It is now safe to say that there have been two periods where Brian Wilson has been at his peak. The first is the well-documented period from about 1964 - 1970, when his productions, arrangements, and performances created masterpieces like "The Little Girl I Once Knew," "California Girls," "Cool, Cool Water," "Salt Lake City," "Busy Doin' Nothing," "Add Some Music To Your Day," and, of course, most of the TODAY and all of the PET SOUNDS albums. Not to mention a ton of other brilliant compositions/productions from one of the few contemporary musicians who can REALLY be considered a genius.
The period from 1971 - 2003 gave us many wonderful creations as well, but there was a lot of hit-and-miss in there. Still, we got to savor pieces like "Til I Die," "Marcella," "Funky Pretty," his Fairy Tale, parts of LOVE YOU, and a few tracks on Brian's solo releases starting with BRIAN WILSON, and on through IMAGINATION and GETTIN' IN OVER MY HEAD.
But as enjoyable as some of the moments were on Brian's solo and group work over the last few decades, with last year's SMILE, Brian Wilson recaptured the brilliance of his first great period, as his new snatches of music fit in seamlessly with the old ones, and performance-wise, there was almost nothing that could be faulted.
And now with WHAT I REALLY WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, Brian is back with another absolutely brilliant album. Sure, he didn't write most of the music, but you'd almost think he did, as every measure is instilled with his arranging and production talents that set his work apart from everybody else making music on this planet over the last fifty years. And he's not just aping approaches taken on his classic Beach Boys' songs -- his inventiveness in interpreting these hoary classics has revitalized them like they haven't been in ages.
The creativity, the beauty, and the humor that he has imparted into these productions separates this Christmas album from almost all others. There is so much to listen to in each track, which is the hallmark of almost all previous Brian Wilson classics. Some of his musical embellishments create those spine-tingling feelings you got when you first heard moments like the "deep and wide" vocal burst from "Time To Get Alone" and, well, if you're a Brian Wilson fan, you know what I'm talking about. But it's not just "awe" -- there are many instances on this musical Christmas present that are so brilliantly joyful, clever, and funny that you can't help grinning from ear to ear.
Brian obviously ENJOYED putting this album together, and that enjoyment will be relayed to you every time you listen to it. I don't know how long this second great Brian Wilson Period will last, so relish it while it's happening. Right now the man is on a roll, and we should be very thankful this holiday season that he has chosen to share his seemingly-limitless talents with us once again.
To show that I'm not completely blind regarding Mr. Wilson, I did notice a few times when his singing was a little rushed or behind the beat, and he sometimes seems to be trying so hard to make every word sound as clearly as possible that he forgets to accent certain words and/or syllables the way they should be for stronger dramatic impact. But this in no way detracted from any enjoyment, and as soon as I listened to the music once or twice, I forgot it ever sounded "different" from what I expected. I am not criticizing the sound of his voice, which is as beautiful as it was on SMILE, but over the past few decades I've noticed that he could stand to work a little harder on how he emphasizes certain sounds and words in his singing.
And as for the idiot who gave this one star because he can't play CDs on his poorly-conceived audio system, what a self-centered individual this must be to try to bring down a rating when his review has NOTHING to do with the music that Brian Wilson obviously knocked himself out to create. I'm confident that the other four- and five-star reviews will soon raise this album's rating back to where it belongs.