I - II

NOTE: Brian Wilson shocked many long-time watchers by his at first sputtering, then increasingly accomplished and daring solo career, beginning in the last years of the 1980s with the urging of his therapist, Eugene Landy, and, after breaking free from his influence, continuing on with the encouragement of his family and band with increasingly accomplished live performances of his classic works, apexing with the flabbergasting completion of his lost album SMiLE.  Anyone who knew the emotionally fragile Brian from the late 1960s on would never have supposed that he could stage such a triumphant and over-arching comeback on his own terms, and he's continued to grow, moving from strength to strength in ways that surprise even long-time observers.

Brian Wilson (1988)
Sire/Reprise 9 25669-2 [CD Only]; Released 1988
Warner Archives/Rhino (Expanded edition) R2 79960; Released September 2000.
  (out of five)
                                                          Wilson (1988)

1. "Love And Mercy" (Brian Wilson*) - 2:56
2. "Walkin' The Line" (Brian Wilson/Nick Laird-Clowes)* - 2:38
3. "Melt Away" (Brian Wilson)* - 3:01
4. "Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long" (Brian Wilson) - 3:18
5. "Little Children" (Brian Wilson) - 1:49
6. "One For The Boys" (Brian Wilson) - 1:50
7. "There's So Many" (Brian Wilson)* - 2:47
8. "Night Time" (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley)* - 3:39
9. "Let It Shine" (Brian Wilson/Jeff Lynne) - 3:58
10. "Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight" (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley/Andy Dean) - 3:07
11. "Rio Grande" (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley) - 8:12

REVIEW: Produced under the direction and influence of Dr. Eugene Landy, wih a half-a-dozen other producers in the mix, this album is a strange beast, indeed.  Labelled as a "comeback" album, everyone involved tries very hard to mimic Brian's classic production techniques (throwing in sleighbells, inventive percussion, multi-layered harmonies, etc.), and they almost succeed. Brian's voice is changed, much better than the throat-tearing 1975-76 era, but no longer containing the sparkling falsetto; it now has a bit of a whine, and is gruffer, but he still sings with great feeling, especially on the two standout tracks, "Love and Mercy," and the transcendent "Melt Away."  There is a great sense of both melancholy and fun on this album, the former on the previously mentioned tracks, and the latter manifest in "Little Children," and "Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight."  I also enjoy the driving "Walking The Line," and the odd thump of "Baby, Let Your Hair Grow Long."  Least on my list of favorites are the simple-minded, straightforward "Night Time," and the limp "One For The Boys," which pales against previous, more complex harmonic acrobatics.  The album finishes with a stitched-together soundscape (a la "Heroes and Villains) called Rio Grande, which has some truly beautiful moments, and is the most creative piece Brian has produced in years.  A fine album, even if it is not entirely Brian's baby.

REISSUE NOTE:  The Warner Archives/Rhino reissue in September 2000 remastered the original album with HDCD and added fourteen bonus tracks (along with two short "hidden" tracks) to fill out the running time to over 76 minutes!  The bonus tracks consist of b-sides, demos, spoken interludes by Brian discussing music and philosophy, and a couple of alternate takes.  None of the bonus tracks are really essential, although all are interesting, and the reissue contains a fat booklet with copious notes, lyrics, and corrected producer and writing credits (Dr. Landy's name is now only found once, as executive producer).  A wonderful, reverential update.  To see a review of his next (unreleased) solo album, Sweet Insanity click here (first version), or here (second version).

"I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" 
MCA Records/KA-RAM-BO-LA-GE MCAD-11270 [CD Only]; Released August, 1995

1. "Meant for You" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 0:50
2. "This Whole World" (Brian Wilson) - 1:55
3. "Caroline, No" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 2:39
4. "Let the Wind Blow" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:44
5. "Love and Mercy" (Brian Wilson) - 3:13
6. "Do It Again" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:44
7. "The Warmth of the Sun" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:48
8. "Wonderful" (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks) - 2:14
9. "Still I Dream of It" (Brian Wilson) - 3:35
10. "Melt Away" (Brian Wilson) - 2:58
11. "Til I Die" (Brian Wilson) - 2:47

REVIEW: The soundtrack album to the biographical film by Don Was, was an extremely pleasant surprise for me.  Low key, diverse, and filled with emotion, IJWMFTT is a fine solo album on it's own terms.  Essentially an album of Brian re-recording old and not-so-old compositions,  plus one home demo of the gorgeous "Still I Dream Of It," it's one of my favorite 'mood' albums.  Beginning with the short but lovely "Meant For You," before charging into a short, punchy version of "This Whole World," I immediately got the sense of being in an intimate club watching Brian doing a short set of some of his favorite pieces, or sitting in at a rehearsal in his home.  Hearing an older, more mature Brian tackle "Caroline, No," and "The Warmth of the Sun" is revelatory.  The whole album is warm, personal, and tastefully produced by Don and Brian.  It's also nice to hear Brian include his estranged daughters, Carnie and Wendy on the nicely rocking "Do It Again," (even if they seem to be buried in the mix). I have two small complaints, however: 1) Don Was's small backing group of singers and musicians are capable, but have the effect of making every song sound the same, and 2) Brian's voice is often shakey, and he probably won't make any new converts with his singing on this album, but in all, the songs themselves, and the love with which Brian sings them, make this album essential.

