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Music Review: Beach Boys – M.I.U. Album

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The Beach Boys were in disarray by early 1978. Dennis Wilson had spent most of the past six months working on his solo project which was released as Pacific Ocean Blue. Carl Wilson was unhappy with the musical direction of the group. Brian Wilson was scheduled to produce their next album but had to withdraw because of health issues and drug abuse.

The Beach Boys M.I.U. Album only featured Mike, Brian and Al as full time contributors. Carl and Dennis floated in and out and their contributions were minimal. It fell to Al Jardine and friend Ron Altbach to produce the album.

Despite all the problems, M.I.U. Album turned out to be an average release and given the disaster of their last album, Beach Boys Love You, it was a welcome comeback of sorts. For better or worse, by this time in their career, the Beach Boys album releases would always be compared against their brilliant creative output from the 1960’s.

The Beach Boys and Al Jardine kept it fairly simple. The songs may not have been of the superior quality of past releases but the harmonies were emphasized and the production was better than it had been in several years.

The first thing that is noticeable on the M.I.U. Album is the production clarity and crispness of the first song, “She’s Got Rhythm.”  While the shared lead vocals by Mike and Brian are only average, the backing harmonies and wailing sax save the song and put the Beach Boys on familiar ground.

The Dell-Vikings hit song from the 1950’s, “Come Go With Me,” provides an excellent vehicle for the Beach Boys to layer their harmonies. Al Jardine’s lead vocal floats above a sophisticated vocal background. This up-tempo do-wop song was made for the Beach Boys and remains one of the better cover songs that the group would record. "Come Go With Me" would become a top twenty hit for the group. 

“Kona Coast” brings the Beach Boys back to Hawaii for a pleasant upbeat romp. This song is one of the Beach Boys best post 1960’s beach songs. Simple lyrics and full harmonies over a bouncy beat make it almost the 60’s again.

Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” was an interesting choice for the Beach Boys to record. The lead vocal and song structure remain loyal to the original release. The Beach Boys, however, layer in some great harmonies and a superb lead guitar to effectively change the listening experience of this classic rock & roll song.

“Belles” Of Paris” features an odd muted vocal by Mike Love that is an effective counterpoint again some very high vocal harmonies. The song is a tad weird for the Beach Boys but ultimately interesting.

The only real misses are “My Diane” which is a dirge like song to Brian Wilson’s soon to be ex-wife and “Match Point Of Our Love’ which harps back to the uncomfortable simplicity of the Beach Boys Love You album. Even the songs that don’t quite measure up like “Hey Little Tomboy, Wontcha Come Out Tonight” and “Sweet Sunday Kind Of Love” are inoffensive.

M.I.U. Album needs to be listened to on its own terms which admittedly is very difficult to do. It is by no means a great album but Al Jadine’s production and his ability to layer in traditional Beach Boys harmonies over some catchy melodies are its saving grace. The ability of the Beach Boys to pull together and actually produce this album may have saved their career.

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About David Bowling

  • Chris Shields

    A few points to quibble on.

    Kona Coast is pretty much a clone of the earlier Beach Boys song, Hawaii (especially the end tag). So having it as a highlight and comparing it to the Sixties catalog isn’t off base, but it’s not really revealing. It’s more of an indicator of all the recycling the Beach Boys were going to do the next several years.

    And My Diane is to Brian’s soon-to-be-ex-wife’s sister. He was married to Marilyn Rovell, not Diane. He had romantic feelings for, and apparently liaisons with, Diane. That much is true.

    And why would Belles of Paris be rated better than My Diane? Dennis Wilson’s vocals on Diane surely bring some emotive quality the other songs lack. And dirges aren’t too common in the Beach Boys canon, so gotta give it some credit for effort. “Belles of Paris” has some pretty wretched lyrics, too, let’s not forget. (Though it’s mighty catchy, I won’t refute that.)

    Just my two cents.

  • Scott

    Was Love You really a disaster?