Question: If a person has nothing to say, what should he or she do? Answer: Say nothing.
Question. If an artist has no ideas, what should he or she do? Answer. Stay out of the studio.
It is too bad that Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys did not take this advice and skipped the recording of 15 Big Ones. I am a huge Beach Boys fan and every five years I put this record on the turntable in hopes that it is better than I remember, yet I always come away disappointed.
This was supposed to be the big Beach Boys comback album. In the mid 70s, thanks to the popularity of the hits LP Endless Summer, the Beach Boys had re-emerged as one of the most popular touring acts in the world. An LP was wanted to build on that popularity, and more important Brian Wilson was set to produce for the first time in a decade. He had just emerged from a decade of illness and had written more than enough songs for an album.
So anticipation was understandably high as the guys entered the studio in late 1975, but something went terribly wrong. There are no stand-alone Wilson songs and there are way too many oldies covers that do not work, and as such the album boasts no real bright spots and just a few acceptable ones.
Of these, "It's OK" is pleasant but pales in comparison to the group's earlier '70s hits, while the cover of Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music" is mixed well and at least has a hint of the classic Beach Boys sound. The most interesting cut on the LP is the vocal interplay between Brian and Carl on the Righteous Brothers hit "Just Once In My Life," an emotional closing song that works.
Things get so bad on the rest of the disc, though, that the Alan Jardine re-tread "Susie Cincinnati" actually stands out from the crowd. The Brian Wilson-contributed songs "T M Song," "That Same Song," "Had To Phone Ya" and "Back Home," along with Mike Love's "Everyone's In Love With You," are some of the worst in the Beach Boys catalog. As for the other oldies covers, hopefully letters of apology were sent to the Five Satins ("In The Still Of The Night"), Freddy Cannon ("Palisades Park"), The Dixie Cups ("Chapel Of Love") and Fats Domino ("Blueberry Hill"). And to add insult to injury, the production sounds tinny on many of the songs, which is unforgivable on a Beach Boys record.
It may be that Brian Wilson just was not ready or fit to take on the responsibility of producing an album at this time in his life. The group went into a survival mode and this was the result -- an album that sold well because of pre-release buzz but had little to offer and did not help the band's career any. 15 Big Ones takes no creative leap, breaks no new ground, but as a fan I have marked my calander and in five years will give it another try. Maybe I missed something.
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