Brian Douglas Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 in Inglewood, California. When he was two, his family moved to Hawthorne, California. His two younger brothers were Dennis and Carl. Brian is the driving force behind The Beach Boys, who released their first album SURFIN’ SAFARI back in 1962. Brian put out his self-titled solo debut in 1988. In 2005 he released his seventh studio album, WHAT I REALLY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (Arista). Brian plays piano, sings lead vocals, and produced the record.
First up is the Brian Wilson/Mike Love composition ‘The Man With all the Toys’. It was originally a Beach Boys song that appeared on their 1964 Christmas album. Here, it’s a playful rock ‘n’ roll song about Santa: “Someone found a lighted house late one night/And he saw through the window a sight/A big man in a chair and little tiny men everywhere/He’s the man with all the toys.../Let every heart prepare him room (5X)”. The title track, an easy listening tune, ‘What I Really Want for Christmas’, is a Brian Wilson co-write with long time Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin. It paints a quaint picture: “I’ll build a fire, you’ll hold me tight/We’ll pray for peace on Christmas night/Lift our hearts, hope to find/A world that stops to think of love at Christmas time/Children’s laughter brings joy beyond our dreams/Full of hope to give, these times in which we live/Please no more lists, send no more gifts.../What I really want at Christmas time is peace tonight/Peace for all”. A lively version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ comes next. It shares the Good News: “God rest ye merry gentlemen/Let nothing you dismay/Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day/To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray/O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy/O tidings of comfort and joy!”
A splendid traditional version of the Christmas standard ‘O Holy Night’ speaks of the incarnation: “O Holy Night!/The stars are brightly shining/It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth/Long lay the world in sin and error pining/Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.../Fall on your knees!/Oh, hear the angel voices!/O night divine, o night when Christ was born/O night divine/O Holy Night!” Next comes a pretty version of ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, which morphs into an upbeat rock ‘n’ roll piece. ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ is essentially a praise song: “Hark the herald angels sing, hark the herald/Merry Christmas! (2X)/Hark the herald angels sing/Hark the herald angels sing/’Glory to the newborn King/Peace on earth and mercy mild/God and sinners reconciled’/Joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies/With angelic host proclaim/’Christ is born in Bethlehem’”.
‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ begins with these familiar words: “It came upon the midnight clear/That glorious song of old/From angels bending near the earth/To touch their harps of gold/Peace on the earth, goodwill to men/From heaven’s all gracious King/The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing”. The easy listening ballad ‘The First Noel’ gets us thinking about the wise men of old: “They looked up and saw a star/Shining in the East beyond them far/And to the earth it gave a great light/And so it continued both day and night/Noel (4X)/Born is the King of Israel!” ‘Christmasey’ is credited to Brian Wilson and Jimmy Webb. It is a playful adult pop song: “It’s almost time to light up the candles/The church bells chime, it’s a song of Handel’s/And the music’s so Christmasey/Percolatin’ inside of me/Like a little bit of rock and roll/Like a little bit of Christmas soul/And we’re feelin’ so Christmasey/Goin’ out on a shoppin’ spree/Give a present with a great big bow/To a stranger we don’t even know/We’ll have our fun and be carefree/Cause it’s Christmasey”.
The Brian Wilson/Mike Love composition ‘Little Saint Nick’ was originally released as a single by The Beach Boys on December 9, 1963. It hit #3 on Billboard’s Christmas Singles chart at the time. It’s an ultra catchy old time rock ‘n’ roll track with these words about Christmas Eve: “And haulin’ through the snow at a frightenin’ speed/With a half a dozen deer with Rudy to lead/He’s gotta wear his goggles ‘cause the snow really flies/And he’s cruisin’ every pad with a little surprise/It’s the little Saint Nick (Ooo, little Saint Nick)/Yeah, the little Saint Nick (Ooo, little Saint Nick)”. ‘Deck the Halls’ became a Top Ten Adult Contemporary hit for Brian. It has a neat shuffle to it and begins: “Deck the halls with boughs of holly/Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la/’Tis the season to be jolly/Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la”. A nice acappela version of the New Year’s staple ‘Auld Lang Syne’ follows.
Three bonus tracks are included on the album. First up is the light pop song ‘On Christmas Day’ penned by Brian. It includes these pleasant lyrics: “The bells are ringing on Christmas day/They wake up the children and they’re starting to play/Look what’s under the Christmas tree/All kinds of goodies from Santa and me/Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong day/Frosty the Snowman’s melting away/Deep inside my heart there’s a glow/All of a sudden, it’s starting to snow/We all share the joy that comes along just once a year/Spreading so much love and bringing cheer”. ‘Joy to the World’ could be a lullaby here: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come/Let earth receive her King/Let every heart prepare Him room/And heaven and nature sing (2X)/And heaven and nature and nature sing”. One verse of ‘Silent Night’ is the closing song.
WHAT I REALLY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS is a pleasant, cheerful holiday album to listen to. It draws from pop, rock ‘n’ roll, and easy listening music, as well as adult contemporary. As with the works of The Beach Boys, there are great harmonies on this record. Vocalists Brian is complemented by include: Jeffrey Foskett, Darian Sahanaja, Taylor Mills, and Probyn Gregory. There is a vast array of musical instruments used including: sleigh bells, glockenspiel, horns, violins, viola, cello, and harp. Whether he is singing about Christ our Lord or Santa Claus, Wilson does so with an innocence that is endearing. It is also of benefit that Brian does not tinker too much with the original melodies of the carols he performs. I’m rating WHAT I REALLY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS 90%. For more info visit: www.brianwilson.com.