Entertainment behind the scenes
‘S Wonderful? Brian Wilson tackles Gershwins’ catalog
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. And Brian Wilson is raising the temperature with an album of Gershwin covers. The 14-track album, “Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin,” comes out in the United States and Canada (and Brazil) on Aug. 17 via Disney, in time to make the Grammys’ eligibility deadline. It reaches Australia and Asia the following week, and finally makes it to Europe on Sept. 6.
Among the usual suspects — “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Summertime” — are two obscure tunes likely to excite fans of George and Ira Gershwin: “The Like in I Love You” and “Nothing But Love.” The former is an outtake from the 1924 musical “Lady, Be Good!” The latter is based on an unfinished 1929 song “Say My Say.” They are drawn from more than 100 piano demos left by composer George Gershwin at his death in 1937, and made available last year to Wilson by the Gershwin estates and their publisher Warner/Chappell Music. Wilson completed the pair with bandmate Scott Bennett.
At an industry listening party in West Hollywood on Wednesday, a Disney marketing executive said the two songs are “a key selling point” of the album, and he urged guests to get the album “out to the mainstream.” Maybe an alliance with United Airlines would help? Wilson, 68 (pictured at left with Beach Boy Al Jardine in January), attended the event, reprising the album’s a cappella version of the aforementioned carrier’s theme song “Rhapsody in Blue” with his bandmates, but otherwise not saying much.
“Thank you very much. It’s lovely to have you with us. Good night,” he said before being hustled off to a side room to escape the intensifying chatter as the vinyl version played. (One interesting piece of gossip: Wilson, according to a pal, is driving for the first time in decades.)
Initial listens of “Gershwin” reveal Wilson to be in strong voice, clearly heard above the trademark harmonies that tend to drown him out on stage. His version of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” comes close to Bronski Beat’s falsetto cover. The bossa nova version of “‘S Wonderful” tips its hat to Joao Gilberto’s. “Gershwin” could also be viewed as a companion to the Beach Boys’ 1966 masterpiece “Pet Sounds,” given the similarities between that album’s jaunty instrumental title track and the new album’s vocal-free take on “I Got Plenty O’ Nuthin.’” Or between “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” respectively.
Wilson intimates as much in the liner notes, thanking the Gershwin brothers for “creating music that inspired a young boy from Hawthorne, California to follow a dream.”