Brian Wilson Billy Altman - Essay

Billy Altman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Beach Boys Love You is a truly wonderful album, and it is Brian's show from beginning to end. He wrote 11 of the 14 songs and coauthored the others. In light of last year's events—15 Big Ones is easily the worst album in the Beach Boys' long history—its success is even more amazing. The bad songs here are really embarrassing—"Let's Put Our Hearts Together," a duet between Brian and wife Marilyn, and "Love Is a Woman," with Brian's achingly strained vocal, should never have been released—but mostly this album presents a Brian Wilson who is again comfortable in the recording studio, functioning at a level not too far removed from his better days.

As usual, the strengths are musical, the weaknesses lyrical. Wilson's lyrics have always reached clumsily for rhymes and images, and the content has often been silly and childlike. But the fact that he's not trying to be either profound or cute redeems him—you wince, but you also smile. As often as not, it is the very simplicity and warmth of spirit in the words teamed with the very complex and well thought out arrangements that win you over. (pp. 63-4)

The Beach Boys Love You is reminiscent of many other Beach Boys albums. Like the best of them, it's flawed but enjoyable. Brian Wilson still isn't singing as well as he used to, but his playing and composing talents have certainly returned from wherever they've been the past few years. Considering what he's been through, it's some accomplishment. (p. 64)

Billy Altman, "Brother Brian's Resurgin' Safari," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1977; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 238, May 5, 1977, pp. 63-4.