Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Top 100 Songs From the 1990s (No. 87)

87. "Orange Crate Art"
Artist: Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks
Year: 1995

There have been a few "Brian is Back!" campaigns, but I think the Brian Wilson we see on stage today can be traced to old pal Van Dyke Parks asking Wilson to lend his voice to this set of his compositions in 1992. The aftermath of being under the care of a certain infamous psychiatrist left Wilson a shell of himself. The process of making the album, and Wilson's participation in it, was slow. It took three years to complete the songs of 'Orange Crate Art,' Parks' nostalgic look at California, but the finished product was beautiful. In fact, I think it's Parks' best album. The orchestration is lush, the production is clean and crisp, and the lyrics are like a great piece of literature. Too bad my opinion means nothing. It wasn't hated as much as it was ignored, and I'm sure it must have been a crushing blow to the composer, but we should all be pleased at the way it seemed to rehabilitate Wilson.

The first hint I had that the album might be something special occurred earlier in 1995 with the release of Don Was' documentary on Wilson called 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times.' Here is a clip of Parks and Wilson at the piano:

I would love to hear a stripped down version of the entire 'Orange Crate Art' album. The record turns 20 this year, and I would pay big bucks to see just the two of them on stage performing an anniversary concert like this. A couple of side notes: Wilson has a new album out a month from now called 'No Pier Pressure,' and I have noticed "Sail Away" is on the tracklisting. I'm assuming this is the same Parks-penned song that appeared on 'Orange Crate Art.' I hope so. That means a few bucks for Parks, and it's a great tune that got more than a passing thought for my countdown. Also, if you're interested in Parks and the songs of 'Orange Crate Art,' I would recommend 'Moonlighting: Live At The Ash Grove.' Parks' 1998 concert album has a couple from 'Orange Crate Art' on it, and it's interesting to hear Parks sing them.


The Swede said...

I didn't see this coming. I must admit that I was one of those who really didn't give the LP the time it no doubt deserved. This sounds very nice indeed.

Brian said...

Hi, Swede. This one will probably throw most of the usual suspects, and I don't expect many to go for it. Man cannot live on jangle alone, and I have always had a special admiration for both Parks and Wilson. Heading over to your place now.

Séamus Duggan said...

I remember thinking this sounded interesting at the time but, as with so much other music, it escaped me and this is the first time I've listened to it. Really like it.