CD REVIEW: The Beach Boys “Smile Sessions” (Capitol Records) 2011
The Beach Boys Are In Full Swing of Their 50th Anniversary Tour/New LP “That’s Why God Made The Radio” – But We’ re Taking A Look Back At Some Good Vibrations And The “Smile Sessions”
The Beach Boys “The Smile Sessions” (Capitol Records, 2011) (2xCD)
Before any intentions of Brian Wilson’s forthcoming masterpiece Smile could ever see the light of day, the project was leaked out by fellow musical counterparts as well as the musicians that performed on the tracks better know as the Wrecking Crew. But despite that major factor, Wilson and Beach Boys fans have had to wait for over 40 years to see and hear the actual official release with the re-mastered and re-constructed version in 2011. Indeed, Wilson released a version of what Smile would have sounded like if it ever was completed several years ago, diehard fans had the opportunity and taste of musical genius. There appears to be much irony of the release and the controversy and the mystique that surrounded Smile.
However, the delay was well worth it. For music and especially, rock and roll music aficionados, this is indeed a treasure rather than a relic of American popular music and historic narrative. Each and every track on the record has a distinct sound like no other. Imagine if the album had actually come out after its monumental predecessor, Pet Sounds? If one agrees with my overall evaluation of the album, Smile and Pet Sounds could have easily been a four- album set or at least Smile could have been a double album. There is no doubt of Wilson’s exceptional and diverse musical interests and influences that breathe throughout the entire record. Every track is memorable and notable, “Heroes and Villians” all versions that has a Tin Pan Alley meets vaudevillian, cabaret-esque quality, the opening track “Our Prayer” shows the beauty of Wilson and the Beach Boys’ impeccable characteristic trait, singing acappella and those unforgettable harmonies, and the extreme visual imagery that one can identify with the composers of the American Songbook. Listeners will hear a glimpse of that distinct quality of Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Copland, and also his contemporaries Goffin and King and Lennon and McCartney; and surprisingly, McCartney has a cameo on the track “Vega-Tables.” Again, the thought of what ifs, Smile before Sgt. Pepper, the White Album, Abbey Road, or even anything by bands and artists that attempted to emulate that unique sound that possessed a bit of tongue-in-cheek and shuffle to its lyrics and melodies.
The never-ending comparisons to Sgt. Pepper may arise while listening to Smile. First and foremost, the musical mosaic assembled together and the musical progression from a play-like quality of innocence to rhythmic pattern to maturity. And second, the rite of passage that concludes the record of “Good Vibrations” that shows Brian Wilson’s manifest destiny and musical creativity like no other that had not been experimented before 1966.