15 Big Ones

The Beach Boys

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15 Big Ones Review

by John Bush

Thanks to the surprising success of the compilation Endless Summer, the Beach Boys entered the studio in 1975 for the first time in almost three years. The album that followed, 15 Big Ones, balanced covers of rock and doo wop standards with seven new Beach Boys songs (including five Brian Wilson compositions). Most of the covers are mistakes, part of a misguided attempt by the aging Beach Boys to recapture the energy of their youth. The "contemporary" production techniques and overly polished sound do nothing for these oldies, and effectively sap them of any energy they might once have had. And the choices -- including Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music," the Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love," Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill," Freddy Cannon's "Palisades Park" -- are simply too well known to be reworked effectively, by anyone. The only one that succeeds is the closer, the lesser-known Righteous Brothers hit "Just Once in My Life," given an emotional reading by Carl and Brian. Of the band originals, the good-time standard "It's OK" and the quirky, endearing "Had to Phone Ya" are excellent, reminiscent of Brian's odd pop songs on late-'60s albums like Friends and 20/20. Most of the other originals are quite inferior though, including the silly history-of-music salute "That Same Song," Al Jardine's "Susie Cincinnati," and the meditation primer "T M Song." [In 2000, 15 Big Ones was made available on the two-fer compilation 15 Big Ones/Love You.]

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