Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Beach Boys: “Becoming The Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions” (2016) CD Review

Becoming The Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions is kind of an amazing set of recordings. This new two-disc set features the earliest recordings from one of the most popular bands in the history of pop music, The Beach Boys. It features just nine songs, but sixty-three tracks (more than two hours of music), providing a great document of the development of some of their early material, including such well-known tunes as “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfer Girl,” as well as some lesser known material. There are eight tracks of “Surfer Girl” alone. Sure, perhaps this set isn’t for the casual Beach Boys fan, but the serious fans will certainly appreciate it. And most of these tracks were previously unreleased. The set features liner notes by Jim Murphy, author Becoming The Beach Boys, 1961-1963, as well as some photos.


The first disc opens with “Surfin’” which was the band’s first single. Here we get a great, raw demo, the only percussion being some finger-snapping. The demo is followed by several takes of the song, presented in order, including false starts and bits of studio banter. The master is also included. This song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, and was included on the LP Surfin’ Safari.


“Luau” was the flip side to The Beach Boys’ first single. This disc includes three takes of the demo. And yes, the first is a bit messy, but that is definitely a large part of its charm. At the end they shout “Keep rolling,” and we get the second demo. There are several takes of this song as well, including a few false starts (“No good”). The master is included.


“Lavender,” written by Dorinda Morgan, is one I didn’t really know before listening to this disc. And it’s quite good. Three rehearsals of the song are included, with the group singing a cappella. They sound great, even as they goof a bit. We hear some banter between rehearsals, and also in the middle of a take: “Hey, go slower, guys.” These are some of my favorite tracks from this set. There are then three takes of the song, these with guitar and bass.

“Surfin’ Safari”

The first disc concludes with “Surfin’ Safari,” one of the band’s many popular tunes, and one of its many hits. With this set, we get to enjoy the earliest recordings of the song, with some different lyrics, such as “Some honeys will be making the scene” rather than “Some honeys will be coming along” and “With the boards on top” instead of “With the boards inside.” And toward the end they sing, “The surf is big at Sunset Beach/They do it in South Africa too/They’re all getting stoked on this surfin’ craze.” There is some studio banter between takes. Overdubs and the master are included.

“Surfer Girl”

The second disc opens with another of the band’s hits, “Surfer Girl,” written by Brian Wilson. There are six takes of this popular tune, plus the master and an overdub. Listen to how different these early recordings sound from the version we all know and love. This version is slower, more sparse, and kind of wonderful. That first take ends suddenly, “Stop the whole thing.” And at another point, at the end of the sixth take, Brian asks, “Can I do this without the bass this time, and dub the bass with our voices next time?” I really like this early version, and these tracks are more highlights of this two-disc set.


“Judy,” also written by Brian Wilson, is a song I don’t think I’d heard before listening to this set. It’s a fun, kind of goofy tune. This disc includes two takes, plus overdubs, a master and a demo. There is just a bit of studio banter.

“Beach Boy Stomp”

“Beach Boy Stomp” is another I hadn’t heard before. It’s also known as “Karate,” and was written by Carl Wilson. It’s a fairly straightforward instrumental, though features some good work on guitar. And on the last couple of tracks, they shout out “Karate” at the end, sort of like “Tequila.”

“Barbie” and “What Is A Young Girl Made Of”

“Barbie” and “What Is A Young Girl Made Of” were written by Dorinda Morgan (though credited to Bruce Morgan), and according to the liner notes The Beach Boys don’t play any instruments on either track. Both tracks existed, and The Beach Boys were asked to add vocals to them. These two songs were released as a single under the band name Kenny And The Cadets. Several overdubs of each song are included, as well as the masters. One overdub of “Barbie” ends with “I forgot the words.” Interestingly, the first version of “What Is A Young Girl Made Of” included here features an unknown lead vocalist (so no Beach Boys actually are on that track).

Becoming The Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions is scheduled to be released on August 26, 2016 through Omnivore Recordings.

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