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The Beach Boys In Concert is the only officially released recording of the Beach Boys most creative and adventurous live peak of the early 70's.
This double album is a compilation of recordings from the tours of winter 1972 and summer 1973.
With their time in the limelight as makers of hit singles and best selling albums mainly confined to the past and with Brian Wilson on the sidelines and out of action being a great live act was probably their only option if they were to remain as anything other than a nostalgia act. Fortunately they not only became a great live act, but under the guidance of Carl Wilson they were the best live band in the world bar none.
This was a time when the band weren't afraid to try out new tracks or unfamiliar arrangements for songs we all know. They played with a lot more electric than previously and had a rockier edge.
One of the biggest reasons for the change in live sounds was down to the personnel on stage. Bruce Johnson had temporarily left the band and Dennis Wilson had a hand injury that prevented him from drumming so he was pushed up front. In their places were two South Africans from a band called The Flame, drummer Ricky Fataar and guitarist Blondie Chaplin.
The Track listing is;
Sail On Sailor
Stoop John B.
You Still Believe In Me
Leaving This Town
Heroes And Villains
Let The Wind Blow
Help Me, Rhonda
Wouldn't It Be Nice
We Got Love
Don't Worry Baby
Fun, Fun, Fun
The album is a good mix of every era the band had been through up to this point in time from early 60's oldies through to early 70's album tracks. There is a little bias toward their latest album of the time, Holland.
Throughout the album the sound tends to have the lead vocal very much up front with the harmonies much further back and quieter on most of the tracks than you would normally expect from the this band. Sometimes the drums sound a little tinny but the bass comes in nice and clear. The audience is basically inaudible during the songs and is mostly a distant roar when they conclude.
The album opens with Sail On Sailor. Written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks and eventually slipped onto the Holland album this is the perfect opener to show how the 70's Beach Boys touring band had a very different sound the 60's version on stage. Featuring a great lead vocal from Blondie Chaplin this sounds a lot like the album version with it's tight harmonies.
The Sloop John B here is one of my favourite live versions of the song. It features Carl Wilson singing the first and third verses and Mike Love just where belongs on the second verse. This is a really good version of the song.
Trader is a little known track from the Holland album. This is another Carl lead vocal and he sings it brilliantly. The subject matter here is the harsh treatment of the Native Americans by European settlers and traders. The harmonies come through very nicely in the quieter second section.
You Still Believe In Me sees Al Jardine take the Brian Wilson lead vocal and make it his own. I think Al does a brilliant job here, not as sweet as Brian's original but this is not an easy song sing at all. Like the whole album it is more electric than the original version and that takes a little getting used to on this track more than any other, nonetheless, this is very enjoyable.
Mike Love steps up for California Girls. This isn't the greatest live version they ever did, maybe because I prefer Dennis to drum on this, but the background harmonies come out really well especially during the "Girls, Girls, Girls, Yeah I dig the Girls," harmony part on the tag.
Time for another supreme Carl vocal on Darlin'. I love it every time he sings this song, it really brings out the best in his vocals. Truly stunning. His voice here is very much like how it was on the studio version. This version is maybe just a touch too fast. On this CD version as Darlin ends it flows straight into Marcella which is a great moment. This always was a guitar heavy song and fits into this live arrangement perfectly. Carl's guitar holds the songs hook and it's right at the fore. I am tempted to say this is as good or possibly even slightly better than the original.
Caroline No comes out here better than I could have ever dreamed. Carl Wilson sings Brian's lead so very well. I love his voice as he pushes from the verse into the higher chorus and totally nails the ending too. There is a nice jazzy instrumental in the mid section and ending too which is gorgeous.
The longest track on this album is Leaving This Town. This brings us Blondie Chaplin's second lead. There isn't much difference between this and the studio original apart from the Moog has disappeared.. We have a fabulous and very long Carlos Munoz organ solo which is worth waiting for.
