The problems for the Beach Boys continued as the 1980s dawned. Brian Wilson was scheduled to produce their next album but health issues forced him to withdraw again. Bruce Johnston stepped in to produce his second album for the Beach Boys. Dennis Wilson left several days into the recording process and did not contribute to the album.
When the dust settled the Beach Boys had created an album that just missed. Playing Keepin' The Summer Alive 28 years after its release finds an album with fine vocals and good production. It is the song structures that are problematic. They are more quirky than catchy. Also by 1980, music had irrevocably moved away from the sound the Beach Boys were capable of creating.
Keepin' The Summer Alive features two songs by the unlikely duo of Carl Wilson and Randy Bachman. The albums title song “Keepin’ The Summer Alive” features an excellent Carl Wilson vocal and fine guitar playing on the break. This song co-written by Bachman takes the Beach Boys in a rock direction that while different, may have been a positive step for the group, if only they had followed it up. The second Carl Wilson-Randy Bachman collaboration is less successful. “Living With A Heartache” is almost an easy listening vocal by Carl and needs more harmonies to flush out the melody.
“School Days (Ring! Ring! The Bell)" is a Chuck Berry cover that just does not work well for the Beach Boys. The harmonies sound forced and Berry’s original is just too unique to be copied.
“Goin’ On” features a unique duet by Carl Wilson and Mike Love. This vocal pairing works well against building harmonies but is an example of a song spoiled by a somewhat off kilter beat although there is a great sax break. Likewise, “Sunshine,” is another good song with an odd beat. It reminds me of music that played when riding a merry-go-round as a child. “Oh Darlin,” written by Brian and sung by Carl, is almost a pleasant ballad except for a heavy bass beat.
“Some Of Your Love” is the catchiest song on the album and features some traditional upbeat harmonies. Mike Love’s lead vocal is amazingly effective and this should have been a successful single.
As with the last several albums, Keepin' The Sumer Alive ends on a down note. “When Girls Get Together” is not only a bad song but it is also a dumb song which tends to cover up a poor vocal outing by Mike Love. “Santa Ana Winds” features good production and more poor lyrics and vocals by Mike Love. “Endless Harmony” is a Bruce Johnston attempt at a pop song. It has well crafted lyrics but the melody does not flow.
Keepin' The Summer Alive would be the last studio album by the Beach Boys for five years. 1985 would find a far different Beach Boys trying to cope with the death of one of its original members.