Beach Boy Brian Wilson takes on Gershwin

Fri Aug 6, 2010 4:36pm EDT
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By Mikael Wood

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - In 2004, Brian Wilson scored a critical and commercial victory by releasing a completed version of "Smile," the legendary "Pet Sounds" follow-up he'd originally begun work on in 1966.

Six years later, the Beach Boys mastermind is reaching even further back in time for his latest project, "Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin," due August 17 from Walt Disney Records.

"When I was 2 years old, my mom would play 'Rhapsody in Blue' for me, and I just loved that song," he said while relaxing at his home in Beverly Hills.

Wilson, 68, singles out George Gershwin's orchestral-jazz classic as one of his three favorite compositions. (The others are Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night" and "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes).

"Later on, a friend of mine who was an expert on Gershwin asked me, 'How'd you like to play the main theme on piano?' and I said, 'Sure!' " Wilson continued.

"It took us about two weeks: I'd play a little bit from the Leonard Bernstein recording, then I'd go to my piano, then back to Bernstein, then back to my piano, until I got the whole thing down."

"Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin" opens with a lush, stacked-harmony rendition of "Rhapsody" and closes with a brief reprise.

In between, Wilson and his longtime backing band tackle such well-known standards as "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "I Got Rhythm" and "Someone to Watch Over Me," as well as a mini-suite of material from "Porgy and Bess," Gershwin's groundbreaking 1935 opera.   Continued...

<p>Singer Brian Wilson performs during a rehearsal of "That Lucky Old Sun" with a 10-piece band at the State Theatre during the Sydney Festival January 7, 2008. REUTERS/Patrick Riviere</p>