Saturday, November 26, 2011


Wilson's critical flag continues to fly high, thanks to this month's release of the legendary SMiLE sessions.  He's still a big draw on the concert circuit, too.  I think the new albums probably only sell to the hard-core though.  The last one was him squeezing Gershwin (a huge influence on him) through the Wilson method, and now he takes a stab at another icon, the Mouse House.

You have many different composers and styles to choose from when you enter the Disney world, from decades of hugely popular songs.  Wilson goes from When You Wish Upon A Star up to recent stuff from Randy Newman and Elton John, with varied results.  The hard truth is that this once-tremendous singer has lost much of the pretty and most of his range through his dark years of abuse, and his age, of course.  So when he's trying to hit the notes in a number such as Can You Feel The Love Tonight, it's kinda painful.  His crack band can handle all the Beach Boys-styled parts, but it just points out the problem with Brian's singing.  Ditto You've Got A Friend In Me, Colors Of The Wind, the nice stuff.

Where his voice does work well is on the older, and more fun numbers.  Not only does the vocal not matter as much, these iconic songs allow him to have more fun with the production and arrangements, his true and undiminished talent now.  He has the group get going on a medley of Heigh-Ho/Whistle While you Work/Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life For Me) that is a barrel of fun, especially when they start playing toy instruments and making workshop sounds.  One voice Wilson can still do is a child-like one, so The Bare Necessities captures the lightheartedness of the film and original.  And Kiss The Girl from The Little Mermaid comes across well recast as an early 60's number, something Wilson knows very well.

In the end though, it's a concept that smells more of brand marketing in a board room than a musical bare necessity.  Disney signed Wilson to its label, crunched the numbers, figured out that it could turn a profit, and get a little status from having him on board.  I'm not really sure what Brian's reasons are, other than it's another opportunity to be in the studio, which must be so rewarding for him.  So, smile for Wilson about this, but there's no real reason to buy it.

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