Sunday, May 17, 2009

On my turntable: The Beach Boys - Sunflower

I got home about 15 minutes ago with this gently worn original copy (probably graded 'Good ++' condition) of Sunflower (1970), which I picked up this afternoon for 5 bucks. Aside from my long-abandoned CD copy, my only previous version of this album was an import non-gatefold budget-line Caribou Records re-issue from the early 80's, which I bought at the mall when I was a college freshman in Duluth (and which I still have). As I'm listening to side 1 of this vintage copy, a couple of things strike me as interesting:
  1. While it's possible that both pressings were made from the same masters, this Reprise copy sounds better than I remember the Caribou copy sounding. This makes me wonder if maybe Caribou used 2nd or 3rd generation tapes for its budget reissue, or if perhaps my copy just naturally lost some of its fidelity over the years due to so many plays.
  2. I'm reminded again of the tragedy of digital music for dynamic albums such as this. With all of the compression used in re-mastering old records for CD, much of the original essence of the recording is lost. Sunflower is so full of highs and lows and artistic use of "space" (something which Brian Wilson almost used as a studio instrument in itself), and it makes me a little sad to think younger listeners might never gravitate away from an mp3 of some of this stuff.
  3. For those few record buyers who were paying attention to new Beach Boys releases in 1970, Sunflower must have sounded every bit as mind-blowing as Pet Sounds did in '66. The years have definitely been kind to this album. I've often said that if Pet Sounds is Brian's masterpiece, Sunflower is The Beach Boys' crowning audio achievement as a cohesive 6-piece songwriting and production unit.
Unless Capitol changes its mind, we can expect to see an official 180 gram re-issue of Sunflower on June 16, as part of the "Capitol Vaults" series.

1 comment:

Mark said...

agreed, agreed, agreed!!