't about to cave in and make re-writes of the classic "fun-in-the-sun" songs of their early days. The next two albums would further prove that the Beach Boys wanted to keep moving forward, even if their sometime leader Brian Wilson was beginning to fade from the picture once again."