It was about five years ago I found myself driving from Milwaukee to Austin in an RV with half my band. We rented one of those 1-800-RV things, which is nothing at all like a van, and also nothing at all like a tour bus. I learned a lot about I-35 along the way, including the fact that I get sea sick in a wobbly RV right about mid-Oklahoma. I don’t remember how many shows we played along the way, or if we had any. I kinda think we drove straight across. Yes, in fact, now I recall, we drove straight to Austin. Nice tour planning (ha ha).
One of the best parts of the trip for me was the road education in Beach Boys 101 from our bassist/organist, Ryan Stang (Dustworks). I was naive about the band…loving Good Vibrations and the coolness that is the electro-theremin, but snubbing Kokomo, and discounting the Beach Boys as less than the Beatles in every way. I was wrong. SO wrong. I never was much of a student of the Beach Boys until Ryan had us listen to track after track of SMiLE and Pet Sounds, talking about who played what, who wrote what, and the dynamics of the band at the time. I didn’t know that Pet Sounds inspired the Beatles to respond with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (I’m a music snob drop out) Then there was Smiley Smile, and SMiLe, the album that never was (until 2004).
I won’t ever be able to tell you all the details of the band like Ryan, or the masses of hard-core BB fans. I can’t tell you dates of recordings and spout out band facts like someone talking about baseball stats. I can tell you, that I’m a fan and agree that Brian Wilson was and is a genius. I’ve heard mixed reviews of more recent live shows with Brian, and for me, it doesn’t matter. Recording, writing and performing live are all different arts and I never expect anyone to be amazing at all three; imo, people usually fake being good at two and are usually only genuinely good at one.
I saw a PBS special on Gershwin’s music a month or so ago, performed by this dude, Richard Glazier . Watching Glazier play these pieces reminded me how complex, recognizable and beautiful the Gershwin’s songs are. A few days after watching the Glazier special, I saw that Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin will be released by Disney in August. I’m not sure if this was all somehow a marketing move to generate interest in Wilson's upcoming record or to promote the Gershwin Prize (given to Paul McCartney this year, just in case you weren’t awake the past few weeks). No doubt someone got paid to put all these pieces of the marketing puzzle together for Wilson – but even despite knowing that I’m being suckered into a full throttle media push by the likes of Disney, all of this Gershwin frenzy is a pleasant reminder of how much I love Gershwin's music, so I don’t mind one bit. The music is simply beautiful.
I don't know why I want to listen to Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin so badly, but I do. The video clips of Wilson recording this album, have me intrigued. Maybe I'm deluding myself with believing the marketing mojo, but it truly looks like this album was a joy to make. Check out the Video here. It’s not just the well-produced video or the convincing narrator that impresses me. The music I’ve heard just leave me speechless. The harmonies are done as only Brian Wilson can do – in lush layers of California-sun perfection. I’m completely looking forward to listening to the record in full. And, not that he needs to hear it from me, but Brian Wilson…congratulations!