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Album review: Brian Wilson, "Reimagines Gershwin"

trace adkinsOne legend tackles another on Brian Wilson's latest. (Jonathan Alcorn/FTWP)

By Allison Stewart

The Gershwin vault is a musical Holy Grail, a metaphorical repository of more than 100 unfinished songs and fragments of songs written by legendary composer George Gershwin and his brother Ira. Last year, the Gershwin estate handed Beach Boy Brian Wilson the keys.
"Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin" includes familiar songs, gently reinvented, and two previously incomplete tracks, now finished by Wilson and a collaborator. It avoids the excessive fealty paid by most Gershwin re-interpreters - the swelling background vocals, the saccharine strings. It is affectionate but not literal.

"I've Got a Crush on You" sounds like a Platters cover circa 1955. "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "I Got Rhythm" evoke the Beach Boys 10 years later, with the piled-high woo-ooo harmonies and effusive pop melodies that were the band's calling card.

It's not all symphonic surf pop: "Rhapsody in Blue," with its eerie, choral harmonies, both opens and closes the disc, and " 'S Wonderful" is reinvented as a sleepy Brazilian jazz number. The two unfinished tracks, "Nothing but Love" and "The Like in I Love You," the latter originally composed for the 1920s musical "Lady, Be Good," end up sounding more like elaborately arranged late-'60s pop songs than anything a Depression-era George Gershwin would have ever conceived. They're late-middle-aged symphonies to God.

Recommended tracks: "Rhapsody in Blue," "The Like in I Love You," "They Can't Take That Away From Me"

By Allison Stewart  |  August 17, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Brian Wilson, George Gershwin  
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