The Beach Boys
Sunflower


5.0
classic

Review

by Time (Is) STAFF
March 6th, 2017 | 52 replies


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Nice cover, guys.

As the 1960s were nearing an end, the relationship between The Beach Boys and Capitol Records had become a mere shell of itself. Once the hottest band on the label, Capitol made the Boys the top priority, which in turn allowed for heavily promoted records and gave the ever-reclusive Brian Wilson the power to pursue projects he’d never be able to otherwise. Yet this was no longer the case – several of the band’s singles had underperformed (“The Little Girl I Once Knew”, “Heroes and Villains”, “Darlin’”) and scrapped projects served to further damage the partnership between the band and the label (Lei’d in Hawaii, Reverberation). Following the release and subsequent failure of their latest effort 20/20, the Boys filed a $2 mil. lawsuit against Capitol, unpaid royalties and production fees being a focal point. Prior to this suit, the band had attempted to terminate their contract in 1967, and the suit in 1969 served as a breaking point for both sides. Although they owed one final album, several attempts at piecing together a cohesive work was a doomed effort due to the label’s rejection of the finished product, so the UK-only release Live in London would end up being the severing of the ties for The Beach Boys. Come the expiration of the band’s contract, the band was now without royalties due to the deletion of their Capitol catalogue, had lost the rights to their own songs in an unwarranted sale of Sea of Tunes by Murry Wilson, and was surviving solely on money made from constant touring. Following their signing with Warner/Reprise toward the end of 1969, the band’s future was still uncertain thanks in no part to the label’s rejection of two proposed albums by the Boys simply because of their perceived lack of a potential single and overall strength. This hard-headed label interference lead to something that would become the band’s greatest record since Pet SoundsSunflower.

Several delays and revisions past, Sunflower was the successful attempt at presenting the band as they were in 1970, complete with what Warner/Reprise hoped would become the band’s next big hit (“Add Some Music to Your Day”). While the record was hailed as the band’s best effort in years, it failed to meet neither the band nor the label’s expectations – peaking at a lowly 151 on the charts. To say Sunflower flopped is an understatement – it performed catastrophically at a crucial time in the band’s career and only cemented the Boys’ image as “unhip” in a generation concerned with the war overseas. Unhip maybe, but Sunflower featured a wealth of magnificent pop songs that effectively showcased the band’s abilities equally and helped put away any conception that Brian Wilson was The Beach Boys. Earlier albums such as Friends and 20/20 began the trend of easing the burden Wilson had to bear, but it’s here that the band finally manages to work together rather than individually. That’s what makes Sunflower so compelling when comparing it to works like Pet Sounds and Smile – each and every member has something to say, whereas in the past, it felt as if Wilson (and Mike Love, to a lesser extent) were using the Boys as his mouthpiece due to his inability (and unwillingness) to go solo.

In the scheme of things, it’s a wonder how “Add Some Music” was pegged as the big hit-single-to-be when it ended up being one of the lesser tunes. As with most of the Boys’ songs, it has incredible vocal work, but is bogged down by overly saccharine lyricism and a lightweight theme of music’s presence in our lives (yes, even in the dentist’s chair). When comparing it to the hazy daydream of “All I Wanna Do”, Dennis Wilson’s forlorn ballad “Forever”, or even to the brief mini-masterpiece “This Whole World”, “Add Some Music” truly just doesn’t cut it. Other contributions, such as Bruce Johnston’s sugary sweet “Deidre” and the Bee-Gees-like “Tears in the Morning” offer intriguing compositions that showcased Johnston’s knack for accessible, yet gripping songwriting; while Dennis’ “Slip On Through” and “It’s About Time” gave the Boys a much more energetic “rock” sound that still managed to make use of their outstanding vocal compatibilities. Other members, such as Carl Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love, didn’t necessarily play lesser roles in the creation of Sunflower but in terms of songwriting, they were not as prominent, instead handling more intricate vocal details to the songs. A long-standing pattern since 1967’s recovery lo-fi effort Smiley Smile, the Boys included yet another Smile cut, this time being the minimalistic pop work “Cool, Cool Water”, originating from "Love to Say Dada", a fragment from Smile's elemental suite. Heavily focused on the dynamic between Brian Wilson and Mike Love, the song utilized the band’s harmonic qualities to its most experimental amidst moog synthesizers, piano and a sparsely produced sound. Later selected as the album’s fourth and final single, it’s “Cool, Cool Water” that convinced Warner/Reprise that the Boys were worth the risk in a time where the band’s reputation in America wasn’t all that great.

