Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Beach Boys - Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!

Label: Vigotone, VT-238/242

Just when stalwart Beach Boys fans think they've heard it all, along comes Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!, a five-CD set of previously unissued Beach Boys material spanning their glory decade of 1963 through 1972. Demos, tracking and mixing sessions, and concert and television performances afford the listeners a "fly-on-the-wall" perspective that is both interesting and educational for the seasoned Beach Boys fan and collector. Complete track notes and background information on the material are also included within the lavishly illustrated booklet.

Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!:
The Beach Boys In Session, On Television, And In Concert -- 1963-1972

Once upon a time, it seemed an impossible dream (to quote that Man Of La Mancha classic), to actually to session tapes of groups such as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. It was nigh-on unfathomable for the average fan, and was the sole domain of a select team of musicians, producers and engineers who had actually been present at the sessions themselves. Occasionally, a tantalizing bit of poor-to-average quality tape of one of these tracking or vocal overdub sessions would sneak out, but in general, fans would simply have to make do with the official releases and wonder how these magical bits of musical brilliance had been constructed. This, of course, is the way the artists involved would have preferred it to be; who would be interested in the rough ideas, half-finished concepts or alternative visions for the songs that had constructed their careers? There was a reason that these items had never been issued: the best takes or mixes were the ones selected for release. Lock up the multi-track session tapes and mixdown tapes as well, they dictated, and let the official recorded canon stand on its own merits.

Thankfully, in the case of the Beach Boys, the last decade has unleashed a plethora of unissued material as a result of archival and cataloging projects dating back over twenty years. While working on these projects, renegade engineers were kind enough to dub copious numbers of tape copies from the masters and (in their own special ways) made them available for all to hear. While the Beatles and the Stones have certainly had a substantial amount of rough tapes exit the vaults in a similar fashion, the sheer quantity of unissued recordings from the cousins, friends and brothers is truly awe-inspiring. Not to mention, frankly mind-numbing at times; how many screwed-up takes of "Christmas Day" can any human bear to hear?

However, true Beach Boys fans are a stalwart bunch. No matter how many of these tapes have already seen the light of day (particularly thanks to the good folks at the Sea Of Tunes label and their fine series of CD box sets), these same enthusiasts will be happy to know that there is even more to be heard. There are more session tapes and mixing sessions, great live (and semi-live) television appearances, more 'in concert' material from their prime live performance era of the 60's and early 70's, and plenty of other odds and sods. This is the reason for the box you hold in your hands now. Vigotone is proud to offer to the grizzled, yet indefatigable Beach Boys veterans Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!, a collection of previously unissued session tapes, unreleased alternative mixes, and uncirculated-to-date live performances, all in the same exemplary quality one has come to expect from these earlier releases. Sit back, enjoy, study, and get up every so often to use the facilities; Brian would want it that way.

Mark Boyd Elliot
February 2001

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