The Pet Sounds Sessions

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The Pet Sounds Sessions
Box set by
ReleasedNovember 4, 1997 (1997-11-04)
RecordedJuly 1965 (1965-07)–April 1966 (1966-04)
ProducerBrian Wilson (original recordings)
CompilerDavid Leaf, Mark Linett, Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys chronology
Stars and Stripes Vol. 1
The Pet Sounds Sessions
Endless Harmony Soundtrack
Singles from The Pet Sounds Sessions

The Pet Sounds Sessions is a 4-CD box set released in 1997 which compiles tracks from the Beach Boys' 11th studio album Pet Sounds (1966) and its 1965–66 recording sessions. The entire album is included in its original mono mix, as well as a specially-created digital stereo mix. The set also contains instrumental tracks, vocals-only tracks, alternate mixes, and edited highlights from the recording sessions for many of the album's songs, along with several tracks not included on the album.

The box set was nominated for "Best Historical Album" at the Grammy Awards of 1999.[1] In 2011, it was followed by The Smile Sessions, a similar compilation devoted to the recording of the Beach Boys' unfinished Smile project.


Original producer Brian Wilson writes in the liner notes to The Pet Sounds Sessions: "It was a heart and soul album; I worked very, very hard on it. The thing is, I’m glad we’re doing this new Pet Sounds reissue because the Pet Sounds box set is going to be very revealing to the public as to just what sort of music makers we really are. ... When we were making Pet Sounds we were absolutely positive we were cutting a milestone record. Carl [Wilson] and I knew for sure we were into something heavier than hell, and we just went with it."[2]

Compiler David Leaf explains the purpose of the new compilation: "The first three CDs of this box set are designed to give you a sense of how Brian and the studio musicians cut the tracks [from Pet Sounds] and also to give you a unique glimpse into the harmonic magic of the Beach Boys singing."[3] He adds: "It is not hyperbole to say that for every pop and rock group that followed in the Beach Boys wake, Pet Sounds became an audio benchmark. ... Since that time, nothing has really changed."[4]

Stereo mix[edit]

Pet Sounds was first released in 1966 in monaural and duophonic formats.[5] Overseen by Brian Wilson and engineered by Mark Linett, the set includes the first stereo mix of Pet Sounds. These new mixes were permitted by the survival of the original Pet Sounds multitrack tapes. Advances in recording technology allowed the compilers to digitally sync multi-track stems that had been ping-ponged numerous times prior to their final mono mixdown.[5]

The new mixes created for the box set were made in January–February 1996.[6] Linett wrote: "In mixing Pet Sounds in stereo, every attempt was made to duplicate the feel and sound of the original mono mixes. Vocal and instrumental parts that Brian left off the record in 1966 were noted and duplicated, as were the fades."[5] To this end, a Scully model 280 4-track was used to transfer the analog reels to digital multi-tracks – the same model used for Pet Sounds. The mix was then processed through an original tube console from United Western Recorders in the 1960s.[5]

Some exceptions remain, and so the stereo mix of Pet Sounds does contain some differences from the original mono mix. Among them, alternate vocal parts used for the bridge of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and the end of "God Only Knows" due to the original tracks no longer existing. "You Still Believe in Me" features a single tracked vocal instead of the doubled vocal of the original due to a missing tape.[5] In the mono version, chatter can be heard buried in various tracks; instances of them were omitted from the stereo version at Brian's request.[5]


There was a minor controversy regarding a significant 18-month delay in the release of the box set (originally planned for May 1996 to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the album's original issue). Reportedly, Mike Love was dissatisfied with the accompanying essays that allegedly understated his involvement in the album's making.[7] The original liner notes had featured none of his comments, even though other band members were interviewed, and new notes were subsequently commissioned to Dennis Diken. Biographer Timothy White said that "The Beach Boys apparently didn't get the track selections until late in the production phase, and they all had misgivings about how Capitol envisioned it."[8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[9]
The Austin Chronicle5/5 stars[10]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[11]
The Guardian5/5 stars[12]
Q5/5 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[15]
Wall of Sound70/100[16]

AllMusic calls the compilation "a fascinating, educational listen, even if it's not necessarily indispensable."[9] Q gave the "enlightening" box set a perfect score and wrote that "the backing music tracks sans vocals opens your ears to a bevy of awe-inspiring nuances previously obscured by singing. At the same time, the isolated vocal tracks are nothing less than spiritual in their emotive wallop."[14] The New York Observer's D. Strauss called the stereo mix "pointless", adding, "I must admit that, as a music geek, listening to Mr. Wilson hold myriad consultations on when to beep the bicycle horn in 'You Still Believe in Me' carries a portentous thrill".[17]

The compilation was pivotal to the inception of the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, as director Bill Pohlad enthuses: "It's just so beautiful and impactful for me to listen to that. So the idea of trying to capture that on film was certainly a big part of my interest in making the movie."[18]

The Smile Sessions[edit]

13 years later, the box set was followed up with The Smile Sessions, a similar collection devoted to Smile, the Beach Boys' album intended to follow Pet Sounds.

Track listing[edit]


  1. ^ 1999 Grammy Nominations
  2. ^ Wilson, Brian (1997). "Introduction". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  3. ^ Leaf, David (1997). "Pet Sounds Introduction". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  4. ^ Leaf, David (1997). "Pet Sounds – Perspective". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Linett, Mark (1997). "Notes on Recording and Mixing". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  6. ^ a b Linett, Mark (1997). "Pet Sounds Box Set". The Pet Sounds Sessions (Booklet). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
  7. ^ Catlin, Roger (November 23, 1997). "Review: A Musical Milestone". Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  8. ^ Harrington, Richard (July 3, 1996). "Still No Vibrations". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Review: The Pet Sounds Sessions". Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  10. ^ Beets, Greg (December 12, 1997). "Review: THE BEACH BOYS: The Pet Sounds Sessions (Capitol)". Nick Barbaro. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin, ed. (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). London: Oxford University Press. p. 479. ISBN 978-0-19-531373-4.
  12. ^ Bennun, David. "Review: The Beach Boys, The Pet Sounds Sessions (Capitol)". The Guardian Review. Guardian Media Group (October 24, 1997): 24.
  13. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds.) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (2nd ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 83. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  14. ^ a b Cavanagh, David. "Review: The Beach Boys, The Pet Sounds Sessions - A 30th Anniversary Collection". Q. No. Q118, July 1996. EMAP Metro Ltd. p. 133.
  15. ^ Brackett, Nathan; with Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York, NY: Fireside/Simon & Schuster. p. 46. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ Remstein, Bob. "Wall of Sound Review: The Pet Sounds Sessions". Wall of Sound. Archived from the original on April 14, 2001. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  17. ^ Strauss, D. (December 8, 1997). "Pet Sounds : It's Not Rock 'n' Roll, But We Like It". The New York Observer.
  18. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (May 21, 2015). "Bill Pohlad wants 'Love & Mercy' to take you inside the genius of Beach Boy Brian Wilson". Hitfix.