Really, really busy at work this week. My spirits have nevertheless been raised by some superb CD purchases. A couple of good Bluenote CDs from the late 60s (Reuben Wilson and Lou Donaldson), and exquisite early Jorge Ben album. And some more.

Gary Usher: 'Add some music to your day' (CD; Poptones; 1970)
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I was excited to hear of this record's existence - anything billed as 'a symphonic tribute to Brian Wilson' was bound to impress with me. And I'm happy to report that it's really quite nice. If the liner notes are to be believed, this really was intended to compete in the market with Percy Faith and other mood music releases.

There are just 10 tracks, but a quick look at the track listing shows that the selections are very strong, with a healthy number of 'Pet Sounds' cuts, accompanied by some other great tracks, both from the early/mid 60s, and from the 1969 Friends album.

The sound is quite plain, with harpsichord and string-heavy arrangements, highlighting the compositions quite well. The arrangements are quirky, including the quasi-bossa nova gem, 'Busy doin' nothing', here recast as a strictly orchestral number, with the tune played by strings and flute.

Some of the tracks, such as the song 'pet sounds', do not live up to the incredible original recordings. Still, others build on them, and a few tracks really stand out, such as the medley of 'fall breaks and back to winter/good vibrations/heroes and villains'.

My favorite track is the superb 'warmth of the sun'. I've never heard a poor version of this song (I love the original, and the wonderful Friends of Dean Martinez version). This version has the tune played on the harpsichord in a delightfully bare introduction. It then builds up gently and slowly.

All in all, a nice diversion for Beach Boys fans.

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