Review Summary: The tide comes in
Endless Summer basically killed The Beach Boys. The double album compilation of their early 60s work hit no 1 and stayed in the charts for damn near 3 years. More importantly, it brought them back into the limelight. Now the group had two choices. Keep going with the progressive edge of their previous 3 albums which had brought them good reviews but poor sales or capitalise on their new found popularity and go back to playing oldies. I’ll let you guess which one they chose. With Brian Wilson now 300lbs and nursing a diet of blood red steaks and 5 packs a day, the group needed him back to reignite the magic. Now with infamous psychiatrist Dr Eugene Landy monitoring his every move and with the weight of the world on his shoulders, powered by a campaign announcing he was Back, Brian was just... ambivalent. He was more focused on making covers with rough and dry production instead. And his choices show.
15 Big Ones is bad. It’s also messy. Very very messy. And it’s not very good either. Crammed full of one note covers, weak original tracks and strange production choices, its certainly earned its place in the hall of bad comeback albums. The group’s efforts to regain that old charm they had in their early days are weak to say the least. The originals range from very poor to pretty good. The throwback fun of ‘It’s OK’ is a hit that never was. The jazzy and unusual gem ‘Had To Phone Ya’ is alarmingly catchy and features all the boys on Lead vocals. The gospel send up ‘That Same Song’ is pure cheese but fun and a real ear worm and the Sunflower left over ‘Susie Cincinnati’ is a great rock number by Al. Other than that, it’s Slim pickings.
Brian’s vocals have degenerated into hoarse grunts by this point (Similarly, Dennis had suffered a throat injury that had crippled his singing voice leaving a surprisingly soulful and powerful one in its place). Mix that with a poor choice of covers that range from great to unlistenable (The final two tracks ‘In The Still Of The Night’ and ‘Just Once In My Life’ are genuinely superb and strong, while the album hits truly rancid lows with ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘Chapel Of Love’) and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The production goes from violently overproduced to barely sounding like a rough demo. ‘TM Song’ for example is so bare bones I can hardly really call it a track, it’s more of a rambling mess with a 30 second unfunny skit tacked onto the beginning. It’s an album driven by product and a soulless desire for monetary gain. While there are some catchy and strong takes on old songs and a handful of select originals, there’s also half an albums worth of sappy garbage (Mike’s ‘Everyone’s In Love With You’ sounds more something you’d hear on an easy listening CD than a Beach Boys record), odd production and phoned in, bitter performances. It gets old fast.
Had To Phone Ya
In The Still Of The Night
Just Once In My Life