It’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of being hypercritical about something like “Made in California”, although I think some “fans” have more justified motives and complaints than others. There is an odd sense of entitlement that is about as off-putting as can be. The criticisms that I find most hilarious and misplaced are those that completely ignore any factors other than what *they* wanted. To want 6 CDs of all-outtakes is understandable; I feel the same way. But to blindly state that they should have put out 6, or 10, or 20 discs of nothing but outtakes is so beyond what is at all realistic, that such arguments are laughable.
On the other hand, I think some measured (if ultimately impotent) criticism is fine. Capitol and the group *are* making us buy the same freaking greatest hits yet again. Putting this set out this way is probably the only way we would have gotten the rarities, but that doesn’t negate the criticism that vast numbers of fans buying this set will be getting literally their 278th copy of “Surfin’ USA” and the like. “Made in California” is a compromise in so many ways, probably more than we’ll ever fully know. This is how it had to be get the set out. But there is an element in the set of compromise undermining elements of the set to the point that no particular type of fan is well served. This set is too large, and contains too much previous unreleased, sometimes arcane, specialized material, to appeal to a fan who maybe wants something more than a single or double-disc hits set. It of course goes without saying that any hardcore fan buying this set for the unreleased material already owns well over 50% of the material on the set, and that’s not even getting into bootlegs.
You ultimately have to look at this set as taking the opportunity of the band and the label wanting to market an anniversary boxed set product to sneak on some unreleased stuff for hardcore fans. It’s a bit like when your favorite old movie or TV show gets re-made into some awful modern flashy movie, but as a cash-in, the studio releases the old version you like for the first time. I didn’t particularly like Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes”, but it motivated Fox to put out the campy, obscure 1974 “Planet of the Apes” TV series on DVD for the first time as a cash-in/tie-in, which I liked. Tom Cruise’s “War of the Worlds” was kind of awful, but it spurred Paramount to put out the even more obscure, even more cheesy 80’s “War of the Worlds” TV series out on DVD. So in our case, Capitol and the group want a career-spanning set that shows their best work. I love that work actually, but I already own it in countless permutations. But the “bonus” that is slipping out on the back of those hits is the approximately 60 previously unreleased tracks. They wouldn’t have come out on their own, so we have to buy the box of cereal we don’t want or don’t need to get the cool toy that comes in the box. Far from ideal, but it’s the best we can hope for.
I do think Capitol and the group could, on a smalller, more humble scale, successfully market “archival” releases with studio outtakes and live shows, etc. to the hardcore fans. But the business machinations involved in the Beach Boys organization, and likely their aversion and penchant for making odd, arbitrary decisions, has dictated they won’t open up the archives and give the hardcore fans what they would pay for. It appears something was in the works or attempted a number of years ago with the “Beach Boys Central” website. But it literallly never got past the stage of a placeholder page promising nothing in particular.
Next up… A more detailed look at the tracklisting.