Learning quickly from the utter failure of their modernist, roots rock bent (circa 1972-1973) and the overwhelming success one year later of their greatest-hits package Endless Summer, the Beach Boys returned to the studio in 1975 with the newly conferred status of America's favorite oldies act. Content to give the people what they wanted, the group cobbled together a few of their favorite oldies (hoary chestnuts like "Rock and Roll Music," "Chapel of Love," "Talk to Me," "Palisades Park," "Blueberry Hill," and "In the Still of the Night") and balanced the set with a few eccentric originals. Unfortunately, the oldies just don't work in the slick production context of the mid-'70s, and despite a few fan favorites ("It's OK," "Had to Phone Ya") among the originals, 15 Big Ones was yet another red flag to the commercial public that the Beach Boys were as out of touch as ever. Its follow-up (1977's Love You) is a distinctly different album altogether, and perhaps the best the band released during the '70s. Originally projected to be a Brian Wilson solo effort, Love You features all originals and is packed with Wilson/Love compositions, a parade of endearing oddities like "Let Us Go On This Way," "Roller Skating Child," and "Honkin' Down the Highway." True, the oddball lyrics and skeletal synth-heavy productions are far removed from the group's classic late-'60s sound, but fans of the sillier side of Brian Wilson will dig Love You almost as much as 1971's Surf's Up. And the band even looked back to its prime with a quasi-suite on side two ("The Night Was So Young," "I'll Bet He's Nice," "Let's Put Our Hearts Together") reminiscent of Brian's endearing adult-child persona. Buy this two-fer for the wonderful Love You, then program your CD player to catch the scant nuggets on 15 Big Ones.
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AllMusic Review by John Bush