How many Beach Boys albums do you think there are where the two most well-known songs are led by Dennis Wilson and Al Jardine? On that fact alone, this release from March of 1965 breaks some new ground. This album is the 466th rated album of all-time on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
At first glance and first listen, this album may not stand out, but it is notable for the expanded orchestration and increased usage of new sounds, instruments and musicians as Brian Wilson continued his reach for a bigger and more robust presentation. Considered by some as an early concept album, the first side is primarily upbeat songs, with side two mostly filled by melancholy ballads.
As noted, the most recognizable song on this album is “Help Me Rhonda”. Even as a long-time Beach Boys fan, I always wondered who sang lead on this song, as it clearly wasn’t Mike Love or Brian Wilson. The gift of the internet helped me learn a year or two ago that Al Jardine sings lead on this song, and in addition to being a very popular hit for the band, I have always been intrigued by the fade-in, fade-out during the outro of this song. “Do You Wanna Dance”, with Dennis Wilson on lead, is the first song on side one, with the obvious answer to that question being “yes”. Just in case you aren’t sure, “Dance, Dance, Dance” with Mike & Brian leading the way, is yet another trademark Beach Boys hit, even though this album keeps moving forward with little reference to surfing or cars.
By this point in their career, Brian Wilson had already encountered his first significant mental health setback, and was primarily working in the studio while abstaining from touring with the band. At home in his lab, away from the crowds and masses that helped foster such anxiety and stress, Brian and the band continued to stretch boundaries and challenged his peers across the pond to do the same.