Celebration with Mike Love

Someone who has detailed knowledge of the Beach Boys’ long history would probably agree that the late-1970’s marked a bad period in the band’s career. By that time, the former ‘60’s surf-rock legends had risen, fallen, risen again, and then fallen again. The band nearly disintegrated over disagreements about their musical direction, and Brian Wilson was regressing back into a withdrawn mental state after he had been showing signs of increasing activity. The M.I.U. Album from 1978 and the L.A. (Light Album) from 1979 showed how tired the aging Boys had become, and how badly their chemistry was hurt by their internal struggles.

If there was a bright spot for the Beach Boys during this time period, then Mike Love’s short-lived side band Celebration was not it. Celebration apparently began as a casual throwback to the pre-psychedelic ‘60’s, and then went downhill from there as they attempted to update their sound to fit the late-‘70’s pop mainstream.

Among the various musicians who took part in Celebration, the key players were Love, jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd (who had frequently played with the Beach Boys during the ‘70’s), two former members of King Harvest (pianist Ron Altbach and singer Dave "Doc" Robinson), and keyboardist Paul Fauerso (formerly of The Loading Zone).

The first full-length album to feature Celebration was the soundtrack to the 1978 teen comedy Almost Summer. On its surface, that movie came across as a lightweight farce about high school student council elections, but political satire could be found brewing underneath. The soundtrack album, however, was simply lightweight.

The first three tracks were sung by Mike Love, and recall the early pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys. The opening title track (written by Love, Brian Wilson, and Al Jardine) was Celebration’s sole Top 40 single. Ironically, the lyrics seem to be about getting ready to go back to school, instead of looking forward to summer vacation. The second song, “Sad, Sad Summer”, is a melancholy love ballad that would have been better sung by Brian or Carl Wilson. “Cruisin’” is reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ early hot rod songs. These three songs suffer from two fundamental flaws: weak production (certainly nowhere near the level of classic Brian Wilson) and the middle-aged Love singing unconvincingly from the point of view of a teenager. Two other songs are sung by King Harvest’s Dave Robinson. One of them, “It’s OK”, was a remake of a 1976 Beach Boys song written by Love and Brian Wilson, and Robinson sounds as though he was imitating Brian’s vocal style. The cover of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” is well done, and – to his credit – Robinson does not sound like he was mimicking John Sebastian.

This soundtrack album also contains four jazz-based instrumentals written by Altbach and/or Lloyd. Of these, the seven-minute “Island Girl” (not an Elton John cover) is the one that holds the most interest, although “Christine and Bobby” is a good showcase for Lloyd’s sax and flute playing. The two songs that close the album are soul ballads recorded by two disco-era Motown groups: the girl group High Inergy, and the funk sextet Fresh. The album’s parts add up to nothing more than passable warm-summer-day pleasantness.

There is a thin line between pleasantness and blandness, and Celebration quickly crossed it on their first proper full-length album. The self-titled Celebration found Love and company purveying a dryer, duller variation on Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville pop. The album begins with a smoothed-out remake of the once-quirky Beach Boys song “Gettin’ Hungry”, which is sadly the album’s high point. Robinson sings six of the ten songs; the album’s dullest track is the would-be radio hit “Starbaby”, a colorless soul ballad crooned by organist Paul Fauerso. One of Love’s three vocal turns is “How’s About A Little Bit”, a trifle co-written by Love, Altbach, Brian Wilson, and Diane Rovell; it was originally a rejected Beach Boys song left off the M.I.U. Album. Beach Boys fanatics may take an interest in that song simply because of what it is. Otherwise, the Celebration album is an expendable ‘70’s pop triviality.

Celebration ended on a worse note with their final record, Disco Celebration, a pallid attempt to jump on the disco bandwagon just before the inferno faded. (The cover art might mislead one to believe that the album is some sort of various-artists compilation). The high point (so to speak) is a mostly instrumental disco remake of “California Girls”, which might have been cringe-worthy if not for Lloyd’s sax playing. The other four tracks are dull disco originals, three of them written by Love and Altbach, and the other (“First Love”) written by Fauerso. All four of these tracks tend to be monotonous and repetitive, with underwhelming soul vocals by Fauerso and Suzanne Wallach. Disco Celebration is too boring to succeed even as ‘70’s kitsch.

Various Artists - Almost Summer

Various Artists “Almost Summer” Music From The Original Motion Picture Score (MCA MCA-3037) 1978

Track Listing:

1. Almost Summer – Sung by Celebration
2. Sad, Sad Summer – Sung by Celebration
3. Cruisin’ – Sung by Celebration
4. Lookin’ Good
5. Summer In The City – Sung by Celebration
6. It’s OK – Sung by Celebration
7. Football
8. Island Girl
9. Christine And Bobby
10. We Are The Future – Sung by High Inergy
11. She Was A Lady – Sung by Fresh

Celebration - Celebration

Celebration “Celebration” (Pacific Arts PAC7-122) 1978

Track Listing:

1. Gettin’ Hungry
2. Sailor
3. Lovestruck
4. She’s Just Out To Get You
5. I Don’t Wanna Know
6. Starbaby
7. Go And Get That Girl
8. How’s About A Little Bit
9. Song Of Creation
10. Country Pie

Celebration - Disco Celebration

Celebration “Disco Celebration” (ADC LS-4052) 1979

Track Listing:

1. Disco Symphony
2. You Can Count On Love
3. California Girls
4. Party Girl
5. First Love