Brian Wilson’s “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-09-19 21:10:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  3.5 / 5 stars

For songwriters with strong, distinct voices, albums populated by covers are typically stopovers between other, more serious efforts.  For Wilson, it appears that projects such as this are where he looks these days to keep himself occupied while he waits for inspiration to strike.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin delivers just about what you’d expect from the former Beach Boy: lush harmonies laid over a bed of smart, tight pop music, albeit the pop music of a bygone era.

Perhaps the slogan for this release should have been, “Brian Wilson updates the music of the Gershwin brothers… to the sixties!”

The greatest criticism I can lob at Reimagines is its apparent contentment to revisit the established.  Wilson was given access to fragments of songs written but never finished by Gershwin that numbered in the triple digits, and yet there are only two new compositions — “The Like in I Love You” and “Nothing But Love” — which provide the bookends for the full-length tracks.

Simply put, this is what prevents Reimagines from reaching the same creative heights as Mermaid Avenue (the original, and Vol. II not so much), a similar project conducted by Wilco and Billy Bragg.  The key difference there, of course, was that they dipped exclusively into unfinished lyrics and wrote the music for them.  The results on Mermaid Avenue should be attributed just as much to Wilco and Bragg as to Guthrie, whereas Reimagines often reads as a collection of Gershwin tracks with the Brian Wilson filter applied.

In other words, Reimagines often plays more as a tribute from Wilson and his band than as a fresh and creative project.

On the other hand, to label Reimagines as a straightforward tribute to the Gershwin brothers would be to unfairly marginalize the creative spirit that Wilson so evidently brought to these recordings, not to mention the crispness and emotion that each of his lead vocals are imbued with.  There can be no question as to his intentions; he clearly threw himself into the project, as supported by reports that he would spend eight hours a day in the studio perfecting his vocals.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (2010)

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (2010)

There are many, many positive words to be said about this record.

For starters, even on a project that lends itself to slow paced, old-school compositions — and he does indulge at times — Wilson and his crack band of music makers manage to carve out a record that verges on rock.  As would be expected, there are some beautiful bass lines and some wonderfully fun harmonies that beg to be sung along with.

There are other touches, many of them subtle, that should allow for Reimagines to be accepted among Wilson’s studio discography, as opposed to a one-off side effort.  Paul Von Mertens’ contributions can’t be overstated, serving as a link between the instruments that were employed on many of the original recordings of these songs and Wilson’s more rock/pop-oriented arsenal of drums, guitar, and bass.  Likewise, Probyn Gregory’s acoustic guitars add significantly to many of the tracks, filling in the gaps admirably.  The acoustic guitar is not an instrument one might readily associate with Wilson’s general sound, which makes it all the more notable.

“Rhapsody in Blue,” snippets of which serve as the intro and outro of the record, should be familiar to fans as a song that Wilson has noted in past interviews as one of his influences.  That this is the song he chose to place at the corners is quite fitting, and that he would choose to sing the multiple vocal tracks entirely on his own may, if nothing else, be read as a sign that he is still in command of his music.  Reports of his mental acuity — or lack thereof — may not have been greatly exaggerated, but no one should presume to claim that Wilson is present on his recordings in name only these days.

“Summertime,” the first full-length cover, touches on bits of Billy Stewart’s chart-topping 1989 version in the intro but quickly spreads out into a ballad filled out with horn blasts, twinkling bursts of piano, and strings that loom ominously on the horizon.  This version is a bit slow, but after the recognizable Wilson-esque romp of “The Like in I Love You,” it’s as though he is flexing his classical muscle, as he continues to do on “I Loves You, Porgy.”

Subsequently, the instrumental “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin'” sounds like it could have been found on a Pet Sounds outtakes tape, the bass harmonica adding greatly to that feel.  “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is probably the first track on the album that is a fully realized blending of traditional and more modern styles, to the point that the two are difficult to distinguish between.

This is when Reimagines works so well: when Wilson manages to blends a traditional approach toward these songs with his own distinctive sound.  Contrary to some recent criticism, Wilson does not merely reconfigure the words to fit over instrumentals that conjure his previous songs, except perhaps for “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”  Where it works exceedingly well, by the way.

Where the album does fall short is on tracks like “‘s Wonderful” and “Love is Here to Stay” that fail to transcend lounge music, being little more than standard covers that don’t diverge all that much from the originals.

“I Got a Crush on You” sounds like it was ripped off a best ballads of the fifties disc, and it works surprisingly well.  It is followed by “I Got Rhythm,” which sounds like a cross between SMiLE and surf rock on the intro, before settling down into a groove that sounds like all the best parts of a sixties Beach Boys song.  Then comes the indisputable latter-half gem “Someone to Watch Over Me,” easily one of the most beautiful little tracks Wilson has recorded in years.

