Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin | CD review


Cover albums are suddenly in vogue, including Phil Collins’s faithful Motown tribute, Goin’ Back, and Marcia Hines’ more convincing reprise of Carole King’sTapestry. But the absolute standout is Brian Wilson’s “reimagining” of the George Gershwin repertoire.

The former Beach Boy reveals his deep admiration for the great American composers melodic sensibility but the most refreshing aspect is that rather than opt for reverential, note-perfect mimicry, Wilson meets Gershwin half-way, knowing when to adapt and when to leave well alone.

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For example, he turns They Can’t Take That Away From Me into a rollicking, good-time number, complete with Beach Boy’s-style harmonies and do-wop chorus, bookends the CD with an a cappella Rhapsody in Blue and plays songs like Love Is Here to Stay or Summertime straight down the line.

The latter’s part of a four-song Porgy and Bess medley that includes a glorious, Pet Sounds-style transformation of I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’ into an orchestral arrangement complete with those distinctive harmonicas, while I Got Rhythm evolves into a classic, harmony-rich rocker.

Less successful are his completion of two unfinished Gershwin tunes, but overall the superb orchestrations and insightful arrangements make this one of Wilsons most intriguing efforts.

- Mike Daly

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