FIRST LOVE IS SMOOTH AND ENERGETIC …
By Keith Devoe
This twelve-track, unreleased album features a smooth and energetic sounding Mike Love singing lead on all the songs. The Paul Fauerso (Celebration, The Loading Zone and occasional Beach Boys background singer on That’s Why God Made The Radio)-produced tracks sound clean and are a product of their time. Many of the tracks are embellished by brass and/or strings, creating an opportunity to hear the track without it being smothered by vocals. Some of the lyrics are childish, perhaps inane, but that could be because Mike was reaching for an innocent feeling.
To listen better to the low fidelity tracks, I used an equalizer to boost the upper end.
“First Love” fits into the mold of seventies easy listening dance music. It’s no rocker but is competently handled. An alternate version of the song features a saxophone rather than the trumpet and strings used here, and it’s also shorter.
“Too Cruel” has a nice tag with strong background vocals, including women’s voices; this provides a nice contrast to Mike’s vocals with the Beach Boys.
“You’re Looking Better Than Ever” is an upbeat track that would be a good dance track, but I find the guitar work overpowers the track. I’m reminded of “Wild Honey.”
“Little Darlin’” contains a bass line reminiscent of “Smoke on the Water” that transitions to a melody strikingly similar to “Sherry She Needs Me.” Of all the tracks, this one is closest to Brian’s work. It also contains a sliding guitar sound, but it doesn’t overpower the track.
The R&B inspired “I Don’t Wanna Know” sounds so familiar. Lyrically interesting, this cut sounds the most commercial to me with a slick guitar lead and nice background vocals.
“Brian’s Back” has been circulating for years and has a nice Carl vocal insert. Although the lyrics are syrupy, I love this track as it hearkens back to high points in the band’s career.
“Viggie” is an odd sounding song with panpipes or recorders that remind me of medieval times. The melody is simplistic and has a child-like/nursey rhyme feeling, but I enjoy the background vocals. The tag sounds like The Beach Boys and this track reminds me of some of their songs that rely on piano.
In “The Right Kind of Love,” Mike stretches his vocal range and I feel it works. Starting with a simple piano and Mike’s lead (somewhat like a Sinatra tune), it quickly builds and becomes more upbeat and reminds me of New Orleans. I like the way this backing track differs from the other tracks, and it has musical surprises. I hear “Shortenin’ Bread” in this cut.
“Sumahama” is, lyrically, virtually identical to the LA (Light Album) version, with a different backing track containing a cymbal and vibes. If the track is presented at the correct speed; it’s faster than LA’s version.
“Daybreak” is a longer track than that released on 2012’s That’s Why God Made The Radio, spanning approximately six minutes. Could that be Carl’s voice? Mike’s lead sounds like the one used on That’s Why God Made The Radio, but the track is devoid of many of the background vocals used on that version. This track, like some of the others, has a calming effect on me. At first, I liked the saxophone solo, but it eventually becomes too long and feels out of place.
“Glow Crescent Glow” starts as a piano track and then resembles the released version on Mike’s Unleash Your Love. Although Mike’s older voice isn’t as strong as presented here, I do prefer the backing track on the released version. It’s nice to be able to compare the changes made to songs over the years. This version contains strings, piano and a drum beat throughout as well as an ethereal sounding synthesizer.
“Little Leila” swaps a guitar for the piano used as the primary instrument on other tracks and it’s more upbeat; the guitar lends it a different sound/feel and I like a slick guitar lead which reminds me of the tannerin used on “Good Vibrations” and “Wild Honey.” Mike seems to like to “dip into the past” in his compositions. Yes, The Beach Boys have had a varied career, but recalling the past too frequently can get stale and lead one to believe that the past was the high point.
“Brian’s Back” starts with a 30 second intro I’ve not heard before and makes perfect sense as a bonus track. This is the shorter version of the song and doesn’t include the instrumental break of the earlier cut. I always get a warm, cozy feeling from this track.
“First Love” (alt) is a shorter cut, possibly intended as a single. The main difference between both versions, other than length, is the use of a saxophone versus the trumpet. I prefer this shorter version as it gets to the point quicker.
Note: This album remains unreleased, although bootlegs have circulated for years, and much of the material has been reworked and released on Unleash The Love.
Be sure to purchase ESQ’s Fall 2019 Mike Love Collector’s Edition featuring full interviews with Mike, and First Love producer Paul Fauerso and engineer Jeff Peters. Mike discusses writing some of these songs for the first time, and Paul and Jeff fill in the details on First Love, World Peace, and Mike Love, Not War. Click HERE to order.