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04/06/04
Reviewed by - George Bennett


The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds

DVD-A :

Released: July 22, 2003
Origination Year: 1966
Time: N/A
Tracks: 14
Produced by: N/A
Style: Studio
Format: DVD-Audio
Enhancement: Bonuses
Website:
www.thebeachboys.com



What more can be said about The Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' that hasn't been said already?  Not much.  The music and arrangements are exquisite, the harmonies sublime, and the lyrics pretty much define "wearing one's heart on one's sleeve".  Pet Sounds is forever battling The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band  for positions #1 and #2 as best album of all time.  Lead Beach Boy/songwriter/arranger and all-'round musical genius Brian Wilson has said that The Beatles Rubber Soul inspired him to write Pet Sounds, and Paul McCartney has said that Sgt. Pepper's... was written in response to Pet Sounds.  One doesn't hang out in better musical circles than that. 

 

There have been vinyl and CD mono versions, CD stereo versions, and a CD Box Set devoted entirely to Pet Sounds and the recording sessions that produced it.  Brian Wilson has also recently recorded Pet Sounds Live on CD, with a backing band that does not include a single Beach Boy (they're feuding - well, he and Mike Love are feuding - well, Mike Love has said that he deserves the credit for the bands success...go figure), but does include excellent musicians and vocalists, among them the members of The Wondermints, one of the current crop of great pop/rock bands in their own right.  It's well worth a buy and a listen.  Absolutely amazing for a live performance of this complicated studio work.  The only thing that could possibly be better than any of these is...Pet Sounds in multi-channel DVD-A!

 

Yep.  The best can be enhanced, and the DVD-A does so beautifully!  Wilson shows a purity of vision and execution in Pet Sounds, using multi-track layering and "playing" the boards, the studio, as if it were another instrument.  With this DVD-A release, overseen by Brian Wilson himself, we get not only a remaster/remix of the original album, we also get a peak at the genius behind the finished product with an additional seven tracks of session outtakes and alternate mixes.

There are abundant extras, including:  mono, stereo, and 5.1 remixes;  the above mentioned extra tracks lifted from the Pet Sounds Sessions Box Set;  four videos, a photo gallery, a Brian Wilson discussion (text), a making-of text, and excellent, extensive track notes.  The liner notes are much too extensive to detail here.  They encompass the recording, remastering and remixing, in DVD-A mono, stereo, and 5.1 surround.  Suffice it to say you will know just about everything you want to know on the subjects (such as:  all analog boards were used to remix the DVD-A to 96kHz/24 bit, the intent of the multi-ch mix is to surround the listener with sound, 5.1 is really 4.1 as they consciously chose to eliminate the center speaker, etc...).  The Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and 5.1 DVD-A hi-res mix all sound just about the same...equally as good (as I find to be true with over 90% of the DVD-As I've heard).  The DVD-A mono and stereo mixes, while not demo quality, are a noticeable improvement over previous incarnations.

 

The 5.1 channel version is the real winner here.  This album was multi-tracked and layered many times over during the original sessions, and any amount of separation, transparency, and openness gained is to be appreciated.  These beautiful arrangements, lead vocals, and harmonies are spread around the listening room, and while not nearly demo-quality, the effect is quite noticeably different, new, and very pleasing.  The surround speakers are fully utilized throughout.  There is not alot of air or transparency here, but the sound is certainly "opened up" to an appreciable extent, separating the instrumental and vocal layering and bringing the separate "layers" more to the front.  (In fact, it's quite amazing what they have been able to do with masters so old and buried in layers of sound.)  Bass, treble "shimmer" and transient response are dramatically improved.

 

5.1 multi-channel standouts include:  the vocal harmonies on '"Wouldn't It Be Nice", the additional "air" in the ballad "You Still Believe in Me", the ineffable beauty of the lead vocals and jumping to the Wilson "high register" in "Don't Talk", the clarinet doubling the lead vocal and greater transparency of "I'm Waiting for the Day", the noticeably "distant" drums, as if off in the mist on "Let's Go Away for Awhile", one of my all-time favorites "Sloop John B" and the high-end clarity, the harmony lines at full-force in the chorus - goose-bumps!  "God Only Knows" is perhaps the cleanest, clearest, most transparent cut - the multi-layered vocals are heavenly;  the timbre and presence of organ and horn(s) in "Here Today".  Finally, in "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times", we have not only one of the great song titles of all-time, but an insight into Brian Wilson's psyche, his sensitivity, and his inevitable breakdown.  The frequency balance is nice throughout the disc, and the high-end, again, often shimmers with clarity.

 

The additional tracks are a goldmine that allow us a peak into the creative process that became Pet Sounds.  These alone are worth the price of the disc.  Listen to the Fender Stratocaster opening guitar figure being developed (along with mistakes) for "Wouldn't It Be Nice";  session outtakes and chat from control booth to studio;  the a capella vocals of "I Just wasn't Made For These Times" (sweet!);  hear the building blocks of session outtakes from "God Only Knows" ...the list is seemingly endless.

 

In the end, you don't need me to recommend Pet Sounds, the album, to you.  You already know how great it is, I'm sure.  But, until now, you may not have known if yet another version, at a not inexpensive price, was worth it.  Well, it most certainly is.  This DVD-A gives a whole new perspective to the work...is a whole new listening experience.  I am glad, and proud, to add Pet Sounds on DVD-A to my collection.  Now, for Sgt. Pepper's... in hi-res.

     


Track Listing:

Wouldn't It Be Nice / You Still Believe In Me / That's Not Me / Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) / I'm Waiting For The Day / Let's Go Away For A While / Sloop John B. / God Only Knows / I Know There's An Answer / Here Today / I Just Wasn't Made for These Times / Pet Sounds / Caroline No.

Bonus Audio Features -

Wouldn't It Be Nice (Session Highlights) / Wouldn't It Be Nice (Mix) / God Only Knows (Session Highlights) / God Only Knows (Master Track Mix with A Capella Tag) / I Just Wasn't Made For These Times (Mix) / Summer Means New Love.


The Beach Boys:

Mike Love - Vocals

Brian Wilson - Organ / Keyboards / Guitar / Piano

Dennis Wilson - Drums

Al Jardine - Vocals

Carl Wilson - Guitar


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