Heroes and Villains here and all through the 70's was very different from how we are familiar to it in the studio. In many ways it isn't a song that translates well to a 70's stage. It is fine these days when Brian Wilson plays it because he has a fan base that want to sit back and listen to beautiful vocals harmonies and intricate musicianship. That wasn't the case back when this was recorded, the fans were on there feet and dancing, so here we have the rock out version of Heroes and Villains. Rick Fataar's drumming drives it along big time. Al Jardine sings the verses and Carl Wilson takes the "Bicycle Rider," style chorus. This rocks a lot more than you think this song ever could.
Funky Pretty is another track from The Holland album. Everybody seems to get a turn on lead here but Carl is most prominent on the verses. I really like this version but I know that it is considered the one of the weakest track on the album by many.
Let The Wind Blow brings yet another vocal tour de force from Carl Wilson. This live version is slower and jazzier than the original and that gives Carl longer to let his vocals do the business. This sounds like a very different song to the album original, not better, just different. This is the standout track on the album for me and one you shouldn't miss.
Speaking of songs that are very different to their originals nothing here departs more from the original than Help Me Rhonda. There can't be anybody that isn't familiar with this song but most won't recognise it from this version. It's practically country rock both in the way it is played and Al Jardine's lead. Another downside is that more than any other on the album it has too much cymbal crashing in the percussion for my liking. I prefer Help Me Rhonda sung straight in the traditional way but I have plenty of live versions of that so this is a nice change. What would have been a good change on Help me Rhonda would be to have Dennis sing it like he sometimes did during this era.
We finally reach an oldie that is done in the original style when Surfer Girl starts up. The group vocals here are excellent. The album linear notes say that it is Al Jardine on the falsetto but I believe it is actually Billy Hinsche. You know what to expect from this one and it's lovely.
Wouldn't It Be Nice brings a roar from the crowd the second the distinctive intro is played. Al Jardine does another great Brian Wilson style vocal on lead and the background harmonies work so well. Mike Love sings the bridge just as he does on the Pet Sounds original. This is another really difficult one to nail live but this is a very good attempt.
We Got Love never made it to any Beach Boy album. Ricky Fataar leaves his drums to sing the verses and Blondie sings the verses. This is a straight up rock ballad and it's pretty good.
We return to a more familiar sound when Don't Worry baby begins. Don't Worry Baby was Brian Wilson's answer to his favourite song Be My Baby by Phil Spector. The version we hear here is a little like a fusion between the two songs with the Be My Baby rhythm and piano parts accompanying the melody of Don't Worry Baby. Al Jardine sings the verses and Carl the chorus. A wonderful version of a song I love.
Surfin USA is just how it always is, a lot of fun. Even though the album isn't of any one show and isn't in the order of how it was played you can feel Surfin' USA was played near the end, it feels like an encore.
Good Vibrations is a good effort of a song that is never likely to have a live version to rival its studio counterpart. Carl sounds great on the verses and Dennis can be heard on the tag. The album doesn't contain anywhere near enough Dennis for my liking so it's nice to hear him loud and clear on this part.
Fun,Fun,Fun brings the album to a close. A nice version that captures Mike's lead vocal before it went a little too nasal a few years later. Another encore song and everybody is having a good time.
This live album captures what was a very important period in the history of the band. At this point in time they were an exceptional live outfit and nothing like the two guitars, a bass and a set of drubs set up they started on stage as. This is great live music.
There are a few things that niggle me about it in terms of track selection. I would have liked a versions of God Only Knows and Surf's Up. There are no Dennis Wilson tracks on this at all which is also a real shame.
Regardless of what could have been what we have makes an excellent double live album with enough different musical styles and moments of excellence to show off what this band could do on stage.
Overall this is essential listening for any fan of great live music.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sail on Sailor
2 Sloop John B
4 You Still Believe in Me
5 California Girls
8 Caroline No
9 Leaving This Town
10 Heroes and Villains
11 Funky Pretty
12 Let the Wind Blow
13 Help Me, Rhonda
14 Surfer Girl
15 Wouldn't It Be Nice
16 We Got Love
17 Don't Worry Baby
18 Surfin' USA
19 Good Vibrations
20 Fun, Fun, Fun