Live In London released in England in 1969 and Beach Boys ’69 released in the United States in 1976 are the same album.
The Beach Boys popularity had waned in the United States in the early 1970’s but they had retained their appeal in Europe, particularly in England. Live In London was released to cash in on that popularity. It was not until the mid-seventies and the release of the number one selling album, Endless Summer, that the Beach Boys became a top concert attraction again in the United States. Beach Boys ’69 was released in re-action to this re-newed interest in the group.
Live In London presents an accurate picture of the Beach Boys stage act in 1970. Ironically, by the time the album was released in the United Stares the Beach Boys had reverted to basically a nostalgia act on stage focusing mostly on their pre Pet Sounds hits.
Live In London/Beach Boys ’69 finds the group making the effort to try and produce some of their more sophisticated material live. A horn section and back-up musicians had been added to the basic core of the group. The Beach Boys sound was far different on this album than it was on their Beach Boys Concert album that was released five years earlier and from what their sound would be five years in the future.
The opening song “Darlin” sounds better than the original studio recording. The horn section gives the song a little more punch. The group effectively molds the harmonies into the brass sound creating a unique background. Carl Wilson’s clear, strong vocal binds all the parts together.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” suffers a tad from a frenetic delivery. This song is more effective as a pop song rather than a Blood, Sweat & Tears type rocker. The same is true for the rendition of “California Girls.” Sometimes less is more.
A rocking rendition of “Do It Again” puts the Beach Boys back on solid group. The brass fits here and the harmonies are spot on.
The Beach Boys take some chances during the middle part of the concert. “Wake The World,” originally the flip side of the “Do It Again” single is a difficult song to play with its chord changes and sophisticated harmonies. Here “Wake The World” is given an excellent treatment and shows what the Beach Boys were capable of when they put their minds to it. “Aren’t You Glad," from the Wild Honey album, is somewhat of a jumble. The parts just never completely come together. “Bluebirds Over The Mountain” is a song where the harmonies are a bit off. I mentioned in my review of the album 20/20 that this old rockabilly song was difficult for the Beach Boys and that remains true live as well.
“Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring” was sung without instruments. It is a rare live glimpse of the purity of the Beach Boys vocal harmonies without any recording tricks.
A nice rendition of “Good Vibrations” is partially ruined by Mike Love’s attempt to be funny in the middle. In fact, his constant quips cease to be amusing early on and only serve to detract for the overall experience of the concert.
“God Only Knows” features another strong vocal by Carl Wilson set against a subtle background.
“Barbara Ann” is actually a good selection for the final song. It invites the audience to sing along and the brass and up-tempo nature of the melody fit well in bringing the concert to a close.
Live In London/Beach Boys ’69 shows the Beach Boys at a creative high point in their concert career. The Beach Boys seem interested and bring energy to the performance. There are some low points but they mostly come as a result of the group trying to be creative. This is a good album to just put on the head phones, turn up the sound and listen to the live Beach Boys of long ago.