Summer In Paradise
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/24/2009
Summer In Paradise is by far the worst studio album released by The Beach Boys and one of the worst to be released by a major artist. There is bad songwriting, there are bad lyrics, there is bad singing, there is bad production, and then it gets worse. I am one of a very small minority that actually purchased this album when it was released as it sold fewer than 5,000 copies.
Terry Melcher produced the album. I’m guessing that his long-term relationship with Bruce Johnston may have had something to do with his involvement. Even a producer as excellent as he is could not save this sorry affair.
There was a lot of electronic instrumentation used here with a heavy emphasis on a synthesizer sound. Most of the bass parts and drums were programmed; Bruce Johnston was the only Beach Boy to actually play a note.
Sly & The Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In The Summertime” leads off the disc. The harmonies are off kilter and the sound is further ruined by an overbearing bass line. This combination makes it a poor cover. I remember hearing this song the first time I played the album and thinking what a disappointing way to begin a Beach Boys release. Little did I realize that it was about as good as it was going to get.
What possessed Mike Love and The Beach Boys to do a remake of their first song, “Surfin” is beyond me. What possessed Mike Love and The Beach Boys to add a heavy metal guitar sound and headache pounding drums is really beyond me.
I have always found it interesting that Mike Love would increasingly dominate The Beach Boys’ stage act but was not be a major force in the creation of the group’s studio albums. This changed as Summer In Paradise is basically his creation and as the responsible person he is to blame.
Three Mike Love and Terry Melcher creations follow “Surfin.” “Summer Of Love,” “Island Fever” and “Still Surfin” are all found wanting in both structure and melody. Melcher does manage to craft some adequate harmonies but they are not enough to save the songs. Mike Love may not have known better but I would have thought that Melcher would have had more sense and taste.
Bruce Johnston continued this downward trend with his “Summer Dancin’ (One Summer Night)” which is a great title for a very average song.
No track puts this disc in perspective quite as well as the finale. Dennis Wilson’s “Forever” is resurrected and here features a lead vocal by actor and quasi-drummer John Stamos. His performance just makes it very clear that The Beach Boys would never be the same.
To say that Summer In Paradise is a disappointment would be an understatement. It was the only Beach Boys studio album not to make the top 200 chart. I remember thinking at the time that if these guys were serious, they were in big trouble. They were and they were.
This would be The Beach Boys’ last real studio album. Carl Wilson’s lead vocal on the oldie “Remember (Walking In The Sand)” would also be his last as well, and he died of cancer in 1997. Al Jardine was asked to leave the group that same year. Brian Wilson only made sporadic appearances with the group and gradually focused on his solo work, which received critical acclaim.
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