California Gold: The Beach Boys’ Made In California Box Set Reviewed

Made In CaliforniaLast week saw the release of the new six cd Beach Boys box set, Made In California. Arguably the most beloved band to come out of the 1960s, the work of Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston and David Marks has been compiled in various permutations over the past twenty years, beginning with the gold standard Good Vibrations box set of 1993. That collection, the first to officially feature music from the band’s legendary, unreleased Smile sessions, finished off in 1988 with the release of Kokomo, and was filled with numerous unreleased songs and alternate versions.

The new set, Made In California, brings the story up to date, featuring tracks the band recorded in 1995 that were unreleased, and signs of its studio portion with a few tracks from last year’s 50th Anniversary reunion album, That’s Why God Made The Radio.

But that’s just the beginning. 

Not only does Made In California do a stellar job of bringing the Beach Boys story up to date, it also contains even more unreleased material, from live tracks to rare studio recordings that fans have always clamoured for (Dennis Wilson’s (Wouldn’t It Be Nice To) Live Again is the prime example). By spreading out to six discs, this set gives all aspects of the Beach Boys career to shine, which means that hidden gems from their car and surf era is as well represented as the late 60s/early 70s California rock era. And unlike the fourth disc of the Good Vibrations box set, which may have given a little too much love to the band’s lacklustre late 70s/80s output, Made In California makes sure only the creme de la creme of that period is on the sets fifth disc, which means roughly half the disc is studio tracks, while the other half is unreleased live songs.

The set itself is absolutely gorgeous, fashioned as a high school year book, complete with signed remarks from the surviving Beach Boys. There are lots of photos and the liner notes are easy to read (I was hoping for more depth, to be honest). But even as nice as the set is, you’re coming for the songs. More than 170 of them.

While some may be happy with a single or double disk set (and there are lots of great ones out there), fans of pop music will absolutely love diving into the sunny sounds of Made In California. You can order your copy here. And be on the lookout over the next few days, as Mark Dillon, author of 50 Sides Of The Beach Boys, and myself choose 10 essential tracks from the box set for your ears.  We’ll also have a chance for you to win some classic Beach Boys music on cd, including the band’s legendary Pet Sounds album.

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