Pet Sounds: The Greatest Album of the Twentieth Century
Book by Kingsley Abbot
Review by Ronnie

"My premise was a simple one: to write a book about the best pop album of the twentieth century." –
-Author's own premise in the intro to the book.

Although a "simple" objective, it is also a large bill to fill. When it comes to the PET SOUNDS album, expectations are high. To be thorough, you've got to have a "before, during and after" in regards to PET SOUNDS. Abbott gives the reader a concise, 19 page "intro" which covers the biography of the Wilson's and a history of the Beach Boys leading up to the album. But, what about the “during and after” of PET SOUNDS?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the “during”, Kingley Abbott is a little too concise when it comes to such chapters as: "the writing of Pet Sounds" (a mere 10 pages), "instrumental tracks" (18 pages), "vocal sessions (8 pages) and "the finished album" (10 pages). I expected a little bit more in these sections, because part of the allure of PET SOUNDS is "how and why it happened"! For example, when I saw Brian perform Pet Sounds live, he explained that he wrote "Pet Sounds" with a James Bond film in mind. This piqued my curiosity as I wanted to find more about this little fact. Did "Let's Go Away For Awhile" originally have vocals? If so, why weren't they used? Maybe I expected more of a song-by-song analysis. However, "the album arrives" gives a fascinating account of how the album was recieved in both America and England.

One of the best parts of the book is its coverage of the post-PET SOUNDS Brian Wilson. Brian's released (as well as unreleased) solo albums, the release of the PET SOUNDS SESSION box set, the PET SOUNDS symphonic tour and the 2001 TNT Tribute to Brian Wilson show are all covered. This book preceded the recent PET SOUNDS LIVE CD, since as it was going to press, Brian's London dates had just been announced for January of 2002.

The author also talks about the wealth of written testaments that he received on PET SOUNDS. Thankfully, he doesn't go overboard and list testament after testament. He lists both the well known and the best-stated tributes. I found a few of the appendix sections very interesting and a few I found superfluous to the book. There are very cool sections on the Theremin and the chart history of the album. I found the "covers of Pet Sounds songs" and "Pet Sounds influenced works" to be a little bit tedious. Also, the entire song order of the PET SOUNDS SESSIONS box set is listed in appendix 4....but why?!

Despite my few complaints about the content, I still feel the book is vital to Beach Boys fans. But what about just the casual rock 'n roll fan? For this person, I would first recommend David Leaf's excellent "The Beach Boys and the California Myth" as a great intro to the Beach Boys. All in all, “THE BEACH BOYS PET SOUNDS: THE GREATEST ALBUM OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY” balances between being a loving tribute, historical essay and collection of interesting factoids. It succeeds in its premise, providing at entertaining book on PET SOUNDS, which the Beach Boys fanatic will enjoy. My recommendation? Read this book while listening on the headphones to the PET SOUNDS SESSIONS box set!

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