Miraculously, somehow the surviving members of the Beach Boys were able to put aside their differences (or egos?) and reunite last year, releasing a pretty good album and undertaking an extensive tour.
Things eventually did unravel, with Mike Love — who controls the license to use the band’s name on tour — essentially giving Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and David Marks, the boot so he could rake in some post-reunion profit. But, still, for a brief few months in the summer of 2012 everything was pretty swell, and this double-disc set attempts to document that.
The Beach Boys Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour is marketed as a live album, and it technically is. Unlike a lot of live albums, however, the album does not document a single show. Instead, the album acts like more of a “best of” from their tour, with the recordings not coming from a single show. Indeed, it’s not even mentioned where each song was recorded. So as good as the band sounds on this record — and they do sound great — it makes you wonder how good they actually were; it’s pretty easy to get a song right just some of the time, after all.
With that said, the band is in great form on the tracks that do make the album. Original members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston (who actually joined just prior to the band recording Pet Sounds in 1966) are augmented mostly by Wilson’s fine touring band, both in instrumentation and in voice (Jeffrey Foskett provides the falsetto that Wilson manned in his earlier days, for instance). The band’s tight, pitch-perfect harmonies are at the front of the mix, and almost sound like they were recorded in the studio.
The highlight of the album are the “deep cuts” that are present. The band’s hits — “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” “Surfin’ USA,” et al — make their obvious appearance among the album’s 41 (!) tracks. But among these great songs are some lesser-known-but-great-in-other-ways songs like “Wendy,” “Getcha Back,” “Disney Girls,” “Marcella,” “Sail on Sailor,” and “Add Some Music To Your Day.” This makes it a little more worthwhile for big fans of the band to listen to.
Ultimately, though, the album plays like a greatest hits album, with versions that are perfectly fine but still way short of their studio versions. This album works well as a document of the band’s 50th anniversary tour and is worth a listen or two, but not anything more than that.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Author: Ryan King
Ryan King began covering music in 2004 for the Arrow, the student newspaper at Southeast Missouri State University, eventually becoming Managing Editor at that publication. He is also the former Music Editor for OFF! Magazine, an alternative publication published by the Southeast Missourian. Ryan began writing for The Music Universe when launched, but has stepped away to focus on law. He may appear from time to time for reviews.