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Music Review: Beach Boys – Love You

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The Beach Boys Love You album was released in 1977 and marked Brian Wilson’s return to the complete creative leadership of the group. Brian wrote or co-wrote all 14 songs contained on the album and was its sole producer. The results were disappointing.

The key question regarding Beach Boys Love You was Brian Wilson’s health. He was able to finish the album, but given the creativity and sophistication of his past work, Love You is childish and simplistic.  

The album starts off O.K. as the first three songs are the strongest of the fourteen. “Let’s Go On This Way” features Carl Wilson’s lead vocal. While Carl seems to be straining a little, it is covered up by some beautiful harmonies. This is not a great song but a fair beginning. “Roller Skating Child” features smooth group vocals throughout. The melody is infectious and just streams by the consciousness which covers up for some average lyrics.

“Mona” features a lead vocal by Dennis Wilson. Dennis it trying here but his voice is starting to show wear and tear because of his living excesses. There are no harmonies to hide this problem. “Mona” may be the best constructed song on the album but just rises to average because of its production.

The bad starts with the fourth song, “Johnny Carson.” This was a song about the late night television icon. I have this vision of Brian Wilson watching the Tonight Show night after night after night, and creating this dreadful song. It ranks as one of the worst Beach Boys creations of all time.   

“Good Time” was from a recording session several years previous. Brian Wilson’s lead vocal shows off his voice well, but the production is karaoke style. “Solar System” is another abysmal song made worse in that it shows that Brian’s voice had dropped an octave or so. Like his brother Dennis, time and excess had started to ruin his clear, high vocal range.

“Honkin’ Down The Highway” is a song that just misses. Al Jardine’s vocal is fine, but the song just never takes off in typical Beach Boys fashion. Here it is the songs structure rather than the production that is the problem.  

“The Night Was So Young” returns Carl Wilson’s vocals to solid ground but “Let’s Put Our Heart’s Together” does not help Brian’s vocal problems at all. When Beach Boys Love You was released there was hope that Brian’s vocal problems would be temporary. This, however, did not prove to be the case.

The ultimate problem with Beach Boys Love You was the writing. The song structures were average, but the lyrics were trite and for the most part not very listenable. Brian Wilson wrote about life’s simplicities which were just not interesting.  

When you compare Beach Boys Love You to their sixties material and even to their early seventies releases, the results are startling and I do not mean this in a positive way. Beach Boys Love You is best buried deep in the Beach Boys catalogue.

  

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About David Bowling

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/gordon_hauptfleisch Gordon Hauptfleisch

    The biggest head-scratching moment on “Love You” — one on my favorites Beach Boys’ albums — is the why-bother Roger McGuinn-written snippet, “Ding Dang.” Dang.

    You mentioned a couple other fly-over moments, such as “Solar System,” but by and large I find the album fun, unpretentious, and warm. And I appreciate the ramshackle production.

  • Chris Shields

    I find this album to be one of the more consistently interesting albums of the post-Holland Beach Boys albums. The synthesizer use is pretty interesting, considering Brian Wilson’s past use of symphonic sounds, orchestrations, lush vocal beds, etc. It showed a brittle Wilson, the snippets of things that interested him and his attempts to distance himself from the BW of the past to get a new start. A man haunted by his past, and not necessarily keen to be a Beach Boy anymore, would want to stake his own identity.

    These days, when artists try a new sound, it’s considered bold and daring. Sometimes commercial suicide. It’s no different for classic artists (Bob Dylan was always remaking himself). I see this as BW branching out and trying something new. Remember, this started off as “Brian Loves You,” largely a solo album. Take it for what it’s worth, and it’s got some great moments.