In many ways, the Beach Boys have been the most American band in the history of rock & roll, merging cars, surfboards, endless summer days and nights, Chuck Berry
riffs, Four Freshmen
harmonies, and a vision of California as a kind of never-aging paradise into one of the most recognizable sounds in pop music. Their back catalog has never really been given a real shine-up, though, so it's a pleasure to see that Capitol Records is finally doing that in 2012 to honor the 50th anniversary of the band's formation. This two-disc, 50-track set compiles most of the band's hits and important album tracks, and also features many selections from the band's later years, a period many Beach Boys compilations often bypass, all of which makes this the best compilation of this important band currently available. One can quibble about things that aren't here, like Brian Wilson
's last truly great studio production, "Breakaway," for instance, or things that are here, like the 2012 reunion single "That's Why God Made the Radio," but it's hard to argue with the breadth of this set. The sequencing seems a bit random (is it really wise to follow "California Girls" with its near cousin "Do It Again"), but having lesser-known tracks here like "Wendy," "All Summer Long," "You're So Good to Me," "This Whole World," "All This Is That," and "Friends" pretty much sells the deal. Short of getting all of the band's albums, or the box set Good Vibrations
, this set presents more of the fascinating Beach Boys recording story than anything else out there.