The Beach Boys – L.A. (Light Album) (1979)

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L.A. (Light Album) is the 23rd studio album by The Beach Boys, released on March 19, 1979. Produced by Bruce Johnston, James William Guercio and the band itself, the album was The Beach Boys’ first on CBS Records, and the first to feature contributions from Johnston since his departure from the band in 1972. Johnston was brought in when it became clear that the ailing Brian Wilson was in no fit state to produce the album, and has remained in the band ever since.
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.

Tracklist

1.  “Good Timin'”  (Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson) – 2:12
2.  “Lady Lynda”  (Johann Sebastian Bach; arranged by Al Jardine, Ron Altbach)  – 3:58
3.  “Full Sail”  (C. Wilson, Geoffrey Cushing-Murray) – 2:56
4.  “Angel Come Home”  (C. Wilson, Cushing-Murray) – 3:39
5.  “Love Surrounds Me”  (D. Wilson, Cushing-Murray) – 3:41
6.  “Sumahama”  (Mike Love)  – 4:30
7.  “Here Comes the Night”  (B. Wilson, Love) – 10:51
8.  “Baby Blue”  (D. Wilson, Gregg Jakobson, Karen Lamm) – 3:25
9.  “Goin’ South”  (C. Wilson, Cushing-Murray) – 3:16
10.  “Shortenin’ Bread”  (Traditional; arranged by B. Wilson) – 2:49

The Beach Boys

  • Mike Love – lead, harmony and backing vocals, orchestral arrangements
  • Brian Wilson – harmony and backing vocals on “Angel Come Home”, piano
  • Carl Wilson – lead, harmony and backing vocals, guitar
  • Al Jardine – lead, harmony and backing vocals, guitar
  • Dennis Wilson – lead, harmony and backing vocals, drums, percussion
  • Bruce Johnston – harmony and backing vocals, keyboards, vocal and orchestral arrangements, production

Additional musicians

  • Ed Carter – guitar, bass guitar
  • Carlos Munoz – piano
  • Bobby Figueroa – drums
  • Sterling Smith – harpsichord
  • Phil Shenale – synthesizer
  • Jim Guercio – bass guitar
  • Gary Mallaber – drums
  • Ritchie Zito – guitar
  • Mike Baird – drums
  • Joel Peskin – alto saxophone solo on “Here Comes The Night”
  • Jimmy Lyons – alto saxophone solos
  • Mike Meros – clavinet
  • Bob Esty – synthesizer
  • Wah Wah Watson – guitar
  • Joe Chemay – bass guitar
  • Steve Forman – percussion
  • Victor Feldman – percussion
  • Ron Altbach – keyboards

Recording personnel

  • Bruce Johnston – producer
  • The Beach Boys – producer
  • Jim Guercio – producer
  • Curt Becher – co-producer (“Here Comes the Night”), engineer
  • Bill Fletcher – engineer
  • Chuck Britz – engineer
  • Joel Moss – engineer
  • Earle Mankey – engineer
  • Tom Murphy – engineer
  • Chuck Leary – engineer
  • Greg Venable – engineer
  • Jeff Guercio – engineer
  • John Hanlon – engineer

Notes
Released: March 19, 1979
Recorded: July 1978 – January 1979
Genre: Pop, Soft Rock, Disco
Length: 41:33

Label – Caribou Records

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