Pet Sounds

I’m currently listening to Brian Wilson’s extraordinary “teenage symphony to God”, the brilliant ‘Pet Sounds’, which I think must be very favourite album ever.

The quality of songs on the album is remarkable, with one masterpiece following another.

And the (unnamed) session musicians used were extraordinary. As is customary, they’re not listed, but I know that Brian Wilson, the band’s bass guitarist, chose Carole Kaye (known in the trade as “the first lady of bass”) to play throughout.

On hearing the album, Paul McCartney (another bassist) was said to be shocked at what Brian Wilson had achieved. He resolved that the next Beatles album would have to ‘top’ it, and so in 1967 we got ‘Sergeant Pepper’.

There’s no need to look for a ‘supercut’ of ‘Pet Spounds’, just make sure that you get the US-pressed Capitol record.

Rant over!

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Err? What about Lyle Ritz and Ray Pohlman on bass.

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I don’t think that either of those gentlemen would want the title conferred on Carole Kaye!

Dear graham55,

Pet Sounds was my first and most-treasured LP, bought not long after its release. Actually, my older sister and I bought it between us and, as she was already working and I was but a schoolboy, we had different amounts of cash to contribute towards its purchase. Consequently, technically, I owned only two tracks of the album!

Nvertheless, if all else was washed away from the desert island, this is the one I would cling to (I know that it’s an LP and Desert Island Discs deals only with single tracks, but you get my point!).

Brian Wilson was only 23 when he created this music and, to me, this must surely define the word “genius”. In this sense, music is a wonderful leveller. For anything we older blokes might have acheived in life, we’ll never do anything even remotely as good as this.

I have heard these songs thousands of times and I’m still moved every time. On being reminded of it by you, I have just put on the album and I’ve got that old feeling on hearing “Wouldn’t it be Nice” and, although I have no desire to be older, I’m still deeply moved by the track’s emotion - and there’s plenty more.

Thanks for reminding me. Enough typing - just listen.

Best wishes,

Brian D.

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Thank you, Brian, I am touched by your reply. Your deep affection for this extraordinary music is clear.

I cannot get over how well recorded this record is. I am left wondering if recording engineers have learned anything at all in the 50 years plus, since this was recorded.

The most recent LP that I have bought, by Ese And The Vooduu People, is no better than this, despite its claims to superior analogue recording techniques.

(Apologies to you, Kevin, if you’re reading. I have no intention of demeaning the effort put in by Essence and her bandmates!)

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Yep Carole liked playing the upper registers and Lyle filled the low end with acoustic bass.

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Thank you- your post has inspired to me put it on - what a lovely album.

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A lovely old Ittok! Have I asked before if it has been fettled at all recently?

I believe that Linn will no longer service the Ittok, but Audio Origami (or some other tonearm specialist) has the equipment and spare parts do so.

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It’s hasn’t been fettled as such- but Peter Swain has checked it over a few times and pronounced it to be in good health.
Thanks for the heads up on servicing and parts.

A purist would say that the ‘proper’ version of ‘Pet Sounds’ is the mono mix.

Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear (as a result of childhood beatings by his sadistic father Murray), so always mixed the early Beach Boys albums in mono sound.

I tried once to compare the mono and stereo mixes of the album, but I could hear virtually no difference.

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I had the esteemed Mr Swain with me last week to install my second LP12/ARO turntable combination. (Greedy, I know!)

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Second! Wow- I wouldn’t get away with that one…

It’s an amazing album, as you say, from to start to finish. Every aspect of it is quite wonderful.

When I was very young, I adored the vocal melodies most of all. Now several decades later, I still do of course, but also luxuriate in how Brian blends not only the voices into stacks and subtle harmonies (hard to discern which voice is singing which part sometimes), but how he crafts and melds the seemingly disparate instruments together, too.

I love the vocal only and the instrumental mixes equally, but of course the celestial is fully achieved when heard as a whole piece.

One thing I would say, there is, to my ears, a lot of differences between the mono and stereo mixes, right from the off Wouldn’t It Be Nice is a lot fuller and spread out in stereo, but in mono that harmonic blending of all the elements is preferable for me. It seems closer to Brian’s intention of creating a fusion of sound, a composite sound world.

My favourite CD is the Steve Hoffman mastered DCC gold disc, and my favourite vinyl is the one that came with both the US and Canadian Carl & The Passions album. Both in glorious mono.

Shout out too for the 50th anniversary stereo on vinyl, and the 1996 CD stereo created for the 30th anniversary box.

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I bought a 4CD box, about 20 years ago, which tried to show a breakdown of how ‘Pet Sounds’ was recorded and mixed. It had things like just vocal parts, and individual and sets of instruments.

I must look it out and listen again some time…

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1995 I discovered Pet Sounds, having seen it top or close to top of Best Albums lists. I was back in the shop the next day, questioning what else is there. Since then I’ve collected so many albums, books, videos etc of all things Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys…there are gems on all the albums. And we’ve seen Brian Wilson 9 times since 2002. The first time at the Royal Festival Hall was described by some of the press as a spiritual experience. Do delve into the rest of catalogue, so much to discover.

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What claims are they @graham55? I don’t remember comparing the sound on that Ese LP to Pet Sounds, or indeed any other album by anyone else.

I love Pet Sounds by the way. I might play it later!

Didn’t Glen Campbell play guitar on Pet sounds? He was part of the famous “Wrecking crew” and I beleive he also toured with the Beach Boys as a band member.

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Yes, see @mikehughescq post above.

The musicians on each track are listed there.

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