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The Beach Boys

Made in California (Capitol)

Reviewed by Scott Schinder, Fri., Sept. 20, 2013

Box Sets

The Beach Boys

Made in California (Capitol)

The Beach Boys have been compiled and repackaged more than any other major rock act, but their sprawling body of work doesn't lend itself to easy anthologizing. The band's catalog follows a fairly linear trajectory up until Brian Wilson's post-Smile flameout, at which point it breaks down into three decades' worth of small triumphs, creative dead ends, and commercial miscalculations. Whether or not Made in California is the best Beach Boys collection is debatable, but the career-spanning 6-CD set is the first to succeed in capturing the maddening mix of transcendent, life-affirming brilliance, and bush-league philistinism that makes the Beach Boys an alternately rewarding and frustrating pursuit. A mostly chronological cull, housed in a faux high school yearbook, it covers the obvious hits and artistic landmarks – often in newish remixes. Once the band's commercial fortunes fade on the third disc, some 60 rare and unreleased tracks start to kick in, like Wilson's breathtaking "Sail Plane Song" and the haunting, previously unheard original version of his "California Feelin'." Notable spotlights on his departed brothers include Dennis Wilson's single "Sound of Free" and his stirring, long-lost "(Wouldn't It Be Nice to) Live Again," and Carl's heart-tugging leads on a live "Friends," and Brian's elegant, Nineties stroll "Soul Searchin'." Made In California's hefty price tag won't endear it to serious fans, but it's the first release to encompass the Beach Boys' entire inspiring, frustrating, contradiction-laden tale.

****

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