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Beach Boys Albums Ranked

I saw Love & Mercy the other day. Paul Dano knocked it out of the park. Here are all of the Beach Boys' studio albums ranked. I excluded the incomplete SMILE Sessions and the country collaboration Stars and Stripes Vol. 1 as well.
28The Beach Boys
Summer in Paradise


The only Beach Boys album without any input from Brian Wilson and the worst album I've ever heard by a major artist. The hollow production and painful lyrics make most of the music unlistenable. Aside from Mike Love's atrocious rapping on "Summer of Love" (look up the goddawful Baywatch video for it), though, it's forgivable enough for its good intentions and pro-environment message. The cover art is pretty, too. John Stamos sings the final track.
27The Beach Boys
Keepin' the Summer Alive


Not as stunningly bad as "Summer in Paradise", but still a lame ride throughout. Closer "Endless Harmony" is worth a listen. Avoid the rest.
26The Beach Boys
L.A. (Light Album)


Misguided and forgettable, save for the breezy opening track "Good Timin'" - the album's only hit which peaked at #40 in the US. The 11-minute disco rendition of "Here Comes the Night" has some value as an oddity. Brian Wilson had little to no influence on the rest of the songs, and it shows. I recently added this album to the Beach Boys' page here, as nobody in SputnikMusic's 10-year existence had yet noticed that it was missing.
25The Beach Boys
15 Big Ones


Only slightly better than the cover art suggests. Despite a poor reception from critics, fans and band itself, this is the most commercially successful BB studio album from their post-Pet Sounds era. The first three tracks and "Just Once In My Life" are worth checking out.
24The Beach Boys
Still Cruisin'


Like 15 Big Ones, this slapdash collection of songs (threaded together under the pretense that most had appeared on movie soundtracks) was somehow a commercial triumph. I'll confess to loving fluke #1 hit "Kokomo" - this would rank last without it and much higher with the Muppets version included.
23The Beach Boys
Shut Down Volume 2


Despite the presence of sunny classics like "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "Don't Worry Baby", Shut Down Volume 2 is overwhelmed by incredibly blatant filler tracks: "Denny's Drums" (literally a short drum solo), a long mock argument between band mates, "Pom Pom Play Girl", etc. The rushed production makes it the worst early BB album.
22The Beach Boys
M.I.U. Album


A couple nifty moments, notably "Peggy Sue" and the energetic cover of "Come Go With Me". But the misses ("Belles of Paris", "Match Point of Our Love") are really, really bad - the result of the only Al Jardine and Mike Love managing most of the production (Brian Wilson could barely function and the other band members didn't show up). The songs were awkwardly rewritten from their original incarnations as Christmas jingles. The first indication of the Beach Boys' late-career creative decline.
21The Beach Boys
Little Deuce Coupe


A fun and earnest listen, but the best tracks were all featured on earlier releases, the car-themed album tracks are at best passable filler, and "Be True to Your School" is the only essential unique to the record and it's notable primarily for its camp value.
20The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys


Steve Levine's glitzy 80's production tries to hide a record rife with uninspired songwriting, a trick that works for the first two tracks and stops the album from every becoming truly embarassing.
19The Beach Boys
Beach Boys' Party!


An awkwardly faked 'live' album, featuring the first studio recording of hit "Barbara Ann" and a funny rendition of "The Times They Are a-Changin'".
18The Beach Boys
Carl and the Passions - "So Tough"


A thoroughly mediocre record notable mostly for the pretty harmonies in closer "Cuddle Up".
17The Beach Boys
Surfin' Safari


The Beach Boys' debut has classics "Surfin" and "Surfin Safari" - the rest is rather forgettable, but decent and charming in its rawness.
16The Beach Boys
That's Why God Made The Radio


The Beach Boys salvaged their reputation with their first genuinely good effort in decades. Some of the Mike Love songs stink, but the title track is splendid and the mood consistently serene.
15The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys' Christmas Album


One of the better Christmas albums I've heard and a surprisingly good fit for the still-young band, allowing for a strong showing of their vocal harmonies.
14The Beach Boys
Holland


A successful oddity, especially in its adventurous and glorious first half. Some versions include a musical recording of a fairy tale written by Brian Wilson, which actually fits the mood quite well.
13The Beach Boys
Surfin' U.S.A.


The Beach Boys' second album and breakthrough. "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Shut Down" are classics, but there's more to find here. The many instrumentals - still performed by the band - mesh pretty well with the early surfing-themed tunes.
12The Beach Boys
Wild Honey


The Beach Boys dive into soul and R&B, and the results are better than you'd expect. An overlooked and consistent gem.
11The Beach Boys
Love You


The last notably great BB record and incidentally the last truly driven by Brian Wilson, featuring a bizarre, synth-driven production and wacky lyrics.
10The Beach Boys
20/20


An interesting amalgam of genres. The first three tracks (the singles) are excellent, and the album has some solid deep cuts as well. An uncredited Charles Manson wrote "Never Learn Not to Love".
9The Beach Boys
All Summer Long


The band's last California-focused beach rock album. A great listen that includes the #1 hit "I Get Around" and no flops.
8The Beach Boys
Friends


A quiet, pleasant and understated follow-up to a series of turbulent recording sessions. A bit slight with no uptempo tracks to balance out the pretty ballads, but that's kind of the point.
7The Beach Boys
Today!


The first entry in the Beach Boys' discography to be absolutely stellar from start to finish, burdened only by the fact that the version of "Help Me, Rhonda" here has a weak mix. Lots of gorgeous moments on emotive songs like "Please Let Me Wonder", along with the excellent singles "Dance, Dance Dance" and "Do You Wanna Dance?"
6The Beach Boys
Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)


A superbly produced pop album by Brian Wilson. Pretty and poignant album tracks surround the masterpieces "Help Me, Rhonda" and "California Girls" in the middle.
5The Beach Boys
Surf's Up


Though probably the most blatantly "artsy" BB recording, Surf's Up feels like a natural evolution of the band's sound. Brian Wilson's confessional "A Day in the Life of a Tree" and the soaring "Long Promised Road" are stunning. The title track, a leftover from the abandoned SMILE sessions, steals the show.
4The Beach Boys
Surfer Girl


If you want one album from the Beach Boys' iconic early surf-rock period, this is it. "Surfer Girl", "Catch a Wave", "The Surfer Moon", "Little Deuce Coupe", "In My Room", "Hawaii", and "Your Summer Dream" are all classics or semi-classics and concert staples that first appear here. The remaining tracks are perfectly solid as well.
3The Beach Boys
Sunflower


The most democratic album from the Beach Boys' peak years lacks a great single but makes for a wonderous listening experience all the way through. If you only own Pet Sounds and a hits compilation, check out Sunflower next.
2The Beach Boys
Smiley Smile


The collapse of the SMILE sessions may be the big story here, but the album that the band ultimately salvaged from it deserves far more credit than it often gets. Of course, "Heroes & Villains" and "Good Vibrations" are spectacular, but their sequencing with the many oddities around them ("Vegetables", "Gettin' Hungry") is quite successful. An incredible fusion of cutting-edge production techniques and accessible pop melodies.
1The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds


A masterwork that deserves its hype. "Love & Mercy" brilliantly portrayed its production. My personal favorites are "That's Not Me", "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Caroline, No", but everything (instrumentals included) is impeccable.
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