Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 in Inglewood, California. He was the eldest of three brothers, with the other two, Dennis and Carl, now deceased. Brian released his self-titled debut solo album in 1988. Fast forward to 2010 and he put out his ninth solo effort BRIAN WILSON REIMAGINES GERSHWIN (Walt Disney Records). It reached #1 on Amazon.com and on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York of Russian and Lithuanian descent. Some of his best known feats are ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, ‘An American in Paris’, and the opera ‘Porgy and Bess’. He lived from 1898 to 1937, dying of a brain tumor. His brother Ira (1896-1983) was a lyricist who wrote over a dozen Broadway shows with him.
In the liner notes David Wild writes: “Brian Wilson has said that hearing Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is his first musical memory and one that helped inspire his lifelong-love for music”. Gershwin wrote it back in 1924. It is only fitting that Track One on this Wilson CD is ‘Rhapsody in Blue/Intro’. The only lyrics to this short and pretty track are: “Ah, ah, ah, ah”. Next up is ‘The Like in I Love You’. It is one of two unfinished Gershwin tracks on this project, completed handily by Brian and Scott Bennett. It comes across as a beautiful Beach Boys ballad on the subject of love: “You reached into my heart and found the music of my soul/The melodies unfold/For you/I’ve never danced before/Until you asked me/Then magic lights lit up the floor.../Don’t be afraid, love/We can take it from the happy ending/The great in grateful/The faith in faithful/The like in I love you”.
A four song medley follows. ‘Summertime’ makes use of the theramin, glockenspiel, and vibraphone. I remember Fantasia singing it on her Season 3 winning run on American Idol. It is a relaxing, famous jazz standard: “Summertime/And the livin’ is easy/Fish are jumpin’/And the cotton is high/Oh, your daddy’s rich/And your mamma’s good lookin’/So hush, little baby/Don’t you cry/One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing/Then you’ll spread your wings/And you’ll take to the sky”. Nick Walusko, Scott Bennett, Darian Sahanaja, Jeffrey Foskett, and Taylor Mills provide lovely backing vocals on ‘I Loves You, Porgy’. This is an easy listening number that finds one lover talking openly to another: “I loves you, Porgy/Don’t let him take me/Don’t let him handle me and drive me mad/If you can keep me/I wanna stay here with you forever/I’ve got my man”. ‘I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’’ is a fun, cheery instrumental that combines elements of rock and roll and jazz music. Brian delivers a soulful vocal, and harmonica, saxophone, and organ are used on ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’. It isn’t exactly theologically correct: “It ain’t necessarily so (2X)/The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible/It ain’t necessarily so.../To get into Heaven don’t snap for a sebben/Live clean, don’t have no fault/Oh, I take that gospel whenever it’s possible/But with a grain of salt/It ain’t necessarily so/Well, it ain’t necessarily so/They tell all your children the devil’s a villain/It ain’t necessarily so”.
‘’S Wonderful’ is one of six songs here composed by brothers George and Ira. This one is a tropical sounding, happy pop song: ‘’S wonderful, ‘s marvelous that you should care for me/’S awful nice, ‘s paradise/What I love to see/You’ve made my life so glamorous/You can’t blame me for feeling amorous/’S wonderful, ‘s marvelous/That you should care for me”. One of my favourites on this disc is ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’. It was penned by George and Ira in 1937. Fred Astair introduced it in the movie ‘Shall We Dance’. Here, the song is a rollicking good time musically and vocally. It is the song of one absolutely in love: “The way you wear your hat/The way you sip your tea/The memory of all that/No, no, they can’t take that away from me/The way your smile just beams/The way you sing off key/The way you haunt my dreams/No, no, they can’t take that away from me”.
‘Love is Here to Stay’ is a nicely orchestrated, pleasant jazz ballad: “The radio and the telephone/And the movies that we know/May just be passing fancies/And in time may go/But, oh my dear/Our love is here to stay/Together we’re going a long, long way/In time the Rockies may tumble/Gibraltar may crumble/They’re only made of clay/But our love is here to stay”. Probyn Gregory plays slide guitar on ‘I’ve Got a Crush on You’. It is a doo-wop song about infatuation: “I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie/All the day and night-time, hear me sigh/I never had the least notion/That I could fall with so much emotion/Could you coo?/Could you care/For a cunning cottage we could share?/The world will pardon my mush/’Cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you”.
‘I Got Rhythm’ combines elements of rock and roll, jazz, surf, and swing music, and includes these optimistic lyrics: “I got rhythm, I got music/I got my girl, who could ask for anything more?/I got daisies in green pastures/I got my girl/Who could ask for anything more?/Old Man Trouble, I don’t mind him/You won’t find him ‘round my door/I got starlight/I got sweet dreams”. ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ is a ballad that makes use of harpsichord, nylon string guitar, clarinet, and alto flute. This song shares heartfelt desires: “There’s a somebody I’m longing to see/I hope that she turns out to be/Someone who’ll watch over me/I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood/I know I could always be good/To one who’ll watch over me”.
‘Nothing But Love’ is the second unfinished George Gershwin song that Brian Wilson and Scott Bennett completed on this record. It is a nice adult pop song of love: ``Don`t always need her to say it back/The way that she holds me makes it a fact/She knows the answer, the answer’s ‘yeah’/I asked her what’s timeless/Just the stars above/She said ‘I’ll tell you what’s timeless/Nothing but love’``. Last up, is the short, angelic clip `Rhapsody in Blue/Reprise’.
BRIAN WILSON REIMAGINES GERSHWIN is a meeting of the minds, if you will, of two of music’s all-time legendary artists. This is an album that will mostly appeal to the forty and over crowd. It mainly incorporates classical, jazz, pop, and rock and roll sounds. It all comes together as a mighty fine tribute to George Gershwin and his brother Ira! The album is at times celebratory and at other turns more meditative. As ever Brian Wilson’s vocals are captivating. He breathes new life into the standards presented here and delightfully puts the finishing touches on a couple of tunes Gershwin never quite finished. I’m rating BRIAN WILSON REIMAGINES GERSHWIN 90%. For more info visit: www.brianwilson.com.