BEACH BOYS

Solo Albums



Reviewed on this page:

The story of the Beach Boys' 40-year-plus history is a serpentine saga, much too complex to summarize on a web page such as this one, and the same goes for their recorded catalogue. Instead, this page focuses on a lesser-known part of their history: solo albums that were recorded by the individual members. Nearly every major member has recorded at least one solo album, but most besides the ones done by Brian Wilson are out of print. None of the solo albums are profound artistic achievements, but some of them make for fairly pleasant listening.


Bruce Johnston is the low-profile Beach Boy. He became the touring replacement for Brian Wilson after Wilson retired from touring in 1965 to concentrate on full-time album recording. Johnston has been involved in the music business since the '50's (one of his early gigs was as a member of Ritchie Valens' touring band) and he took part in several surf-pop projects (including his own 1963 album Surfin' 'Round The World) before joining the Beach Boys. He has often participated in Beach Boys albums and remains a touring member to this day. He did, however, go on hiatus from the band between 1972 and 1978, and in 1976 he recorded his only post-1963 solo album.

On Going Public, Johnston recorded his own versions of songs that he had written for others. His best-known composition is "I Write The Songs", a worldwide #1 hit for Barry Manilow. The album contains Johnston's bland rendition of that song, as well as songs that he'd written for the Beach Boys ("Deirdre", "Disney Girls"), the Hudson Brothers ("Rendezvous"), and other pop acts from the '60's and '70's. Most of them are sadly reduced to dull, wispy Manilow-like pop. The exception, a discoed-up remake of the Chantays' 1963 surf instrumental "Pipeline", is a similarly embarrassing period piece. Lynsey DePaul's "Won't Somebody Dance With Me" gets by on cuteness. Otherwise, Going Public has about as much flavor and color as bottled water.


Track Listing:

1. I Write The Songs
2. Deirdre
3. Thank You Baby
4. Rendezvous
5. Won't Somebody Dance With Me
6. Disney Girls
7. Rock And Roll Survivor
8. Don't Be Scared
9. Pipeline



Blondie Chaplin was one of two South African musicians who were members of the Beach Boys in the early '70's. Guitarist Chaplin and drummer Ricky Fataar were discovered by Carl Wilson while performing with their band Flame. Chaplin's best-remembered contribution to the Beach Boys is his lead vocal on the hit "Sail On Sailor". Chaplin remains a prominent session musician to this day, having recently worked with the Rolling Stones and many others.

Chaplin made only one solo album in 1977. The album is self-titled, but the words "Rock + Roll" appear in the front cover photo, so some people have thought that was the album's title. It's certainly not false advertising, because the album rocks and rolls from beginning to end. There isn't a dull song in the bunch; Chaplin's soulful vocals are perfectly matched with the Little Feat-style r&b grooves of the backing musicians (including Fataar, Garth Hudson, and country-rock musician David Mason -- not to be confused with Dave Mason from Traffic). Blondie Chaplin is a most enjoyable and satisfying rock + roll album. The Wounded Bird label reissued the album on CD in April 2008.

Track Listing:

1. Bye Bye Babe
2. Can You Hear Me
3. Crazy Love
4. Woman Don't Cry
5. Loose Lady
6. Be My Love
7. Lonely Traveler
8. Riverboat Queen
9. Say You Need Me
10. For Your Love
11. Gimme More Rock 'N Roll


Dennis Wilson, who died from drowning in 1983, was the Beach Boys' drummer. Like the other Beach Boys, Dennis became more active in the band's songwriting and production after his brother Brian became withdrawn in 1967. In 1977, he recorded the solo album Pacific Ocean Blue. Produced by Wilson and Gregg Jakobson, the album showed that Dennis had become a good songwriter and producer in his own right, able to withstand comparison to his brother in those areas. But this Beach Boy wasn't a boy anymore; the tragic flaw of Pacific Ocean Blue is Dennis' worn and ragged voice. His vocals add a hard crust to the arrangements. While his vocals do lend the album some emotional depth, they sometimes make the well-crafted songs difficult to appreciate.

A deluxe version of the album was issued by Sony Legacy on June 17, 2008. This edition features a bonus disc containing the recordings for Dennis' unreleased second album, titled Bambu.

Track Listing:

1. River Song
2. What's Wrong
3. Moonshine
4. Friday Night
5. Dreamer
6. Thoughts Of You
7. Time
8. You And I
9. Pacific Ocean Blues
10. Farewell My Friend
11. Rainbows
12. End Of The Show


Mike Love, the cousin of the Wilson brothers, has generally been considered the band's lead vocalist. He is the one member who has always been involved with every official Beach Boys album and tour. His only solo album was 1981's Looking Back With Love. Love did almost none of the writing for this album. Aside from covers of Neil Sedaka's "Calendar Girl" and Phil Spector's "Be My Baby", most of the songs are written by his supporting players. After brief flirtations with synthesizers and social commentary in the first two tracks, the remainder of the album reverts to the sound of the early, pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, as Love sings simple, old-fashioned pop songs about young love. Though it's hardly convincing to hear the middle-aged Love sing from the point of view of a teenager, Looking Back With Love is a pleasant, if trivial, nostalgia indulgence.

Track Listing:

1. Looking Back With Love
2. On And On And On
3. Runnin' Around The World
4. Over And Over
5. Rockin' The Man In The Boat
6. Calendar Girl
7. Be My Baby
8. One Good Reason
9. Teach Me Tonight
10. Paradise Found



Carl Wilson, who died of cancer in 1998, left the Beach Boys at one point in the early '80's, when personal problems were tearing the band apart. He returned in 1983, when the tragic death of his brother Dennis brought the rest of the band together. During his absence, he recorded two solo albums: 1981's Carl Wilson and 1983's Youngblood. Both albums consist of mainstream rock that is easy to listen to and easy to forget.

