By David Beard
Amid the usual day to day pandemic updates and political tension, the announcement came today that Omnivore Recordings is readying a 25th-anniversary special edition of Orange Crate Art for release, on June 19, 2020. To say the news was like a welcoming warm musical blanket is an understatement.
Orange Crate Art has always been a reminder to remember the ‘good ole days,’ and feels and sounds today as it did in 1995 upon its initial release; like an old painting that you could literally walk right into … Not unlike Ben Stiller’s character in the Night At The Museum films. The point is, the music is inviting.
The original album sessions spanned 1992-1995, and was originally released on Oct. 24, 1995. In the June 1995 edition of Endless Summer Quarterly [ESQ] magazine editor emeritus Lee Dempsey (along with all-around media and marketing musicologist Elliot Kendall), sat down with Van Dyke Parks to discuss the (then) upcoming release.
In the June 1995 interview, Van Dyke told Lee and Elliot, “‘Movies is Magic’: a boy takes a girl out to a drive-in theater in a convertible during a rainstorm; ‘Orange Crate Art’ and ‘My Jeanine’ have to do with apples and oranges; ‘Hold Back Time’ gives the album a sense of time and place, somewhere in the Napa Valley in northern California, within living memory.”
Parks continued, “This album is continuing an old friendship, giving it new life force – meaning a chance for me to admire Brian Wilson and his vocal artistry. That is what I’m doing. That’s why I am doing it.”
The major difference in 2020 is Brian Wilson completed the duo’s original incomplete work SMiLE as a solo artist in 2004 (with Van Dyke on hand) under the title Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE. That is important to recognize because we can now listen to Orange Crate Art as another completed movement in the Wilson-Parks canon, as opposed to the 1995 view of ‘this marks the first time that Brian and Van Dyke completed something together’ narrative, and since the completion of Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, Brian and Van Dyke collaborated on Brian’s 2008 release, That Lucky Old Sun, on which Van Dyke provided lyrics for “Live Let Live,” and the spoken vignettes throughout the album.
Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks music has always represented ‘art,’ and when they work together you can hear how much they love painting together. Each note is rich with color.
Thankfully, Omnivore Recordings saw fit to celebrate the 25 year anniversary of Orange Crate Art as a 2-CD or 2-LP set; it’s the first-ever vinyl release of the album, and both formats contain the previously unissued “Rhapsody In Blue,” “Love Is Here To Stay,” and “What A Wonderful World.”
A bootleg of “What A Wonderful World” has circulated among fans for years, but this version has no strings. As for the other two bonus tracks, “Rhapsody In Blue” and “Love Is Here To Stay,” it’s easy to see where Brian drew some of his influence for his 2010 release, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin.
The CD set also includes an entire second disc of previously unissued instrumentals from the album, which brings Van Dyke’s musical personality to the surface, and because Orange Crate Art is such a wonderful artistic expression, we’re afforded an invaluable glimpse into Van Dyke’s imaginative soul … the orange hue of the sun on the California hillside, the prairie on the outskirts of town, the quieting stillness and moon dipping over the horizon … it’s all here.
The album has been re-mastered by multi-Grammy®award winner Michael Graves, and a limited-edition run (300 copies) of orange vinyl copies will be available only through Omnivore Recordings.
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