After reimagining Gershwin, singing “In the Key of Disney” and helping to compile an official release for the Beach Boys‘ “SMiLE,” Brian Wilson is ready to work on some fresh material again — his first since “That Lucky Old Sun” in 2008.
“I’m starting another Brian Wilson album. We’ve got about five or six things in the works,” Wilson tells Billboard.com. He adds that he anticipates making “just another album with good songs, some of it rock ‘n’ roll, some of it not. I approach it slower than when I was younger, when I used to run into the studio and cut a record…(but) I’m just as much a perfectionist as I was 50 years ago.”
The new album will come in the wake of a couple of key projects coming from Wilson this fall and amidst reports that he’ll be re-joining his fellow Beach Boys in 2012 for some 50th anniversary activities in the group’s 51st year.
“In the Key of Disney” releases Oct. 25 and finds Wilson covering 11 songs from the venerable studio’s canon, from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “Pinocchio” standards up to the Randy Newman’s Academy Award-winning “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3.” “The Disney people came to me and said, ‘We’d like to do an album of Disney songs,’ ” Wilson says. “They’re beautiful songs. We took each one separately and interpreted them…so we could make each one appropriately done.”
Wilson produced the album and handled all the vocal arrangements, collaborating on band arrangements with Paul Von Mertens. They applied a Bo Diddley-style beat to “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” from “The Lion King,” a New Orleans flavor to the first “Toy Story’s” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and a Tin Pan Alley approach to “Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book.” They also rocked up “Kiss The Girl” from “The Little Mermaid” and mashed up “High-Ho” and “Whistle While You Work” from “Snow White” with “Peter Pan’s” “Yo-Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me),” while ballads such as “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (“The Lion King”), “Colors of the Wind” (“Pocahontas”), “Stay Awake” (“Mary Poppins”) and “When You Wish Upon a Star” (“Pinocchio”) are given appropriately lush treatments.
“I was nervous because I wanted to do it appropriately so that people could really appreciate these songs,” Wilson says. “When they said, ‘We’re gonna do an Elton John song,’ I said, ‘Hey, I want to do a good job on this,’ you know? These are great songs by great writers, so I wanted to do them right.”
A week after the Disney album, on Nov. 1, Capitol/EMI releases “The SMiLE Sessions,” a two-disc set of tracks recorded by the Beach Boys during 1966-67 for the famous “lost” album that Wilson himself recreated in 2004. Wilson and surviving band members Mike Love and Al Jardine participated in assembling the tracks — which include the “SMiLE” album as it was originally intended plus alternate versions and outtakes — and gave their blessing to their release.
“It was quite a thrill,” Wilson says. “It was quite a wonderful work of art, that album. We thought we were too far ahead of our time…I think people are going to love it. I really do.”
“The SMiLE Sessions” may not be the only collaborative project for the Beach Boys in the coming year — at least not if other band members have their way. Both Love and Jardine have spoken about the surviving group members reuniting to play live shows and possibly do some recording, and Love has voiced a hope to write some new songs with his cousin, Wilson. Wilson, however, says any announcements are premature.
“There is nothing confirmed about that,” he says. “I don’t know what is going to go on there. It’s quite a long time to be in the business, you know? It feels like 50 years. I’m actually very proud, of course.”