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Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Beach Boys "California Girls" Isolated Vocals

The Beach Boys image
Here's an absolute classic. It's the isolated vocals from The Beach Boy's all-time great hit "California Girls." The band was already big long before this song, but this 1965 song put them in a new stratosphere.

The song was written by Brian Wilson (who also produced) and lead singer Mike Love. The basic track took 44 takes by the studio band known as The Wrecking Crew (which included Leon Russel on piano here), recorded at Hollywood's famed United Western Recorders. The vocals were recorded about a month later in New York City at the equally famous CBS Columbia Square studios.

An interesting side note, this was the first song that Bruce Johnston sang on, having just replaced Brian Wilson in the road band. You can hear him on the falsetto parts on the outro. Here's what to listen for:

1. Mike Love's lead vocals are doubled and panned left and right. You don't hear the double so much on the final mix because they're fairly close (especially given the era this was recorded in).

2. There are two sets of harmonies that are spread slightly left and right. Although some parts are doubled in places, for the most part there are mostly different counterpoint parts that mesh together perfectly.

3. This is one of the best examples of the BBs trademark, which is the low bass vocal part. It's something that you rarely hear during background vocals of any era.

4. The harmonies aren't perfect. When you think of The Beach Boys, you think of impeccable vocals, but in this case, there are little inconsistencies throughout. There's a few wrong notes, a few minor sour ones, and some ragged releases, especially towards the end.

5. Listen through to the end, where you'll hear what took place after the fade of the final mix.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Delicious! Many younger Beach Boy fans may be unaware that the innovative Four Freshmen had a stellar influence in shaping the harmonic stylings pursued by the Boys. These tracks show that connection so clearly. If you love the Boys, pull up almost any track from the Freshman CD's, the real core force behind these unique and innovative harmonies that hallmark that era. Ken Dieffenbach


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