My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: Surf’s Up was mostly recorded in mid-1971, but the song “Surf’s Up” was done during the Smile sessions and other recording took place in January of 1970. This album signaled a commercial comeback for The Beach Boys and featured Carl Wilson as the lead vocalist on many of the songs.
What I think:
While some of the topical songs on the album seem somewhat forced (they were in fact forced in an attempt to make the band relevant again), the whole is pretty good. The highlights of the album for me are the first three songs. “Don’t Go Near the Water” is one of those topical songs, but it’s about water… so it’s their territory. Plus, it’s got some great hooks. “Long Promised Road” is my favorite on the album, and I would put it towards the top of my Beach Boys song list. I love the way Carl Wilson sings the fast chorus part. It’s perfect ’70s pop. “Take a Load off Your Feet” is weird Brian Wilson in the vein of Smile and would have fit perfectly on that disc coming right after “Vegetables”.
From there though the album drops a bit. “Disney Girls (1957)” is a purposely sappy piece of nostalgia that is just too sugary. “Student Demonstration Time” and “Lookin’ at Tomoorrow” are a couple of the forced topical songs. “Student Demonstration Time” in fact sounds almost like they took the instrumental track of the electric version of “Revolution” and added new vocals and the sounds of sirens over it. Things do pick up a little, in a Brian Wilson trilogy at the end which isn’t too bad. “Surf’s Up”, the final track is one of those almost legendary Smile songs, but really never did much for me.
Finally, I love the cover and it’s representation of defeat for an album with the cheery name of Surf’s Up.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? It’s a pretty good album and as a fan of The Beach Boys, I think it is a great representation of the post-sixties version of the band.
Rating (Out of 5): 4
Surf’s Up Amazon Review (Out of 5): 4.5
Is this my first time hearing this album? Yes (179/226)
Percentage of Albums that are new to me: 79%