Tied in to coincide with his extended Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour (yep, it’s still going), this 18-track collection is a mixed blessing. Comprising a bunch of remastered solo cuts including the comeback Love And Mercy and the orchestrated Smile mash-up pieces Heroes And Villains and Surf’s Up, it’s hard to nail the exact point where this album works.
Individually great in places but disparate as a whole, the gems for a Wilson fanatic would be the specially composed Run James Run (not Pet Sounds) that features Matt Jardine’s harmony, the unreleased Some Sweet Day and the rescued Carl Wilson vocal track that powers Soul Searchin’, the most Beach Boys moment here. He’s also the subject of the poignant Lay Down Burden. Other highlights – Rio Grande, Melt Away and the Jeff Lynne production Let It Shine are fabulous, but so familiar they hardly pack much surprise.
As a live draw, Wilson is probably more in demand than ever and the versions of The First Time and This Isn’t Love from the Roxy Theatre capture him in his somewhat hesitant pomp, even if the old muse seems to be slightly ahead of his own delivery. The odd choice of Colors Of The Wind from the In The Key Of Disney project doesn’t make much sense – the rare Night Blooming Jasmine would have been a better boost.
Definitely one for the archivist, Playback fulfils its limited brief, but you’ll have to go back to Holland or Carl And The Passions to grab the real Beach Boys fix this doesn’t deliver.