In a slightly odd but not unwelcome move, Capitol is apparently offering a free download of one track off of “Made in California” for those who pre-order the set on Amazon. It’s apparently open only to US orders. The process is a bit convoluted, as the download is not offered directly through Amazon but rather a website set up by Capitol, where you must enter you order number and other information and then receive a download link for the track. You can find it here: http://www.beachboysrewards.com
The track in question? You guessed it, the epic 1980 “Keepin’ the Summer Alive” outtake “Goin’ to the Beach.” It makes sense in light of Mike Love’s “Beach Boys” having added the song recently to their setlist, presented as a “new” song. This track is probably the closest thing to a “single” being released from the set.
I’ll leave it up to fans to decide if Capitol is taking the attitude of “what’s the least interesting “new” song on the set that we can throw to the fans as a bone?” or if they feel it’s a new “classic-in-the-making” celebrating summer and the beach. The song is not revealed prior to download, so some fans were comically disappointed when they expected something like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice to Live Again.”
As to the song itself, let’s take a look at the first material to surface from this set. Pictures appeared online a few months ago showing Love and his guitarist Scott Totten in the studio working on a “Mike Love” track, but folks from the Beach Boys archival team could be seen in the pictures. It was later revealed that “Goin’ to the Beach” was “finished” by Love in recent months. It is presumed that these pictures were taken at that session, but we of course don’t know for sure.
Listening to the track, it sounds like it’s largely the original 1979/1980 recording. Comparing it to the circulating backing track, the drums and most of the instrumentation sound the same. Love’s lead and the group backing vocals, not previously booted (apart from bits and pieces heard during the 1980 “Going Platinum” TV special focusing on the KTSA album), also sound like they are of a 1979 vintage. The only thing that sounds a bit out of place is some electric guitar overdubs; these are likely the additions made by Totten. I’m not sure if the track really needed overdubs, but it’s unclear what existed on the original multi-tracks. Love’s lead has too much reverb/echo for my taste, kind of murking the track up. Perhaps they were trying to make the original recording a little less dry and homogenous-sounding, as most of Bruce Johnston’s production works sounded during those sessions.
As for the song itself, that “Going Platinum” special detailed the song well and accurately. It’s about as simple and cliché-ridden as one could make a Beach Boys track. The music is catchy, if repetitive. Love’s vocal is energetic but still uninteresting. The lyrics are simple, even for a Love-penned beach song. The backing vocals are nice to hear; it’s nice to hear Carl in there. The song is ultimately what I always thought; it’s not particularly inspired but is a relatively catchy outtake that I’m glad to see released. It’s certainly not worse than some of the worst stuff the band was actually putting on albums in this era.
I’m also quite glad that the original recording is largely intact from what I can hear. This still sounds like 1979 Beach Boys, not a 2013 Mike Love/Scott Totten remake.