This Beach Boys album is actually considered one of the greatest albums ever produced. It is perhaps the first ever concept album in rock music, made to be listened to straight through from beginning to end as if it is one continuous story. Although not well received at first in the States, it was very well received in the UK upon it’s release. Even though it is considered a Beach Boys album, Brian Wilson did a majority of the leg work. Many people consider this as really a Brian Wilson solo project, with the other members coming in after returning from being on tour.
I must admit that after a couple of listens, at first I wondered what all the hype was about. I mean, it is a good record, but one of the best of all time? It needed some more listening to really formulate what the record was all about for me. As I continued to listen, it became apparent that this was quite different than other Beach Boys albums. This album was more about adolescence and the struggles of growing up. There are some radio hits on the record, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Sloop John B and God Only Knows are readily recognisable, but it is a much deeper record than the usual, summer fun in the sun music that they are so well known for.
This was a very personal statement from Brian Wilson. When he started to make this record, he wanted it to be the best rock and roll record ever, and according to many of his peers, he actually pulled it off. While I’m sure many listeners fell in love from a first listen, I needed to be convinced, so I continued to give it a chance. It really is a great record that grew on me with every subsequent listen. But could it be a classic, could it transcend all other popular rock music before it? Actually, Paul McCartney lavished praise for the album, and that is a pretty good indicator of the album’s appeal.
For me, the Beach Boys have always been about the vocals. This record is no different. The vocal arrangements were very challenging, anyone with a good listening ear could hear that. This record has been reevaluated over the years, and I feel as if I was very much a follower of this evaluation as I continually listened to it over and over. It was a process. First, not getting what all the hoopla was about, to second, settling on the notion that this is a pretty good record, and lastly, the breakthrough. This really is an album to be admired, and to begin to understand that Brian Wilson really was a brilliant producer, getting emotion and feeling to come out in the lyrics, and his incorporation of instruments previously not used before on a rock record. I am not not so sure this is the best record of all time, but it at the very least should be considered one of the most influential and cherished albums of the twentieth century.