released August 17th, 2010

from the album - The Like In I Love You

from all music

Brian Wilson is arguably the greatest American composer of popular music in the rock era. Born and raised in Hawthorne, CA, he formed the Beach Boys in 1961 alongside his two younger brothers, cousin Mike Love, and school friend Alan Jardine. Serving as the group's primary songwriter, Wilson combined the rock urgency of Chuck Berry with the harmonies of the Four Freshmen before expanding his musical imagination during the late '60s, during which time he experimented with new songwriting structures and production techniques. Wilson retreated from his dominance of the Beach Boys after 1967, yielding most of the control to his younger brother Carl. He made sporadic contributions to their records, returning only briefly as a songwriter and producer in the mid-'70s.

Following a long period of drug addiction, mental illness, and general isolation, Wilson issued his first solo album in 1988. Despite the promising lead single "Love and Mercy," commercial success proved elusive; ironically, the Beach Boys had recorded their own comeback record around the same time and wound up topping the charts with "Kokomo." Wilson attempted to find his footing with a second solo album, Sweet Insanity, which was rejected outright by Sire and permanently shelved. In 1995, he reunited with his mid-'60s collaborator Van Dyke Parks for Orange Crate Art, a collaborative album that featured Parks' songwriting and Wilson's vocals. That same year, Wilson was the subject of a documentary feature, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, for which he also recorded a full soundtrack. Following those releases was 1998's Imagination, which included several throwbacks to lush Beach Boys productions but failed to entice a wide commercial audience.

During his time with the Beach Boys, Wilson had often remained at home or in the studio while the rest of the group set out on tour. Things started to change in the early 2000s, when he began touring as a solo act (often accompanied by a large backing band) and released a pair of live titles: Live at the Roxy Theatre (2000) and Pet Sounds Live (2002). Unfortunately, the cobbled studio album that followed in 2004, Gettin' in Over My Head, exhibited the same foibles as Imagination. Also, it was overshadowed by Wilson's next project: preparing the legendary Beach Boys record SMiLE for its live debut, as well as making new studio recordings of its songs. He debuted the new SMiLE at the Royal Festival Hall in London on February 20, 2004, and recorded it in the studio that April. Both the live and studio versions earned rapturous reviews, prompting Wilson to launch a full world tour in support of the Grammy-winning album. The seasonal effort What I Really Want for Christmas followed in October 2005.

Wilson began preparing another thematic work after he was commissioned by London's Southbank Centre to help kick off the venue's 2007 season. The result was That Lucky Old Sun, a concept album based on the American vocal standard and included the participation of his SMiLE band, as well as Van Dyke Parks. That Lucky Old Sun premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in September 2007 and was released as a studio album later that year. Wilson returned to the studio two years later, this time to put his own stamp on a number of George Gershwin covers. At the behest of Gershwin's estate, he also completed two piano compositions that were unfinished by Gershwin at the time of his death. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin was released in August 2010, marking Wilson's first album for the Disney-affiliated Pearl label.

album review

During his five decades of music-making, Brian Wilson has added countless songs to the canon of great American pop music, but he hasn't recorded many by other composers. Still, his affection for the work of George Gershwin is long, and quite evident from this tribute album. In it, Wilson presents 11 classics from Gershwin's pen, and received the blessing of the Gershwin estate to finish two incomplete songs, "The Like in I Love You" and "Nothing But Love." As usual, Wilson's musical instincts are impeccable, and with a full orchestra lending additional weight to these songs, it's easily the best production on a Brian Wilson record since 2004's SMiLE. (It doesn't hurt that the lyrics as well as the music are tried and true; most of Wilson's solo output, and much of the Beach Boys' after 1967, has suffered from trite or tone-deaf lyrics.) Wilson is also in fine voice for his age, finding the pathos in "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" during a four-song medley, and even multi-tracking his vocals for the first time on the opener, a nearly a cappella version of "Rhapsody in Blue." "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" is done up, as an instrumental, in full Pet Sounds splendor (complete with bass harmonica), while "I Got Rhythm" is neatly transformed into an uptempo nugget to rank with "Surfin' U.S.A." or "Little Honda." Wilson's normal studio group is augmented here with an orchestra (the arrangements and orchestrations are by Wilson and Paul Von Mertens), and they stay to the background except when needed just one of the many fine touches to the entire production here. Granted, Wilson's bouncy take on "They Can't Take That Away from Me" is never going to compete with Ella Fitzgerald's (or even Julie London's), and "'S Wonderful" is nearly blanded out into easy listening oblivion, but nearly everything else here is loving, sincere, and worthy of hearing by fans of the Beach Boys or Broadway.

Track Listing

1 Rhapsody In Blue (Intro) Gershwin 1:07
2 The Like in I Love You Gershwin 3:20
3 Summertime Gershwin, Gershwin, Heyward ... 3:13
4 I Loves You Porgy Gershwin, Gershwin, Heyward ... 3:37
5 I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' Gershwin, Gershwin, Heyward ... 2:44
6 It Ain't Necessarily So Gershwin, Gershwin, Heyward ... 3:57
7 'S Wonderful Gershwin, Gershwin 2:48
8 They Can't Take That Away from Me Gershwin, Gershwin 2:50
9 Love Is Here to Stay Gershwin, Gershwin 2:58
10 I've Got a Crush on You Gershwin, Gershwin 2:41
11 I Got Rhythm Gershwin, Gershwin 2:42
12 Someone to Watch Over Me Gershwin, Gershwin 3:06
13 Nothing But Love Gershwin 3:24
14 Rhapsody In Blue (Reprise) Gershwin :37