Review Summary: One of the greatest live albums ever. Well done, different versions of familiar songs which can match the beauty of the studio takes. Plus some nice obscurities.
By 1973, The Beach Boys were rising again. Their current album, Holland, sneaked to the Top 40 status both in UK and USA, and what's more important, they succeeded without much help from the Big Brother Brian. They finally got rid off the jejune image, and became recognized as mature and contemporary musicians, not "surfing Doris Days", as Bruce Johnston once said.
The Beach Boys began in 1961, and until 1973, most of rock bands that started out in 1961 broke up. Along with The Rolling Stones, they were already performing rock veterans, but they were young enough to give the audience rock and roll authencity. Remember, in 1973, Carl Wilson was only 26, and Mike Love, the oldest member of the band was 32. And what is more important, they knew their repertoire inside out, they survived psychedelia, blues boom and the other genres in rock music, and incorporated them into their well known style. They even succeeded to replace the studio perfection in "California Girls" and "Good Vibrations" with soulful, rocking and playful versions. What is more important, relatively more obscure but not necessary worse material ("The Trader", "Let The Wind Blow") fits perfectly between golden era hits. Even the weakest song "We Got Love" sounds like a concert highlight.
Beginning with lazy, bluesy drumming on "Sail On Sailor", and smoky vocal of then member Blondie Chaplin, the album slowly reveals its qualities. By the end of the song you might will be clapping the rhythm. But after energetic, stadium rocking version of "Sloop John B.", your ears will be arrested by brilliant vocals, tempo changes and captivating keyboards parts. "You Still Believe In Me" is turned to the great country soul ballad, and "Caroline, No" is played in late night jazz style. Both sound very inspiring, even in new arrangements, because the essence of those songs remained the same.
Drumming is very good, played by Ricky Fataar, soon to be The Rutle. Apart From Brian, the most silent member is Dennis Wilson. He already had a bunch of truly great songs penned by his own. Unfortunately none of those songs ended on this album. One of his greatest songs, "I've Got A Friend", is sadly accessible only on bootlegs, but it was often played during that "Holland" tour. So, Dennis Wilson's fans have to be pleased with his funny, but very short song introductions.
Some live albums are plagued by too versions which are too similar to album ones. Here, it is pure joy to hear "Caroline, No" in surprisingly effective jazzy arrangement, with superb moaning from Carl Wilson, following with loud and proud "Smile" version of "Heroes and Villains" (with lost "Bicycle Rider" section).
The highlights: "Sail On Sailor", "Sloop John B.", "The Trader", "You Still Believe In Me", "Caroline No", "Funky Pretty", "Let The Wind Blow", "Wouldn't It Be Nice", and "Fun Fun Fun". Those live takes are, if not better, but equal to the studio versions of these legendary songs. Songs like "Leaving This Town" and "We Got Love" could be left from this LP. They are OK, but nothing special. Dennis Wilson deserved inclusion of "Forever" or "Cuddle Up", or "I've Got A Friend". Those are by far better songs.
The missing things: "I Get Around", "Do You Wanna Dance", "Barbara Ann", "Do It Again"... indispensable hits in their huge store. But on this album, they are just unnecessary. All in all, magical moments guaranteed for every music fan.