Keepin' The Summer Alive

The Beach Boys

Brother/Caribou, 1980

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The problems for The Beach Boys continued as the 1980’s dawned. Brian Wilson was scheduled to produce their next album, but health issues forced him to withdraw again. Bruce Johnston stepped in to produce his second album for the group. Dennis Wilson left several days into the recording process and made no contributions.

When the dust settled, The Beach Boys had created an album that just missed. Playing Keepin’ The Summer Alive twenty-eight years after its release finds an album with fine vocals and good production. It is the song structures that are problematic. They are more quirky than catchy. Also, by 1980, music had moved irrevocably away from the sound The Beach Boys were capable of creating.

The album presents two songs by the unlikely duo of Carl Wilson and Randy Bachman. The title track features an excellent Carl Wilson vocal and fine guitar playing on the break. This song, co-written by Bachman, takes the group in a rock direction that, while different, may have been a positive step for them. Their second collaboration is less successful. “Living With A Heartache” is almost an easy listening vocal by Carl and needed more harmonies to flesh out the melody. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“School Days (Ring! Ring! The Bell)” is a Chuck Berry cover that just does not work well for The Beach Boys. The harmonies sound forced and Berry’s original is just too unique and memorable to be copied.

“Goin’ On” features a unique duet by Carl Wilson and Mike Love. This vocal pairing works well against building harmonies, but it is an example of a song spoiled by a somewhat off kilter beat (although there is a great sax break). Likewise, “Sunshine,” is another song that just misses. It reminds me of music that played when riding a merry-go-round as a child. “Oh Darlin’,” written by Brian and sung by Carl, is almost a pleasant ballad but is somewhat spoiled by a heavy bass beat.

“Some Of Your Love” is the catchiest song on the album and features some traditional upbeat harmonies. Mike Love’s lead vocal is amazingly effective and this should have been a successful single.

As with their last several albums, Keepin’ The Summer Alive ends on a down note. “When Girls Get Together” is not well constructed, and the poor vocal by Love only makes it worse. “Santa Ana Winds” features good production but more nasal vocals from Love. “Endless Harmony” is a Bruce Johnston attempt at creating a pop song and while the lyrics are well-crafted, the melody does not flow.

Keepin’ The Summer Alive was the last studio album by the Beach Boys for five years. 1985 found a far different group trying to cope with the death of one its original members.

Rating: C

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