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20/20 – The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys 20 20

20/20

(1969), 7/10
Album is possibly too generous a term for this haphazard collection of Beach Boys leftovers. With Brian no longer dominating the group, and only contributing a handful of songs, the other members start contributing, and the results are accordingly varied. It’s all but impossible to make generalisations about 20/20, as it’s extremely eclectic and extremely inconsistent, ranging from tacky hard rock and lounge music to surf-era throwbacks and ambitious mini-epics.

The worst offenders include Bruce Johnston’s contributions – a middle of the road cover ‘Bluebirds Over The Mountain’, with completely inappropriate hard rock guitar, and his easy listening instrumental ‘The Nearest Faraway Place. Other substandard efforts include a raunchy Dennis Wilson rocker ‘All I Want To Do’, featuring noises of its creator copulating and a boring Friends outtake ‘I Went To Sleep’. Countering this is strong material like the surfing themed single ‘Do It Again’, which recaptures the magic of their early singles, while infusing the group’s improved sophistication and studio skill with touches like the self-referential lyrics and the complex vocals on the chorus. Carl contributes the Phil Spector cover ‘I Can Hear Music’, producing for the first time and highlighting his gorgeous lead vocal. Dennis shows increasing sophistication with his ballad ‘Be With Me’, while he’s also given credit for the controversial Charles Manson collaboration ‘Never Learn Not To Love’ (originally titled ‘Cease To Exist’). There’s a fantastic new Brian song, ‘Time To Get Alone’, but the album’s largely overshadowed by the stunning final songs, salvaged from Smile; the wordless a capella ‘Our Prayer’ and the mini-epic ‘Cabinessence’.

It’s difficult to rate 20/20, but there’s certainly enough interesting music to make it worth an examination.

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