BEACH BOYS’ PARTY! — Uncovered and Unplugged
Produced, edited and mixed by Mark Linett
The content included on the Beach Boys’ Party! album – released November 8, 1965 – was recorded to fulfill a record contract, but in the end it represents the very first audio equivalent to a recorded “group selfie.” Considered simplistic, Party! conceals well-planned production and musicianship.
In spite of that, many consider Party! a step backward, because it followed the elaborate production of Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (released July 5, 1965). The latter included “Help Me, Rhonda,” “California Girls,” “Let Him Run Wild” and “You’re So Good to Me”; each a top-notch recording. Brian Wilson was challenging the recording limits, and began sessions for Wilson’s eponymous Pet Sounds LP (released May 16, 1966), only seven days after the release of Summer Days.
As history has shown, the sessions for the Party! album were a mechanism to buy Brian more time to complete the group’s next single, “The Little Girl I Once Knew” (released November 22, 1965), and the aforementioned Pet Sounds. Tensions between Capitol Records and The Beach Boys were just beginning to tighten, and a new holiday album had been requested.
The group had just released The Beach Boys’ Christmas album the year before (November 9, 1964), and the Beach Boys Concert live album (October 9, 1964), so repeating either concept felt like overkill. Since getting together for the holidays was another form of togetherness, getting together in the studio and recording jam sessions seemed like the quickest and easiest solution.
Recorded in (just over) a one-month period (August 23–September 26, 1965), the Party! sessions provided Brian and the band with the needed relief to rehearse and hang together, fulfill a contractual obligation, and tighten up as a unit. And with Beach Boys’ Party! – Uncovered and Unplugged (released November 20, 2015 on two-CD and digital, and December 11, 2015 on LP), Mark Linett has created something that should be in every home of every Beach Boys’ fan.
In 2012, Linett engineered and mixed new (at that time) mono and stereo mixes of the Party! album as it was originally released. The mono version didn’t provide insight, but the stereo version revealed new layers of instrumental detail, and made it easier to pick out the overdubbed party sounds from the basic tracks. This release solves that problem by completely removing the overdubs. Uncovered and Unplugged also includes previously unheard recordings.
It’s great to hear Brian, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston and Carl Wilson riffing off one another and going from one song to the next. The album may have been produced by Brian, but listening, its obvious that Carl had become the defacto band leader when the group was touring. His in-studio presence is constant, and big brother Brian relies on his feedback throughout the collection.
If the lighthearted group banter isn’t enough to get your attention, then Al Jardine’s performance of Bob Dylan’s, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” is worth the price of admission. Jardine captures the essence of the song in such a way that the hair on your arms will stand on end.
There are a lot of great moments of laughter, joking, etc., and hearing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” “Ruby Baby,” “Ticket To Ride,” “Riot in Cell Block #9” and “Smokey Joe’s Café” is also pretty cool. They didn’t make the final cut back in 1965, but remain important in that it shows The Beach Boys could just about perform anyone’s music as a five-piece band.
The other – albeit small – revelation is that Dean Torrence (Jan & Dean) was present on September 28, 1965 for more than just the historic “Barbara Ann” session. The song was recorded last among five other tracks/ideas. As Torrence remembers it, “‘Barbara Ann’ was one of those great happy accidents that does prove that this is almost a one-take (recording), and with everyone being totally spontaneous … it just kept going. At the end it was so much fun to sing we didn’t want it to end and someone says, ‘One more time!’ It was literally that much fun to do.” You can hear the enjoyment, and as it turned out, “Barbara Ann” (released as a single December 20, 1965) became a huge hit for The Beach Boys, and remains a staple in Dean’s live performances.
The Party! album has always been wall-to-wall fun, and it still works. With the release of Beach Boys’ Party! – Uncovered and Unplugged we get to really “hang” with the Beach Boys in the studio. There are no “post-party” overdubs, so you get to listen to seven sessions worth of studio banter, rehearsing and jamming. By capturing the group’s personality in this format Linett provides us with a clear snapshot of the band dynamic. The fly-on-the-wall perspective is palpable, making this collection as invaluable as The Beatles yearly Christmas Fan Club records (1963-1969)
Brian, Mike, Al, Carl, Dennis and Bruce are each here, and in the case of “Barbara Ann,” so is Dean. Why not join the party?
The Beach Boys
©2015 David Beard / All rights reserved
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