RECORDS / New Releases

The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations (Capitol, CD/tape). We now know that what made the Beach Boys so great was Brian Wilson's pain: the anguish of a lonely boy who didn't know how to grow up became the secret ingredient of 'Surfer Girl', 'Wendy', 'Don't Worry Baby' and 'Caroline, No', adding a mysterious depth to what in the hands of any other group would have remained nothing more than an evanescent celebration of teenage fun, fun, fun. Here are six CDs of their best stuff, from a rehearsal of their first hit, 1961's 'Surfin' ', to 1988's million-selling 'Kokomo', an imitation of Wilson recorded after his acrimonious departure. Collectors will enjoy the many curiosities and rarities, like a 75-minute disc of backing tracks, demos, unreleased live versions and radio ads. The compilers do their best to present the material from the legendary unedited Smile sessions to best advantage (including as full a version of 'Heroes and Villains' as we are ever likely to get), but for completeness they can't match the now-familiar bootleg; anyway, time and distance are showing that Smile was going to fall short of its predecessor, Pet Sounds, which remains Wilson's long-form masterpiece. Of course, everyone will have a favourite omission; mine is 'Girls on the Beach'. Richard Williams

Bjork: Debut (One Little Indian, LP/CD/ tape). There's never been any doubt that erstwhile Sugarcube Bjork Gudmundsdottir has an extraordinary voice, but responses to it have always differed violently. Is it as bracing as a freshly melted glacier, or as annoying as an unexpected bone in your cod? Either way, her first solo album is a major achievement. Together with Soul II Soul producer Nellee Hooper - who here sets out his stall as the Nelson Riddle of the Nineties - she has fashioned an amazing array of contrasting arrangements, whose musical diversity never interferes with their clarity of vision. So the timeless torch-song sparkle of 'Like Someone in Love' (with harp accompaniment from former Holiday and Sinatra sideman Corky Hale) leads smoothly into the sinuous pop-funk squawk of 'Big Time Sensuality'. The baroque brass finale, 'The Anchor Song', is the most striking thing she's done. Ben Thompson

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