Greg Luzitano applies his virtuosity to celebrate the work of a musical icon.
With his immersive debut album and adept contributions to Striving Artists’ rendition of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ already earning him critical acclaim, the Massachusetts multi-instrumentalist’s latest release sees him step out of his comfort zone, opting for a cover album dedicated entirely to the endearing work of The Beach Boy’s emblematic singer/songwriter/producer, Brian Wilson. Yes – on the surface level an extremely bold move for any musician to make, but when considering Greg’s tranquil vocals and distinguished background in production and musical arrangement, ‘Helping and Healing’ achieves everything it set out to do.
Recapturing the harmonious foundations of the lulling ‘Surf Rock’ era, Greg’s affection and musical nous transports us back to the 60’s, with his deep connection and elaborate understanding of Brian’s work offering an evocative rendition of the progressive and inventive songwriting which proceeded to define music for years to come. Resonating with his youthful, ruminative lyricism, Greg’s emotional connection and affinity to Brian’s work is clear to see, echoing his cries of isolated melancholy which ring truer today than ever before. ‘In My Room’ could easily have been written in 2022, with its themes of solitude and reluctance epitomising the age of anxiety we currently find ourselves in – and by encompassing the constrained atmosphere of the original, Greg’s poignant delivery reinforces the impelling messages within the track.
Embracing the opportunity to breathe new life into some of Rock’s most quintessential recordings, the Boston virtuoso confidently steps up to the task, capturing a range of emotions spanning the band’s illustrious career; from the surfy elements of their early 60s material, to the genre-defining heights of ‘Pet Sounds’, right up to the lo-fi, blue-eyed soul approach taken on their more recent work. But that doesn’t mean Greg’s afraid to shed light on some of the band’s more underappreciated material, with his melting harmonies and surprisingly emphatic electric guitar riff demonstrating just how underrated a track ‘Goin’ On’ truly is. Such is the case on ‘Soulful Old Man Sunshine’, where Greg’s improved mixing and earnest delivery presents the foundation of a track which could have gone on to be one of the band’s biggest hits.
As well as unearthing some of Brian’s hidden gems, Greg remains equally as confident covering some of his all-time classics. Opening with the formidable ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, Greg immediately presents himself as the man for the task, with the divine layering capturing the very essence of Brian’s elegant songwriting. ‘Helping and Healing’ prevails in its tributes, and even features some quirky additions, such as the more pronounced syncopation on ‘In My Room’, further enhancing the idea of mental instability, which we know was a large feature of Brian’s work. The acoustic performance of ‘Let The Wind Blow’ is another highlight, with the stripped back instrumentation reinforcing the themes of isolation, placing more of an emphasis on the perturbed cries of “don’t take her out of my life”.
While the experimentation, for the most part, offers an enticing outlook of Brian’s work under a new spotlight, the acoustic renditions may not always capture the true flavour of the original cuts. ‘Busy Doin’ Nothin’’ is one of these rare occurrences, with the minimal instrumentation leaving the track devoid of the bossa nova grooves which ensured the original was so captivating. But across a stacked tracklist of 25 covers, the majority of ‘Helping and Healing’ is executed with fine precision and a glossy touch – an enormous achievement considering Brian’s legendary status.
Though perhaps not coming quite as naturally, Greg’s expansive vocal range sees him burst into falsetto with remarkable success, consistently hitting Brian’s infamously high notes. ‘Don’t Worry Baby’, ‘Time to Get Alone’, and ‘God Only Knows’ are just a handful of many examples of this pristine execution, ensuring Greg’s vocals maintain the entrancing, almost angelic aura surrounding the majority of these tracks. And with a hypnotic voice tailored to capture the vibrancy of the seasons, what better artist to cover?
Closing with the fitting ‘Caroline, No’, Greg comes full circle, concluding the expedition of Brian Wilson’s catalogue with the final track from The Beach Boys’ revolutionary ‘Pet Sounds’. Having maintained in tune with the intimacy of the lyrics throughout, Greg’s affinity means he’s just as immersive painting the psychedelic picture of ‘Good Vibrations’ as he is reliving the haunting despair of ‘’Till I Die’. In some ways, the album is best described through the ceremonial ‘Add Some Music To Your Day’, a vibrant track whose celebration of music is symbolic not only of Brian, but also Greg, who’s passionate delineation of Brian’s work shows just how powerful music can be.