One Track Mind: Larry Goldings, "In My Room" (2011)

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Larry Goldings, the jazz organist and long-time James Taylor sideman, opens his second acoustic piano solo release with this update of “In My Room,” a Beach Boys’ 1963 pop masterpiece that’s always had this shattering beauty.

Originally beginning as a waltz-tempo ballad, “In My Room” becomes a vehicle for some sensitive new solos by Goldings, even as the cut retains its initial emotional heft. A song about perfect isolation, inside the safe cocoon of a teen’s bedroom, “In My Room” was initially recorded with an opening vocal signature featuring only the Wilson brothers — Brian, Carl and Dennis singing just as they had as children.

In keeping, the Beach Boys track arrives with no small amount of notalgia, but Goldings carefully skirts such obvious impulses, instead offering shadings that communicate the naivete and promise of youth. (The grownup in us knows that room is no true shelter, but revisiting that innocence is something that’s always been part of the song’s lasting allure.) Golding’s performance is both clever and gorgeous — though you can’t get away from the enormous assist provided, of course, from composer Brian Wilson.

The melody, written during an after-curfew session at the Wilson family home with additional lyrics by Gary Usher, is one of the rarities in pop music: A theme that not only provides a launch platform for serious improvisation, but holds up in a solo piano setting — since it boasts both familiar pop shapes as well as a series of jazz- and gospel-associated compositional concepts, like passing tones and pull chords.

Pop songs didn’t often aspire to such dreamy introspection, much less such musical sophistication. That made “In My Room” a Top 25 hit almost 50 years ago, and an interesting terrain even now for talents like Larry Goldings to explore.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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