Saturday, January 1, 2011

Album Reviews, That Lucky Old Sun and Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin

That Lucky Old Sun is Brian Wilson's eighth solo album and was released in 2008. Due to legal reasons I wasn't able to post my review of this album until this year, 2011. Happy New Year lawyers!

Anyway, That Lucky Old Sun, in addition to being Brian Wilson's 2nd newest album, was also a 1949 song written by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie that was covered by numerous famous singers including Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine and Louis Armstrong. It was a huge hit at the time but has faded from popularity as time has gone by, but it appears Brian Wilson hasn't forgotten about it because he uses the song as a reoccurring theme multiple times in the album. As Brian continues to evolve as an artist he still continues to draw most of his influences from artists that were popular when he was a child.

This album is a tribute to Brian's childhood and adolescence. It pays tribute to Americana and the American experience, but more importantly it is a memorial to Wilson's own experiences driving around California and falling in love. The album was co-written with Van Dyke Parks (Smile lyricist) and Scott Bennett (from Brian's band) and the collaborative effort definitely made for a more creative album than it would have been had just Brian worked on it. Van Dyke Parks has spoken word segments in the album that make it more cinematic than most pop albums.

The album has beautiful song writing, singing and production, but moremost importantly is tremendously successful at transporting its listener from where ever they may be straight to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. I would recommend listening to this album while driving in your car alone; it's just perfect for that. This album won't get any parties started, but it might spark nostalgic conversation and some fond memories.


Brian Wilson's ninth and latest album, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin was released last August but I wasn't able to post my review until this year. Curse the powers that be! But anyway!

This album is Brian's first album as a recording artist under Disney Records (his next album will be classic Disney covers) and that fact doesn't really have any impact on the record...oh, except for infinite $$$$$. Once again, Brian looks to the past for his inspiration for this record, recording 10 George and Ira Gershwin songs in "Brian" style and also completing two new songs from unfinished song sketches that he got from the Gershwin estate. He also wrote this record with Scott Bennett again, proving that those two guys must really like each other or something!

The album definitively proves that Brian cares about George Gershwin and wants to make his music more accessible to a larger group of people. He faithfully recreates these songs and the whole album is really enjoyable. I especially like the songs "They Can't Take That Away From Me", "The Like In I Love You", and "I Got Rhythm". Those songs are all really up-beat and very modern.

I want to mention that Brian Wilson was originally the producer of this album, but apparently Disney wasn't 100% sure about Brian's good ear, because they hired big-shot record producer Al Schmitt (he produced records for Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane and plenty more) to remix the whole album. I wonder if anyone will leak the original Brian Wilson mix of this album?



stowaway said...

So Pet Sounds and Smile being a 10, you'd really rate these at 8.5 and 9?

I feel like I'd have a hard time giving them that if I wasn't just patting Brian on the back and saying "nice try, buddy!" These albums, to me, have some amazingly high points, considering that Brian has been relatively out of practice for the last 40 years. But I think it's hard to objectively rate them above a 6 or 7.

The low points - particularly on Lucky Old Sun - are really low. For one, his choice of instrumentation immediately brings the albums down a few points. The production is obnoxiously clean with far too many synthesized sounds and not what I think 1960s Brian would refer to as "honest".

Don't get me wrong, I think they represent great achievements given that he's really been out of the game for so long - but I think it'll take a few more albums and some increased confidence before we get an 8.5 or 9.

Objectively, I feel like I'd give these albums a 5 and a 6 respectively. That doesn't make them bad, they're just a musical equivalent to an overweight guy who's lost 100 lbs but he still weighs 300. It's great, but he has a way to go before he's back in shape.

The Lexingtons said...

I don't know, when I am actually listening to these albums I really enjoy them and they are better than his other solo albums (mostly). I think I may have given Brian the benefit of the doubt, but he deserves it. Al Jardine and Mike Love are the only ones who get harsh criticism from me.

stowaway said...

Yeah, I know where you're coming from, and I'm confident that the sound of Brian snoring is better music than anything Mike Love or Al Jardine are capable of. There are some real highlights on both albums, and I've certainly enjoyed them as a fan of Wilson's work. I just feel like in comparison I could only rate them a few points below Today, Pet Sounds, or (the original) SMiLE - which I'd probably give a 7, 9 and 10 respectively. I'd feel comfortable rating them higher than any of the albums with Surfin' in the title. :)

Some of my biggest gripes are his really terrible instrumentation. For a guy who can afford to do better, I'm really disappointed in his overuse of electric and synthesized instruments and his obnoxiously pitch-perfect background vocalists. I think it cheapens the sound and I feel like 1960s Brian would've felt it was musically dishonest. Anyway, just my opinion.

That being said, I do think they're great achievements for a musical icon whose trying to find an inspiration to go change things around.

invisiblelight said...

Hey dude,
great blog, been reading it for a few years now and downloaded tons of shit off it.
I recently started blogging too and uploaded something I think you may be interested in: a rare 45 by California Music produced by Brian Wilson of the song "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", sounds similar to a track from the Love You sessions. Check it out:
Word dude. Talk to you later,

Reggie said...

Prohibited until 2011? Was this part of the Conan O'Brien deal? In all seriousness, I agree that both of these albums are great achievements. As a rule, I don't like number ratings, but if forced, I would say they are both around 7 and very enjoyable.