If you were kind enough to read my last blog - that wasn't a girl opening a can of spaghetti and having a wee - than you may have remembered me talking about an album called Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, in fact you might have read something like, "I have a feeling that this might be the album to send Brian back into his room with the sand-pit, the Tonka truck, the donuts and the shaking of the Tookus," followed by other hypothetical gems such as, "this could be the butchering of some of the greatest songs ever written by one of the greatest musician's known to man." Well... finally I was able to get a copy of the album and give it a very long, considered listen over the course of the weekend. Whilst it certainly isn't the "butchering” of some amazing songs; I'm still unsure if it's actually any good.
It starts with some amazing vocals on Rhapsody in Blue, then after a minute of lush vocals it mixes into the worst song on the album, The Like In I like You. I'm still not a fan of the song after several attempts at trying to like the Like In I like You I found myself skipping past it every single time until I just plain deleted it from the computer - points off obviously, but what follows after the excruciating Like In I Like You is amazing.
Summertime kicks off a four track Porgy and Bess Suite, the song is eerie, moody, intricately produced with finicky piano trills amongst amazing orchestral arrangements, huge flourishes, crescendos and Brian's voice sits perfectly amongst all this, then in a moment of brilliance there is an amazing key change that flows right into I Loves You Porgy. Here we get less piano brilliance but we get some amazingly well arranged vocals and more well crafted symphonic pleasure.
It wouldn't be a Brian Wilson album without wazoos and bass harmonicas, and luckily enough I Got Plenty Of Nuthin' satiates that particular idiosyncrasy of Brian's with a nifty little instrumental track that is very reminiscent of the Pet Sounds recordings. Then to complete the Porgy and Bess suite It Ain't Necessarily So goes back to sneaky intricate musicianship, production tricks aplenty, time changes, spirit finger drums and then fade out - flip to Side B. Overall the first half of this album is quite incredible, if you delete the dodgy track you've got yourself one half of an awesome album.
Then we flip over to Side B to an upbeat version of They Can't Take That Away From Me, which I could actually take or leave, it has a very early Beach Boys sound to it, it's good but compared to the other arrangements it seems to just be filler. Love Is Here To Stay gets the album back on track, it's superbly arranged, performed - pretty, pretty, pretty good. Then I've Got A Crush On You becomes a barbershop doo-wop band that would rival Frank Zappa's best; but overall one feels the album is starting to lag and become a much of the muchness. I've Got Rhythm is probably the least complex song on the album, a fairly lazy Beach Boys Surfin' USA kind of composition and you start to wonder if maybe your time would be better served cleaning or reading a book but the song finishes and Someone To Watch Over Me steers the record back on track with a nice Harmonium, some cellos, delightfully arranged backing harmonies and you remember why Brian Wilson is so highly regarded. Nothing But Love starts off with grutny distorted guitars, a hiss and a mild roar - it's basically as close as you could magine Brian to doing rock music really; the counterpoint to the guitar is chirpy harmonies which make you wonder if there isn't some gentleman's accord about distorted guitars with butter-won't-melt-in-my-mouth vocals - if there isn't there certainly should be. Finally, the album goes back to a reprised version of Rhapsody In Blue; one wonders if the reprise is truly necessary as it's really only thirty seconds and not exactly earth shattering, it's nice, pretty, but would you be severely short-changed without it? No.
Overall the disappointing thing about this album is the glimpses of sheer brilliance, if it was all bad I'd be happy, I could write it off, leave it alone; however, the moments of brilliance make me continue to listen and wonder if I've missed something - it's similar to banging a hot girl then having to deal with numerous hand holding and dinner with her friends. The album is Utopian bliss, passion and fire followed by a slow descent into mediocrity, conversations about mortgages, taxes, that guy that you got in to fix your sink but failed to finish the job to your satisfaction. This doesn't mean the album isn't worth giving a listen as the first side is extraordinary, in fact, it's quite incredible and already there is talk of a grammy awards for this album - not to mention people selling the limited edition vinyl edition for 150 dollars American - so give it a whirl, but perhaps I've saved you the conversation about taxes, tradesmen, mortgages, car insurance, the grandchildren you've never met - nor care to - the amazing special at the supermarket on tea bags - just bang the hot girl and bail. (Words to live by.)