EW reviews summer music -- We take a closer look at releases by The Beach Boys, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, and more
EW reviews summer music
THE BEACH BOYS
SURFIN’ SAFARI & SURFIN’ USA; SURFER GIRL & SHUT DOWN VOLUME 2; PET SOUNDS (CAPITOL; CD)
THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS; CHANGESBOWIE (RYKODISC; ALL FORMATS)
HAVE A NICE DAY (VOLUMES 1-10) (RHINO; CD, T, BONUS TRACKS ON CD)
THE SEX PISTOLS
LIVE AT CHELMSFORD TOP SECURITY PRISON (RESTLESS; ALL FORMATS)
It’s almost summer, traditionally a time to catch up on classic books. But before curling up in a hammock with Ulysses, War and Peace, or — oh, come on, why not? — Stephen King’s swollen new version of The Stand, consider an alternative. Why not catch up on some classic music? It’s more restful. You can listen to it while lying in the sun with your eyes closed.
Besides, lots of nifty stuff has been released or rereleased. Start with the Beach Boys, even though their guiding genius, Brian Wilson, never willingly went near the beach. Five of the group’s albums are available for the first time on CD. Four of these — Surfin’ Safari and Surfin’ USA are combined on one disc, Surfer Girl and Shut Down Volume 2 are together on another-offer the group’s earliest work, making them the least demanding outdoor listening but also historically the most intriguing. You can follow the Boys as they sharpened their musical touch, amusing themselves along the way with curious novelties-Brian’s boogie-woogie piano on Surfer Girl, a prophetic mock feud between Brian and Mike Love on Shut Down Volume 2. You won’t hear this stuff on collections of the band’s greatest hits.
Pet Sounds, of course, is the Beach Boys’ masterpiece, released in 1966 at the height of their career. The songs were never meant to be whistled or danced to; they’re rich and intricate, music for the mind and soul, not for the pop charts. None of the songs is a classic — the album itself is the classic, Exhibit A in any argument that rock can be art.
All three CDs have detailed booklets, nostalgic photos, and bonus tracks that weren’t on the original albums (most of them trivial: instrumental outtakes from Pet Sounds, for instance, or a German version of ”In My Room”). Surfin’ Safari & Surfin’ USA B Surfer Girl & Shut Down Volume 2 B+ Pet Sounds A+
Two David Bowie items — 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and Changesonebowie, a greatest hits album from 1976 — among the classics most eagerly awaited on CD. Rykodisc has now given fans more than they wanted: Ziggy Stardust plus a new album called Changesbowie, which contains everything on Changesonebowie and Bowie’s biggest post-1976 hits as well. There’s also an amusing remix of the 1975 smash ”Fame” that makes it sound like a ’90s dance track.
The Ziggy Stardust disc generously offers five previously unreleased tracks. But the album meanders and, like all Bowie’s early work, sounds with each passing year more like music from a distant, almost alien age. Changesbowie is the better investment; as music critic Robert Christgau noted back in 1976, Bowie’s best individual songs are stronger than his albums. Ziggy Stardust B Changesbowie A
Have a Nice Day is an obsessive, even insane collection — 10 albums of trash pop songs, mostly by forgotten groups, that bubbled on the charts from June 1969 to November 1973. Preliminary observation indicates that people are listening to this collection with a combination of madcap delight and outraged + amazement, mixed with occasional nostalgic sighs when a special favorite spins by — ”Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse, for example, or Cashman & West’s ”American City Suite.” The albums are packaged and annotated with amused affection, but be warned: Some contain only 35 minutes of music. As both CDs and tapes can hold more than twice that, Rhino could more generously have issued the entire collection in six volumes instead of 10. B
Finally we come to the Sex Pistols, who performed live at England’s Chelmsford Top Security Prison in September 1976, before Sid Vicious joined the group. The music sounds as if it were recorded in a tin can, but lead singer Johnny Rotten lives up to his legend as punk’s most disruptive personality. ”I bet you all got bored sitting indoors with your wife and kids,” he tells his audience of prisoners. ”Let’s have a riot!” At which point, so the liner notes say, ”the prison officers stepped forward brandishing their truncheons.” Recommended for connoisseurs of anarchy. B-