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Brian Wilson and Friends

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  • Recorded during the tour for his 2015 solo LP, No Pier Pressure, Brian Wilson and Friends is a guest-heavy concert album and DVD set that draws on some of the star power from both that album and the Beach Boys reunions of the three preceding years. With over five decades of music to his credit, Wilson has plenty of material to choose from and he manages to honor his core catalog while throwing in a few surprises. The most apparent musical presence here is that of founding Beach Boy Al Jardine on rhythm guitar, harmonies, and, on a handful of cuts, lead vocals. As has been the case since his improbable legacy-restoring return to the stage in the late-'90s, Wilson's band remains top-notch, faithfully delivering tasteful renditions of Beach Boys classics in a way that latter-day touring versions of the group itself could never quite match. Longtime Wilson advocate and musical director Darian Sahanaja has played an enormous role returning some much-needed luster to this living legend, but even the tightest arrangements are merely tributes without the unmistakable presence of the singer that birthed them, and the addition of Jardine's distinctive vocal timbre adds a certain amount of authenticity to the proceedings. Also making a comeback are mid-period Beach Boys Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar, whose contributions as full-time bandmembers can be heard on early-'70s highlights like "Marcella" and "Sail on Sailor," both of which get solid reworkings here. Elsewhere, trumpeter and composer Mark Isham makes a guest appearance on a pair of songs including an instrumental take on the Pet Sounds classic "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)." The bulk of the other guests (She & Him, Kacey Musgraves, Nate Ruess, Seb) get their due on the 26-song DVD half of this release with the CD portion focusing mostly on Wilson, his band, and the returning Beach Boys. Classics like "Good Vibrations," "Heroes and Villains," and "Sloop John B" have all been recorded live by Wilson's band before and the versions here are solid, if not essential. Deeper cuts like the early-'60s highlight "All Summer Long" and the unlikely inclusion of Mike Love's "California Saga" are noteworthy, as is the Jardine-sung single "The Right Time," which was one of the bright spots from Wilson's last studio effort. The main attraction of Brian Wilson and Friends, however, is the full set list of the DVD, which also includes bonus interviews with several of the featured friends. ~ Timothy Monger
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