Review: Brian Wilson - In the Key of Disney

The sunny Beach Boys harmonies of Brian Wilson and the bright, nostalgic tunes of Disney films would seem like a natural match. Wilson's new release In the Key of Disney demonstrates how well it works in practice.

Featuring Wilson's distinctive vocal harmony arrangements and band arrangements by Wilson and his band member Paul Von Mertens, the album feels a little more casually put together than Wilson's recent set of George Gershwin tunes and, with a couple of notable exceptions, the pair doesn't take too many liberties with the tunes. But, still, Wilson sounds engaged and his vocals are very, very good, maybe the best I've heard them on any of his solo albums.

The album starts with a lively take on Randy Newman's "Toy Story" tune, "You've Got a Friend in Me," which sets the warm, casual tone of the songs that follow. Young children with no clue as to Wilson's history and pop genius will like this record just because it sounds friendly and fun -- and it includes tunes they know. My 8-year-old daughter was singing along from the start.

Myself, I was hoping for more old classics and fewer songs from more recent films -- there are so many great songs in the Disney catalog -- but I'm sure commercial concerns were involved. The album is on Disney's own label, after all.

Still, the performances of the newer songs are mostly good. A version of "Colors of the Wind" from "Pocahantas" is pretty dull and features some awful, cheesy backing vocal. It's just not a very good tune. But that's the low point.

Wilson's vocal on another weak song, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," an awful, saccharine tune if ever there was, elevate it to a higher standard. And the biggest surprise is "Kiss the Girl," from "The Little Mermaid." It works in the film as a goofy showpiece, but Wilson strips away the calypso-lite arrangement and substitutes it with a classic mid-60s Phil Spector sound. The result sounds like a lost Beach Boys nugget.

Also fun is a mash-up of "Heigh Ho," "Whistle While You Work" and "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)," that sounds like a Smile outtake -- bonkers vocals, odd percussion sounds and all.

Also charming are Wilson's takes on "The Bare Necessities," featuring a great xylophone arrangment, and "Stay Awake," the gorgeous lullaby from "Mary Poppins." And Brian Wilson singing "When You With Upon a Star" sounds as lovely as you'd imagine.

Note that the Amazon version of the CD features a bonus song, "Baby Mine," from "Dumbo," while the MP3 download includes a further bonus track: "Peace on Earth," the Christmas song from "Lady and the Tramp." I bought the Amazon CD and downloaded "Peace on Earth."

All in all, another nice Brian Wilson record. Who would have thought during his dark days of pretty much 1967 to the mid 1990s that we'd ever see a whole series of Brian Wilson solo albums and that they'd all be pretty darn good? Let alone that we'd see him release Smile (both his and now the Beach Boys' versions) and a children's album? He's a walking testament to hope and human beings' ability to overcome enormous challenges.

Hear David Lynch's new album on NPR

NPR is streaming director David Lynch's new album Crazy Clown Time here.

Written, performed and produced by Lynch with engineer Dean Hurley, Lynch's first solo album finds him meandering through a series of dark dreams and visceral meditations on modern life and society. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs supplies guest vocals for the opening track, but otherwise Lynch is front and center.
When it comes to the music, he stays inside a few heady realms of exploration: moody electronic dance beats, yowling blues slide guitar and a heavy use of delay, thick reverb and slow, creeping chord progressions.

Music new releases Nov. 1, 2011

Click the links to order discounted items from Amazon:

The Smile Sessions (2CD) - Beach Boys

Achtung Baby (Super Deluxe Edition) - U2

The Smile Sessions Box Set - Beach Boys

The Smile Sessions Vinyl (2LP) - Beach Boys

Their Last Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet

Insight Out (Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition) - The Association

Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams - Various Artists

DVD new releases Nov. 1, 2011

Click the links to order discounted releases from Amazon:

Cars 2

6 Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Rolling Stones / [2 DVD]

Transformers Beast Wars: The Complete Series

Rawhide: The Fourth Season, Vol. 2

Magic Trip

Christmas Carol: 60th Anniversary Diamond Edition (Blu-ray + DVD)

Video: Introduction to the Beach Boys Smile sessions

Paul McCartney to finance restoration of Motown studio piano

Macca saw the piano, featured on a huge number of Motown hits, during a tour of the Motown Museum while in Detroit last summer, reports the Detroit Free Press:

I remembered listening to records as a kid in Liverpool, learning the songs ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’ and ‘Money,’” McCartney said via a museum statement this afternoon. “I said to myself, ‘Wow! This is the Holy Grail!’”
...There’s no word yet on costs. The piano will start its train journey Monday to the New York headquarters of Steinway & Sons, where specialists will assess it and devise a restoration plan.

Photo: Roy Rogers

Spielberg sings praises of Doctor Who producer hired to write Tintin

Turns out Steven Spielberg is a Doctor Who fan, and that led to the hiring of Who producer Steven Moffat to write the script for "The Adventures of Tintin," reports The Sun.

"Steven wrote one of my favourite TV shows, which is Dr Who," Spielberg said.

"Peter [Jackson] and I felt whoever did Dr Who would have a good sensibility for Tintin. And it so happens Steven had read Tintin since he was eight."

The CGI-animated film opens Dec. 21 in the U.S.

See the $412 check DC Comics wrote for Superman

A measly $412, split equally between Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, is what DC Comics paid for the rights to Superman. Even by 1938 standards, that's pretty pathetic. Although, who knew the character would last this long (although, one gets the feeling DC had a better notion than the character's creators that the Man of Steel had potential to be pretty big).

Anyway, the infamous check can now be seen, as it's on auction Nov. 14-30 as part of a collection of Siegel's belongings, including his tyepwriter and an original Superman script.

Anyway, take a look at this and remember: Always read the small print and never trust The Man: