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Monday, 2 May 2016
"The Smile Sessions" by THE BEACH BOYS (2011 Capitol '2CD' Mini Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...
"...Giving Me Excitations..."
I think the never-released Beach Boy's LP "Smile" is a victim of
gross over-importance by historical revisionists (there's an awful lot of
meandering faff on here – segments rather than actual songs) – on the evidence
presented in this sweet sounding mini box set – there's an actual album lurking
about in there somewhere. God only knows - but let's go try and find it...
released 31 October 2011 (November 2011 in the USA) – "The Smile
Sessions" by THE BEACH BOYS on Capitol 5099902766324 (Barcode the same) is
a 2 x HDCD Mini Box Set with a 36-Page Booklet, 15" x 20" Fold-Out
Poster and a 'Smile' Button. It plays out as follows:
1 (79:20 minutes):
Heroes And Villains
Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)
I'm In Great Shape
My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine)
Look (Song For Children)
Child Is Father Of The Man
I Wanna Be Around/Workshop
The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow)
Love To Say Dada
Heroes And Villains (Stereo Mix)
Heroes And Villains Sections (Stereo Mix)
He Gives Speeches
Smile Backing Vocals Montage
Surf's Up 1967 (Solo Version)
Psycodelic Sounds – Brian Falls Into A Piano
2 (64:06 minutes):
Our Prayer "Dialogue" (9/19/66)
Heroes And Villains (Part 1)
Heroes And Villains (Part 2)
Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (1/27/67)
Heroes And Villains: Prelude To Fade (2/15/67)
My Only Sunshine (11/14/66)
Cabin Essence (10/3/66)
Surf's Up: 1st Movement (11/4/66)
Surf's Up: Piano Demo (12/15/66)
Vega-Tables: Fade (4/12/67)
The Elements: Fire Session (11/28/66)
Cool, Cool Water Version 2 (10/26-10/29/67)
Good Vibrations Session Highlights
have moaned about the hard card sleeves inside housing the 2 CDs (put the discs
in protective plastics) – I think they look and feel great. I also love the way
Capitol have given the "Smile" album that Capitol T 2580 catalogue
number and what would have approximated its probable artwork (even if the track
list on the rear is confusing). You certainly can't complain either about a
near 80-minute playing time on Disc 1. The 36-page booklet is a chunky affair
offering Brian Wilson's "Music is God's Voice" liner notes at the
beginning - followed by some vacuous assessment of "Smile" by Tom
Nolan which goes into 'myth' and 'artefact' babble. There's a plethora of
period colour photos followed by lyrics for everything and detailed notes on
the tortuous transfer process by compilation producers MARK LINETT, ALAN BOYD
and DENNIS WOLFE. They explain that digital editing has now allowed Capitol to
'splice' the album together making sense of Brian Wilson's 'modules' of music
(as he liked to call them).
AUDIO is fabulous – Mixed and Mastered by MARK LINETT at 'Your Place Or Mine
Recording' in Glendale, California (edited by ALAN BOYD). This is as clean and
vibrant as I've ever heard this much bootlegged material - and the bare piano
demo of "Surf's Up" on Disc 2 is a stupendous remaster.
opens with what could only be track one – the beautiful Acapella "Our
Prayer" – one minute and five seconds of gorgeous Beach Boys harmonies –
like an opening salvo to a masterpiece. Personally I sequenced "Surf's
Up" (which I would have called 'Brother John') next – surely one of the
truly great finished songs on "Smile". Equally brill and complicated
is the 4:52 minute version of the mammoth "Heroes And Villains". I
personally like to follow that with the monk-like chant of "Love To Say Dada".
I also dig the pretty clavinet 60ts feel to "Wonderful". And of
course we then get the big one – "Good Vibrations". Having grown up
like everyone else with the October 1966 seven-inch single mix at 3:59 minutes
– how weird is it to hear this altered supposed 'full album version' at 4:15
minutes. It's good – but not nearly as sharp as the 45 released version. I know
it only adds about 20-seconds but it actually lessens the song in my books –
the single mix was tighter and more extraordinary. This version feels more of a
meander – like too many of the album segments did. "Cabin
Essence" is pretty as he sings "...I'll give you a home on the
range..." and then goes off into yet another tempo change. Other faves
include "Plymouth Rock" and "Look (Song For Children)" and
the piano-cha-cha of "Child Is Father Of The Man" – brilliant piano
breaks with a trombone sailing in over it (gorgeous Bass sound too). Stuff like
"I'm In Great Shape" and "Barnyard" at 28 and 48 seconds are
nonsense ditties to me but the string arrangements given to "You Are My
Sunshine" are beautiful as are the heavy-vibe vocals.
some respects I actually enjoy Disc 2 more than 1. The dialogue featured in
almost every song here gives you insight into their process - for instance one
band member clearly feels "Our Prayer" is an ideal opening song while
the other only feels it’s an intro to a song. Part 3 of "Heroes And Villains" is the 'ba boom' part that they've called "Children Are Raised" with
the boys discussing being in Japan as they get the harmonies right. The
"First Movement" of "Surf's Up" will thrill fans as they
work out what many consider (outside of "Good Vibrations") to be the
album's central masterpiece. It opens with piano and guitar and feels magical.
Moving on - I experimented with iTunes edit on "Cool, Cool Water"
starting it at 1:32.5. It gives the song that beautifully produced vocal intro
(what a finished tune this would have made). The 8:19 minutes of the "Good
Vibrations" Session Highlights is the stuff of legend - Brian breaking it
down time and time again until they get it right. "OK - here we go - play
hard and strong..." he directs - and they do. And those bits around 3:35
that aren't in the final mix - wow...
magical, unfinished business with too much time passed – "Smile" is
all of these things and more. "The Most Anticipated Album In Rock 'n' Roll
History" the outer sticker screams. Maybe so - but I still don't know if
it's the great lost meisterwork everyone latterly claims it is. The true Beach
Boys nutter can of course go after the 5CD full-on 'immersion' experience. But
in the mean time – we mere mortals and musical Neanderthals can settle for this
beautifully presented reissue – now with best ever Audio.
laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne..." – Brian Wilson sings on the
gorgeous and unadorned Take 1 Piano Demo of "Surf's Up" on Disc 2.
After all this time – don't those prophetic lyrics still ring true about this
troubled slice of genius...
Time to get really contentious - here's my version of the "Smile" LP
by THE BEACH BOYS on Capitol T 2580
Surf's Up [credited as "Brother John"]
Heroes And Villains
Love To Say Dada
Cool, Cool Water [Edit at 1:32.5]
Child Is Father Of The Man
Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock) [as "Plymouth Rock"]