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Martin R. Smith, Matthew Longfellow
Beach Boys
Writing Credits:

The latest addition to the acclaimed & award winning Classic Albums series tells the story behind the making of The Beach Boys ground breaking album Pet Sounds, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English LPCM Stereo
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 59 min.
Price: $22.98
Release Date: 9/23/2016

• Added Interview Footage


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Classic Albums: Beach Boys - Pet Sounds [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 21, 2016)

Rock albums don’t get more “classic” than the Beach Boys’ 1966 work Pet Sounds. Regularly found on lists of the all-time greatest releases, Pet Sounds celebrates its 50th anniversary as the subject of a Classic Albums documentary.

The program follows the usual blueprint for the Classic Albums releases, as it presents band members and others connected with the Beach Boys to detail the music and its creation. We hear from band members Brian Wilson, David Marks, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love and Al Jardine, authors/music journalists Lucy O’Brien and David Wild, Capitol Records A&R executive Karl Engemann, singer Helen Shapiro, music journalist/publicist Keith Altham, session musicians Don Randi and Hal Blaine, remix/re-mastering engineer Mark Linett, lyricist Tony Asher, and recording engineer Bruce Botner.

In this program, we learn about aspects of the writing and recording of Pet Sounds. We also hear about early days of the Beach Boys and their influences, how Brian Wilson left the touring band and focused on the recording studio, and the album’s release/legacy.

Probably the main strength of the Classic Albums programs comes from the involvement of the folks behind the music and the insights they provide. In that vein, we always get fascinating dissections of the songs demonstrated in various ways. This usually means new performances, vintage clips, and audio taken from the original sessions.

That template holds true for Pet Sounds. We go to the mixing board to isolate elements of “Sloop John B”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Here Today” and “God Only Knows”. We see Jardine, Randi and Wilson play parts of songs at the piano, and we observe snippets of recording sessions.

I’ll admit this up-front: I’ve never grasped the supposed genius of Pet Sounds, and I’ve tried – dear Lord, how I’ve tried! I’ve given that record many, many plays and simply don’t get what makes it so special to some people. I think it’s a pleasant little album but not something that competes with the best rock records – I find more “genius” in the weakest Beatles album than I do in Pet Sounds.

This episode of Classic Albums doesn’t change my mind about Pet Sounds, but it does offer an entertaining, informative look at the record. As always, the show manages to delve into the nuts and bolts in a satisfying manner. I love the scenes that break down tracks at the mixing board, and the thoughts about how various song concepts originated add value as well.

I’m definitely pleased that so many of the surviving participants appear here. Two founding members – Carl and Dennis Wilson – died years ago, but we do find the other remaining Beach Boys. Along with key figures like the session players and Asher, we get a good mix of first-hand perspectives.

My only relative complaint: I think the show glosses over the allegations that Love fought against Pet Sounds, as he supposedly felt it messed with the band’s formula too much. Classic Albums nods toward this topic briefly but I think it gives us too superficial a view of an important area.

That small gripe aside, the Pet Sounds episode of Classic Albums usually proves to be another winner. It uses the series’ well-established structure to offer a rich, enjoyable look at the creation of a legendary record.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Classic Albums: Pet Sounds appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. With its mix of new interviews and archival footage, Pet Sounds looked good for this sort of program.

As always, I viewed the old material and the new shots with different expectations. The archival stuff jumped all over the place. It could look pretty good at times, but we also got some messy, clips. I didn’t have any real problems with those, however, as I figured they were about as good as we could get. In any case, the flaws of the old bits didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the program. They blended just fine and didn’t cause distractions.

Overall, the new footage offered a nice image. Sharpness was quite good, as virtually no softness impacted on the new footage. Those elements appeared concise and accurate. Colors were natural, and no notable defects affected the new footage. Blacks and shadows followed suit, as they seemed perfectly positive. Overall, the visuals were solid given the program’s parameters.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Pet Sounds, its reliance on music made it a little livelier than I’d expect from a documentary. Songs were a constant companion, and they spread to the side speakers. Stereo delineation was positive and the overall soundfield seemed acceptable, though the mix didn’t do much with the surrounds; those reinforced the material but didn’t add much.

Audio quality was solid. The new interview comments sounded just fine, as they offered perfectly acceptable clarity. No issues with edginess or intelligibility occurred, as they provided warm and natural tones. Music also demonstrated good range and definition, while the rare effects appeared decent. This mix did enough right to earn a “B-“.

In terms of extras, the disc includes Additional Interviews. The six clips run a total of 32 minutes, one second and offer comments from Beach Boys Bruce Johnston, Brian Wilson, and Mike Love, session musician Don Randi, recording engineer Bruce Botnick, music journalist/publicist Keith Altham, remix/re-mastering engineer Mark Linett, Capitol Records A&R executive Karl Engemann, lyricist Tony Asher, and singer Helen Shapiro.

These clips look at “Good Vibrations”, the lyrics to “God Only Knows”, recording “Caroline No” and “I Know There’s An Answer”, the band’s live shows, and mixing the album to mono. Of all these segments, the look at “Good Vibrations” provides the most substance. It didn’t make the final documentary because the song isn’t on Pet Sounds. Nonetheless, “Vibrations” remains inextricably linked to the album, so I’m glad these interviews examine it.

The other segments also add useful material. The song deconstructions fare best, but the other bits succeed as well. The “Additional Interviews” give us a good collection of thoughts.

With this look at Pet Sounds, the Classic Albums series lives up to its title, as records don’t get more legendary than the Beach Boys’ 1966 release. The documentary offers a lively, informative view of the album and its creation. The Blu-ray presents good picture and audio along with a few extra interviews. Pet Sounds becomes another winning entry in the Classic Albums line.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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