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'That's Why God Made Radio' review: Beach Boys are back

This CD cover image released by Capitol Records

This CD cover image released by Capitol Records shows the latest release by The Beach Boys "That's Why God Made the Radio." Credit: AP

It's thrilling to hear them together again.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the Beach Boys -- Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks -- have reunited for the first album of new material featuring both Wilson and Love since 1985 and their first tour together since 1996.

Those reasons alone should make "That's Why God Made the Radio" (Capitol) special enough. But there are moments here, especially in the title track, when the harmonies of Love, Jardine and Wilson entwine like it was 1966 again. And that makes it seem like the Beach Boys' magic was never lost.

After all, the Beach Boys were once indisputably America's best rock band, rivals to The Beatles when both bands were at the peak of their powers. You can almost hear echoes of that promise -- the genius of "Pet Sounds," the irresistible pop optimism of "California Girls" -- in the lovely lament "Summer's Gone," with its sweeping strings and gorgeous, sunny-bad-sad harmonies, or the catchy "Shelter."

Unfortunately, it's not all blue skies. And somehow wasting those legendary voices and harmonies on a song as bad as the "Kokomo"-ish "The Private Life of Bill and Sue," or one as bland as "Spring Vacation," feels so much worse than simply a bad band singing a bad song.

Nevertheless, "That's Why God Made the Radio" adds a few new worthy additions to the Beach Boys' legendary catalog. Given their long, troubled histories, who thought that was even still possible?

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BEACH BOYS

"That's Why God Made the Radio"

GRADE B

BOTTOM LINE A mixed bag of a 50th-anniversary gift to fans

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