When the discussion of the greatest album of all times breaks out a party, many people will chime in, some people will walk away, and at least one guy will ask, “what’s an album?” Inevitably, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds will be brought up in the discussion. If it’s not, you’re at the wrong party.
With Pet Sounds celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it seems appropriate that Eagle Rock Entertainment would release the definitive authorized story of the album on September 23rd as part of its Classic Albums collection on Blu-ray and DVD.
Containing an additional 30 minutes of material that was not included in the broadcast version, this release is full of amazing behind-the-scenes footage, in-depth interviews, and of course, great, but far too, few clips of actual performances. What it lacks is continuity.
If I was in the aforementioned conversation regarding greatest albums of all time, I could make a good argument for Pet Sounds, as it certainly was innovative and ahead of its time. The challenge here is that Eagle Rock Entertainment uses the word “story” multiple times in its description of the contents found on the single-disc release. Unfortunately, it is more of a collection of clips rather than a cogent story. A narrator guiding us on the journey would have helped to bring the various pieces together
We’re given some back story on the legendary group, and an effort is made to establish their roots in music and that which influenced them when they started and would eventually impact Pet Sounds. What is frustrating is that the clips tend to jump around and different band members are featured with no real information on the transition of membership other than Brian deciding to stop touring. This proves to be distracting throughout the “story” and prevents this project from standing on its own.
Where success is truly reached here is in communicating how Pet Sounds went well beyond the talent of Brian Wilson. Yes, it clearly started with Brian, but we see him not only being an amazing collaborative artist, but also one willing to give credit and accolades to others. This shows Brian to be more than a creator; it shows him to be a truly generous person, as he works with many others to create the intricacies that leads to the depth found in Pet Sounds.
With so many clips of people that are given little introduction, and too much time given to technical aspects, it’s easy to get lost here, but the involvement of the surviving members of the group always manages to pull the viewer back. Arguably, the most powerful part of this documentary are two brief clips of Dennis talking about Brian that are sure to bring emotion to any Beach Boys fan.
Recommendation: Any true fan will eventually own this. It’s a must. For those not as familiar with the Beach Boys and their history, it’s too disjointed to stand on its own and will garner more questions than accolades.
A narrator and interviewer would have helped to pull it together. John Stamos comes to mind as a candidate since he is a recognizable performer who has a history with the Beach Boys. Sadly, I was not given the opportunity to provide my input prior to the completion of the project. “God Only Knows” how good it might have been had the producers reached out.