Post by Kapitan on Oct 5, 2019 14:19:37 GMT
Of the two covers albums for Disney, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is far and away superior thanks mostly to the choices of songs. Otherwise they're almost of a piece, a pair of albums largely shoehorning other songs into near-pastiche classic Beach Boys soundalikes. But they're also saved from being parodies by good (if backward-looking and predictable) arrangements, by good (if slick) production, and solid vocal performances from a deteriorating Wilson. It's obvious he cared about this music.
Scott Bennett's lyrical approach lends itself to the Disney context: as was the case in That Lucky Old Sun, he's too cute by half with his attempts at wordplay ("the pain in painting, the muse in music"). Perhaps he absorbed one too many performances of Van Dyke Parks's Smile lyrics. But great lyrics have never cursed Wilson or the Beach Boys, so it's not appropriate to start nitpicking nearly 50 years into his legendary career.
"I Loves You Porgy" is a standout not only for its straight arrangement: no awkward, forced conversion into "Little Deuce Coupe" or "In My Room" here, just a slow swing on the edges of jazz. It's also a standout for Wilson's strong performance, sincere and balancing strength of voice with vulnerability of lyric. His refusal to change around the pronouns goes by almost unnoticed, like the most natural thing in the world.
"Someone to Watch Over Me" veers much further into self-imitation, a Pet Sounds ballad set beneath Gershwin's lyric. But Pet Sounds ballads are beautiful, and so is Wilson's (very non-Pet Sounds) lower tenor lead. If you aren't affected by the crack in his voice in the bridge, at "as handsome..." you have no heart. This is latter-day Wilson at his best.
The retro rockers aren't quite so successful, possibly because Wilson's true inspiration on ballads included the likes of Gershwin's music, making them a natural pairing; there is no Chuck Berry to be found in George Gershwin, and the marriage is an odd one. Those songs are pleasant, but feel more akin to the Disney album, children's novelty music, as opposed to the very adult depth of the aforementioned gems.
This album was generally critically acclaimed, but not especially successful: it charted #26 upon its release, doubled that to #53 the next week, and disappeared. (It was more successful on Amazon's charts and the Billboard Jazz charts, reaching #1 on both.) It came with some anticipation, but it faded quickly. It's a shame, as this is certainly among Wilson's best performed and produced solo albums.