Release Date: Aug 17, 2010
Record label: Walt Disney
Even when boiled down to its bar-and-staff bedrock, the legacy of George Gershwin is hardly free from the socially regressive mystique that ribbons most cultural benchmarks of the early 20th century. We’re likely to be debating whether Rhapsody in Blue classily legitimized or smoothly bastardized black motifs until we achieve the ethnic monotone prophesied by Bulworth. But whatever the insensitivities of Gershwin’s melodicism, there’s little doubting the man’s groundbreaking attitude; the very notion of “serious” American pop as a concept, let alone a genre, was virtually unheard of before him.
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.
Hearing the architect of 1960s ”teenage symphonies to God” cover the symphonically inclined George Gershwin is a kick, if not always a revelation. On Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, easy-listening Brian shows up more than weirdo Wilson, and when it comes to doing ”?’S Wonderful” as a light bossa nova, ‘s just okay. But ”They Can’t Take That Away From Me” remade as a ”California Girls”-style shuffle is too novel to pass up.
In the more than a decade since Wilson’s career rose majestically from the ashes of a deep catatonic funk, he’s been helped along in his journey by various musicians whose clear reverence for the sounds of the good old days has been matched pound for pound by their ability to reproduce it. Unlike many of his contemporaries working the retro circuit, Wilson didn’t try to perfect what was already so perfect. The deceptively complex arrangements, the obsessively wrought sounds, the gloriously soaring harmonies all pretty much sounded as they did the first time they were heard from on high.
“Rhapsody in Blue,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Rhapsody in Blue” — if there’s any song that has loomed larger in the lore of Brian Wilson than The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” it’s “Rhapsody in Blue. ” The beauty of George Gershwin’s most famous classical suite is said to have captured Wilson’s heart while he could still count his age on one hand, and soon inspired him to make music of his own. References to its famous melody can be heard in some of Wilson’s best works, and he’s gone on record as saying that “Rhapsody” has saved him from acting upon masochistic and suicidal thoughts at many a dark moment in his life.
Brian Wilson infamously spent four years in his bedroom, dividing his time between oversleeping, overeating, over-smoking, and over-using drugs. When he emerged to rejoin the Beach Boys, his singing became shouting, his creativity warped. [rssbreak] On this adoring tribute to composer George Gershwin, Wilson is a different Boy than he was in those dark days of the 70s.
Well, one can see why it happened. After all, Rod Stewart has had enormous success with his Great American Songbook albums of covers of pre-rock classics. And Brian Wilson, with his symphonic leanings and a melodic sense derived as much from Broadway as Chuck Berry, is arguably the rock writer with the closest ties to George Gershwin. But, goodness, what a horrible album this is.
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.
BRIAN WILSON “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin”. (Disney Pearl).
From its jazz-style cover depicting piano keys levitating and scattering into colorful bars, you might think Brian Wilson's homage to George Gershwin explores new musical frontiers. While this 14-song collection demonstrates how the composer's evocative work fed the foundation of the Beach Boys' Southern California soundscape, it doesn't reimagine them as advertised. Instead, "Rhapsody in Blue" is arranged as a thematic variation of "Our Prayer" from Smile.