Do It Again [CD-Single]
MCA 33370 [CD]; Released 1995

1. Do It Again (B.Wilson/M. Love) 2:44
2. 'Til I Die (B.Wilson) 2:46
3. This Song Wants To Sleep With You Tonight (B. Wilson/A. Paley) 4:20

Produced by Don Was and Andy Paley

REVIEW:  A three-song CD single which was released overseas (Sweden?) to help promote the Don Was film, this single collects two tracks from the I Just Wasn't Made For These Times soundtrack, and pairs it with the rare Andy Paley collaboration, the lovely, somewhat disturbing "This Song Wants To Sleep With You Tonight" which sounds a little like a lullabye that has erotic inclinations... yeah.  Thematically, I'm certain that Brian and Andy Paley were thinking... OK, actually, I don't know what they were thinking when they used this particular phrase, but unfortunately, its closest kin in terms of Beach Boys songs is "Hey, Little Tomboy" from the MIU Album, albeit with a much more appealing melody, which has to be one of the gentlest, most beguiling things Brian has written in years.  In fact, it reminds much a lot of a similar song by ABBA: "Like An Angel Passing Through My Room," but with less pure intent.  So, I'm going to give these two the benefit of the doubt and suppose that the lyric is simply meant to imply comfort to a child when sending them off to dreamland, and not... something else.  A curio for Beach Boys collectors.

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks: Orange Crate Art
Warner Brothers 9 45427-2 [CD Only]; Released November, 1995
                                                          Crate Art
1. "Orange Crate Art" - 3:00
2. "Sail Away" - 5:15
3. "My Hobo Heart" (Van Dyke Parks/Michael Hazelwood) - 3:16
4. "Wings Of A Dove" - 3:07
5. "Palm Tree And Moon" - 4:07
6. "Summer In Monterey" (Van Dyke Parks/Michael Hazelwood) - 4:14
7. "San Francisco" - 4:28
8. "Hold Back Time" - 3:39
9. "My Jeanine" - 3:13
10. "Movies Is Magic" - 3:54
11. "This Town Goes Down At Sunset" (Michael Hazelwood) - 3:21
12. "Lullaby" (George Gershwin) - 6:06

REVIEW: Now here's an album that could only be described by two words: not yet.  What could've been a conciousness-shattering reunion of the Uber-twins of "Smile" legend turns out to be an Indian-Summer stroll through the past.  Brian Wilson takes sole vocal duty on this Van Dyke Parks concept album, and the result are mixed.  In fact, Brian had nothing to do with the writing, arrangement or producing of this album, which is a rich, mellow ode to California of bygone days.  Brian's voice, which is multi-tracked and layered in dense harmonies, is harsh and fairly emotionless, meaning that the listener needs to rely on the talent of the songwriter and arranger to make an emotional connection.  Luckily, Van Dyke Parks is a talented, idiosyncratic composer and arranger, and he apparently was given carte blanche by Warner Brothers to make this project come to life.  The instrumental tracks are wonderfully arranged and varied, the songs are light and free and wonderfully unselfconscious, and the vocal arrangements are clever and thick.  Brian is, of course, able to navigate the harmonics with ease, but repeated listening only makes it clear to me that however karma-like this reunion should be, the nagging feeling remains that the material would have been better served by a different singer. 

Giant  9 24703-2 [CD Only]; Released June, 1998
1. "Your Imagination" (Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas/Steve Dahl) - 3:38
2. "She Says That She Needs Me" (Brian Wilson/Russ Titelman/Carole Bayer Sager) - 3:59
3. "South American" (Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas/Jimmy Buffett) - 3:44
4. "Where Has Love Been?" (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley/J.D. Souther) - 2:17
5. "Keep An Eye On Summer" (Brian Wilson/Bob Norman) - 2:48
6. "Dream Angel" (Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas/Jim Peterik) - 3:21
7. "Cry" (Brian Wilson) - 4:56
8. "Lay Down Burden" (Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas) - 3:44
9. "Let Him Run Wild" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 2:29
10. "Sunshine" (Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas) - 3:20
11. "Happy Days" (Brian Wilson) - 4:44

REVIEW: Imagination is a warm, pure re-entry from rock's greatest prodigal son, Brian Wilson. Graduating from the emotive thunder and pathos of his youth, Imagination feels like a musical sigh of relief coming from a man whose life has been anything but easy and good.  The best and most convincing proof is in his voice, which has metamorphosed from the harsh, cracked whine of recent efforts, into a smooth, effortless tenor.  The songs too, speak of contentment, comfort, and acceptance.  The first song, "Your Imagination," intones his fast-track past on the verses, then turns and embraces the future on the chorus, with cool clarinets and bouncing xylophones laughing along.  "She Says That She Needs Me" is a wonderful rebirth of an unreleased 1966 song, with some surprising orchestral maneuvers buoying up the great melody in trademark fashion.  "South American" is impossibly catchy in the best sense of the word, with a far lighter feel than the comparably contrived "Kokomo."  Following with the dreamy "Where Has Love Been" and the remake of "Keep an Eye On Summer" which feels just right nestled in-between the new songs.  "Dream Angel" is a weaker track, completely contemporary and up, yet melodically bland.  The next cut, the jazz-inflected "Cry" is fantastic, showing what a sensitive lyricist Brian can be.  "Lay Down Burden" is a standout: tragic and hopeful at the same time, "Let Him Run Wild" is a weaker incarnation than the original, and "Sunshine" surprises with it's sunny rhythms and atypical laid-back attitude.  The album closes with the jarring, autobiographical "Happy Days" which although initially dark and off-putting, becomes more powerful with repeated listenings and ends the album with an air of hope, which is perhaps what Brian intended, and without doubt deserves.  Also available in DTS Surround.

Live At The Roxy Theatre
BriMel 1001 [CD Only]; Released June, 2000
Live at
                                                          the Roxy

All songs by Brian Wilson/Mike Love, except where noted.

