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This is the twofer which brings together the Beach Boys mid 70's albums 15 Big Ones and Love you.
Firstly, 15 Big Ones.
By the end of the 1960's and early 70's The Beach Boys couldn't been less popular. They were considered old fashioned and totally out of date.
Their sell out concerts during what was their concert peak of the early 70's did much to change that opinion amongst concert going folk but to the average vinyl buying man on the street they were the previous decade's news.
All that changed with the release of a compilation titled Endless Summer. It shot to the top of the album charts and stayed there for a long time. This caused a whole new interest in the band and there was suddenly excitement and expectation for what would be their next release, thus 15 Big Ones was born.
This album was surely a huge disappointment. Those that hadn't taken the full Beach Boy journey would sure have wondered what had happened to the band, or more accurately Brian and Dennis Wilson. Brian, once the master and owner of the sweetest falsetto in music was now a 300 pound wreck with a voice you could grate cheese on and Dennis' was even raspier.
Rock & Roll Music
Had to Phone Ya
Chapel of Love
Everyone's in Love With You
Talk to Me
That Same Song
T M Song
A Casual Look
In the Still of the Night
Just Once in My Life
15 Big Ones is an even split between new compositions and covers.
Rock N Roll Music is a cover of a Chuck Berry song that I don't like much. Mike Love's lead vocal is ok and the harmonies sound nice and overall it is pretty inoffensive.
It's Ok is a quite a successful attempt to revive the fun in the sun early Beach Boy sound. As with all the fun in the sun tracks it features a Mike Love lead vocal. Nothing spectacular but it's a pretty decent song and has a catchy hook which makes it instantly memorable.
Had To Phone Ya was based on Pet Sounds outtake Trombone Dixie. You'd maybe have to hear them together to hear the resemblance unless you're already very familiar with Trombone Dixie. The best song on 15 Big Ones by a mile for me. Everyone takes a turn on lead here but Mike Love once again has the lions share.
Everyone's In Love with You is a sentimental Mike Love song to God. Some people really hate this one but I think it's ok and has some lovely harmonies. Mike Love isn't exactly Mister Popular in the Beach Boy community and I'm sure that influences the dislike of this.
Back Home and That Same Song both feature great lead vocals from Brian Wilson in his new manly voice. That Same Song is a very enjoyable gospel influenced track. As good as it is here there is a better live version that features The Beach Boys with a gospel choir and I wish that had been included on this album instead.
Al Jardine's Susie Cincinnati is a very nice upbeat number with the expected great vocal from Al. Like It's Ok it has a catchy riff that you won't forget in a hurry. It's all about a lady of ill repute which is quite strange coming from clean living Al.
Just once in My Life is a really good Phil Spector cover. Although the vocals of both Brian, and more surprisingly, Carl are a little rough this is a really great cover. This feels so very emotional. This is a big production and the best way I can describe it is Wall of Sound Synthesiser style. It's the only cover on this album that I am so very glad they recorded.
Overall this is far from a great album. Most of the covers are just so-so and you won't kick yourself from missing them. As an album however it isn't really that bad. It sounds fun. There is the odd moment of production class from Brian here and there and the occasional vocal from Al and Carl that make you sit up but it isn't anywhere near the bands best work.
I give this 3 stars.
Love You shares this twofer and is the album along with Smiley Smile that splits the Beach Boy community It's an album to either love or hate.
The two barriers to this album being universally loved are the vocals and the lyrics. Vocally both Brian and Dennis deteriorated a little more since 15 Big Ones.
Lyrically Brian Wilson was in charge and still wasn't well mentally so he was writing some very odd things.
Having said all of the above vocals and lyrics are only part of music. Song structure, chord changes, melodies and harmonies are just as important and Love you has quality in all those areas. This album ijust like Pet Sounds is very personal. Whereas Pet Sounds was a look into the mind of a young man yearning for innocence gone Love You is a peek into the mind of a broken man fresh from the mental home.
This is very nearly a Brian Wilson solo album. He wrote all the songs and played most of the instruments. When Brian needed another body in the studio to play some instruments only his brothers Carl and Dennis participated.
The sound of this album is overwhelmingly synth which I usually don't like but it somehow works for me here. The synth moog bass pumps along like a chronic case of flatulence practically from beginning to end.
The album is split into the two. On my old vinyl copy side 1 is upbeat and side Two is mellow.
Let Us Go on This Way
Roller Skating Child
Honkin' Down the Highway
The Night Was So Young
I'll Bet He's Nice
Let's Put Our Hearts Together
I Wanna Pick You Up
Love Is A Woman
To start things off Let Us Go On This Way basically explodes out of the speakers. This features a really good, but different, lead vocal from Carl Wilson. With bass pumping and some kind of organ bouncing along you'll either enjoy this sound or hate the album.
The harmonies are great as always but maybe not in the way you usually expected from the Beach Boys. The lyrics are dumb but all the lyrics on the album are dumb so don't let them worry you.
Roller Skatin' Child signals the end of the listening experience for some. Instrumentally it is very similar to the opening track. The lead vocal here are from Mike Love with a little help from Al Jardine. What will put most off are the lyrics.
The chorus to Roller Skatin' Child is,
"And we'll make sweet lovin' when the sun goes down
We'll even do more when your mama's not around
Well oh my oh gosh oh gee
She really send chills inside of me"
Coming from a band now in their 30's it is a little disturbing but somehow it sounds strangely innocent. Brian can even get away with singing "Roller Skating Child," in a hoarse voice as the closing line. It's bouncy, jolly, and exuberant, it will make you happy if you allow it.
