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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Beach Boys: Summer In Paradise


THE BEACH BOYS: SUMMER IN PARADISE (1992)

1) Hot Fun In The Summertime; 2) Surfin'; 3) Summer Of Love; 4) Island Fever; 5) Still Surfin'; 6) Slow Summer Dancin' (One Summer Night); 7) Strange Things Happen; 8) Remember (Walking In The Sand); 9) Lahaina Aloha; 10) Under The Boardwalk; 11) Summer In Paradise; 12) Forever.

Since this album, like its predecessor, is now out of print, and even the few surviving copies are going on Ebay for suspiciously low cash figures, it is clear that even Mike Love, not to mention the few other surviving Beach Boys, would prefer to forget about it like one forgets about a parti­cularly nasty bad dream (to each his own). But history is history: in the digital age, it no longer forgets anything. Besides, the fifty years of penance required for a crime like this are far from over — so take it like a man, Mr. Love.

The most awful realization one can make about Summer In Paradise is that — yes, I know it is very hard to believe, but here goes: The Beach Boys (at this point, consisting of Mike, Carl, and Bruce) were not consciously trying to make the worst pop album ever recorded. On the contrary, they were trying to make an album that would garner commercial success by combining healthy nostalgia, modern production va­lues, and a soulful punch. Had this been intended as a corny self-parody, we would all just laugh and go home.

Granted, time has healed the wounds, and what, in 1992, could only seem the utmost horror to all purveyors of good taste, now comes across as a bizarre curiosity — and by now I mean «when Baywatch is no longer the regular benchmark for trash culture». But it is still worth one and only one listen, exclusively for educational purposes. For starters, the album was almost entirely com­puter-generated (Pro Tools!), with all the rhythm sections pre-programmed. The only Beach Boy to actually play an instrument on these tracks was Bruce Johnston. The only Beach Boy to actual­ly write songs on this album was Mike Love, and even then he mostly supplied lyrics to Terry Melcher's «compositions». The only other Beach Boy to take an active part whatsoever was Carl Wilson, taking lead vocals on a couple tracks, overseeing the vocal harmony recording process, and adding pathetic «credibility» to the product as a «Beach Boys» creation.

As for the album's general purpose, one look at the tracklist is quite sufficient to understand what was going on. Unfortunately, the titles alone do not let one see the true scope of disaster. To do that, arm yourself with forgiveness and listen to the new «re-recording» of 'Surfing', replete with crashing electronic percussion and muscular Def Leppard-influenced RIFFAGE: a new look for surf-rock, targeted at the recent generation of morons, which, fortunately, was far less huge than could be expected (alas, a whoppin' 10,000 people still bought this re­cord back in the day, heed­less of everything). If you need more, a couple blocks down the line comes 'Still Surfing', a nos­talgic toss-off that steals vocal harmony lines from several genuine Beach Boys classics and tries to make them serve the idea that nothing much has changed in thirty years. No dice.

Amazing, unbelievably effective lowlights on the album include 'Summer Of Love', on which Mike is impersonating a cocky beach-goer with a little rap chant (the most offensive thing about it is, of course, not the «sexism» of the lyrics, as critics frequently complain, but the utter fake­ness of the sexism — at least a guy like Steven Tyler, with all his flaws, still knew how to invite a lady to his «love vacation» in 1992 sounding like he really means it); the title track, which begins like a corny nostalgia trip and then quickly, and for no apparent cause, transforms into an even cornier eco-anthem; and the «reinvention» of 'Remember (Walkin' In The Sand)', which genuine­ly should rank among the top three or so worst covers ever attempted by anybody — the idea of doing the kind of deed they did to the word "remember" could only come from a mind so perver­ted that I wouldn't trust the person in question with a baseball, let alone a baseball bat.

As for the not-so-impressive tracks, they are simply forgettable — boring adult contemporary crap, for the most part. The fact that this whole thing was recorded in 1992, at least one year after the grunge revolution, in an age when the long-burgeoning underground scene was finally co­ming out to meet the masses, just shows how utterly, thoroughly clueless the «Beach Boys» were about the musical scene of the time, judging it exclusively by MTV standards. But that's only half of the crime — then comes the pathetic part, because even by those standards they could not come up with a glossy enough, convincing enough, commercial enough piece of product. What more can be said about an album that hypocritically ends with a cover of Dennis Wilson's 'Fore­ver' — with the lead vocals given to John fuckin' Stamos, the star of Full House? If that ain't reason enough for Dennis to stage a vengeful comeback from the grave, nothing is, and the dead will stay in the ground until the end of time — coincidentally, just like Summer In Paradise. The only consolation is that at least Brian had nothing whatsoever to do with this senseless self-humiliation. Thumbs down — all the way right to the toes this time.

13 comments:

  1. I've been enjoying your reviews of the worst period of Beach Boys albums- it's both sad (for Brian and the Beach Boys in general) and gratifying to read about Mike Love's slow-mo implosion. Sounds like this one is the worst of the worst- naturally, now I need to find a copy so I can appreciate just HOW bad. If nothing else, if I score some vinyl I'll have some nice whale art.