Disc 1
   1. "Little Girl Intro" - 0:59
   2. "The Little Girl I Once Knew" (Brian Wilson) - 3:25
   3. "This Whole World" (Brian Wilson) - 1:51
   4. "Don't Worry Baby" (Brian Wilson/Roger Christian) - 3:27
   5. "Kiss Me Baby" - 3:12
   6. "Do It Again" - 3:25
   7. "California Girls" - 4:07
   8. "I Get Around" - 2:35
   9. "Back Home" (Brian Wilson) - 4:34
  10. "In My Room" (Brian Wilson/Gary Usher) - 2:48
  11. "Surfer Girl" (Brian Wilson) - 3:03
  12. "The First Time" (Brian Wilson) - 3:56
  13. "This Isn't Love" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 3:55
  14. "Add Some Music To Your Day" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love/Joe Knott) - 4:11
  15. "Please Let Me Wonder" - 3:29

Disc 2
    1. "Band Intro" - 1:30
   2. "Brian Wilson" (Steven Page) - 0:55
   3. "Til I Die" (Brian Wilson) - 3:57
   4. "Darlin' " - 2:51
   5. "Let's Go Away For Awhile" (Brian Wilson) - 2:54
   6. "Pet Sounds" (Brian Wilson) - 4:27
   7. "God Only Knows" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 3:26
   8. "Lay Down Burden" (Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas) - 3:29
   9. "Be My Baby" (Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector/Jeff Barry) - 4:11
  10. "Good Vibrations" - 6:02
  11. "Caroline, No" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 5:00
  12. "All Summer Long" - 3:12
  13. "Love And Mercy" (Brian Wilson) - 3:52
  14. "Sloop John B" (Trad. Arr. Brian Wilson) - 3:34
  15. "Barbara Ann" (Fred Fassert) - 2:44
  16. "Interview With Brian" - 4:21

    * Tracks 14-16 of Disc 2 are bonus tracks on the Oglio Records re-release in 2001

REVIEW: I generally don't enjoy live albums, although I know several fans do, trading in the clean, polished studio versions in lieu of more ragged, usually more energized performances.  This set is a dream, with songs that haven't been touched in a touring Beach Boys show for decades.  It begins with a powerhouse "The Little Girl I Once Knew" which immediately sets the stage for the kind of songcraft that Brian Wilson is legendary for.  Following come a select group of gems: This Whole World, Kiss me Baby, California Girls, I Get Around, In My Room, Surfer Girl, Please Let Me Wonder, 'Til I Die, Darlin', God Only Knows, Good Vibrations, All Summer Long, and Caroline No.  Also included are the new "The First Time" and "This Isn't Love."  Brian is surprisingly funny throughout, bantering easily with the audience, and in very good voice.  He surprises his audience with a cover of the Barenaked Ladies song "Brian Wilson" which is better than the original, filled with a self-knowing humor that's jaw-dropping.  The band is very tight, tackling the many key changes and harmonies with polished ease, and showing such affinity and good taste that it's hard to believe that they haven't been playing together with Brian for years.  What a pleasure this disc is. What a perfect way to prove that Brian, through all of his pain and struggles, has never lost his good vibrations.

Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds Live
Sanctuary Records, June 11, 2002

All songs by Brian Wilson/Tony Asher, except where noted.

   1. "Show Intro" - 0:30
   2. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher/Mike Love) - 2:54
   3. "You Still Believe in Me" - 3:04
   4. "That's Not Me" - 2:22
   5. "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" - 3:07
   6. "I'm Waiting for the Day" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) - 3:30
   7. "Let's Go Away for Awhile" (Brian Wilson) - 2:51
   8. "Sloop John B" (Trad. arr. Brian Wilson) - 3:26
   9. "God Only Knows" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 3:13
  10. "I Know There's an Answer" (Brian Wilson/Terry Sachen/Mike Love) - 3:05
  11. "Here Today" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 3:15
  12. "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 3:30
  13. "Pet Sounds" (Brian Wilson) - 4:06
  14. "Caroline, No" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) - 4:16

There's a undeniable thrill that comes from hearing this disc.  Recorded in London during his recent triumphant tour, an obviously energized Brian Wilson tackles his seminal song-cycle with more gentleness, and more reverence than when he first wrote and sang these songs back in 1966.  In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone else being able to perform the songs with the depth of familiarity that Brian brings to them.  It amazes me that Brian is able to sing the high parts on "Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)," [even if it is a couple of notes down from the original,] or to hear his fiery take on "I Know There's An Answer" which left me flabbergasted.  The band here is cracker-jack, capturing each song's tempo and mood with incredible precision.  And to hear those seminal harmonies performed live with such richness sends chills down my spine.  It's not a perfect document; the use of synthesized strings is downright distracting on "Let's Go Away For Awhile" and it would have been nice to have filled out the disc with bonus cuts from the concert (or, hey!  why not the FULL concert?), but it's worth it to hear the extra harmony parts on "Sloop John B" or the percolating keyboards and woodblocks on "God Only Knows," or to hear an absolutely transformed "Here Today" which becomes a tight, perfect pop song which I prefer to the original!  In fact, the entire Pet Sounds
album gains a power and sensitivity when performed live which "lights up" the songs in a way I never before appreciated.  Oh, how I wish I could've been there...

