The Beach Boys: 1967-Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions (Capitol Records)

Over the past few years, one of the biggest thrills for Beach Boys fans has been their end-of-the-year copyright releases, resulting in legal bootlegs from the band’s official archives. These digital only affairs have shed light on their creative process by releasing outtakes, demos, and live shows from the vaults that not even the most hardcore have heard. This year is no exception, even as the band released a wonderfully delightful two-disc set of outtakes and sessions from the post-Smile Beach Boys, 1967-Sunshine Tomorrow. Of course, that particular cornucopia would be hard to top, and this year’s release: 1967-Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions does feel more like leftovers than a main course.

But oh, what leftovers! While some of the material here is subpar, the majority of the songs provide interesting and brief peek into the scattered and fractured mind of Brian Wilson, as well as the burgeoning production talents of the rest of the band. A cappella versions are especially delightful; as harmonies were always the band’s strongest weapon, hearing Smiley Smile’s “Little Pad” and “Heroes & Villains” and Wild Honey’s “Let The Wind Blow” and “Here Comes The Night” stripped down to their most basic element shows that although Brian was losing his mind, he wasn’t losing his touch. The backing tracks and sessions numbers offered here are probably of more interest to the completest; while numbers such as “Country Air” and “Cool Clear Water” are enjoyable, other moments such as “How She Boogalooed It ” and “Can’t Wait Too Long” are rickety and don’t really offer much insight other than serving as a merely OK sketch of songs that would become infinitely better in their finalized state.

As thrilling as the inclusion of three previously unreleased songs might seem, they’re trifles. “Tune L” is a funky jam that’s kind of fun but doesn’t really go anywhere. “Good News” is a minute-long snatch of a song that would otherwise be forgotten were it by any other band, while “Lonely Days” simply feels like a brainstorming session that resulted in other, better songs, most notably “Time To Get Alone.” Furthermore, the Lei’d In Hawaii material on this summer’s archival release was subpar; the outtakes offered from it only prove the point. Though their run-through of “California Girls” slows down the tempo in a nice way, the rest of the material feels rushed, and in the case of “Surfin’” and “Surfer Girl,” shows that the band had lost touch with the magic of their early days.

Every career has peaks and valleys, and though at the time the band was entering into a very dark era, it wasn’t all bad, and hindsight shows that they produced some truly fantastic music. While this year’s digital-only copyright release might feel like scraping the bottom of the barrel—thanks in part to the over-abundance and exploitation of the Smile archives—the forthcoming year may prove to be a boon for collectors, as this era has rarely been explored. Still, for the hardcore, this is an interesting—if inessential—set.

1967-Sunshine Tomorrow: The Studio Sessions is available now from Capitol Records.

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