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Throwback Sunday: The Beach Boys - Friends

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The Beach Boys - Friends

Released: June 24, 1968

>Psychedelic Pop, Sunshine Pop, Psychedelic Rock, Folk

Score: B+

Listen to: “Friends”

Whenever people think of the Beach Boys, they don’t often think of their works outside of their early surf rock material, Pet Sounds or “Kokomo.” It’s sad that a lot of The Beach Boys’ late 60s and early 70s albums are often forgotten in the chaos that followed the abortion of Smile, but the Beach Boys still put out a lot of terrific material. Friends stands as a transition point in their career. This is the last album before creative leader Brian Wilson began to make significantly less contributions for the band due to his drug use and mental problems. The previous album, Wild Honey, saw the rise of Carl Wilson as a singer and songwriter in the band, and this record sees the budding Dennis Wilson begin to make contributions as well, a small foreshadowing of his future contributions to the band in the 70s. 

Friends was very panned in it’s time, as the upbeat, mellow and careless nature of the music which was passed off as irrelevant in the tense political climate of the late 60s. However, this wasn’t a bad record in any way, in fact, it is a very good record. Musically, it falls somewhere close to the poppy nature of Pet Sounds, but leaning more towards the psychedelia and instrumentation of Smile rather than baroque pop. The songs are cheerfully happy, and it’s truly a mood-lifter of an album. 

The album opens with the brief “Meant for You,” which quickly gives way for the terrific title track. This is a very chilled out track, a prime example of what the album’s like. Carl Wilson does a fantastic job, singing, while its very simple movements have quite a calming effect. Other highlights are tracks like “Wake the World” and “Be Here in the Morning,” nice, cheerful morning day songs. The sunny “When a Man Needs a Woman,” is also a great track, where Brian Wilson cheerfully sings about family to his child, who was a bun in the oven at the time. The second half of the album has the brief “Anna Lee, the Healer,” and Dennis Wilson tracks “Little Bird” and “Be Still,” the former of which sounds like something right out of Sunflower. There’s the bossa nova “Busy Doin’ Nothin’,” in which Brian Wilson sings about going through a typical day. The instrumental “Diamond Head” is more complex than the rest of the album, with a wider array of instrumentation, but it delivers the same “chilled out” effect, and it’s a nice little beachy song. The album closes with “Transcendental Meditation,” a short ditty inspired by Mike Love’s stay with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. 

Friends is great, consistent and catchy. It’s rather short for an LP, however, clocking in at a mere 25 minutes. This goes along with the fact that a lot of the songs could have benefited from some elaboration. This is still a terrific listen, and definitely one of this band’s most under-appreciated albums. Give it a listen, if you have the time, this record is sure to lift your spirits. B+

Album Tracks (Highlights in Bold):

1. Meant for You

2. Friends

3. Wake the World

4. Be Here in the Morning

5. When a Man Needs a Woman

6. Passing By

7. Anna Lee, the Healer

8. Little Bird

9. Be Still

10. Busy Doin’ Nothin’

11. Diamond Head

12. Transcendental Meditation

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