The Beach Boys’ spellbinding 1971 song “Feel Flows” may be the most famous obscure song in the band’s catalogue. Cameron Crowe adopted it for the closing credits of his coming-of-age film Almost Famous (soon to receive a mega-expansion on CD and vinyl), and it’s also featured on the soundtrack to the new Apple Music documentary 1971. The Mike Love-led Beach Boys are currently performing on the Feel Flows Tour, and now the haunting 50-year-old tune is lending its title to a hotly anticipated box set that is no longer an “open secret.”
On July 30, Capitol Records and UMe will release Feel Flows: The Sunflower and Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971. This hardcover book-style set, to be released in 5-CD, 4-LP (standard black and translucent blue/translucent gold), 2-LP, and 2-CD editions (as well as digitally), explores in depth what’s perhaps the most adventurous and experimental period in the Beach Boys’ long history. The 5-CD set features fully remastered versions of the original Sunflower (1970) and Surf’s Up (1971) albums – the band’s first two post-Capitol LPs as originally issued Brother Records via Reprise – plus copious outtakes, live recordings, alternate takes and mixes, and more for a total of 133 tracks. Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston were all coming into their own within the group even as Brian Wilson was closing out the band’s “golden age” with stunning songs every bit the equal of his prodigious 1960s output.
The first CD of the box has the remastered Sunflower plus a radio spot, six live performances of the album’s songs (spanning 1971-1988) and eight bonus tracks including the original 1969 single version of the all-too-unheralded classic “Break Away” (co-written by Brian and his father Murry Wilson), a new stereo mix of “Cotton Fields,” additional new mixes of deep cuts familiar to BBs fans such as “Good Time,” “Susie Cincinnati,” and “San Miguel,” and the official debut of the 1969 mix of “Loop De Loop.”
The second disc follows the same format for the remastered Surf’s Up, adding a radio spot, five 1971-1993 live cuts, and a clutch of bonus tracks. The original version of “Big Sur” as well as the Boys’ cover of Jacques Brel and Rod McKuen’s “Seasons in the Sun,” and Brian’s offbeat, horror-aping “My Solution” all make their official debuts. A cover of Don Goldberg’s “Sweet and Bitter” makes its first appearance anywhere. The disc also includes both sides of Dennis Wilson and Rumbo’s rare 1970 single “Sound of Free” b/w “Lady (Fallin’ in Love),” with the latter mix making its official CD debut.
CD 3 digs into The Sunflower Sessions (29 tracks) with previously unissued a cappella mixes, session highlights, and backing tracks. Among them is an extended take of “This Whole World,” an early 1969 mix of the rocking “Slip on Through,” and a new mix of the shimmering “Cool, Cool Water.” CD 4 encompasses The Surf’s Up Sessions (18 tracks plus six bonus tracks). The bonus material is once again choice: the never-before-heard “Awake” (likely the Floyd Tucker song recorded by American Spring with a Brian Wilson arrangement), the official debut of “It’s a New Day,” new mixes of “I Just Got My Pay,” “Walkin’,” and “When Girls Get Together,” the previously unreleased outtake “Baby, Baby,” an extended version of Dennis Wilson’s sublime “(Wouldn’t It Be Nice to) Live Again,” and a long version with alternate lyrics of Brian’s devastatingly beautiful “Til I Die.”
The fifth and final disc in the box has more material sure to set any Beach Boys fan’s pulse racing, including the premiere (bootleg or otherwise) of “Before,” “Behold the Night,” “Hawaiian Dream,” and Brian and David Sandler’s “It’s Natural.” CD 5 also has alternates and isolated mixes plus a demo and new mix of Murry Wilson and Rick Henn’s “Won’t You Tell Me,” a demo of Brian’s “Back Home,” the previously unreleased mix/official CD debut of “Carnival (Over the Waves),” and a piano demo of “Til I Die.”
The 2-LP, 2-CD, and 4-LP iterations have some variations from the 5-CD box set (which will undoubtedly lead some collectors to purchase multiple configurations). The long “(Wouldn’t It Be Nice to) Live Again” appears to be presented in edited form on the 2CD and 4LP sets (4:35 vs. 6:50 on the 5CD). It appears that the “All of My Love/Ecology” medley, “Sweet and Bitter,” and “Awake” all also have shorter running times on the vinyl presentations. There are also some other title discrepancies with the new stereo mixes of “Cotton Fields” and “When Girls Get Together.” The former is labeled 2020 Stereo Mix on the vinyl and 2019 on the CD; the latter is labeled 2019 Stereo Mix on the vinyl and 2020 on the CD. It’s likely that these have just been misidentified and the mixes are one in the same.
Produced by Mark Linett and Alan Boyd, Feel Flows has a 48-page booklet featuring photos, memorabilia images, and a new essay by Howie Edelson incorporating new and archival interviews with the band members.