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Tune Tuesday: "Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin" is kind of 'S Wonderful

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Tune Tuesday: "Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin" is kind of 'S Wonderful

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"Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin " (Disney Records Pearl Series, August 2010) really shouldn't have worked.

After all, Broadway legend George Gershwin is almost the quintessential New Yorker. Whereas Wilson - as the co-founder of the Beach Boys - is most strongly associated with the surf-sounds of Southern CaIifornia.

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Which is why - when you initially hear that a cappella version of "Rhapsody in Blue" (which actually bookends this album) - it kind of jars to your ear. You're not entirely sure if this is a you-got-peanut-butter-on-my-chocolate moment or more like you-got-tuna-in-my-tapioca.

But my advice is to hang in there. Though "The Like in I Love You" (which is one of two songs on this recording that the Gershwin estate allowed Wilson to complete) doesn't entirely work and "Summertime" & "I Loves You Porgy" are more interesting than entertaining, once you get to "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" ... This Disney Records Pearl recording then begins to pay off.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I mean, wait 'til you hear '' 'S Wonderful'' reinterpreted as a bossa nova. Or better yet, ''They Can't Take That Away From Me'' after it passes through a ''California Girls''-like filter.

And Wilson (who - for decades now - has claimed to be a Gershwin fan) clearly had a ball while making this album. You can't help but smile as you listen to his take on "It Ain't Necessarily So."  Which lands every laugh found in Ira Gershwin's witty lyrics.

Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

And then when you factor in the lushness of Brian's version of "(Our) Love is Here to Stay," the call-and-response fun of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" as well as this recording's take on "I Got Rhythm" (which channels that Beach Boy anthem "Help Me, Rhonda" ) ... "Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin" becomes that perfect end-of-Summer album.

In fact, if you're planning on holding a Labor Day party this coming weekend, I can't think of a better series of songs to program into your iPod. Just avoid Tracks 2 - 4 and you'll then find that "Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin" really is kind of 'S Wonderful.

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  • Actually, 'I Got Rhythm' channels 'Farmer's Daughter', not 'Help Me, Rhonda'.  Take it from a Beach Boys fan from way back. :)

  • I agree. Also They Can't Take That Away From Me channels Little Duece Coupe not California Girls and I totally disagree with the writers charge to avoid tracks two through four. IMO, these are the standout tracks of a cd full of great music. I Loves You Porgy is heartbreakingly beautiful and sung as written, not transposed from a woman to a man's point of view. The Like In I Love You is simply one of the sweetest songs ever written by Brian (and Gershwin).

    A nice review, but the reviewer needs to listen again.

  • I enjoy some of Wilson's stuff.  I have a hard time getting past his 'It sounds like I had a stroke, but I can still sort of sing' treatment.  When he was young and in good voice, he was okay.  Now, it's like listening to a wounded friend.  Catching a glance from a fellow audience member and thinking 'wow, remember when he could sing?'  Sometimes I feel like he would be better off producing an album like this, and letting someone else take over the lead vocals.

  • There was 2004’s majestic Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, then 2008’s colorful That Lucky Old Sun – both evocative collections in Wilson’s catalogue. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is an album that is something else altogether; in touching George and Ira Gershwin’s venerable catalogue, Wilson has taken his own unique approach to composing and has actually made Gershwin his own. The result? Wilson’s career-defining best.

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