“Made in California” Is the Essential (and Nonessential) Beach Boys

The Beach Boys in 1964.<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Beach_Boys_Lost_Concert.jpg">Desconocido/Wikipedia Commons</a>

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The Beach Boys
Made in California
Capitol/Ume

With a staggering 174 tracks on six discs, Made in California is not the place to start for anybody interested in learning why The Beach Boys were arguably America’s premier band. For that, consult one of the umpteen greatest hits collections or Pet Sounds, their acknowledged masterpiece. But this massive hodgepodge of classics, obscurities, and barrel-scrapings—more than 60 of them previously unreleased—offers a compelling portrait of resident Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson in all his brilliance, and reveals a group of remarkable versatility, able to blend soulful doo-wop, Phil Spector’s wall of sound, jazzy pre-rock vocal harmonies a la the Four Freshmen, and rollicking Chuck Berry-style rock into one exciting identity.

From callow treats like “In My Room” and “Be True to Your School” to the ambitious intricacies of “California Girls” and “Good Vibrations,” Wilson had few rivals when it came to catchy singles. As he started to share creative control with the rest of the band in the second half of the ’60s, the results were spottier and weirder, with mediocrities outnumbering the winners throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Then the Beach Boys splintered, seemingly for good. Made in California can’t hide the quality-control issues, although it does shine a light on worthy less-celebrated songs like “Baby Blue” and “All This Is That,” and touches on their tantalizing, short-lived 2012 reunion. While hardly essential, this handsome package has plenty to lure Beach Boys diehards. You know who you are.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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