Liner Note Authors: Kingsley Abbott; Harvey Williams; Mick Patrick.
Illustrators: Martin Roberts; Harvey Williams; Mick Patrick.
Brian Wilson famously abandoned the road for the studio in 1965, but in the years prior to that transition he was already something of a studio rat, spending a fair amount of time writing for (and sometimes producing) artists outside of the Beach Boys. He worked with Jan Berry, produced and composed for the female surf rock trio the Honeys (he would marry Marilyn Rovell), and tried to land songs with Phil Spector, but it wouldn't be until late 1964 that the covers came quickly, not coincidentally coinciding with his progression as a composer. Most of the songs on Ace's 2015 compilation, Here Today! The Songs of Brian Wilson -- a 25-track collection of covers -- date from that purple patch from the mid-'60s, and include many songs cherry-picked from the excellent Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) records -- recovered roughly at the same time, plus a selection of tunes he gave away during that era and a suite of songs from Pet Sounds that were covered between 1967 and 1991. Despite the opening ringer of "Do You Have Any Regrets" -- a song from the abandoned 1991 Sweet Insanity album covered by Darain Sahanaja, the lead singer of the Wondermints, a group which proved instrumental in the 21st century revival of Smile -- and "Surf City," everything here dates from between 1964 and 1966, which is appropriate, as those three years were Brian Wilson's golden age. Here Today! isn't so much a primary text for that era as a useful, often delightful, supplement, adding color and texture to a well-known story. Often, this shading arrives through alternate versions of songs the Beach Boys first cut -- Bobby Vee does "Here Today," Tony Rivers & the Castaways do "The Girl from New York City," Basil Swift & the Seegrams tackle "Farmer's Daughter" -- and if these versions don't reimagine the originals, they are nevertheless a testament to the studio craft of Los Angeles in the mid-'60s. As much as Wilson's writing is indelible -- he wrote few better songs than "Guess I'm Dumb," here in a relatively rare, slightly speedier version by Johnny Wells, not Glen Campbell -- it's the overall feel of Here Today! that truly impresses: this was music made when working in the studio with a large cast of supporting musicians was the norm, and it's all the more glorious for that. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine