Album: Brian Wilson
What I Really Want for Christmas, ARISTA
Friday 18 November 2005
Now that he has been successfully cajoled back on to the horse, there's no stopping Brian Wilson, it seems. He appears to be shrewdly alternating serious projects with pot-boilers, last year's monumental Smile being preceded by the flimsy duets-and-outtakes collection Getting in over My Head and now succeeded by that leakiest of music-biz gambits, a Christmas album.
Brian's been here before, in the company of his old band; indeed, there are retreads here of The Beach Boys' festive chestnuts, "The Man with All the Toys" and "Little Saint Nick", the latter of which, sad to say, possesses more genuine pop pep than anything else on the album. It also demonstrates that, for all his litigious spite, there are some lyrical tasks that only Mike Love can handle comfortably. A Van Dyke Parks or a Tony Asher, for instance, would probably balk at the cornball sentiments of "Little Saint Nick", but sometimes cornball is exactly what Brian Wilson's songs need.
What Brian really wants for Christmas, one imagines, is a simpatico lyric-writing partner, someone who might steer him away from phrases such as "a ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong day", one of the lines he comes up with for "On Christmas Day". There are a couple of candidates involved here, though neither looks like a long-term prospect. Bernie Taupin contributes the lyric to the title track, every line of which Wilson delivers as if it's a thought-provoking aphorism, rather than a festive cliché.
Rather better is Jimmy Webb's "Christmasey", which manages to rhyme "light up the candles" with "a song of Handel's", and has Brian claiming, "It gives me such a lift/ Makes me wanna give myself a gift", a welcome shaft of light-heartedness into what can be at times a fairly po-faced affair.
For the most part, Wilson has resisted the temptation to try to emulate the legendary Spector arrangements of A Christmas Gift for You, avoiding the same material in favour of wholesome, earnest arrangements of carols.
Within the formula, a few tracks stand out: "Deck the Halls" is given a slinky rumba arrangement; the otherwise ponderous "It Came upon a Midnight Clear" features a nice bluesy piano break; and "Auld Lang Syne" appears in an a cappella version whose vocal arrangement recalls Wilson's heroes The Four Freshmen, albeit employing some unusual diving glissandi. This, you suspect, is where Brian would really like to be at Christmas: around the tree with his late brothers, all neatly sweatered, working on some outlandish harmonies.
DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Little Saint Nick', 'Christmasey', 'Deck the Halls', 'Auld Lang Syne'
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery reports: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Video: Boxer Vido Loncar brutally assaults referee following defeat
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991 with most Brits wanting to stay in'