Mona has a joint lead from Dennis Wilson and Brian. Dennis seems to be a little more dominant and his ruff voice sounds like it was topped up with plenty of gruffness shortly before recording session. This track basically repeats the same melody all the way through over and over but it's so catchy you'll want to hear the same thing over and over. The stop/start bass line is very creative here too. I love this one.
Johnny Carson is a tribute to the late night talk show host. I had no idea who Johnny Carson was until the internet became part of my life.
To me this is one of the very best songs on this album arrangement wise. During the verses we have two different keyboard parts bouncing along, one in each ear if you're wearing headphones. There is only the slightest hint of bass until the chorus when we get all the moog we could wish for. The bridge to this song is a full 20 seconds of chords hits. Strange, but it sounds oh so good to these ears. The tag is so lovely too. Beautiful harmonies and another very pleasant bass line.
Good Time is the one song here that has a totally different sound. Some say it doesn't' fit at all, others say it's the only good song on the album. Personally I think it's a nice break from the same instrumentation track after track but isn't better than the rest.
Recorded during the Sunflower sessions of 1970 this features a pre-voice change Brian Wilson lead vocal. It's actually quite shocking to hear how Brian's voice changed so quickly. He went from sweet falsetto to tough and gruff in less than 5 years. I don't know how Brian felt hearing his two voices side by side on one album but it must have felt like a lifetime had passed.
Good Time is a really sweet and catchy song. My favourite lyric from this one is
My girlfriend Penny, she's kinda skinny
And so she needs her falsies on
Silly I know but it never fails to bring a smile to my face. .
This song also features some woodblock percussion, a little brass and some pleasant background harmonies too.
Honkin Down The Highway has an excellent Al Jardine lead vocal. There are more questionable lyrics here but I love this track especially its bass line. This is a catchy song no doubt about it. It has the added bonus of Al fluffing the last line of the song, if you listen closely you'll hear he's none to pleased about it.
Ding Dang is a sub minute ditty. I love this catchy little snippet. There is a longer and ummmm dirtier version called Rollin Up To Heaven/Hard Times that you can hear on various bootlegs and even youtube. I wish that version was on this album but the one present here is a good too, just a little too short.
Solar System is Brian giving us guide around the Solar System over the albums most sparse arrangement. Brian sings the lead and his limited vocal range of the time adds charm to it. It sounds like a children's song but is deceptively complex.
My favourite lyric here is
"If Mars had life on it,
I might find my wife on it".
Weird nonsense that I can relate to. Some see this as the weakest track but it is one of my favourites. This is the first of the slower songs.
The Night Was So Young is almost universally acclaimed as the best track on the album. This track is a tale of a post relationship split and how you feel there alone at night. You think of her lips, you wonder if you should call, should you go over to her place? Carl Wilson's gorgeously tender lead makes us feel the angst of being apart from your former lover. We've all been there I'm sure but in this case Brian was surely writing about his split from Marilyn. There are some sweet harmonies in this heartbreaker.
I'll Bet He's Nice is a song all about having feelings for a former lover who is now with somebody else. Once again the split from Marilyn seems to be the catalyst for Brian. It's a song about feeling inferior to the new man. This is every bit as good as The Night was So Young with it's synths in the extreme channels and a fantastic bass line.
It features another Dennis and Brian shared lead. Carl's middle eight is a joy too. There is another version of this song on bootlegs which is a demo and features just Brian on the piano. In many ways I actually prefer that version to the one here especially the way Brian sings the bridge with a lot more punch than Carl does. Both are great though and hearing the same song sung in different ways can be a real eye opener.
Let's Put our Hearts Together is a duet that shouldn't be. Brian brought Marilyn to sing the higher parts that he couldn't manage anymore but it doesn't really work so well.
I Wanna Pick You up is about treating your lover like a baby. The ridiculous lyrics don't spoil it and neither do the hoarse vocals. It's a far from perfect song and yet I like it. It makes me smile and I find it rather funny.
Airplane has a Mike Love lead vocal and a very sweet one at that. It's rare to hear him use this voice but I always enjoy it when he does. Brian sings the second half of the verse. Once again the bass line is upfront and eases proceedings along. The tag is probably the best part with Carl letting loose.
The album closes on a bit of a low point with Love Is A woman. This isn't such a great song and is a bit of a disappointment that is saved by some lovely harmonies at the end.
So what can I say to summarise. It is basically an album that isn't sung as well as the band can and the instrumentation is quite samey. Some of the lyrics are silly, some ridiculous and some a little disturbing, oh and the production is a little rough and ready, and yet, I love it. It's a totally unique sound. These songs are very well written, there is nothing standard about them. For me this is an album of great songs with creative flourishes. I would take a well written and poorly executed song over a simple standard chord progression sung by an X Factor winner.
It's not for everyone and I'm not naïve enough to believe otherwise. Even those that are open to it will probably take a few listens to enjoy more than one or two songs.
However, there is a chance that this album could very well knock you off your feet and force you re-evaluate what good music is.
Five stars from me, but at half of the music lovers that read this will have no idea why I say that.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Rock 'n' Roll Music
2 It's OK
3 Had To Phone Ya
4 Chapel Of Love
5 Everyone's In Love With You
6 Talk To Me
7 That Same Song
8 TM Song
9 Palisades Park
10 Susie Cincinnati
11 Casual Look
12 Blueberry Hill
13 Back Home
14 In The Still Of The Night
15 Just Once In My Life
16 Let Us Go On This Way
17 Roller Skating Child
19 Johnny Carson
20 Good Time
21 Honkin' Down The Highway
22 Ding Dang
23 Solar System
24 Night Was So Young
25 I'll Bet He's Nice
26 Let's Put Our Hearts Together
27 I Wanna Pick You Up
29 Love Is A Woman