There's a reason why it's called The Smile Sessions, and not Smile, cause as we all know, The Beach Boys never fully completed making the record in 1966 and '67. Conquering his demons, Brian Wilson finally finished his own Smile in 2004, and when I first heard it I thought it was the greatest pop record since Pet Sounds. Makes you wonder, if Smile was released like it was supposed to forty plus years ago would the music world have been in a much different place.
No matter how many times you listen to Brian Wilson's fully realized version, you'll never ever once get bored or let down feeling like the original Beach Boys version is too much of the same. In many ways it is, but then in many ways it's not. It's mixed in mono, like it was intended to. You can hear lots of 'missing' elements, but it isn't that much of an issue. In fact, the one big thing Smile Sessions has that Brian Wilson Presents Smile does not is that dream-like psychedelic vibe, in which it's filled almost to the brim. It's hard to explain, you gotta listen to it. And also the fact that the rest of the Beach Boys are actually singing these songs should be enough to please all of us.
Obviously the three big songs here are Heroes and Villains, Surf's Up and Good Vibrations. But I think it's Surf's Up that really anchors everything, and sums up what this whole record is about, and I love how the mini-suite of Wonderful, Song For Children and Child Is Father Of The Man lead up to it. It's the most ingenious Beach Boys song ever composed, in an album full of ingenuity. But even that's an understatement. I can't even to contemplate the enormous effect this particular song has on my ears. You'd never think a human mind like that of Brian Wilson's (and gifted lyricist Van Dyke Parks) could possibly create something like this, let alone an entire concept album of this magnitude.
Meanwhile, the second disc filled with session outtakes is a revelation, giving us a glimpse into Wilson's creative process and his perfectionistic tendencies. There's a lot of communication between him and the band and the Wrecking Crew (session musicians) in between takes, and you can immediately tell that this was a young man in complete control of his artistic vision. He knows exactly what he wanted and he'd stop at nothing to get it. I never expected to get my mind blown from listening to the Smile Sessions, because even today, the music still sounds so fucking out there. It made me forget the eternal greatness of Sgt Peppers. I believe Smile will make vastly improve everyone's lives. Give it a whirl.
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