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Released a mere four months after The Beach Boys Today album Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) could be forgiven for being a weak album. Surprisingly, it is actually another excellent album although in many ways it is a step backwards on the journey to Pet Sounds when compared to the introspective Today album. This backward step is due to Capitol pressuring for a good time summer album in July 1965.
Where Today brought us a whole LP B side of ballads this album makes no attempt to be anywhere near as reflective. This is far more pop than the previous attempt but when the tracks presented are as good as the ones here there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all.
This album was the first time Bruce Johnson's vocals were recorded in the studio as a Beach Boy. He was the replacement for Brian on stage after Brian's first replacement, Glen Campbell, left to pursue his solo career.
Like its predecessor it is still only available in mono so it will sound cluttered and cramped on your headphones when compared with a stereo recording but mono is no limitation when blasting out of loud speakers and if you're like me you may even prefer mono mixes for that purpose.
The feel of that album, on the surface at least, is one of being a trademark Beach Boy fun in the sun up tempo happy album. That doesn't tell the entire story however because in amongst what sound like good time songs there is plenty of hurt and disappointment on show from the lovably vulnerable Brian Wilson but none of the negative feelings here can disturb what is essentially perky pop music.
This album signalled the end of an era of being young fun musicians without a care in the world. Pet Sounds followed this and made a musical statement that reverberated from then till now. On this album we hear the band just trying to make the best music they were capable of and having as good a time as they can while they ido it. Brian was a lively and creative giant here and the band believed in him.
The Girl From New York City
Amusement Parks U.S.A
Then I Kissed Her
Salt Lake City
Girl Don't Tell Me
Help Me, Rhonda
Let Him Run Wild
You're So Good To Me
Summer Means New Love
I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man
And Your Dream Comes True
The album is a bit of a slow starter. T"he Girl From New York City," Is Brian's answer to The Adlib's track "Boy From New York City." It's an ok kind of song but nothing really special. The same can be said for "Amusement Parks USA." The backing track is actually wonderfully insane and a little trippy but the vocals and silly lyrics don't really add anything.
"And Then I Kissed Her" Is the first one that really hits the spot for me. It is basically an acoustic guitar driven cover of a Crystals track but I love this so much more than the original. It's a fairly simple song but Al Jardine takes the lead and gives a killer vocal which is the making of the track for me.
Arrangement wise "Salt Lake City," Is quite similar to California Girl and has a great backing track. There is some fabulously dated slang here, Grooviest, Dig,Outta Sight, I love it. This is a catchy song though I have no idea why a song about Salt Lake City was actually written.
"Girl Don't Tell Me," Was the first Carl Wilson vocal since he shared the lead with Mike Love on a cover of "Louie Louie," Four albums ago. What a set of pipes to keep under wraps for so long! Carl himself didn't' even think of himself as a singer of lead vocals at this point and the penny only seemed to drop in the aftermath of his next lead vocal, "God Only Knows."
This is a Beatles style song. It isn't not difficult to hear the similarities between this and "Ticket To Ride," but I prefer this to the Beatle's track.
"Help Me Rhonda," Surely needs no introduction. Featuring another excellent Al Jardine lead vocal this represents the mid album peak along with "California Girls." No surprises why this would have been such a big hit back in the day. It's a highly infectious with its singalong chorus and Mike Love's distinctive "Bow bow bow," bass vocal.
"California Girls," Has one of the greatest intros to any song. Brian says he wanted to write a slow part to be the intro that sounded nothing like the rest of the song but still fit perfectly. I think he managed it with this mini symphonic masterpiece. We have all heard it so often by now that maybe it has stopped registering but it's a lovely piece of music.
The backing track for the verses has a lovely plodding cowboy sounding bass line just below Mike Love's triple track lead vocal. The harmonies at the chorus are of course great and prove to even better than expected if with a listen to the acapella version. The timing during the chorus is a little off , it's not that noticeable but Brian has kicked himself for it for years. This song features Bruce Johnson's first Beach Boy vocals when he sings the answer "Wish they all could be California," line that follows Brian.
This is surely The Beach Boy's trademark fun in the sun song and the one that bridges the original theme of the band with the new complex song writing and arrangements that Brian was no moving on to.
This is quite a misunderstood song. The meaning is to wish that all those great girls from around America were in California, not as some think, for all girls to be just like the ones in California.
Brian Wilson has never been happy with his lead vocal on "Let him Run Wild," Because he thinks he sounds like a girl. Why he thinks this sounds more girly than any of his other falsetto leads I really don't know. What I do know is that this is a really good song and his vocal is pretty amazing to these ears along with the vocal harmony arrangement. It's not all about the vocals though because the back track is a wonderful piece of music in its own right. Mike's bass vocal is also a high point.
"You're So Good To Me," Brings a whole different style of Brian Wilson lead vocal. He sings down in a manly range this time during the verses before bursting once again into falsetto for the delightfully happy "La La La La," chorus.
"Summer Means New Love," Is an instrumental. This is quite similar to "Let's Go Away For a While," From Pet Sounds and apart from the intro to "California Girls," is probably the only track on the album that has any pointer of what was to come. The main melody is played on guitar with strings and horns backing. This is a very pretty tune.
"I'm Bugged At My Old Man," Can be quite an uncomfortable song to listen to what with Brian, Dennis and Carl being subject to such a harsh upbringing by their father Murry. If you can ignore that it's actually quite funny but it is far from a musical masterpiece.
"And Your Dream Comes True," Is acapella harmony heaven. There is surely something special about the way their vocals blend together that makes it so beautiful. On this track there are only four of them present but the important voices for the blend have always been Brian, Carl and Al Jardine who can so very much alike and that's seems to be part of what makes it magical. Mike does a great bass vocal here too.
This is a strong album. The high points here are included on most Best of the Beach Boys collections and are surely amongst their catchiest tracks. A few weak tracks at the start aside it feels like hits all the way.
This album signalled the end of Capitol records love affair with Brian Wilson as it's the last good time album he made for them. Even when forced to make the music Capitol demanded he still found it within himself to create something beautiful.
This album is now available on a Two-fer along with The Beach Boys Today.
I rated Today as a five star album and this four stars so that represents incredible value for money.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Girl from New York City
2 Amusement Parks
3 Then I Kissed Her
4 Salt Lake City
5 Girl Don't Tell Me
6 Help Me, Rhonda
7 California Girls
8 Let Him Run Wild
9 You're So Good to Me
10 Summer Means New Love [Instrumental]
11 I'm Bugged at My Ol' Man
12 And Your Dream Comes True