Brian Wilson Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A winning collection of songs and arrangements done with great style.

Adrian Edwards 2010

It’s only right to be sceptical when approaching this album. Just how has Brian Wilson, former leading light of The Beach Boys, approached these songs that have, largely, been covered so many times since they were written back in the 1920s and 30s? But any qualms are soon dispelled by his engaging performances and the imaginative arrangements, ones that remain faithful to the spirit of their melodic and harmonic core values.

This whole selection is infused with a sunny and carefree joie de vivre, emblematic of his roots as lead singer with The Beach Boys, particularly during their early years. The album opens (and closes) with an a cappella arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue, but what follows is of greater interest: a new song that Brian and his team have reconstructed from source material loaned by Warner Chappell Music, the publishers of the Gershwin songbook. The Like in I Love You is an absolute charmer, with a turn of phrase typical of Ira Gershwin: "You reached into my heart / and found the music of my soul / the pain in painting / the muse in music / the like in I love you". He then sings four songs from Porgy and Bess: a burnished Summertime; I Loves You, Porgy, normally sung by Bess to him, but very effective in this translation; a jaunty I Got Plenty o’Nuttin’, with the arrangement including washboard and banjo playing up its southern roots; and It Ain’t Necessarily So, delivered with a nonchalant ironic detachment.

A little instrumental codicil, an arrangement of the Piano Prelude No. 2, segues into a Latin treatment of ‘S Wonderful, one of the many instances where Wilson is joined by an expert mixed vocal group. Later this ensemble has a whale of a time imitating The Beach Boys in They Can’t Take That Away From Me and in the gently swinging Love Is Here to Stay, replete with doo-wah harmonies. The rock’n’roll accompaniment to I’ve Got a Crush On You and the good vibrations of I Got Rhythm both recall earlier vocal groups like The Platters. Nothing But Love, the second Gershwin ‘find’, is given a contemporary work out in a party style, the modulation at the halfway point recognisably Gershwin.

The imaginative artwork, of a black and white keyboard splintering into different colours, emphasises the feel-good factor of this winning collection of songs and arrangements done with great style.

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