Brian Wilson | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Brian Wilson 

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BRIAN WILSON

Who is Brian Wilson? The short answer's a snap: founder of the Beach Boys, creator of Pet Sounds, and, if last year's batch of indie-pop releases is any measure, the most influential American rock musician still breathing. But since his psychological meltdown in the late 60s, Wilson has often been whatever those closest to him desired, be they his rapacious ex-bandmates, creepy therapist-caretaker Eugene Landy, or record producer Don Was, whose 1995 film hagiography, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, spearheaded Wilson's most recent comeback. As far as I'm concerned, the real Brian Wilson has always been the one coming through the speakers. In recent years Wilson has remarried, adopted two daughters, moved to west-suburban Saint Charles, and rededicated himself to his art; and indeed, on Imagination (Giant), his second solo release, he seems to have a new lease on life, making the best music he can in the shadow of his staggering reputation. At its best ("Your Imagination," "She Says That She Needs Me," "Lay Down Burden") the record offers a glowing, more mature version of the orchestral pop of Wilson's glory days; at its worst ("South American," "Dream Angel," "Where Has Love Been?") it slides into pointless lite rock. The two Beach Boys remakes ("Let Him Run Wild" and "Keep an Eye on Summer") blend in easily with the new material and prove that, compared to most of his contemporaries, Wilson's done relatively little to tarnish his earlier achievements. Still, this show's a gamble: it's his first public concert as a solo artist, and while I like the idea that one of rock's most notorious wackos could find peace in middle age, my Brian Wilson may not be any more real than the others. Wednesday, 8 PM, Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont; 847-671-5100 or 312-559-1212. J.R. JONES

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Neal Preston.

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