If the uneven Sunflower and Surf's Up albums demonstrated the Beach Boys resolve to soldier on despite the largely AWOL status of Brian Wilson, their founder and troubled creative mainstay, 1972's So Tough showed how quickly their own disparate instincts could lead to a creative face-plant. Though not nearly the train-wreck its dismal reputation might lead one to believe (its original distributor thought so little of the project that it was packaged as a two-fer with a reissue of Pet Sounds). The album's R&B/gospel sensibilities seem woefully misplaced, while "Marcella" shows just how willing the band was to beat a hasty retreat into comfortable nostalgia. The good news was that Tough was only eight tracks long. Given that background, 1973's Holland seemed like a minor miracle. Possessed of a melodic sense and muscular musicality that the faithful must have given up for dead, the great "Sail On Sailor" leads the way to one of the band's best post-'60s efforts. Bolstered by new bandmates Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar (the latter would become a cult hero as a member of the Beatles-parodying Rutles) and a change of recording venue (hence the title), the Beach Boys attacked Carl Wilson's "Trader," Dennis Wilson's "Steamboat," and other group standouts like "Funky Pretty" and "Leaving This Town" with a vigor and self-assurance they hadn't shown in years. It even overcomes Mike Love's ham-fisted attempt at eco-awareness, the musical triptych "California Saga," and the strange, spoken-word children's tale "Mt. Vernon and Fairway," highlighted only by Brian Wilson's fleeting presence.