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  2. I'm just waiting for your review of the "Salute Nascar" album. If you're going to review it, that is.

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  3. From Wikipedia:

    "The idea of this album, in Mike Love's words, was to create "the quintessential soundtrack of summer"."

    I'll translate that:

    "The idea of this album, in Mike Love's words, was to create "a Beach Boys album"."

    Now, how exactly do you mess that up?

    It's a shame - that artwork is lovely.

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  4. Three words: No. Redeeming. Factors.
    Well the cover is pretty nice, I'll give them that.
    I'm of the opinion that the *best* track here (if you can even use the word "best" in this context) is the John Stamos "Forever" simply because its the only song that was both good to begin with and hasn't had its melody or arrangement significantly messed with. I can't be too hard on Stamos, if the Beach Boys suddenly were your new friends you'd probably be psyched to sing with them too. Mike is to blame for inviting him to join them (and even tour with them!) in the first place.
    Of course even that track is still pretty bad. Everything else ranges from in-one-ear-out-the-other blandness, to unintentional comedy. But they're vapid soulless creations either way. This album is a fascinating disaster and it's almost worth listening to for that reason. I agree with George; hear it, but hear it once and only once, then never ever again.

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  5. Micheal - there's always YouTube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJkHrqJqZFM
    by the way there is always time to give Stamos a good kicking, however if you were the hot young thing with smoldering latin looks (but without the thick latin accent) why would you tie your to the senile money grubbing remains of a group that hadn't seen even a creative spark for ten, twelve, almost fifteen years at that point.

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  6. Well... that song isn't exactly "terrible" (it has a melody and some energy and all that), but it is very definitely [i]bland[/i]. Very, very bland. Then again, I could tell that from the title.

    At least the youtube commenters are mostly happy with it.

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  7. See, the problem with that youtube video is that since it's a live version it's automatically 100 times better than the robot-music of the studio version. It's true that it's one of the only songs with a real melody. But the lyrics are possibly the worst on the whole album which kinda negates any positive feelings about the presence of a melody.

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  8. Michael:

    Here, this is the best demonstration of how terrible the album is.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBFsJk6PWu0

    Umm...enjoy?

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  9. Michael, the album is also nearly impossible to find: the label went out of business releasing it! Copies sell for hundreds of dollars sometimes as its never been reprinted. Just pass! Or, buy the stupid thing on an MP3 website for pennies a song. Still getting ripped off but hey...

    Never heard it myself but that's because I made a solemn vow to avoid auditory rape sensations.

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  10. Yes, there's a good reason why it's the ONLY Beach Boys album to remain unavailable. Thanks goodness that they've released an album this year, so that this piece almost unadulterated trash doesn't go down in history as the last Beach Boys album. \

    The intent was the "Kokomo" 'masterminds' Love and Melcher, having scored a #1 single, concluded that a 45 minute "Kokomo" would be just what the public would dig. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The new songs are wretched and immature and the covers (as on "15 Big Ones") are mostly massacred (by the way, John Stamos was actually a touring drummer for the band before "Full House", but that doesn't excuse what he's done with "Forever").

    As for the vocals -- well, even though the 1985 album had that digital production, the major redeeming factor was that the vocal harmonies were still excellent (there's nothing here with the beauty of "Where I Belong"). I was surprised to read that Carl was involved with the vocal arrangements, becuase, while lacking the shrillness of "KTSA" or the raggedness of "Love You", they sstil lsound very sterile and artficial, as if the were overly computer processed, almost totally lacking identity.

    There are two bright spots, anyway -- a somewhat inspired cover of "Hot Fun in the Summertime" and Al's vocals on "Strange Things Happen" (yes, he's on the album, but just barely -- he and Love got into arguments over the material, quite understandably on his part). But they aren't worth seeking out if you have to actually pay for a copy of the CD. Let it remain buried in the sand, along with Mike Love's sense of musical taste.

    Bob

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  11. i suppose when you say that this is the worst pop album ever, you mean "by a really important band", because no matter how bad this sounds for the beach boys standards, there's still tons of worse shit out there! someone like you, who allegedly listened to so many records, should be aware of that.

    i can't tell anyway, many reviewers think they can write having listening to an album once (after they couldn't get it on the night before), or not even listening to it at all.

    ANYWAY.. the lyrics of summer in paradise are beyond ridiculous, the production is musically crap (sonically, it is clearer than the predecessors, though) and every melody in general sounds awfully boring and predictable.

    just mediocre original songs written and arranged by untalented guys, bad remakes and strange covers (nothing worse than any culture club or erasure album) with vocal harmonies STILL sounding good, way above average! you can't deny carl sounds great, come on..

    really, i see this album just as a prove of how far the idiotness and ignorance of mike love goes. BUT... the beach boys SOUL is something that really, really has nothing to do with it.

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  12. I wonder if George would prefer this album or Rod Stewart's "Camouflage"?

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