Monday, August 16, 2010

First Listen: Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

There isn't a musician on this earth who makes me feel like a giddy kid the way Brian Wilson does. Somehow his music just goes right to the pleasure center of my brain. It's something about his glorious, candy-coated arrangements - they are lush and ear-popping, as if Wilson hears so much beauty in the world, and tries to cram as much of it into each song as he can.

Still, I was hesitant to buy Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, the former Beach Boy's stab at the catalog of another American icon. Sure, it's Brian Wilson, but it's not new Brian Wilson songs. How good could it be?

Forgive the pun, but: 'S Wonderful. This is a lovely collection of joyous songs, rendered in Wilson's typical (yet never tiring) colors. The southern California take on "They Can't Take That Away From Me?" The lovely harpsichord-and-strings reading of "Someone to Watch Over Me"? A medley that includes a harmonicas-and-violins-and-muted-trumpet instrumental run through "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'"? Yes, please. It's all gorgeous.

The real finds here are two new Gershwin/Wilson collaborations - Brian was given the go-ahead to finish a couple of uncompleted Gershwin songs, and they're here in all their glory. "Nothing But Love" is pure Wilson, but "The Like in I Love You" sounds to me what a true collaboration between these songwriters might have resembled. It's a charming what-if, and a sweet and delightful little song.

Yeah, this is sentimental and stylized, and some may consider it elevator music. But I love it to pieces. You can't beat a Brian Wilson arrangement, and here we get 14 of them, complimenting some of the most revered songs ever written. In retrospect, it's a wonder I thought I wouldn't like this.

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