Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pet Sounds - Minus The Sounds

The Beach Boys were among the finest practitioners of bel canto in pop music. (What is bel canto? Read this NYT article from 2008.)

But very often, studio albums with their layers of orchestration conceal, not augment, the power of the vocal performance.

So listen to this: The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds", a capella. (Link to a YT channel - no video, just audio.) The band's singing and harmonizing is just out of this world. My favorites tracks are "God only knows" and "I just wasn't made for these times". Even the favorite "Sloop John B." packs some lovely surprises.

For a lot of us who were raised on Brit Rock (or even American rock from the 1960s), the instrumental arrangements on Beach Boys albums sound a bit old-fashioned. There are no growling guitars and no flashy solos to be heard here. Yet, this was the album that pushed the Beatles (and George Martin) to outdo the Beach Boys (with "Sgt. Pepper").

Listening to these pure, distilled voices on these a capella tracks is a reminder of why "Pet Sounds" is a great album.

(Found this on MetaFilter)

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