Orange Crate Art (Deluxe Reissue)

Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks

Omnivore, 2020

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Originally released in 1995, Orange Crate Art brings songs primarily penned by Van Dyke Parks to the vocals of the legendary Brian Wilson. Now, 25 years later, the album sees the reissue treatment with an additional album of instrumentals, a few unreleased tracks, plus liner notes from both Wilson and Parks.

The title track starts the listen with an orchestral, sublime mood as Wilson's strong, familiar vocals guide the soaring setting. This continues to the string friendly, vocally expressive, and mildly tropical “Sail Away” as well as the key heavy “My Hobo Heart,” which has no shortage of summery melodies.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Middle tracks include the playful, almost cinematic quality of “Summer In Monterey,” while “San Francisco” brings a more rugged approach to the quirky pop ideas. “My Jeannine,” the album highlight, then recruits a retro template with a doo-wop feel that's as timeless as anything Wilson has done. 

The record ends well with the quieter, almost Americana influence of “This Town Goes Down At Sunset,” and the appropriately titled “Lullaby” finishes out the listen orchestrally and dreamy with six minutes of instrumental sounds as they interpret Gershwin's 1919 classic.

And speaking of instrumentals, the second disc is the entire same track listing as disc one – minus “Lullaby” – sans vocals; plenty of sweeping beauty resides in the 11 tracks that are essential for the completist.

Of the three unreleased tracks, two are Gershwin tunes, including the meticulously layered “Rhapsody In Blue” and dreamy “Love Is Here To Stay.” The best, though, is the bare keyboards that pair with Wilson's stirring vocals on “What A Wonderful World.”

This was Wilson's first solo album, and much like everything he's touched, it's worth spending quality time with. Although it might be the least glamorous record in Wilson's catalog, it definitely contains some of his most exciting work that really shows the exceptional song craft from Parks.

Rating: B

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