Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks Share Cover of 'What A Wonderful World' - Rolling Stone
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Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks Share Cover of ‘What a Wonderful World’

Track will appear on 25th-anniversary reissue of pair’s 1995 collaborative album, Orange Crate Art

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Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks shared their lush cover of 'What a Wonderful World' from the 25th anniversary reissue of 'Orange Crate Art.'

Mark Hanauer*

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks have unearthed their previously unreleased cover of the jazz standard, “What a Wonderful World.” The track is one of several rarities that will appear on the upcoming 25th-anniversary reissue of Wilson and Parks’ 1995 collaborative album, Orange Crate Art, out June 19th via Omnivore Recordings.

Wilson and Parks’ cover of “What a Wonderful World” boasts a simple arrangement that finds Wilson crooning over some very lush keys. Backing harmonies that sound like the Beach Boys crossed with a church choir are peppered throughout, while Wilson even throws a little gravel into his voice toward the end in a nod to Louis Armstrong’s enduring version of the song.

Wilson and Parks first worked together in 1966 when the Beach Boys took their first stab at SMiLE, and then they partnered again in 1972 for the Beach Boys’ song “Sail on Sailor.” In the early Nineties, Parks began working on Orange Crate Art, an album paying tribute to California, and, as he recalled to Rolling Stone, he knew from the start that he wanted Wilson to sing on the record.

“I’d started with the title tune,” he remembered. “I didn’t have to call Central Casting. Coincidentally,  I knew the man who could pronounce ‘Orange,’ the way it was meant to sound. And not how they pronounce it on Miami Beach. That is precisely why I asked Brian to be the voice of America. And in this, he is. As for me? I arranged this album and wrote songs. Brian opted to coast and just unpack as a vocalist. He honored me that way.” (Parks’ full memories about making the album are below.)

The 25th-anniversary edition of Orange Crate Art will be released as a two-CD or double vinyl LP set (this marks the album’s first vinyl release). Both versions will boast the pair’s cover of “What a Wonderful World,” as well as previously unreleased renditions of two George songs, “Love Is Here to Stay” and “Rhapsody in Blue.” The CD version of the reissue, meanwhile, will come with a second disc of previously unissued instrumentals.

Van Dyke Parks on Orange Crate Art

“Whatever was I thinking?”

That’s the inevitable first-blush I ever have when I revisit any album. Orange Crate Art is no exception. I see it suddenly as a time-piece, reminiscent of recording techniques a quarter-century spent.

I like it a lot.

A sharper image of America about more than a handshake away.

As an album, it spreads out, taking its time to go anywhere but here.

This album is most def a rearview escape. It’s as passé now, as it was when we slugged our way through it 25 years ago. It took Brian and me three years in spasms of enthusiasm and when we decided to deliver, our patrons had literally left the building.

Not kidding. The two top-tier execs at WB went off to other dream works.

No one remained beyond grunge.

It was the dull thud of one hand clapping, and more people played on this than would hear it.

Whatever was I thinking when I sparked this album in visits to Brian in iso, on the waterfront, right at the roar of surf, on Latigo Beach.

This would be my last studio album for Warner Bros. and I wanted it to matter to me.

I’d started with the title tune. I didn’t have to call Central Casting. Coincidentally, I knew the man who could pronounce “Orange” the way it was meant to sound.

And not how they pronounce it on Miami Beach.

That is precisely why I asked Brian to be the voice of America.

And in this, he is.

As for me? I arranged this album and wrote songs. Brian opted to coast and just unpack as a vocalist. He honored me that way.

Uncorking the lyrics and hearing the near-nude tracks beyond those decades is like exploring a pharaonic tomb. Laughs come hard in “Auld Lang Syne.”

The tracks are peppered with great musicianship. Look at Tommy Morgan, the harmonica virtuoso. For instance. Tommy, who’d played on so many of Brian’s signature works, brought clarity, close to the vest simplicity, and rapture to so much of this awed work. “My Janine” bass harmonica? “Summer in Monterey” instrumental?

The band brimming with talents like Lee Sklar and Grant Geissman pushing back and forth. I’d like a close-up of the whole band (to quote Welk).

This album consoles now as it did then, beyond isolated people, waiting at home.

So I caught Brian, just when recording studios had fallen off his must-see list.

Soon after (the three years) we finished recording, Brian pursued his interest in SMiLE.

The essence of our relationship was one of complete trust.

From the get-go, we had a surreptitious joy in our role-reversals. It was Brian who opted to just coast in the vocals and honor me as a producer, blind trust.

So, whatever was I thinking, when I got the nerve to ask Brian to plunge in?

I ask me.

Maybe it was because I’d seen the old black and white of the Wilson Grape Ranch, in Escondido. It graces our Omnivore package.

Kinda gives it a sense of place. Let’s you know who we’re with here.

Whatever was I thinking?

“Make new friends, keep the old. One is silver, the other, gold!”

This silver anniversary release, is all good news, at the Coda.

Orange Crate Art 25th Anniversary Edition Tracklist

Disc One
1. “Orange Crate Art”
2. “Sail Away”
3. “My Hobo Heart”
4. “Wings of a Dove”
5. “Palm Tree and Moon”
6. “Summer in Monterey”
7. “San Francisco”
8. “Hold Back Time”
9. “My Jeanine”
10. “Movies Is Magic”
11. “This Town Goes Down at Sunset”
12. “Lullaby”
13. “Rhapsody in Blue”
14. “Love Is Here to Stay”
15. “What a Wonderful World”

Disc Two — Previously Unreleased Instrumentals (CD only)
1. “Orange Crate Art”
2. “Sail Away”
3. “My Hobo Heart”
4. “Wings of a Dove”
5. “Palm Tree and Moon”
6. “Summer in Monterey”
7. “San Francisco”
8. “Hold Back Time”
9. “My Jeanine”
10. “Movies Is Magic”
11. “This Town Goes Down at Sunset”

In This Article: Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks

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