Gettin' In Over My Head
BriMel/Rhino R2 76471, June 22, 2004

1. "How Could We Still Be Dancin'?" (Brian Wilson/Joe Thomas) - 4:42
          * Featuring Elton John on lead vocals
2. "Soul Searchin' " (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley) - 4:07
          * Recorded by The Beach Boys in 1996, but discarded. This version features Carl Wilson on lead vocals
3. "You've Touched Me" (Brian Wilson/Steve Kalinich) - 3:21
4. "Gettin' In Over My Head" (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley) - 4:27
5. "City Blues" (Brian Wilson/Scott Bennett) - 4:20
          * Features Eric Clapton on electric guitar
6. "Desert Drive" (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley) - 3:34
7. "A Friend Like You" (Brian Wilson/Steve Kalinich) - 3:37
          * Features Paul McCartney on co-lead vocal
8. "Make A Wish" (Brian Wilson) - 3:49
9. "Rainbow Eyes" (Brian Wilson) - 4:06
10. "Saturday Morning In The City" (Brian Wilson/Andy Paley) - 2:53
11. "Fairy Tale" (Brian Wilson/David Foster) - 5:28
12. "Don't Let Her Know She's An Angel" (Brian Wilson) - 4:17
          * Tracks 8, 9, 10 and 11 originally recorded for the scrapped Sweet Insanity album in 1990/1991
13. "The Waltz" (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks) - 4:09

REVIEW: Brian's first studio album since 1998's Imagination is the first to really sound like a Brian Wilson album should, which only makes sense due to the fact that this is the first Brian Wilson solo album to actually be produced by Brian.  But Brian can't be fully credited with this, since his touring band, who has backed Brian and shown remarkable prowess in recreating his classic sound, apparently built the backing tracks around Brian's piano/vocal tapes, all under Brian's supervision.  So now the tracks have the organic, earthy sound that Brian's solo albums have always lacked, and that's a big plus, since most casual listeners will have trouble getting over the simplistic, banal lyrics, and chugging tempos which mar most of the songs.  The production is very old-school, with the sound firmly in 50's doo-wop and roots rock 'n' roll, with enough stylistic touches to remind listeners of Brian's innovative brilliance.  Brian's been off-kilter with mainstream audiences since the late 60's, when he began writing songs like "Busy Doin' Nothin'" and "Anna Lee The Healer," so it should come as no surprise that the newest album is chock full of these moments, from the inept lyrics of Steven Kalinich on "A Friend Like You" ("you mystify me, you lullaby me") to the skewed Addams Family-like groove to be found on "Desert Drive," to the cartoon-like goofiness of "Saturday Morning In The City."  The much-hyped collaborations, with artists like Sirs Elton John and Paul McCartney and a guitar solo by Eric Clapton are interesting, with Elton giving his unique vocal punch to an otherwise bland "How Could We Still Be Dancin'," and Paul McCartney trying to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear of "A Friend Like You."  Clapton's electrifying solo on "City Blues" sounds as out of place on a Brian Wilson album as "Bluebirds Over The Mountain" did on The Beach Boys' 20/20, but is still fun to hear.  Brian handles most of the backing vocals on the album, showing off his undiminished talent for arranging complex harmony, but sometimes the vocals are unnecessarily sloppy, and what may have been intended as loose and rollicking sounds careless.  Careless too is the final song "The Waltz," with insultingly bad lyrics from the usually more thoughtful Van Dyke Parks, showed off to their worst effect by the lurching melody.  Highlights on the album include the dreamy title track, the classic Brill-building construct of "Fairy Tale" and the Sweet Insanity outtake "Don't Let Her Know She's An Angel."  An album that's for fans and purists, who will understand intimately where Brian is coming from, but the general public will only shake their heads and wonder.

Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE
Nonesuch 79846 [CD]; Released September 28, 2004

All songs by Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, except where noted.

   1. "Our Prayer/Gee" (Brian Wilson/William Davis/Morris Levy) - 2:09
   2. "Heroes And Villains" - 4:53
   3. "Roll Plymouth Rock" - 3:48
   4. "Barnyard" - 0:58
   5. "The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine" (Haven Gillespie/Beasley Smith) - 1:04
   6. "Cabin Essence" - 3:27
   7. "Wonderful" - 2:07
   8. "Song For Children" - 2:16
   9. "Child Is Father Of The Man" - 2:18
  10. "Surf's Up" - 4:07
  11. "I'm In Great Shape/I Wanna Be Around/Workshop" (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks/Johnny Mercer/Sadie Vimmerstedt) - 1:56
  12. "Vega-Tables" - 2:19
  13. "On A Holiday" - 2:36
  14. "Wind Chimes" - 2:54
  15. "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" (Brian Wilson) - 2:27
  16. "In Blue Hawaii" - 3:00
  17. "Good Vibrations" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher/Mike Love) - 4:36

REVIEW: A modern-day miracle, the appearance of SMiLE in a complete, recorded form can be heralded by both Beach Boys fans and pop music affeciandos alike.  It's not too much to say that this is the most complex, ambitious pop album ever produced; in form and content Smile eclipses albums by Brian's contemporaries and challenges artists today with a standard of excellence most will be hard-pressed to match.  The fact that it took nearly forty years to finally see the light of day makes its release a watershed moment in rock history.  Smile is, in its finished form, a three-movement cantata with a through-composed, all-encompassing Americana as its raison d'etre. And hearing it now, it's clear that this album is completely Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks' baby.  Brian's constantly shifting musical motifs and VDP's thick, condensed imagery are miles away from the simple sentiments generally associated with the Beach Boys.  The vast array of moods here is a marvel, from the whimsy of "Holidays" to the dark rush of the "Fire" theme, or the mini-epics of "Surf's Up," "Cabin Essence" and "Heroes and Villains."  Each section paints a panoramic soundscape reminiscent of Charles Ives, Stephen Foster, George Gershwin and Burt Bacharach, yet at the same time sounds like nothing else.  Repeated listenings only reinforce my belief that Smile is a completely new form; far more complex than the Who's Tommy, light-years more daring than Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, far more cohesive in it's execution than I ever dared hope for, Smile is a staggeringly daring and brilliant work of art.  If you've read my previous review of bootleg versions of Smile that have surfaced, you'll know that I've never been a die-hard fan of the bits and pieces I've heard; but now Smile makes sense - it has ebb and flow, form and function - it truly is complete, and it's revealed itself to be far greater than the sum of its many parts.  The recording itself is glorious, with a rich burnished glow evident throughout, and the performance, by Brian and his touring band is perfect, carefully matching the original ambience of the 1967 tapes.  To be honest, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the presence of this album - promised, rumored, teased and leaked out in bits and pieces for nearly forty years, Smile is here at last.  Wow.

