Just one look at the cover makes it obvious this isn't your average Beach Boys album.
Aug 21, 2009
Following on the heels of 1970's commercial failure, Sunflower, the Beach Boys returned with a new manager and a new sound. 1971's Surf’s Up may be the Beach Boy’s most creative album, completely abandoning the fun in the sun music that first brought them to prominence. Brian Wilson no longer took complete control of the band due to his declining mental state, which allowed the rest of the band to showcase their songwriting talents. Carl Wilson really stands out with his two tracks, “Long Promised Road” and “Feel Flows”. The latter shows off the Beach Boys’ edgier sound, even featuring somewhat of a guitar solo. Bruce Johnston also stands out with his only song on the album, “Disney Girls (1957)”. The one weak spot on the album is “Student Demonstration Time”, essentially a reworking of an old Leiber/Stoller song. Mike Love’s attempt at a blues song doesn’t work very well, but the rest of the album is well above average. Despite Brian Wilson’s problems at the time, his three compositions take center stage. “A Day In The Life Of A Tree” has manager Jack Rieley singing lead vocals, accompanied by a pump organ. It’s certainly an odd song, but it slowly starts to grow on you, and Rieley’s off-kilter voice works well with it. Next up is “‘Til I Die”, a haunting piece that was initially rejected by the band for being too depressing. It proves to be one of Brian Wilson’s best efforts, along with the final track, “Surf’s Up”. Originally intended to be on the SMiLE album, the song revolves around a piano melody, ending with various voices singing “child is father of the man”. The songs may not be as catchy as the band’s earlier stuff, and it doesn’t reach the greatness of Pet Sounds, but Surf’s Up is certainly one of the Beach Boys’ best albums.
Surf's Up is an album title for The Beach Boys based on a song with the same title written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for the abandoned 1966–1967 Beach Boys Smile album. The song was reworked and used as the title track for the fourteenth studio album by The Beach Boys, released in 1971. Smile, including the original version of the song 'Surf's Up,' was finally completed and released by Brian Wilson and his band in 2004.
In the fall of 1970, after the commercial failure of the Sunflower album, The Beach Boys hired Jack Rieley as their manager. Rieley, a DJ, had impressed the band with his falsified credentials (a supposed Peabody Award-winning stint as NBC bureau chief in Puerto Rico) and ideas on how to regain respect from American music fans and critics. His first initiative was to have The Beach Boys record songs with more socially aware lyrics. Rieley also insisted that the band officially appoint Carl Wilson "musical director" in recognition of the integral role he had played keeping the group together since 1967. Most importantly, he demanded the completion of "Surf's Up" for release by composer and erstwhile bandleader Brian Wilson, a song that had taken on mythical proportions in the underground press since the demise of Smile three years earlier. He also organized a guest appearance at a Grateful Dead concert in April 1971, further enhancing the Beach Boys' once-lacking hip credentials.