>> Brian Wilson: Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (2010)

Artist: Brian Wilson

Album: Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

Genre: Pop

Label: Disney Pearl

Tracks: 14

Type: LP

Release Date: August 17, 2010

Rating: 2.82 (out of 4.00)

Grade: B-

Official Site

Brian Wilson on George Gershwin:

“I've always loved George Gershwin. The earliest music I remember hearing is 'Rhapsody in Blue.' Along with Irving Berlin, Gershwin basically invented the popular song, but he did something more. He had a gift for melody that nobody has ever equaled yet his music is timeless and always accessible.”

Things I can pretty much guarantee after hearing this album:  1) This will give plenty of professional music critics a collective hard on.  2) This will receive and likely win some Grammy awards.  3) You won’t be able to walk into a Starbucks without being bombarded by this album.  4) There will be a ton of fathers who’ll be getting a copy for Christmas or maybe their birthday.

Now how good or bad those scenarios are depends on your feelings about Brian Wilson.  A man whom I believe falls into two camps, those that revere him as a god and those, like me, who like him alright.  I enjoy the Beach Boys and agree that Pet Sounds is an amazing album.  I also think that Brian Wilson is a musical genius of an arranger and composer.  But on the other hand, I found the critically acclaimed Smile to be highly disappointing.  And no matter how much Pro Tools the guy is using nowadays, his voice sounds shot to me.  But everyone in the other camp hasn’t bothered to read this far, because they’ve already gone to Amazon to order their copy.  But the audiophiles out there just might want to wait a week until the special vinyl edition is released on August 24th.  Brian Wilson on vinyl?!?...and the collective hard on just got harder…

The fact the album has “reimagines” in the title, should give you a clue as what to expect.  This is the Gershwin canon interpreted through Brian Wilson’s use of harmonies, orchestration and arrangements, and not your typical album of standards.  And whatever thoughts you have of what the Gershwin songbook would sound if done by the founder of the Beach Boys is probably spot on.  There is a lot of this album that I like, some of my highlights include, “Someone To Watch Over Me,” which sounds like it could’ve easily been a Pet Sounds outtake, “Summertime,” which is nearly impossible to mess up, and “I Got Rhythm,” which sounds like a rerecording of a Beach Boys hit.  But there’s also songs that I think don’t quite work, like a bad bossa nova version of “S’Wonderful” or “I Loves You, Porgy,” where his vocal limitations really shine through.   

The two songs of particular interest are “The Like in I Love You” and “Nothing But Love,” which are the newest Gershwin compositions anyone has heard in almost 70 years.  Brian was chosen by the Gershwin estate to come up with new collaborations using some unfinished George & Ira compositions, resulting in the new tracks.  A task which Brian says “is the most spiritual project I’ve ever worked on.”  Personally, I found the two songs to have more of a Wilson influence than of Gershwin.  “The Like in I Love You” has some semblance of the wordplay you find in other Gershwin tunes, but “Nothing But Love” sounds like a typical Wilson cut.  But I do give credit to the Stockholm Strings ‘n Horns, who provide the necessary bridge to Gershwin’s jazz era melodies and Wilson’s California surf sound.   

Brian Wilson definitely brings a fresh spin on one of the most timeless catalog of songs in American history.  And it begs the question of what these songs and other unreleased materials could be done in the hands of other musicians.  What could Elvis Costello bring to the table?  What would Stevie Wonder’s interpretation sound like?  Or how would a collaboration written by fellow wordsmiths like Burt Bacharach or Carole King compare?  How about give Willie Nelson a crack at it?  Personally, I hope this leads to more artists reimagining the Gershwin canon.  But more than likely, we’ll just see another album of Brian Wilson reimagining Gershwin.  I’d say you can pretty much count on that.



Brian Wilson: Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (2010)

I'm one of those huge Brian Wilson fans who believes that Brian Wilson is a genius and understands the vocal limitations. Paul McCartney who also falls into this category of Godliness has also suffered from the lack of vocal range that he posessed, even ten years ago. The material that Brian Wilson has been responsible for since his 1988 solo effort have had some good and bad moments vocally, and in terms of material. Smile had nice moments, as did LOS. This new offering BWRG seems like it was a bucket list item for Brian and I believe even with his vocal limitations, a sensitive, humble tribute to one of his idols. His vocals while fragile seem much more realistic and works well with the lush and complex arrangements. I think for the first time in a long time Brian Wilson is making a statement about his music and his life, and I'll take this kind of offering from him everytime.

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