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Album Review

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks: Orange Crate Art 25th Anniversary Edition (2 CD)

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Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks: Orange Crate Art 25th Anniversary Edition (2 CD)
Personal estrangement, lawsuits and terminal illness permeated the The Beach Boys' world when Orange Crate Art was originally released in 1995. It is thus little wonder it was greeted with more than a little ballyhoo (even if that was bit tentative), but that's also because it was, apart from the single song "Sail On Sailor" from Holland (Brother Records, 1973) the first longplaying-length collaboration between Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks since they teamed for the mythic album Smile (formal archiving on which had only just begun and would reach its apotheosis more than fifteen years later with The Smile Sessions (Capitol, 2011)).

Artistic symbioses such as Parks' and Wilson's are altogether rare unto themselves. This one all the more so as there is no hierarchy involved, either distinct or subliminal: both Brian and Van Dyke fully embrace their roles as completely mutual and complementary catalysts of creativity. And, in particular, working with Parks here afforded Wilson the latitude to step away from the responsibilities of producer and arranger, to leave those duties to concert masters like Sid Sharp, to just concentrate on singing. The result is the lush harmonies also involving other vocalists, the likes of which billow around the pop of percussion and tuneful rhythm of steel drums on "Sail Away."

It hardly takes the mention of 'feet in the sand' on this second track to evoke the thought that Orange Crate Art is the great lost Beach Boys album. More vividly than ever, quite likely because of the tumult around the world in 2020, "Summer in Monterey" offers idyllic respite from the challenges of adulthood in favor of the security of childhood (however illusory that may be, given Wilson's life history alone). Meanwhile, "My Jeanine" stands as a similarly evocative introduction to adolescence, albeit a cautious one, as further depicted in "Movies Is Magic," itself a paean to the delightful escapism afforded by the silver screen in its golden age.

Neither sound quality nor additional content in this double CD reissue (or the coincidental first issue on vinyl) diminish the luxurious quality of the previous compact disc. And the playful air that permeates "San Francisco" remains in all its glory: sensitively remastered by Michael Graves, the audio in this package is as focused as were the original sessions, revealing a depth in this music so reminiscent of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. Such impeccable tones also adorn three previously-unreleased bonus tracks—"Rhapsody In Blue," "Love Is Here To Stay" and "What A Wonderful World," which (over) states outright what the rest of the album so strongly suggests. Also included are instrumental track versions of eleven of the album's songs. In a continuation of the contemplative mood of the album closer proper, George Gershwin's "Lullabye," the latter offers an appropriate soundtrack for rumination upon the what-if's in the history of Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, while the former simultaneously reaffirms the wealth of imagination at work here and suggests there was plenty to spare.

The muted but colorful artwork of this edition isn't expanded to the same degree as the musical content, but the sixteen-page booklet does contain prose from both artists that illuminates their mindset(s) during the gestation of this work. And while the triple-fold digipak does not include the lyrics as printed in the prior CD package—where the words were, in a grievous oversight, overlaying those picturesque graphics—one panel here does contain verse titled "Apocrypha 44-1;" "Let us now praise famous men." Indeed: the 25th anniversary release of Orange Crate Art is exactly the lovingly-curated, exhaustive retrospective every such vault endeavor should be.

Track Listing

CD 1: Orange Crate Art; Sail Away; My Hobo Heart; Wings Of A Dove; Palm Tree And Moon; Summer In Monterey; San Francisco; Hold Back Time; My Jeanine; Movies Is Magic' This Town Goes Down At Sunset; Lullaby. Previously Unissued 'Extra Oranges': Rhapsody In Blue; Love Is Here To Stay; What A Wonderful World. CD2: Previously Unissued Instrumentals - Orange Crate Art; Sail Away; My Hobo Heart; Wings Of A Dove; Palm Tree And Moon; Summer In Monterey; San Francisco; Hold Back Time; My Jeanine; Movies Is Magic; This Town Goes Down At Sunset.

Personnel

Brian Wilson: composer/conductor; Leland Sklar: bass, electric; Fred Tackett: guitar.

Additional Instrumentation

PERSONNEL: Brian Wilson: vocals; Grant Geissman: guitars, mandolins; Brian Otto: guitars, mandolins; Ira Ingber: guitars, mandolins; Fred Tackett: mandolins; Dennis Budimir: guitars, mandolins; Tommy Morgan: harmonica; David McKelvy: harmonica: Robert Greenridge: steel drums; Richard Greene: violin solos; Bruce Donnelly: synth programs; Marvin Saunders: synth programs; Ira Ingber: synth programs; Mike Watts: synth programs; Carl Sealove: electric bass; Bernie Dresel: drums, percussion; Chili (Dennis Francis) Charles: drums, percussion; Fredric Myrow: orchestration; Danny Hutton: background vocals; Doug Lacy: background vocals; Donny Garrard: background vocals; Carmen Twillie: background vocals; Arnold McCuller: background vocals; David & Bob Joyce: background vocals; Mona Lisa Young: background vocals; Johnny Britt & Jules Greene: background vocals.

Album information

Title: Orange Crate Art 25th Anniversary Edition (2 CD) | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Omnivore Recordings

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