What I Really Want For Christmas
Arista 70300 [CD]; Released September 27, 2005

1. The Man with All the Toys [Love, Wilson] 3:00
2. What I Really Want for Christmas [Taupin, Wilson] 3:51
3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen [Traditional] 3:28
4. O Holy Night [Traditional] 4:29
5. We Wish You a Merry Christams [Traditional] 2:39
6. Hark the Herald Angels Sing [Traditional]  3:35
7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear [Traditional]  3:10
8. The First Noel [Traditional] 4:48
9. Christmasey [Webb, Wilson]  4:09
10. Little Saint Nick [Love, Wilson] 2:13
11. Deck the Halls [Traditional] 2:37
12. Auld Lang Syne [Traditional]  1:35
13. On Christmas Day [*] [Wilson]  3:24
14. Joy to the World [*] [Traditional] 2:09
15. Silent Night [*] [Traditional]  0:49

REVIEW: Brian's quick decision to release his first solo Christmas album after the resounding artistic and critical success of SMiLE may have felt like a retreat, but, mustering the same forces as the former album gives What I Really Want For Christmas a similar sheen, and for fans, this album will prove to be a pleasant addition to their Beach Boys collection.  The album contains more than a couple of suprises: first, the choice of collaborators on two of the new compositions - Bernie Taupin (Elton John's long-time lyricist) pens the words to "What I Really Want For Christmas" which shows Wilson's compositional powers undiminished in this melodically challenging ballad.  Later, Jimmy Webb joins Wilson for the breathless "Christmasy" - both songs showcase Wilson's unparalleled harmony arrangements, stunningly realized by Wilson and his band.  The other major suprise, for me, at least, was the number of sacred Christmas carols present.  Wilson, who has never to my knowledge given much indication of traditional Christian leanings, (the Beach Boys first Christmas album is virtually bereft of any sacred sentiment) includes several traditional songs here which don't shy away from glorifying the Christ - "The First Noel," "Hark The Herald Angels Sing," "Joy To The World," "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night" are given, for the most part, straightforward readings.  The bulk of the remaining numbers are taken straight from the English Christmas tradition, with "Auld Lang Syne," "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," "Deck The Halls," and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" all confirming Brian's unabashed love of traditional holiday music in the Charles Dicken's mode.  Brian's singing is strong throughout, but generally lacks the lighter touch some of the sentiments require, but fans will quickly recognize the joyous feeling that pervades this album; Brian sounds full of life and exuberance thoughout, and the deft arrangements, spectacular harmony singing, and Christmasy mood make this a holiday offering to be cherished by Wilson's many fans.

Walking Down The Path Of Life [CD-Single]
OGLIO 86960-2 [CD]; Released November 5, 2005

1. Walking Down The Path Of Life/Love & Mercy - 4:24

Brian Wilson - piano & vocals
Scott Bennett - bass, organ, piano, vocals
Nelson Bragg - drums, vocals
Taylor Mills - vocals

Written, produced and arranged by Brian Wilson

REVIEW:  It shouldn't be forgotten how much Brian Wilson personally has done for the victims of Hurricane Katerina.  He called over five hundred people in person to thank them for donating money to the Red Cross through his site, and as an encore he wrote and produced this charity single for sale on his website.  Containing a single track of two songs stitched together the gospel rave-up "Walking Down The Path Of Life" and his own "Love & Mercy" in an effectively heart-tugging experience.  Continuing in his Christian-themed songs which he started on What I Really Want For Christmas, "Walking Down The Path Of Life" begins with a slow, walking intro, thick with Brian's signature harmonies, before leading into Brian singing simply "touch me... heal me... wash my sins away..." and then band members Taylor Mills, Scott Bennett, and Nelson Bragg jumping into a verve-filled chorus.  Then, just as the chords are fading away, a lovely piano intro leads into a brand-new recording of "Love & Mercy" which is supported by gorgeous harmony vocals, again, by the band.  Brian sings with much sensitivity and love on the track, and it's a fitting reminder of the many who have suffered as a result of Hurricane Katerina's fury.  In 2005, Brian Wilson was honored as the MusicCares Person of the Year - and these generous actions by the normally reclusive Wilson show why.  This CD is available in an unsigned, and an autographed edition.

New Music From An Old Friend
180 Music LLC OEM-00004-2 [CD]; Released April, 2007

1. Alfie - Burt Bacharach, Peabo Bryson
2. God Only Knows - Brian Wilson
3. Your Goodbye - Richard Marx
4. A Love Song - Kenny Loggins
5. Say Goodbye Today - Carole King
6. What Love Can Do - Brian Wilson
7. Sunday Morning Coming Down - Kris Kristofferson
8. I Still Remember - Burt Bacharach, John Pagano
9. Rainbow Connection - Paul Williams, Willie Nelson
10. Hold On To The Nights - Richard Marx
11. Home Again - Carole King, Suzan Agbor
12. The Wonder - Kris Kristofferson
13. I’ll Remember Your Name - Kenny Loggins
14. New Music From An Old Friend - Paul Williams, Jane Monheit
15. Save It For A Rainy Day - Stephen Bishop with Eric Clapton and Oscar Castro-Neves

