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Old 07-21-2006, 12:56 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Providence, RI
Posts: 29
Default The Beach Boys - L.A. (Light Album)


L.A. (Light Album) by The Beach Boys
Originally released March 19, 1979 as Brother/Caribou/CBS JZ 35752


1. Good Timin'
2. Lady Lynda
3. Full Sail
4. Angel Come Home
5. Love Surrounds Me
6. Sumahama
7. Here Comes the Night
8. Baby Blue
9. Goin' South
10. Shortenin' Bread
--------------------------------------------
Have you read all those one- and two-star reviews of this album? Maybe you've read that this is the Beach Boys' worst album? Have you heard people say that the Beach Boys didn't put out anything worthwhile after 1973 (with the exception of The Beach Boys Love You)? Well, I'm here to tell you that it's all bullsh*t my friends.

L.A. (Light Album) is hands down the most underappreciated album in the Beach Boys' catalog. At the time, it was easily the band's best album in almost ten years and is almost certainly their last masterpiece.

In 1979, the Beach Boys' remaining devoted fanbase were primarily people who became fans in the 1960s. By the late 1970s, these people were apparently all well into their "modern music is sh*t" phase which we all get into at one point or another.

At the same time, the Beach Boys still had new ideas and wanted to record and move forward artistically. When they signed their contract with CBS Records (this was their label debut), they had two choices. On the one hand, they could record an album full of fun-in-the-sun music about girls, surfing and cars to please the masses. This would undoubtedly have led to critics (and probably the public they were trying to please) saying that the Boys were washed up, had no new ideas and were just a tribute act, albeit one to themselves. On the other hand, they could move foward artistically, do an album on their own terms, and do something they hadn't done before. This is the route they chose, and it led to critics bashing the album as a cheap attempt at contemporary music and becoming relevant, and was largely ignored by the public. Talk about being "damned if you do, damned if you don't!"

After signing their contract in early 1977 (with two albums remaining on their Warner Bros. contract), the Boys were expected to deliver something to CBS by the end of the year. It didn't work that way, and instead, it wasn't until mid-1978 that Walter Yetnikoff (head of CBS Records) was invited down to Miami to hear a reel of demos that Brian Wilson was working on for the new album. After hearing the demos and being completely unimpressed, he called the band up to his office in New York and began the meeting with "Gentlemen, I think I've been fu*ked" and essentially told the Boys to start over from scratch. I can certainly understand where Yetnikoff was coming from. After the band being that late with the album, then to give him something that didn't impress him...well you get the idea. At this point, Brian gave up because he was also going through a divorce and regressing back into depression. Former Beach Boy Bruce Johnston was called back to produce the album. In a way, I'm glad Brian didn't produce the album. Given his state of mind at the time, we probably would have been looking at another synth mess, similar to The Beach Boys Love You, but with results nowhere near as pleasing. There probably would have also been a plethora of oldies covers.

When the band started over, their idea of "doing something they hadn't done before" was doing a contemporary-sounding soft rock record. In this regard, L.A. (Light Album) is complete truth-in-packaging. It's a "light" album. It's a soft rock album and a damn good one at that. It's at least as good as anything anybody else had to offer the pop charts in 1979 (in terms of soft rock).

Basically, the album is chock full of great, easy going, slow moving songs, perfect for those times when you just want to chill out for a bit. It's also the perfect soundtrack to a cold, snowy winter day when you're stuck in the house. Put this album on while sitting at your table having a cup of hot chocolate and looking out the window. It will change your life.

I will be the first to say that it was the band name attached to the album, not the music, that signed L.A.'s death warrant. Nobody cared about a new Beach Boys album in 1979, but oh well. Those who turned up their noses are the same people who missed out on some great music.

The Beach Boys were all in top form on this record and it shows. Even though this is for all intents and purposes a Wilson Brothers album, each member of the band contributed something to the project and Bruce Johnston did a great job at polishing the rough edges and making the album sound cohesive and whole from start to finish.

Brian Wilson contributed "Good Timin'", a beautiful harmony-rich song that just melts the ears. It was written back in 1974 with Carl Wilson and was finally unearthed here. Brian also contributed a fun, if not bizarre, rock 'n' roll arrangement of "Shortenin' Bread". This song was originally recorded for the abandoned Adult/Child album.

Carl Wilson contributed three of his greatest songs, the gorgeous "Full Sail", "Angel Come Home" (quite possibly Carl's best song ever, made better by Dennis Wilson's aching, heartfelt vocals) and the easy-going "Goin' South". Carl wrote some of the Beach Boys' best latter-day songs, and these three just go right along with songs like "Feel Flows", "The Trader" and "Keepin' the Summer Alive" to prove that Carl was a better songwriter than anyone ever gave him credit for.

Dennis Wilson contributed the awesome "Love Surrounds Me" (with Christine McVie providing some background vocals) and his greatest song ever, the beautiful and stunning "Baby Blue". Both of these songs were intended for Dennis' second solo album, Bamboo, which he never finished due to his untimely death in 1983.

Mike Love and Al Jardine each contributed one gem, the Japanese flavored "Sumahama" and "Lady Lynda" (an ode to Al's then-wife) respectively. "Sumahama" has been dismissed out-of-hand by some fans because of Mike singing in Japanese for part of the song. If you pay attention, it actually fits in perfect with the music and mood of the song. "Lady Lynda" uses the melody to Bach's "Jesu: Joy of Man's Desiring". Rarely do pop songs use a classical theme and get good results. This is one of the rare cases. Great harmonies, great lyrics, great, if not tried-and-true, melody. What else do you need?

This takes us to L.A.'s most controversial moment; a ten-minute disco recasting of "Here Comes the Night", a song originally released in 1967 on the Wild Honey album. If the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney could all do a disco single, why couldn't the Beach Boys? The song actually has a great beat, fantastic vocals and I guess you could say it's very "professionally" done. Not a lot of flash, but just a great danceable beat. I think a lot of Beach Boys fans need to relax the anus about this one. Disco was king in the late 70s, deal with it. It's also one of the few songs on L.A. that you can actually move to a little bit.

Though "Good Timin'" scraped the bottom of the top 40 and "Lady Lynda" became a top 10 hit in the UK, the album was a flop because nobody cared. That however doesn't take away from the fact that it's a great album and a shining gem in the Beach Boys' catalog. I'll defend this one 'til the end of time. I love it.

5 Stars
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