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The Beach Boys - The Greatest Hits Volume 3: Best Of The Brother Years
(Capitol)

In the wake of monumental achievements like "Good Vibrations" and Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys had a lot to live up to. For various reasons that have been well documented in print and in made-for-TV movies, the group never took it to the next level, the way their friendly competition The Beatles did, because leader Brian Wilson couldn't handle it all.

The music kept coming, though, and much of it remains worthwhile today. After the Boys were dropped by Capitol at the dawn of the 1970s, a more introspective sound emerged on albums such as Sunflower, Surf's Up, and Holland, released by Reprise on the band's own Brother Records imprint. This new 20-song collection of semi-hits spanning from 1970 to 1986 makes it clear that the band did have its moments during these years, despite a lack of leadership from Brian and a pervading sense that the band was no longer relevant.

Brian's haunting, moving "'Til I Die" is clearly one of his most personal songs, and one of his best ever. Other standout Brian contributions here include the classic burst of pop in "This Whole World" and the ambitiously intricate "Surf's Up." But the slow pace of Brian's muse in these years opened the door for the rest of the band to bring its ideas to the forefront. Carl took a leadership role, handling a lot of the production duties and penning tunes like "The Trader" and the introspective "Long Promised Road." This period also featured the most memorable song Bruce Johnston ever brought to the band, "Disney Girls," and Al Jardine tunes like "California Saga."

Concurrently, The Beach Boys, along with Elvis in the '70s, became the first hugely successful nostalgia acts in rock history. As time went on, inspiration waned, and the band relied on covers of '50s warhorses like "Rock And Roll Music" and "Peggy Sue" to butter its bread, the former actually becoming their only top 10 hit in this period. In the '80s Dennis drowned, Brian was excluded from their comeback hit "Kokomo" (not included here), and Mike Love remained his annoying self. Now, as various sham versions of The Beach Boys are preposterously peddled around, Best Of The Brother Years shines a spotlight on a little-recognized period of forgotten glory.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 2000