REVIEW:  I'm not what to think of the latest trend in music: namely, stars who release new music through companies that are not traditionally thought of as music outlets.  Paul McCartney has released his new album, Memory Almost Full through the coffee-chain Starbucks, and Target, which is traditionally a retail store, has created Spotlight Features and signed various past-their-prime artists to release a handful of titles in their stores.  I'm all for having these artists find any outlet they can to push new songs, but it's blurring a line I'm not certain should be blurred.  Ah, well - this CD, which is a compilation produced by Phil Ramone, contains two tracks of interest for Brian Wilson fans: a remake of the elegant Pet Sounds single "God Only Knows," and a new song: "What Love Can Do" which features a first - Brian co-wrote the track with Burt Bacharach and Steven Krikorian.  First off - "God Only Knows" is a pretty straight-ahead remake, with only some reharmonized chording found in the bridge, but otherwise a slick, if overly synthesized, cover version, with Brian and his band relying heavily on ProTools to smooth out Brian's voice, but to overall good effect.  The new collaboration, "What Love Can Do" again produced by Phil Ramone, is a pretty ballad, with plenty of Bacharach touches and plentiful Brian Wilson harmonies testifying to its blended parentage.  Brian again sings with lots of studio help in his vocals, but it sounds smooth and is such a happy song that it hearkens back to more innocent times.  The songs fit in neatly with the rest of the album, which leans on the easy-listening talents of Kenny Loggins, Burt Bacharach, Carol King, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and others to create a genial, past-glory glow throughout which should leave the listener either bored silly, or glad they made the purchase.

That Lucky Old Sun
Capitol Records 34147 [CD];  34142 [CD+DVD]; 341421 [LP]
Released September 2, 2008

                                                    Old Sun

Also available in limited edition CD/DVD
and limited edition vinyl
1. That Lucky Old Sun
2. Morning Beat
3. Room With A View (narrative)
4. Good Kind Of Love
5. Forever My Surfer Girl
6. Venice Beach (narrative)
7. Live Let Live
8. Mexican Girl
9. Cinco de Mayo (narrative)
10. California Role
11. Between Pictures (narrative)
12. Oxygen To The Brain
13. Been Too Long
14. Midnight s Another Day
15. Lucky Old Sun Reprise
16. Goin' Home
17. Southern California
18. Roll-Around Heaven Reprise

REVIEW:  Brian Wilson has finally reclaimed his zeitgeist.  For much of Brian's solo output, his albums have carried the weight of his reputation with them, with most of them sounding as if they were programmed to sound like 'Brian Wilson albums' should, but lacking the easy soul that informed his epochal songs like "California Girls" and "Surfer Girl".  The naivety of these early sentiments got swallowed up in the celebrity of "Brian Wilson."  But with Lucky Old Sun, Brian sounds as if he's rediscovered his innocence.  It has a purity of sound, of intent, that recalls nothing so much as Brian Wilson, circa 1966.  That's not to say that it's a return to that early sound - Brian still carries the weight of his years with him, sounding wistful on the poppy "Forever My Surfer Girl" and darkly powerful on the album's masterpiece: "Midnight's Another Day".  But the album is far sunnier than those two tracks - it sounds like pure, distilled essence of California; there's a sweetness, like distilled orange juice, bouncing around in "Good Kind Of Love"; rippling with that almost indefinable touch that will remind listeners that it was Brian Wilson who single-handedly invented the soundtrack for the "California Myth".  The surprises on the album are numerous, and pleasant - from the wonderful south-of-the-border production touches of "Mexican Girl" (with Brian showing off his Spanish language skills), to the beautiful, shimmering "Southern California" where he recalls his early harmonizing with his two brothers, to the rip-snorting (I've always wanted to use that term in a review) high of "Oxygen To The Brain", Brian carries the bulk of vocal duties, including the spoken interludes which connect the various snapshots of Southern California living, and ties it all together in a loose collage of images, moods, and feels which is uniquely his.  His band is once again completely up to the challenge of interpreting Brian's complex vocal and musical wishes into reality, and the production is marvellous, full of delightful bits and pieces that shine and sparkle throughout.  How appropriate that Brian should pay homage to his home state, and return once again to the Capitol label to celebrate this album.  No one else could have created Lucky Old Sun - I was left feeling absolutely wonderful after hearing it.  Brian Wilson has come home.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin
Walt Disney D000428902 [CD];
Released August 17, 2010

gershwin 1. Rhapsody In Blue (Intro) 1:07
2. The Like In I Love You 3:19
3. Summertime 3:13
4. I Loves You Porgy 3:37
5. I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' 2:44
6. It Ain't Necessarily So 3:57
7. 'S Wonderful 2:48
8. They Can't Take That Away From Me 2:50
9. Love is Here To Stay 2:58
10. I've Got a Crush On You 2:41
11. I Got Rhythm 2:42
12. Someone To Watch Over Me 3:04
13. Nothing But Love 3:24
14. Rhapsody In Blue (Reprise) :37

REVIEW:  Those of you who frequent this site know that I'm also a big fan of Frank Sinatra, and here, for the first time, Brian Wilson and Sinatra cross paths; Sinatra was a big Gershwin interpreter during his career, and on Brian's first-ever disc of covers from the George Gershwin catalog, I would have to say this album is Brian Wilson's Nice 'n' Easy.  It feels uncannily smooth and cool, like a perfect summer evening - and for all my wondering whether the blending of Wilson's California style of sunshine pop and Gershwin's Tin Pan Alley east coast sensibilities would prove an uneasy marriage melted away.  It's been well documented that Brian has been a long time fan of Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" and how he wanted one day to do a vocal-only version of the concert staple, and here, bucket-list-like, Brian bows into the album with the fulfillment of that wish.  Brian's love of these melodies, and his suitability to them is a happy shock - although it shouldn't be - Gershwin-style songs fill Brian's oeuvre, although you'd have to be familiar with their respective canons to realize it: the soaring melodicism and melancholy of "Summertime" is echoed in the wistfulness of "Caroline, No"; the cheeky socio-double-entendres present in "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" is taken to its modern-day extreme in Brian's "Busy Doin' Nothin'"; and the resilient note found in "They Can't Take That Away From Me" can be found in "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times."  But this album succeeds in more than sympathetic compatablility - Brian sounds completely immersed in these songs - he's never sounded this invested in his singing - not even in his earliest recordings - he interprets these songs in what sounds like deeply personal ways, alternately sly, wistful, and smiling - from the silky Bacharach-flavored bossa-nova found on "S' Wonderful" to the call-and-response party of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" to the Beach Boys bass-line groove found on "I Got Rhythm" - this album is absolutely wall-to-wall fantastic. As for the two Wilson/Gershin "collaborations" - "The Like In I Love You" and "Nothing But Love" - although they're not on par with the classic songs that surround them, they're wonderfully realized, and it's impossible to tell where Gershwin's contributions end and Brian's begin.  For those who've witnessed the blossoming of Brian's soul since the completion of SMiLE, open your ears again - Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin is one of his all-time best.

