The Beach Boys

L.A. (Light Album)

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The Beach Boys' last album of the '70s, L.A. (Light Album), leads off with "Good Timin'," a mid-tempo number with excellent harmonies and a charming laid-back vibe. Unfortunately, there's nothing else of that caliber here (the song actually dated from 1974), and the Beach Boys ended the decade by releasing the worst album of their career. True, there are a few solid spots for Carl and Dennis Wilson, including the quasi-duet "Baby Blue" and several songs originally intended for Dennis' unfinished second solo album, Bamboo. But songs like Al Jardine's "Lady Lynda" (a tribute to his wife), Mike Love's "Sumahama" (a Japanese fantasy), and Brian Wilson's bizarre run through one of his favorite nursery rhymes ("Shortenin' Bread") would never have made it onto vinyl five years before, much less ten. The real shock for fans, however, comes at the beginning of side two, with a reworked version of "Here Comes the Night" (originally on 1967's Wild Honey). Easily the most idiosyncratic production ever attempted by the group, "Here Comes the Night" tried to get the Beach Boys onto the charts by latching onto the already fading disco movement -- if the Bee Gees could do it, why couldn't they? -- with an 11-minute disco single complete with thumping beat and a few digital effects. Though the single never charted, the production (by Bruce Johnston and longtime West Coast producer Curt Becher) was surprisingly well done. And the group's excellent harmonies and Carl's over-the-top vocal made "Here Comes the Night" a natural for disco audiences. Besides the occasional pleasing eccentricity, however, L.A. (Light Album) was yet another oddball attempt to push the Beach Boys into the contemporary mainstream despite their many songwriting and production flaws.

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