Beach Boys Remastered… Again

IT’S BEEN A big year so far for the oldest “boys” in rock’n’roll, with their first – and almost fatally flawed – album in decades, a huge tour, and now, two new compilations: the single disc Greatest Hits, and the two-CD Greatest Hits: 50 Big Ones.
But probably of more consequence to hi-fi lovers are plans to release new remasters of 12 of the group’s studio albums.
But hang on a minute, didn’t we already get some remasters just a few years back? Well, yes, and I thought they sounded pretty good, too. But fans will be asked to fork out one more time for the discs (and digital) releases, most of which feature both mono and stereo mixes.
For the record (ha-ha) these are: Surfin’ USA, Surfer Girl, Little Deuce Coupe, Shut Down Volume 2, All Summer Long, The Beach Boys Today!, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!), Beach Boys Party!, Pet Sounds, Smiley Smile, Sunflower (stereo mix only) and Surf’s Up (stereo mix only).
We’re told that these releases mark the stereo debut of Smiley Smile and Beach Boys Party!, while The Beach Boys Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!) “are being released in stereo for the first time in their entirety”. This means we’ll get to hear classics like ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘Help Me, Rhonda’, ‘I Get Around’ and others in stereo for the first time.
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, just when The Beatles realised that their earlier albums sounded best the way they were recorded and intended to be consumed – in mono – someone has decided on a bit of reverse psychology for the Beach Boys. It’s weird because Brian Wilson is famously deaf in one ear, and was only ever interested in mono as a consequence of this affliction.
As for whether the Beach Boys albums will sound any better than the original issues, or the HDCD ones, or the first batch of remasters, only a detailed A/B listening session on good gear will provide an answer.
But one thing’s for sure: for everyone except for the most dedicated disciples of the BBs, one of the greatest hits compilations together with Pet Sounds, Smiley Smile and possibly a couple of later albums (depending on personal preference) will probably do.
The group’s early stuff sounds clunky and uninspired to these ears, and over the years, I’ve grown to love their least successful albums from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. These include Wild Honey (’67, which isn’t mentioned as a remaster), Carl & The Passions (’72, ditto) and Holland (’73, ditto). Hopefully, re-rubs of these great albums will be announced in due course. GARY STEEL

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