[Disney Pearl (2010)]
In the 13 years since resurrecting his musical career, Brian Wilson has stayed busy. In addition to touring regularly for the first time in more than 3 decades, the Hawthorne, California-born ex-leader of the Beach Boys has released a live greatest hits album (“Live At The Roxy”), an orchestra-backed recording of the Beach Boys’ 1966 masterpiece, “Pet Sounds,” a Yuletide album (“All I Want For Christmas”), an album of new material (“That Lucky Old Sun”), and finally finished what was formerly the greatest-unreleased album in rock and roll history (“Smile”).
With his first album for the Disney Pearl label, Reimagines Gershwin, the last of the 3 Wilson brothers turns his focus to the music of George Gershwin (1898-1937), along with the lyrics of Ira Gershwin (1896-1983). Though it sounds like a made-in-heaven project, combining the vision of 2 of America’s greatest musical geniuses, the results don’t always hit their mark.
Besides a shuffling, bass harmonica-led, instrumental version of “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin,” that would have fit snuggly on “Pet Sounds,” a medley of tunes from “Porgy And Bess” is mired in the middle-of-the-road and adds little to the multitudes of interpretations already available. Other tunes fare much better. Doo-wop-like harmonies propel a bossa nova version of “’S Wonderful” and a 1950-ish “I’ve Got A Crush On You.” Inspired by the phrasing of Herb Alpert’s mid-60s recording, Wilson’s heart soars through “Someone To Watch Over Me.” Much of the attention has been reserved for a pair of previously unfinished tunes that Wilson, and pianist Scott Bennett, chose from 104 possibilities, and completed. “Nothing But Love” is based on the 1929 rarity, “Say My Say,” while “The Like In I Love You” is based on “Will You Remember Me,” a 1924 composition that was written for, but not used, in the musical, ‘Lady Be Good.” Snippets of “Rhapsody In Blue,” a piece that Wilson heard at the age of 2, are threaded throughout the album.
The high point of the album, though, comes with a highly-spirited, Beach Boys-like, version of “I’ve Got Rhythm” that shows, at the age of 68, Wilson still knows how to rock.
—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)