L.A. (Light Album) is the twenty-third 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.
L.A. (Light Album) reached #100 in the US during a chart stay of thirteen weeks, and #32 in the UK.
Despite a new $8 million contract with CBS Records calling for Brian Wilson to write and produce 75% of the songs on each new album, his contributions to L.A. (Light Album) are minimal. His presence on the album as a vocalist has only been confirmed on one song, "Angel Come Home", though he probably played piano on the single "Good Timin'" which was co-written by him with brother Carl, but the origins of the recording go back to five years earlier. His arrangement of the traditional song "Shortenin' Bread" was also older, although the recording was more recent. The vocals for both songs were recorded without Brian. "Good Timin'" hit #40 in the US.
Both "Baby Blue" and "Love Surrounds Me" were originally recorded for Dennis Wilson's never-released second solo album, Bambu. These would be the last Dennis Wilson songs released before his death in 1983.
L.A. (Light Album) spawned a top-ten hit in the UK with Al Jardine's Bach-inspired "Lady Lynda", written for his wife, and later rerecorded as "Lady Liberty" after their divorce. Jardine recently revealed that Dennis Wilson made an uncredited contribution to the song's lush string arrangement. Mike Love's Japanese-flavored "Sumahama" was also a UK single chart entry later in 1979.
Possibly the album's most controversial moment was an eleven-minute disco recasting of Wild Honey's "Here Comes the Night" that caused considerable consternation among fans. The song was only played live during a few dates at New York City's Radio City Music Hall in March 1979 before being dropped from the live set due to adverse audience reaction. Nevertheless, an abridged 4:34 version made the charts in the US as the lead single, peaking at #44.
Although Brother Records was still in operation during the time of the albums's release, the band's manager, former Chicago producer James William Guercio, had his own label, Caribou Records, distribute the album in conjunction with Brother. L.A. (Light Album) peaked at #100 in the US, and #32 in the UK.
Upon its release, L.A. (Light Album) received generally negative reviews. Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh stated that, "The Beach Boys have not made great rock music since Wild Honey; [and haven't] made competent pop music since Holland." Ultimately reaching the conclusion that the album "is worse than awful. It is irrelevant." Allmusic writer John Bush states that, "The Beach Boys ended the decade by releasing the worst album of their career," describing the album as "yet another oddball attempt to push The Beach Boys into the contemporary mainstream despite their many songwriting and production flaws."
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