The Endless Summer
compilation of Beach Boys
hits in 1974
had gone multi-platinum, convincing Mike Love
that he was correct in his opinion that the band should give up artistry and return to recording (and performing onstage) fun-in-the-sun surfin' songs, if possible oldies
. To this end, he (and the other band members), 'persuaded' a severely mentally ill Brian Wilson
(for the record, Wilson is bipolar
, not schizophrenic
as many claim) to 'produce' another album for the band.
The result was this, the first album since Pet Sounds to have the 'produced by Brian Wilson credit, and the first of new recordings to chart highly in the USA since then as well.
The album is certainly far from meritless, and the sparse, synth-heavy sound was a total departure, (and Brian's new, cigarette damaged voice was still more than capable of conveying emotion), but the album is half made up of oldies, with Carl Wilson obviously wanting to be elsewhere, Brian uninterested, and Dennis Wilson away making his solo album for a lot of the time.
Hyped up by a disgusting Love-masterminded 'Brian's Back' campaign, the album was a commercial success short term, but long-term probably destroyed the band's career.
Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar had left by this time (although Fataar plays on a few tracks), leaving the band as the original 5. In another nod to old times, Dean Torrence of Jan And Dean designed the cover.
Rock And Roll Music, the album opener, was a top 5 hit, the band's first in the US in a decade. A rather run of the mill cover of the Chuck Berry classic, it's let down by Love's nasal vocals. It's OK, the second track, and second single from the album, is slightly better, featuring Roy Wood of Wizzard on saxophones, and a great bass vocal from Dennis Wilson.
Had To Phone Ya is a wonderful, quirky little song that Brian had originally written for American Spring. Giving every band member a lead vocal, Carl Wilson especially shines on th eline 'it lifts my spirit every single time'.Chapel Of Love meanwhile is a throwaway cover of the old Dixie Cups track, with Brian Wilson's voice shockingly hoarse compared to earlier records, but full of enthusiasm.
Everyone's In Love With You, Mike Love's second solo composition, is an inconsequential little ditty roughly based around A Whiter Shade Of Pale, but much more lightweight. The subject matter is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Talk To Me is a plodding doo-wop song with a bored Carl Wilson lead vocal, and for some reason has an interpolated chunk of Talahassee Lassie. The worst track on the album so far.
That Same Song is a love-it-or-hate-it song detailing the history of music, with Brian bellowing the lead joyously in his new 'low and manly' voice. TM Song meanwhile is a real oddity, with lead vocals by Al Jardine. Another of the band's many songs in this period about Transcendental Meditation, this one is musically all over the place, but in a good way.
Palisades Park is almost the band's last great cover, a wonderful version of the Freddie Cannon oldie. Susie Cincinnati is an Al Jardine song, a leftover from the Sunflower sessions, that had already been released twice in different mixes as a B-side, where it probably should have stayed.
A Casual Look and Blueberry Hill are both doo-wop covers, the first fatally marred by Love's horribly nasal vocals, but almost rescued by Jardine's enthusiasm; the second starting out interestingly with just a bass and Love's vocal, before turning into a straight, dull cover.
Back Home is a blues based song that is still in Brian Wilson's live set to this day, and dates back to 1963. Musically uninteresting, but a really fun track due to the enthusiastic vocals.
In The Still Of Night (I'll Remember) is yet another dull doo-wop cover, but Just Once In My Life is stunning. A cover of a Righteous Brothers track, the combination of Carl Wilson's angelic verse vocals with Brian Wilson's heart wrenching, torn-throat chorus sends shivers down my spine. Possibly the best Beach Boys track of the 70s, this manages to redeem a second rate album at the last minute.
The album is currently available on a Capitol records twofer with The Beach Boys Love You
Band line-up for the album - Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love plus former members Bruce Johnston and Ricky Fataar contribute, but are not credited as members.
Produced by Brian Wilson
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Next album - The Beach Boys Love You