Of all rock music's legendary artists, Brian Wilson is the one whose work has always included the biggest sense of childhood wonder. From the Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." to his long-awaited masterpiece "Smile" (which Wilson began with the Beach Boys in 1966 but completed as a solo artist in 2004), Wilson has kept his sense on innocence and whimsy. So it doesn't seem like so much of a stretch for Wilson to release a collection of songs from Disney films. "Brian Wilson In the Key of Disney" will be released on Oct. 25, and Wilson says it was all pretty simple:
"The Disney people came to me and said, 'Would you like to do a Wilson Sings Disney songs album?' And I said I'd be delighted to do an album like that. So they sent me 15 songs, and I chose 12 of them and got going with them."
The result is a charming collection that combines Wilson's signature arranging and vocal style on recent and vintage Disney songs, including "You've Got a Friend In Me," "The Bare Necessities," "Baby Mine" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."
The disc is actually 10 songs and a medley of "Heigh-Ho," "Whistle While You Work" and "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me),"
Wilson says there was only one Disney song that he really knew prior to recording the album. "There was one called 'When You Wish Upon a Star,' which was one of my favorites," says Wilson. "I used to listen to it when I was a kid."
However, he was impressed with the songs when he heard them.
"You know that song 'I Just Can't Wait to Be King'? That's a heck of a song, isn't it? And also 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' is absolutely beautiful gospel. Absolutely beautiful."
Wilson says he has no current plans to perform the music in concert, but there might be some opportunities in 2012.
Overall, Wilson seems to be in a very productive phase of his life.
"I feel a creative roll coming on, yeah, I do. I'm working on an album. It's just going to be great. All original stuff and, believe me, it's good stuff."
Wilson says he hopes to have the new album out possibly as soon as the end of this year.
"We're not working slow. We're working at a pretty good clip. My producer, Joe Thomas, and I are also writing songs together."
Wilson says tracks on the upcoming album include songs titled "The Private Life Bill and Sue" and "Shelter."
"It's gonna be a really, really good album," he says.
Of course, fans may always see Wilson in competition with his previous work. The singles "California Girls," "Good Vibrations" and stacks of others are some of the most beloved songs in pop music, and "Pet Sounds" is hailed by many as the best album of the rock era. Wilson says he's probably proudest of "California Girls" and "Surfer Girl," but he doesn't compete with himself.
"No. I feel challenged to make people say, 'I'm glad he made that record. That's a great record!'" he says.
He does have some regrets.
"Sure, of course," says Wilson. "I wouldn't have taken drugs because I didn't know what the drugs were all about. I would just pop pills, thinking 'Oh, I'll just pop this pill.' And, believe it or not, the pills that I took screwed up my brain."
It's during the era when Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, who was working as Wilson's lyricist, were first working on "Smile" that Wilson's drug excesses seemed to come to a head. Capitol Records will release a two-CD set of the original 1960s recordings for "Smile" in November.
"When I listen to the stuff that Van Dyke and I did on the 'Smile' album, I can separate the drugs from the music," says Wilson. "I know the drugs helped us make the music, but they also goofed with our brains."
For nearly 40 years the work was considered one of rock's uncompleted masterpieces, something that would rival the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," and Wilson says he felt a lot of pressure when he resumed work on the project.
He says he's glad people did like it when it was finally completed. Although the surviving Beach Boys Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston plan to reunite and tour in 2012, Wilson says he has no current plans to work with his former bandmates again.
"I doubt it," says Wilson. "There's nothing confirmed for next year for the Beach Boys reunion. As far as I know, I'm not going to be part of a Beach Boys reunion. If I am, I don't know."
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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