Brian Wilson: In The Key Of Disney
Walt Disney D000428902 [CD];
Released October 24, 2011

                                                      The Key Of Disney 1. You've Got A Friend In Me
2. Bare Necessities
3. Baby Mine
4. Kiss The Girl
5. Colors Of The Wind
6. Can You Feel The Love Tonight?
7. We Belong Together
8. I Just Can't Wait To Be King
9. Stay Awake
10. Heigh-Ho/Whistle While You Work
11. When You Wish Upon A Star
12. A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes*
13. Peace On Earth*

* - bonus tracks (various releases)

REVIEW:  Brian Wilson's second release on the Disney Pearl label, following the critically acclaimed Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, In the Key of Disney is a much lighter, less portentous album, with Brian choosing tracks from the Disney vault that mines the lighter side of the Mouse House, along with select ballads, all of which receive the Wilson touch.  First the lighter side:  the album jets off with a "Little St. Nick" groove on "You've Got A Friend In Me", and bounces along with a fun, vibraphone-based take on "Bare Necessities".  The Little Mermaid's "Kiss The Girl" is given a Philly/Soul arrangement by-way-of The Ronettes' "Be My Baby" drum stack.  "We Belong Together" (from Toy Story 3) is perhaps the most Wilson-esque track here, with castanets and a 50's vibe that hearkens back to Brian's earliest influences.  Brian tackles two Elton John tracks from  The Lion King; "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" sounds reigned in here, with Brian's tenor voice perhaps too tentative for the bombast the lyric calls for.  And the "Heigh-Ho/Whistle While You Work" mash-up directly references Brian's odd, minimalist work on Smile's "Vegetables".  

The other side of the album covers ballads, with "Baby Mine" (from Dumbo) receiving a dreamy arrangement, drenched with harmonies.  Pocahontas's "Colors of the Wind" (the only real surprise choice here) is reminiscent of Brian's other ecologically-minded song "A Day in the Life of a Tree", but with a less-compelling reading.  The second song taken from The Lion King is the over-exposed "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" which here is more delicately handled than the Elton John hit, sounding more like a lullaby than a power ballad.  The same can be said for Brian's arrangement of "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins, with a soft, somnambulant reading that works very well as a lullaby.  Finally, no Brian Wilson does Disney album would be complete without the song which Brian has repeatedly credited as inspiring the very first Beach Boys ballad, "Surfer Girl": "When You Wish Upon A Star".  Besides these eleven tracks, there are two bonus tracks found other other releases, with Amazon selling an exclusive version including "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and the digital version having "Peace On Earth".  (Hey, Brian - how about including ALL of the tracks on one release - then we'll have world peace.)

Despite the odd humor Brian brings to his song selection, this is perhaps the safest record Brian has released since Imagination, with serene harmonies, muted rock 'n' roll, and a gentle spirit prevalent throughout.

Brian Wilson: No Pier Pressure
Capitol Records 002177202 [CD/MP3/VINYL];
Released April 7, 2015

1 This Beautiful Day
2 Runaway Dancer
3 Whatever Happened - David Marks
4 On The Island - She & Him
5 Half Moon Bay - Mark Isham
6 Our Special Love - Peter Hollens
7 The Right Time
8 Guess You Had To Be There - Kacey Musgraves
9 Don't Worry
10 Somewhere Quiet
11 I'm Feeling Sad
12 Tell Me Why - Al Jardine
13 Sail Away - Blondie Chaplin
14 One Kind Of Love
15 Saturday Night - Nate Ruess
16 The Last Song

REVIEW:  After the surprising return of writer/producer Joe Thomas to Brian's circle following the critical success of The Beach Boys That's Why God Made The Radio, he returns now in full force, co-writing and co-producing what is a markedly different album for Brian with No Pier Pressure, in what can only be described as Brian shying away from the past and looking toward the future.  In doing so, he embraces modern production styles and rhythms, and aligns himself with several current artists such as She & Him, Peter Hollens, Nate Ruess,. Kacy Musgraves and Mark Isham.  This doesn't mean that he abandons his past, as he pulls in David Marks, Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin in effective cameos.  The songs veer between sunny carefree evocations (the disco-ish "Don't Worry" club rhythms of "Runaway Dancer" "On The Island" "Our Special Love" "The Right Time"  "Saturday Night") wintry meditations ("This Beautiful Day" "Whatever Happened" the instrumental/vocalese "Half Moon Bay" "Somewhere Quiet" "Tell Me Why" "Our Kind Of Love" "The Last Song") and typical Wilson-ish noodlings (the "Busy Doing Nothing"-like "I'm Feeling Sad" and the Chaplin/Jardine-led "Sail Away").  Much like the last Wilson/Thomas album Imagination, No Pier Pressure is one of Brian's most commercial endeavors; slickly produced, eschewing any of the more adventurous, esoteric elements of Brian's past, but thoroughly enjoyable on its own merits.  Purists may cringe, but as a pure pop album, it should accomplish its intended goal of introducing Brian to a whole new generation of young listeners.

