The fine folks at Capitol Records / EMI Music Group have been kind enough to give me a preview copy of the forthcoming “SMiLE Sessions” from the Beach Boys. Understand that this is the Holy Grail of unreleased music; the most famous album never released – until now. Heavily bootlegged, countless inferior copies have traded hands for years. I’ve setup an interview with one of the guys who put this new set together, Mark Linett, and I hope to be able to talk with other important people who were involved in the making of SMILE. Over the next month or so, I’ll also be blogging about the set – what’s included, what was omitted, sound quality, sequencing, you name it. With a release that’s 45 years in the making – let’s not make any snap judgments, shall we? Click the “read more” button to read on…
Sept 17, 2011 – First off, a little Smile FAQ:
WHAT IS SMILE? Smile was supposed to have been the follow up to the critically-acclaimed Pet Sounds album from the Beach Boys. After that album’s release in May 1966, leader Brian Wilson turned his attention to “Good Vibrations.” Recording the song in fragments, using a multitude of instruments and studios, he eventually racked up an unheard of (at the time) $50,000 in recording fees. When that single hit the top of the charts, Wilson was spurred on to create an entire album in that manner. But, since “Good Vibrations” had taken six months to finish, doing an entire record proved to be a daunting task.
WHY DIDN’T SMILE COME OUT BACK THEN? Well, entire books have been written about the circumstances surrounding the project, and I intend to discuss them later. But, here’s the brief answer – In those days, bands were expected to churn out albums every three months or so. After six months, Smile was still not completed and their record company started to get real antsy. Plus, since the tracks were absolutely nothing like their previous hit records, other group members began to lose faith in the project as well. Eventually, Brian Wilson shelved the project, leaving it incomplete.
WAS THERE EVER A PROPER TRACKLISTING FOR THE ALBUM? No. Capitol records actually produced cover art that included song titles, but no sequence had firmly been set. Plus, there were several song fragments, like “Look” and “Holidays” which had yet to have found a home within Smile.
WHY RELEASE IT NOW? Smile was Brian Wilson’s baby. But, when he became disillusioned with the album, he tried to distance himself from it. He would often refer to it negatively in interviews. But, over the years, as snippets of Smile leaked out, its legend grew. Legal wrangling prevented the record from getting released in the 1990’s. Then, Brian Wilson teamed with a band of devoted Beach Boyphiles, the Wondermints, who helped him create a new, finished version of the album, sequencing all those song fragments and featuring all-new instrumentation. Brian Wilson’s Smile was released to rave reviews in 2004, and showed that all those bits and pieces could be strung together in a cohesive project. Now, seven years later, the Smile Sessions uses the 2004 edition of Smile as a blueprint. There are quite a few differences as well, but we can get into that later.
IS IT ANY GOOD? That’s for you to decide…