The original tracks are the strongest efforts on the album, and it is for this reason that the decision to stick primarily to covers will always baffle and disappoint me.  It is the single strongest justification for why I’ve denied Reimagines a rating of 4 stars: for all the promise of what could have been.  It is still an enjoyable record and I would argue that it has earned its place as a serious effort, in league with Wilson’s recent and quite excellent albums.

The BEST COVER SONGS of 2011 (The Year-End Review Awards)

Originally posted 2012-01-16 10:00:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

What better way to kick off a Monday at the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song music video blog than to unveil the Weekend Review’s picks for the top ten cover songs of 2011.  After all, this is kind of our thing.  And this has been a busy year for covers.  Not only were there two – not one, but two! – collections of Buddy Holly covers released as tribute to the legendary singer/songwriter in 2011, but there were also two covers EPs put out by Relient K.  This is not to mention Brian Wilson digging back to his childhood (farther back than the Gershwin brothers this time) for the inspiration to In the Key of Disney.

A regular amount of covers wasn’t enough for 2011.  No, no: 2011 needed more covers!  Now, as you’ll recall from our mission statement, it has always been the goal of this blog to put an end to the proliferation of bad covers on YouTube.  In keeping with that tradition, we will now take the time to recognize these non-YouTube covers that have demonstrated excellence this year, standing out from the pack of mediocre (or worse) ones:

1)  “(You’re So Square) Baby, I Don’t Care” – Cee Lo Green (Cover of Buddy Holly)

2)  “Caroline No” – America (Cover of the Beach Boys)

3)  “Here Comes My Girl” – Relient K (Cover of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)

4)  “Colors of the Wind” – Brian Wilson (Cover of the Disney song)

5)  “Baby” – Relient K (Cover of Justin Bieber)

6)  “Not Fade Away” – Florence and the Machine (Cover of Buddy Holly)

7)  “Interstate Love Song” – Relient K (Cover of Stone Temple Pilots)

8)  “It’s So Easy” – Paul McCartney (Cover of Buddy Holly)

9)  “Listen to Me” – Brian Wilson (Cover of Buddy Holly)

10) “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” – Brian Wilson (Cover of the Disney song)


Honorable Mention:

“Surf Wax America” – Relient K (Cover of Weezer)

“Delirious Love” (Neil Diamond Cover)

Originally posted 2008-03-09 15:47:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

Welcome to your Stupendous Sunday edition of The Laptop Sessions! Today I bring you yet another song that I know because it is a part of Jim’s collection. It also is really one of few songs that I know from Neil Diamond.

Today also marks my 30th Laptop Session!

Off of his album “Twelve Songs” (which there are actually thirteen on the album!) , he re-recorded a song he wrote already called “Delirious Love”, and he was heavily assisted in the production by Brian Wilson himself. The only part of the vocals I did were Brian’s backing to the bridge. The recorded version is so catchy, so I tried my best to make this session be just as catchy.

Oddly enough, my voice isn’t that bad for Neil’s style.

And even though there are really only three chords, what a great song. I hope you enjoy this session!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

“On Christmas Day” by Jim Fusco – FREE mp3 Download! – Day 10 of 14

By Jim Fusco:

Welcome to Day 10 of Jim Fusco’s 14 Days of Rock’n’Roll Christmas!  I can finally breathe a sigh of relief, as I’ve officially finished the album.  And only four days ahead of time!  I had to re-record some parts and mix down the last couple of songs, but I’m finally done.  Now, I can give my friends and family high quality versions on CD so they can import into their iTunes libraries.

Tonight’s song is another you probably haven’t heard of (don’t worry- this is the last one!), but it’s a really great song.  It’s called “On Christmas Day” and is written by Brian Wilson.  he recorded it and included it as a bonus track on his Christmas album from the mid-2000’s.  I love the video of the band making this song- it’s so cool seeing it come together in the studio.

An interesting thing to me is that this song really was done back in the 70’s and was called “Bells of Paris”.  Of course, the tune was slightly different, but it’s really the same song.  I’d be interested to find out what came first- Brian’s Christmas lyrics or the ones about Paris.  I know the Beach Boys had a failed Christmas album in the mid-70s and there’s actually a version called “Bells of Christmas” that replaces the lyrics with holiday-themed ones.  But, the version Brian re-tooled that eventually became “On Christmas Day” is by far my favorite and that’s why I had to make my own version!

I hope you like the song as much as I do.  Come back tomorrow (for a song you’ve heard of!) for Day 11 as we roll-on!