Playback: The Brian Wilson Anthology
Rhino [CD/Vinyl]
Released September 22, 2017

1. "Love And Mercy"
2. "Surf's Up"
3. "Heroes And Villains"  
4. "Melt Away"
5. "Let It Shine"
6. "Some Sweet Day" *
7. "Rio Grande"
8. "Cry"
9. "Lay Down Burden"
10. "The First Time"
11. "This Isn't Love"
12. "Soul Searchin'"
13. "Gettin' In Over My Head"
14. "The Like In I Love You"
15. "Midnight's Another Day"
16. "Colors Of The Wind"
17. "One Kind Of Love"
18. "Run James Run" *

* previously unreleased

REVIEW:  Brian's solo output, which he has been dedicated to since 1988's self-titled debut, has been a spotty affair; initially mixed up with his psychiatrist Eugene Landy, his first two albums were forced affairs, including one (Sweet Insanity) which has still never seen release.  In fact, I would argue that Brian's true solo career didn't honestly begin until his series of successful live engagements, first captured with "Live at the Roxy" and culminating in his triumphant SMiLE concerts in the early 2000s when it finally felt like Brian had thrown off the weight of his checkered past and embraced his own muse again.  This first-ever look at his solo output, however, doesn't really do him justice - you'll find his most popular (if his solo output has ever been considered "popular") tracks, including four from the aforementioned debut album here, but most albums are given just one or two tracks representation.  Two of his albums, Orange Crate Art and the Don Was produced I Just Wasn't Made For These Times  are completely omitted.  What is included is a good representation, however - the stark melancholy of "Cry," "Lay Down Burden" and "Midnight's Another Day" all show Brian's penchant for sad, harmony-drenched masterpieces; and two previously unreleased tracks, "Some Sweet Day" and "Run James Run" are fantastic 60s-infused pop gems.  But why include two tracks from his Gershwin and Disney cover albums instead of something from Sweet Insanity or one of his rare singles?  Overall, an OK sampler, with a couple of nice rarities thrown in.

At My Piano
Decca [CD/Vinyl]
Released September 17, 2021

God Only Knows
In My Room
Don’t Worry Baby
California Girls
The Warmth of the Sun
Wouldn’t it be Nice
You Still Believe in Me
I Just Wasn’t Made for these Times
Sketches of Smile: Our Prayer/Heroes and Villains/Wonderful/Surfs Up
Surf’s Up
Till I Die
Love and Mercy
Mt Vernon Farewell
Good Vibrations

REVIEW:  I honestly don't know how to review this.  Brian Wilson has been, for the vast bulk of his career, known and lauded as a songwriter and vocal and instrumental arranger, nonpareil - but as a pianist?  Well, he's no Rachmaninoff, or even John Tesh - he's often been shown playing at the piano during interviews and video clips, but his style has always been, to put it politely, "chunky chords."  So now, after two years of pandemic, and long-promised roads of a "Rock 'n' Roll" album coming down the pipeline, what do we get?  This competent, but slightly meandering compilation of instrumental noodlings by, yes, Brian at his piano.  Stylistically, it reminds me most strongly of the Langley School Kids recording of some years back which featured a bunch of elementary kids warbling out pop gems of the Sixties - which some found endearing, and I found... uh, less so.  Look, Brian has earned the right to do whatever he wants, and if this project spoke to him, more power to him, but the arrangements are simplistic, his playing similarly gifted, and if some of the songs sound quietly lovely (and a few, like "The Warmth Of The Sun" and "You Still Believe In Me" achieve that) most others sound lost and naked without the heavenly harmonies which made these songs immortal.  Even worse, some of them betray their limited musical vocabularies, such as the repetitive "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" - which stripped of its lyric, is a little banal.  Do I prefer this to the symphonic monstrosities which The Beach Boys have foisted upon their fans?  Yep.  Is it something I'm going to be listening to again?  Urm...

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Decca [MP3/Streaming]
Released November 26, 2021

1. Right Where I Belong    3:59   
2. I'm Goin Home    3:45   
3. It's Not Easy Being Me    4:32   
4. Must Be a Miracle    3:21   
5. Slightly American Music    3:30   
6. It's O.K.    2:23   
7. Rock & Roll Has Got a Hold on Me    3:50   
8. The Night Was so Young    2:09   
9. Honeycomb    1:55   
10. Long Promised Road    4:34   
11. In My Room (Live from the Ryman Auditorium)    2:21   
12. I'm Broke    2:45   

REVIEW:  Uhhh... TWO Brian Wilson albums within a few weeks of each other?!?  I'm pretty sure this qualifies as at least ONE of the signs of the apocalypse.  A treasure trove of rarities for fans, but a baffling release for most everyone else, this deep dive into Brian's catalog will surely cause some head scratching among music cognoscenti.  A soundtrack to the 2021 documentary of the same name,  The opening track, a deeply unpleasant "Right Where I Belong" sees Brian once again write about what he knows best - mental illness - which might make good fodder for the psychiatric couch, but makes for pretty poor pop music.  The rest of the album seems intent on showing off just how off-kilter Brian can be in the studio, with cuts that have been buried deep in the vaults for mostly good reason; as Brian got older, he seemed to shy away from the Sixties psychedelia and forlorn love songs which made him famous, and instead reverted to a sort of clunky Fifties retro-vibe, which, paired with his increasingly erratic vocal quality of gritty vocals, slurred words, and questionable pitch problems make most of these songs seem like VERY rough guide vocals.  Exceptions include the fantastic "Slightly American Music" which is a tour-de-force, or the honeyed harmonies which appear on his version of "The Night Was So Young".  But more often it's a survey of Brian's quirky sense of humor and a bunch of studio musicians who are happy to go along for the ride.  Whether you dig this or not is going to be based entirely on how much "quirk" you can stand from one of America's most creative, unusual, and troubled souls.

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