L.A. (Light Album) was the Beach Boys final album release of the 1970s. Brian Wilson continued to withdraw from the world and so his contributions and participation to this album were minimal. Bruce Johnston returned to the Beach Boys and was given the lead producer credit along with James Williams Guercio and the Beach Boys as a group. Carl and Dennis Wilson also returned to the group on a full time basis and contributed heavily to this project. All this added up, not to a complete disaster, but to a very poor and misguided album.
The first three songs on L.A. (Light Album) are the strongest of the ten that were included. Producer Bruce Johnston may have realized this and decided to lead with the best.
“Good Timin” leads off with some of the best Beach Boys harmonies of the decade. It is one of only a few Beach Boys songs where the harmonies are on a par with some of their classic 60s material. "Lady Lynda” plays off a classical baroque musical theme. This Al Jardine written and sung song was a big hit in England. I saw the Beach Boys perform this song live in the early 1980s and it was a standout. The sound was filled out with backup singers with complimentary instrumentals added. I can still picture the song a quarter of a century later.
This live version was superior to the studio effort contained here but the roots of an excellent song are still present. “Full Sail” features a plaintive lead vocal by Carl Wilson. The harmonies are muted and subtle which allows Carl’s vocal to shine. This song is a good way to remember Carl Wilson.
“Angel Come Home” brings Dennis Wilson back to the Beach Boys fold. His now gruff voice had continued to deteriorate and he seems to be stretching just to complete the vocal. “Love Surrounds Me” was a track from Dennis Wilson’s never completed Bamboo album. His voice now sounds almost like Joe Cocker and is almost painful to listen too.
“Sumahama,” written and sung by Mike Love, is just infuriating. It is a nominee for one of the worst Beach Boys songs of all time and I’m not sure it is the worst song on the album.
Side two of the original L.A. (Light Album) makes the first side seem like a classic.
“Here Comes The Night” marks the Beach Boys entrance into the disco era. The song, which was originally released on the Wild Honey album, is re-structured with a heavy bass and up-tempo disco beat. The worst thing that happens is that the song is lengthened to just under 11 minutes. Listening to this song today just makes it all the worse. It goes to show that the only thing worse than a bad song is a miss-conceived and long bad song.
The album just limps home after the disco fiasco. “Baby Blue” is another song from Dennis Wilson’s Bamboo.” Dennis’ vocal sounds slightly better but the song has an odd structure which makes it a difficult listen. “Goin’ South” is basically a Carl Wilson solo piece and might have been more appropriate for one of his solo releases.
The final song on the album is also its worst. The traditional song “Shortnin’ Bread” is just unlistenable. The saying always leave your audience wanting more does not apply in this case.
L.A. (Light Album) is an album with a lot of low points. Given today’s technology I would advise downloading the first three songs and avoiding the rest. Enough said.