Carl Wilson has an unabashed Top 40 sound. All of the songs were co-written by Wilson and back-up singer Myrna Smith. The first side is the slightly better one; the songs at times recall the late-career Eagles. But the more mellow second side spills too far over into Chicago territory (no surprise there, since Chicago mentor James William Guercio produced). Carl is in good voice throughout, but the material is standard. One amusing moment: "The Grammy" questions the value of the award.

Youngblood is even less distinguished. Produced by veteran guitarist/producer Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), the album has a heavier and noisier rock sound than its predecessor. The bulk of the material was again written by Wilson and Smith, although this album also contains a few covers, including the title oldie and John Fogerty's "Rockin' All Over The World". Not surprisingly, Baxter's guitar playing is mixed louder than anything else, and it usually drowns out Wilson's appealing voice. The ballad "Givin' You Up" is the only track with any individuality at all.

Track Listings:

CARL WILSON

1. Hold Me
2. Bright Lights
3. What You Gonna Do About Me
4. The Right Lane
5. Hurry Love
6. Heaven
7. The Grammy
8. Seems So Long Ago

YOUNGBLOOD

1. What More Can I Say?
2. She's Mine
3. Givin' You Up
4. One More Night Alone
5. Rockin' All Over The World
6. What You Do To Me
7. Young Blood
8. Of The Times
9. Too Early To Tell
10. If I Could Talk To Love
11. Time



Brian Wilson's Live at the Roxy Theatre was his first live solo album, and was sold through his official website. Recorded over the course of two nights at the small West Hollywood venue, the 2-CD set is far from a standard "greatest hits live" collection. Although there are familiar Beach Boys classics performed here, Brian mixes them with lesser known songs from his former band (including two instrumentals from Pet Sounds), along with solo numbers, new material, and covers (including, strangely enough, a short rendition of the Barenaked Ladies song "Brian Wilson"). Brian and his amazingly adept ten-piece touring band, which includes the Wondermints, tackled an impressive variety of songs here. The former Beach Boys leader sometimes sings off-key, but that's to be expected; he still is in fine voice for an aging rock legend, and can still make good use of his famous falsetto. The endless summer ain't over yet for this old Boy.

Track Listing:

DISC ONE

1. Little Girl Intro
2. The Little Girl I Once Knew
3. This Whole World
4. Don't Worry Baby
5. Kiss Me Baby
6. Do It Again
7. California Girls
8. I Get Around
9. Back Home
10. In My Room
11. Surfer Girl
12. The First Time
13. This Isn't Love
14. Add Some Music To Your Day
15. Please Let Me Wonder

DISC TWO

1. Band Intro
2. Brian Wilson
3. 'Til I Die
4. Darlin'
5. Let's Go Away For Awhile
6. Pet Sounds
7. God Only Knows
8. Lay Down Burden
9. Be My Baby
10. Good Vibrations
11. Caroline No
12. All Summer Long
13. Love & Mercy
14. Sloop John B.
15. Barbara Ann
16. Interview with Brian


Alan Jardine was Brian Wilson's high school friend, and was the only member of the classic Beach Boys lineup who was not related to the others. He made the mistake of quitting the band just before they took off, but he was luckily asked to rejoin them a few years later. He was involved in nearly every Beach Boys lineup from the mid-'60's to the late '90's, but he split from the group in 1998, around the time of Carl Wilson's death.

Shortly after the split, Jardine assembled a touring act called Al Jardine's Family & Friends. (He originally called it Beach Boys Family & Friends, but legal action by Mike Love forced him to change the name). This touring ensemble featured Jardine's sons Matt and Adam, as well as Brian Wilson's daughters Wendy and Carnie (two-thirds of Wilson Phillips, in other words), and nine instrumentalists, some of whom had previously played with the Beach Boys road band. A November 1999 performance was recorded and independently released on CD as Live In Las Vegas. The CD is great fast-paced fun, cramming 26 performances of Beach Boys classics into 72 minutes without short-changing a single one. The song selection covers most of the original band's hits from the '60's (including "Help Me Rhonda", the best-known song that Jardine sang the lead vocal on), and a couple ("Sail On Sailor", "Come Go With Me") from the '70's as well. The arrangements are faithful and sophisticated, and the vocal harmonies by the Beach Boys' offspring is remarkable, as if the talent really is in their blood. Everyone involved sounds like they're having a great time, and Beach Boys devotees will also. (Note: the final track, "California Energy Blues", is a studio-recorded topical protest song sung by the elder Jardine).

Track Listing:

1. Dance, Dance, Dance
2. Do You Wanna Dance?
3. Catch A Wave
4. Hawaii
5. Do It Again
6. Darlin'
7. Wild Honey
8. Come Go With Me
9. Surfer Girl
10. Don't Worry, Baby
11. Shut Down
12. Little Deuce Coupe
13. I Get Around
14. In My Room
15. Girl, Don't Tell Me
16. Break Away
17. Sail On Sailor
18. God Only Knows
19. Sloop John B.
20. Wouldn't It Be Nice?
21. Good Vibrations
22. Heroes & Villains
23. Rhonda
24. Surfin' USA
25. Barbara Ann
26. Fun, Fun, Fun
27. California Energy Blues


Home