Monday, October 30, 2006

Review #9 & 10: 15 Big Ones/The Beach Boys Love You

One of the saddest stories in all of rock history is that of Brian Wilson. I'm not going to relate the whole story to you, so I suggest you get and read the excellent new Catch A Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson.
Despite the fact that some history is needed for anyone to understand these two albums that I'm reviewing today, I'm not going to put any here in my introduction as these reviews are primarily about the music contained in the sleeves.
These two albums, 15 BIG ONES (1976) and THE BEACH BOYS LOVE YOU (1977) were both remastered and put on a two-fer CD in 2000.

Do not readjust your CD player...that is Mike Love singing "Just let me hear some of that rock and roll music...!" and that is Brian Wilson singing "Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married..."
Essentially, 7 crappy covers + 1 excellent cover + 2 'I swear that came out of someone's back side' originals + 4 pretty good originals + 1 excellent leftover = 15 Big Ones.
The album opens with a version of Rock And Roll Music that, while two guitar players are listed, is seemingly missing the greatest part of rock music. This then goes on to It's OK, which might seem akin to "Do It Again", and then Had To Phone Ya, which is in the 'pretty good' category. Most of the rest is just plain embarrassing. Chapel of Love, a song I've always thought was just girly to no end, is here, done by five men with beards and one who also has major phychiactric problems. Everyone's In Love With You and TM Song (which begins with a staged fight worse than "'Cassius' Love Vs. 'Sonny' Wilson" from 1964's Shut Down, Volume 2) might be some of the worst the Boys had recorded yet. Palisades Park (which, oddly enough, they parodied on "Amusement Parks, USA" from 1965's Summer Days [And Summer Nights!!]) and A Casual Look (which includes the line "...she's so young/can't marry no one" which has the same tune as the line "I'm so young/Can't marry no one" from another cover "I'm So Young" on TODAY!) seem like they were done in the early '60s, while Blueberry Hill isn't god-awfull, but hardly anywhere near the original. Susie Cincinnati, a left-over from the Sunflower (1970) sessions, is probably the best track, along with the amazing Just Once In My Life, which closes the album. Brian and Carl puts all their hearts into this track and it's just amazing.
For those who don't like to read into music and just like to listen, this is a perfect album for you. It is just like the early '60s Beach Boys albums: some covers and some good originals. However, for those who do read into everything and must know what they're talking about, you'll be disappointed.

....but it's also one of the most enjoyable.
Some of the tracks are pure Beach Boys: I'll Bet He's Nice is like something plucked off of TODAY! and given a snyth treatment. Let Us Go On This Way has great vocal play, with the descending "OH! God...let us go on this way....!" Airplane is like "Sloop John B", with it's closing "I can't wait to see her" part.
Other parts are strange beyond comprehension: I, a person who has never even played music, could have written Mona and Solar System with my hands tied behind my back. "Johnny Carson" is just the single strangest song in the world. I Wanna Pick You Up just sounds...wrong!
Still, there's some other songs that are perfect, like The Night Was So Young, which feels like "Busy Doin' Nothin'" from Friends (1968) and Good Time. I might be the only person who has heard this album to say this, but I do like Roller Skating Child. It's a great little song that's childish, but if you understand the lyrics (and forget that Brian is in his mid-thirties when he sang this) it does make sense. I also find Honkin' Down The Highway enjoyable as well.
What makes Love You fun to hear is the same reason why I like Paul McCartney's McCartney II (1980): it's simple. By 1977, you would have to be committing suicide to come out with something as simple and easy-going as Love You and because it goes against that standard, it is original. Brian Wilson (this is basically a Wilson solo album) does not push strong lyrical messages and does not create a strong climax or anything like that. He creates a record that is an embodiment of what music should be: simple, sweet and universally understood. Everyone knows how it feels to be stuck in a traffic jam and honking your way through the gosh darn highway...we all know the feeling you get when you first realize the solar system exists...and we all know that you have to treat the ones you love nicely.

This CD's booklet has a nice essay for both albums, that gives you a well-rounded aspect on the history surrounding the two albums. IT also has all the original artwork from both, including all the original information.
Capitol's two-fer that includes both these albums is worth it, but I would not make this your first Beach Boys CD, or your first 1970s Beach Boys CD (that should be Sunflower/Surf's Up). The only problem, though, is that you have to suffer through 15 Big Ones first, before you get to The Beach Boys Love You. It goes for at least $15, which is pretty good, considering you are getting an OK album, along with a terrible one--all one one CD!

15 BOG ONES- **1/2
OVERALL- ***1/2

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