Summer In Paradise is by far the worst album released by The Beach Boys and one of the worst to be released by a major artist. There is bad songwriting, there are bad lyrics, there is bad singing, there is bad production, and then it gets worse. I am one of a very small minority that actually purchased this album when it was released as it sold fewer than 2000 copies.
There was a lot of electronic instrumentation used on the album with a heavy emphasis on a synthesizer sound. Most of the bass parts and drums were programmed. Bruce Johnston was the only Beach Boy to actually play a note on the album.
Sly & The Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In The Summertime” leads off the album. The harmonies are off kilter and the sound is further ruined by an overbearing bass line. This combination makes it a poor cover. I remember hearing this song the first time I played the album and thinking what a disappointing way to begin a Beach Boys album. Little did I realize that it was about as good as it was going to get.
What possessed Mike Love and the Beach Boys to do a remake of their first song, “Surfin,” is beyond me. What possessed Mike Love and the Beach Boys to add a heavy metal guitar sound and headache pounding drums is really beyond me.
I have always found it interesting that Mike Love would increasingly dominate the Beach Boys stage act but was not a major force in the creation of the group’s studio albums. This changed as Summer In Paradise is basically a Mike Love creation and as the responsible person, he is to blame for all its flaws.
Three Mike Love and Terry Melcher songs follow “Surfin.” “Summer Of Love,” “Island Fever” and “Still Surfin” are all found wanting in both structure and melody. Melcher does manage to craft some adequate harmonies but not enough to save the songs. Mike Love may not have known better but I would have thought that Melcher would have had more sense and taste.
Bruce Johnston continued this downward trend with his “Summer Dancin’ (One Summer Night)” which is a great title for a very average song.
No song put this album in perspective quite as well as the finale. Dennis Wilson’s “Forever” is resurrected and here features a lead vocal by actor and quasi-drummer John Stamos. His performance just makes it very clear that the Beach Boys would never be the same.
To say that Summer In Paradise is a disappointment would be an understatement. It was the only Beach Boys studio album not to make the top 200 chart. I remember thinking at the time that if these guys were serious, they were in big trouble. They were and they were.
Summer In Paradise would be the Beach Boys last real studio album. Carl Wilson’s lead vocal on the oldie “Remember (Walking In The Sand)” would also be his last as well. He would die of cancer in 1997. Al Jardine would be asked to leave the group. Brian Wilson would only make sporadic appearances with the Beach Boys and gradually focus on his solo work which would receive critical acclaim but only moderate sales. There is no stopping the passage of time.