Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions (1969-1971) (5-CD Set)

The Beach Boys

Capitol, 2021


REVIEW BY: David Bowling


I have been waiting for 50 years, more or less, for this release. Two of the Beach Boys’ best and most underappreciated albums have reached the half-century mark, and Sunflower and Surf’s Up have now returned as part of a 5-CD, 135-track box set titled Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions (1969-1971).

In addition to the two original albums, this release includes a lot of unreleased material. The only issue I have with the set is that there are a number of tracks not associated with the original sessions. Some tracks reach back to their final recordings of the Capitol label era, while some of the live material reaches into the future. It is not an issue of quality but of placement. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Discs one and two contain the two original albums. Each disc also contains extra material. Live versions of “This Whole World,” “Add Some Music To Your Day.” “Susie Cincinnati,” “It’s About Time,” and “Riot In Cell Block 9” add some new textures to these rarely performed songs as they are presented without studio enhancements. The live tracks keep coming on the second disc with the underrated “Student Demonstration Time,” the gentle “Disney Girls,” “Long Promised Road,” and the great “Surf’s Up.” Also included are a stereo version of “Cottonfields,” the single release of “Break Away,” and a goofy take on “Loop De Loop.”

The final three discs are for hard core Beach Boys fans and even then, you will have to sift through a huge number of tracks to find the gems. The backing tracks—and there are a lot of them—are included for a complete historical record of the sessions but are not really meant for regular listening.

The gems are found in the a capella song tracks. The Beach Boys sound has always centered around the vocals and when you eliminate the instrumental component, what remains is the purity of the voices. Highlights include “In Cotton Fields,” “Add Some Music To Your Day,” “Don’t Go Near The Water,” “Til I Die,” and “Marcella.”

Finally, the fifth disc contains 27 unreleased and alternative tracks. In most cases, these songs were not included on the original albums for a reason, but “Hawaiian Dream” is worth seeking out, as is the alternate version of “Add Some Music To Your Day” with different lyrics.

Feel Flows: The Sunflower And Surf’s Up Sessions 1961-1971 is a well-done box set. Two underappreciated and sometimes forgotten albums are resurrected in pristine condition and form the center of the release, as they take their place among the better albums of the Beach Boys’ career.

Rating: A-

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