The last Beach Boys
album of (mostly) new material is the only one that doesn't feature Brian Wilson
in any form (his one co-write, Surfin'
, is a remake of the band's first ever single), and it shows.
The album started out as a Mike Love/Terry Melcher project, with the other members (except Brian) joining one at a time, the last being Al Jardine, who had been sacked from the group for having 'an attitude problem', but was reinstated just before recording ended.
All the original songs (except Bruce Johnston's Slow Summer Dancin' (One Summer Night)) are by Love and Melcher, and without exception they are attempts to combine the old 'fun-in-the-sun' image with a 'message' about the environment, leading to lyrics like 'Surfers recycle now, don't you know/like everyone from California to kokomo'.
The album sold so badly on its initial release that the band went into the studio and rerecorded parts of it (including Roger McGuinn on the title track), for the European market. Despite this, reported sales of both versions combined (and many hardcore fans bought both versions) have been as little as 1000.
Hot Fun In The Summertime is a cover of the Sly Stone classic, and isn't too terrible. The production's dated, and while Carl Wilson as always turns out a great vocal, he also sounds like he'd really rather be elsewhere.
Surfin'... oh dear... this is a remake of the band's first single, and is totally terrible. But it is as nothing compared to:
Summer of Love - this is maybe the worst song of all time. It was written for a Simpsons album, as a duet withh Bart, but got turned down. Terrible, sexist lyrics (doin' unto others is the golden rule/But doing it to you wold be so very cool) hilarious processed vocals ('Hey now - well it's a luurve thang') and the whole aura of geriatric lechery make this an embarassing stain on the record of a once-great band.
Island Fever is a straight rewrite of Kokomo and is practically indistinguishable from it. Carl Wilson does a great job on the vocals but again sounds bored.
Still Surfin' is bland but inoffensive. There's nothing else to say about it.
Slow Summer Dancin' (One Summer Night) combines the old classic 'One Summer Night' with a new Johnston song. Both Johnston and Jardine turn in very good vocals, and the song itself really isn't bad at all. The highlight of the album to this point.
Strange Things Happen A terrible verse ('she believes in god, and karma too/ paranormal powers, you know some people do') is saved by an incredible Jardine vocal on the chorus. Jardine, oddly enough, seems the only one who cares less about the material on this album, and it is to his credit that despite being the most overlooked member of the band, he is more or less the only thing worth listening to on their last album.
Remember "Walking In The Sand" is a cover of the Shangri-Las classic. Andrew Doe and John Tobler in their book The complete Guide To The Music Of the Beach Boys call this 'the worst cover version of anything by anyone ever' and I see no reason to dispute that judgement. An appaling mess, that even Carl Wilson can't save.
Lahaina Aloha is one of the relative highlights of the set, due mainly to Carl Wilson's best vocals of the album, on the chorus.
Under The Boardwalk is a cover of the Drifters classic. Love rewrites some of the words, but this isn't bad at all. The US version omits the middle eight, but this is replaced in the UK version, and Jardine's vocal on that section once again lifts the track immensely.
Summer In Paradise is probably the best of the originals on the album, though neither studio version of it lives up to the song's potential, which was only ever shown live. Some very clunky lyrics, but a decent song for once.
Forever is a remake of the classic Sunflower track, with John Stamos on vocals. It's the best track on the album by far, but is nothing like as good as the original version.
The album is currently unavailable
Band line-up for the album - Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love,Bruce Johnston
Produced by Terry Melcher
Previous album - Still Cruisin'
Next album - Stars & Stripes vol 1