Sunflower, like most of The Beach Boys’ efforts following the failure of Smile, has been greatly underrated due in part to the common misconception that ”Pet Sounds” is the only Beach Boys record worth seeking out. While a great deal of these latter-day efforts contrast greatly in quality from each other, there’s a solid amount that are worth the trouble of listening to. And I can absolutely guarantee you, Sunflower is essential, showing off a band in their prime while simultaneously giving one a glimpse of the potential that they had in 1970.



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user ratings (275)
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
sunflower2020 (5)
Perfect sunny Sunday morning album....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2017


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

been one minute and i don't like this review



h i g h l i g h t s (or in this case, the songs that stand out because hoooooooly shit it's hard to pick a definitive highlight)

"All I Wanna Do" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RO_LX-m74uw

"Cool, Cool Water" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mky-UhxUKoM

"Slip On Through" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHKKwQQcZNE



*fun fact - "Deidre", "All I Wanna Do" and "Forever" were meant to be on the final Capitol record. That is why the quality of those songs sound a bit more rough in comparison.

Digging: Disco Inferno - D.I. Go Pop

zoso33
March 6th 2017


451 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

have finally listened to this album enough to firmly land on a 5 rating

this is an absolute classic i can't put "All I Wanna Do" on enough playlists.

- sweet review

Pangea
March 6th 2017


3099 Comments


excellent review

Digging: Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2017


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

all i wanna do



is bring happiness to you

Ryus
March 6th 2017


17782 Comments


this didnt have a review :o cmon guys


Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2017


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

it did but it was pretty bad grammatically



i plan on covering a few more (and summer in paradise)

psandy
March 6th 2017


280 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you for doing this. It's nice to see another BB fanatic on here.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2017


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

ye



but is Carl and The Passions really a 1?





psandy
March 7th 2017


280 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh shit, nah. I don't remember doing that. It's leaps and bounds better than anything spearheaded by Love

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2017


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

tbqh Love had a hand in the best song on CATP - All This Is That

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2017


42371 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

with the hippa to the hoppa and you just don't stoppa



(you didn't say just Beach Boys quotes, right?)

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 7th 2017


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

it matters not



it's a love thing, after all

Friday13th
March 7th 2017


7007 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good review, Fripper.

Digging: Tool - Fear Inoculum

wtferrothorn
March 7th 2017


5827 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Tears In The Morning is easily one of my favorite Beach Boys songs. Cool Cool Water is up there too obvs. Nice review Fripper

TheLongShot
May 15th 2017


861 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"All I Wanna Do" is easily one of the best things they ever wrote. Cannot get over the density of the production on that track.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
January 6th 2018


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Ahhh fuck this is great

TheLongShot
January 6th 2018


861 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

“Ahhh fuck this is great” [2]



Even the lesser tracks like “Got to Know the Woman” and “At My Window” are damn cool tbh

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2018


42371 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

drumming on It's About Time >

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2018


18914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

production on this (aside from the 1969 leftovers, which kinda lost a bit of quality while being dubbed onto the master) is probably the best of any Beach Boys album imo

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2018


42371 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Yeah incredible sound on this one. Took a while for the album to hit me but it's easily on par with Surf's Up. Dennis stepped up in a big way here



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