Brian Wilson - At My Piano Music Album Reviews

Brian Wilson - At My Piano Music Album Reviews
Featuring instrumental renditions of many of the Beach Boys’ greatest hits, this collection of solo piano performances feels disappointingly bare and anonymous.

Brian Wilson has never been averse to revisiting the past. He has written two autobiographies and been the subject of two documentaries, plus a major motion picture. But there’s a twist on the 79-year-old songwriter’s latest album, At My Piano: It consists of nothing but instrumental renditions of the best-known tunes from his songbook. Plenty of Wilson’s peers have had fruitful strolls through their back pages, such as Randy Newman’s ongoing Songbook series, and the opportunity to hear Wilson without studio wizardry is intriguing. While candied vocal harmonies are an integral part of the original Beach Boys records, the compositions hold their own, stripped of vocals and lyrics. The instrumental approach is also a clever way to deemphasize Wilson’s diminished voice: the limited range and raspiness that have become evident in concert and such latter-day records as 2015’s No Pier Pressure.

Conception and execution, however, are two very different things. At My Piano is as simple as its title, containing nothing but Wilson alone at the keyboard, augmented only with the occasional piano overdub. Because so many Wilson projects are proudly ornate, the spare setting initially seems like a dramatic shift, as if the songs have been reduced to their base elements. But soon, it becomes evident that the stripped-down arrangements tend to be a bit too bare, leaving Wilson’s flaws exposed alongside his gifts.

Those compositional strengths are evident, as Wilson sticks to a songbook that’s endured for half a century. Apart from “Love and Mercy,” a 1988 solo track that’s become his unofficial anthem, At My Piano contains material written for and performed by the Beach Boys during the 1960s and early 1970s. Roughly half of the repertoire dates from 1966 and earlier, a period covering both sunny surf-rock hits and the sophisticated symphonic Pet Sounds, with the remainder of the record devoted to material Wilson composed in the aftermath of Smile, the album he abandoned in 1967. At My Piano contains a medley of Smile material, a showcase for how Wilson layers chords and countermelodies, a talent that reaches its pinnacle on “Surf’s Up,” whose loveliness shimmers in this relaxed, gentle setting.

Often, the mellow nature of At My Piano works against it. Wilson shows no desire to improvise or rearrange his warhorses. He plays with a lack of flair that accentuates the melody at the expense of texture or vibe: He literally is sitting at the piano playing familiar tunes. With the earliest songs, this approach amounts to little more than tinkling the melody as his left hand plonks out accompanying chords. There is a modicum of homespun charm, but the simplicity is also a bit stultifying.

More than anything, At My Piano resembles an old-fashioned easy listening record, the kind of music from the mid-20th century that sanded away the rough edges of pop or rock to make the melodies pretty and palatable for older audiences. Wilson grew up on these softer sounds, taking inspiration from the barbershop harmonies of the Four Freshman, so an exercise like At My Piano isn’t quite unexpected—nor could it be called uncommercial, especially considering how Decca announced Richard Carpenter’s Piano Songbook, a nearly identical effort from the Carpenters songwriter, within a month of Wilson’s collection. What is unexpected is how Wilson sounds almost anonymous here. As he drifts through his greatest hits and personal favorites, he doesn’t invest his playing with much personality, so these smooth sounds are about as memorable as a piano twinkling away in the background of a department store.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Brian Wilson - At My Piano Music Album Reviews Brian Wilson - At My Piano Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on December 07, 2021 Rating: 5


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