First Look: Beach Boys SMiLE (+ streams)

“Fly on the wall”: released
this week by Capitol as a massive 5CD box bursting at the seams with session
material, Brian Wilson’s lost masterpiece is finally resurrected after decades
of being plundered by bootleggers. See below for links to both official and,
er, unofficial streams of some of the material.

 

By
Jud Cost

 

So,
this is what it felt like to be a fly on the wall during the 1966-67 sessions
for mythical Beach Boys’ album SMiLE.
Capitol/EMI has finally released the longplayer whose sweeping vistas danced
tantalizingly in the head of Brian Wilson for so long he would eventually
abandon the project. But not before rolling tons of tape. Some of the SMiLE material was released on
subsequent Beach Boys Capitol albums Smiley
Smile
and 20/20 and Surf’s Up on Warner Bros.

 

 With the full cooperation of surviving Beach
Boys Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine, the rabid and the curious alike
have now been allowed behind the curtain to see what really went on. The casual
fan can purchase a two-CD version of SMiLE,
but for the hopeless addict, only the five-disc package will do. The album
proper occupies disc one and sounds just as breathtaking as it did in your
sweetest dreams (or on Brian’s immaculate SMiLE re-recording for Nonesuch in 2004). Every bit as appealing here are baby pictures
from SMiLE, swathed in lush
fragments, destined to languish in Capitol’s tape vault; listen to Brian
tweaking arrangements on the fly to “Good Vibrations” for A-list
studio players (such as percussionist Hal Blaine and bassist Carol Kaye, whose
joyous laughter infuses the sessions).

 

 

Every
bit as riveting as the groundbreaking music is the ever-present studio chatter.
At one point, Brian barks to his fellow Beach Boys, “If there’s not any
more cooperation than this, I’m splitting, and I mean it.” A trippy
sequence finds Brian pretending to be trapped inside a microphone while his
bandmates accidentally electrocute him. “We’ll have to get a new Brian
now,” someone says. “Would you order one?” “Wonderful”
once featured a gritty doowop interlude of “Rock With Me Henry,”
while the dazzling combination of Van Dyke Parks’ unorthodox lyrics and Brian’s
melodic sophistication reached full fruition on “Surf’s Up.”

 

Despite
rumors surrounding SMiLE, there’s
little evidence here that the other Beach Boys were dragged, kicking and
screaming, into the studio to cut their vocal parts. Realizing Brian was
navigating through uncharted waters, they seem eager to grab a paddle.

 

***

 

Look!
Listen! Vibrate! SMiLE! Over at Spinner.com they are streaming the streamlined
two-disc version of SMiLE. Meanwhile,
below you can also check out the Genuine Pig’s “underground” interpretation of the
album via his Soundcloud stream – it’s a choice monophonic mix of most of the
key tracks. For, ahem, comparison purposes only….

 


The Beach Boys – SMiLE (Original Monophonic Mix) by TheGenuinePig

 

 

 

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