“I figure no one is educated musically ‘til they’ve heard [Pet Sounds],” Paul McCartney once said of The Beach Boys’ classic, released 45 years and one week ago on May 16, 1966. George Martin concurred: “Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn’t have happened.” Brian Wilson poured his musical heart into the album’s thirteen tracks; in less than thirty-five minutes, he delivered an entire spectrum of emotions in a song cycle of striking beauty and sensitivity. Pet Sounds may initially have been conceived by Wilson as an answer to The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, but it functions as an elegy to lost innocence (“Caroline, No”), a hope for the promise of brighter days ahead (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”) and an expression of one young man’s innermost soul laid bare (“I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” “That’s Not Me,” “You Still Believe in Me”) in such a way that it was universal. Oh yeah, and it just might have the greatest pop love song ever written (“God Only Knows”) which begins with a shocking lyrical conceit: “I may not always love you…” Wilson and lyricist Tony Asher captured the zeitgeist on Pet Sounds, and every few years have brought another reissue of the album which initially was ahead of its time. (It wasn’t certified platinum until early 2000, and only rose as far as No. 10 on the Billboard album chart at the time of its original release.) Now, in the summer of SMiLE, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has announced a new Pet Sounds, this time on limited edition hybrid stereo SACD, just in time for that 45th anniversary.
Pet Sounds made its first appearance on American CD in 1990 in mono with three bonus tracks making their debuts. This was followed in 1997 by the lavish The Pet Sounds Sessions, including the mono album, the first-ever true stereo mix and three discs of session material. The stereo mix reappeared on CD in 1999 and again in 2001 with the mono mix and a bonus track. It was also in 2001 that a DVD-Audio disc arrived with the album playable in advanced resolution surround, mono and stereo. 2006 brought the CD/DVD 40th Anniversary edition and now in 2011, MFSL releases the true stereo mix in the SACD format.
As producer, Brian Wilson intended Pet Sounds for mono release in 1966. In engineer Mark Linett’s words, “Brian felt that making records in mono allowed the producer to present the record exactly as he wanted it heard, without any interference from the listener’s stereo which could be set up in many different ways that might affect the sound…producers deliberately mixed for their main market [mono car radios].” Capitol did issue the LP in “Duophonic” in 1966, an electronic process that simulated stereo. In 1997, Wilson and Linett unveiled the first true stereo mix of Pet Sounds for the Sessions box set. This mix has been utilized and fully remastered by MFSL for the new SACD. Expect the textured harmonies of Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston to sparkle.
Mobile Fidelity’s SACD is a hybrid disc and therefore is playable on all CD players. It restores the original track listing, containing no bonus material. A release date hasn’t yet been set in stone but the title is available now for pre-order at Music Direct for $29.99. (The MFSL treatment was promised last year for The Beach Boys’ Today!, from 1965, but that release never materialized. Perhaps it will arrive in the wake of Pet Sounds.) Hit the jump for the pre-order link, track listing and Music Direct’s press release!
No album comes more vetted than the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Universally renowned for its groundbreaking songs, majestic arrangements, landmark production, emotional lyrics, and bold creativity the 1966 record forever altered the pop-culture landscape and how everyone experiences music. Hailed not only by the international press, the set also remains prized for its impact on countless artists that changed their approach after beholding its sheer scope and genius. Household-name musicians including Paul McCartney, Elton John, Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, and Bob Dylan cite Pet Sounds as being among their favorite LPs and for influencing their direction. Now, it’s time you heard the best-possible version ever made available.
Mastered from the original stereo mixes executed by Brian Wilson and Mark Linett, the very same that the pair mixed from the original 1966 multi-track recordings to two-track analog tape, Pet Sounds has never sounded better in any format. Recognizing the stature and importance of the album—particularly to audiophiles and Beach Boys fanatics—Mobile Fidelity engineers treated this project with utmost reverence, extracting previously buried information and obscured details that add to the elaborate music’s meaning, enjoyment, mood, and breadth.
Famous for its use of multiple layers of unorthodox instrumentation, harmony-based choruses, ensemble refrains, blended reverberation, and recurring echo, the record’s sonic pastiches arrive with unrivaled airiness, immediacy, transparency, width, and depth. Even those that swear by the mono version will find their minds (and heads) blown. Enhanced, too, are Brian and Carl Wilson’s spiritually informed high-register vocal performances, now unbound by any connection to artificial ceilings or veiled frequencies. Prepare to swoon.
Encompassing psychedelic, pop, baroque, and even prog-rock styles, and distinguished with eminently personal lyrics that delve into themes of love, innocence, hope, and loneliness like few records before or since, Pet Sounds’ brilliance cannot be exaggerated. Neither can its sway. Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson weaves organs, harpsichords, Theremins, dog whistles, bells, exotic strings, and just about every other imaginable sound effect amidst traditional instrumentation in sculpting rich symphonies marked by some of the most innovative, heartbreaking melodies ever composed. Flush with multi-colored soundscapes, the lush arrangements open up to seemingly impossible worlds of sound that still leave listeners agog.
It’s easy to go on at length about Pet Sounds’ legacy—the masterwork inspired the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, remains the touchstone for all serious pop music, and stands as a standard-bearer of near-perfect record production—but we’d rather steer you to securing this remastered collectable edition and hearing what’s in store. Mobile Fidelity has never been prouder to put its stamp on a classic. So go ahead, rediscover the monument that is Pet Sounds.
You can order Pet Sounds on SACD below at Amazon.com!
The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (Capitol LP T-2458, 1966 – reissued Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, 2011)
- Wouldn't It Be Nice
- You Still Believe In Me
- That's Not Me
- Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
- I'm Waiting For The Day
- Let's Go Away For Awhile
- Sloop John B
- God Only Knows
- I Know There's An Answer
- Here Today
- I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
- Pet Sounds
- Caroline No
Stereo mix first released on The Pet Sounds Sessions, Capitol C2 7243 8 37662 2, 1997
Bill B says
Damn, sounds like I'll have to buy this album AGAIN.
Will this be in 5.1 surround sound?
Joe Marchese says
Like most MFSL SACDs, Pet Sounds will be stereo-only. I have long wished, though, that MFSL would embrace 5.1! Maybe one day...
David, UK says
You have "long wished" MFSL would embrace 5.1? There are loads of MFSL hybrid SACDs with a 5.1 mix currently available. Mainly in the Classical genre, but they have embraced 5.1 since the early 2000s.
Joe Marchese says
Indeed, I *have* long wished MFSL would embrace 5.1. The label's mainstream pop and rock CDs are predominantly stereo-only.
David, UK says
I can't wait. Unfortunately I have already seen lots of ignorant comments around the Net, like "Oh no, not again! I already have this in 5 different issues! Surely we don't need ANOTHER one!"
But that massively misses the point: as great as the music on this album undoubtedly is - the sonic reproduction has always been pretty bad. DCC and Audio Fidelity did the best they could with the original muddy, cluttered mono mix. The DVD-A project did a fantastic job of painstakingly creating new stereo and 5.1 mixes from the various disconnected multitracks - but then mastered it so unbearably bright and tinny that dogs howl within a 5-mile radius of the DVD-A being played. The 40th anniversary CD issue is so nasty I swear my ears actually bled the first and only time I played it.
So we absolutely DO need another issue of Pet Sounds. And whilst MFSL aren't my number one choice of audiophile labels, I am absolutely certain that their issue will blow all others away.
Sorry, the mono mix is the canonical mix. Too much is missing from the original multitracks to make the stereo version anything more than a remake.