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The Beach Boys - The Smile Sessions


superpretend
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Everyone knows this story, right? 1966, post-Pet Sounds/Good Vibrations release and considered to be the biggest band in the world, Brian Wilson sets off to make album using the same techniques he used recording Good Vibrations. That is, recording bits and pieces of songs, and then cutting and gluing the pieces together later. Doing something like that today would be piss-easy with the computer sequencers so readily available. In 1966, I have no idea how the fuck you'd do it.

Evidently, neither did Brian. After almost a year of recording, Brian halted the Smile recordings and it was never released. Band disagreements, excessive LSD use, depression, paranoia, and the release of Sgt Pepper are some of the reasons cited for it's demise.

Bits and pieces were released on various Beach Boys records over the years, and in 2004, Brian went back and finished the album, recording the entire album with his current touring band.

But today is the first time Smile has been officially released under the Beach Boys name. And it comes in a whopping 5CD, double-vinyl, two 7" box set... or just a 2CD set if you're feeling casual about it.

I can't be the only one excited about this, despite having heard all the songs on various albums and bootlegs over the years. I've been obsessed with this stuff for years and I never thought that a release like this would ever see the light of day.

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Are there any more details on this? Who are involved and what was done to restore and re-mix/re-master the material?

I remember seeing a short featurette on the 2004 release where the young band leader of his touring band had been putting all the original Smile tapes in Pro Tools and was playing them out to Wilson to determine the correct order of all the separate pieces, but that's about it.

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I got the super daddy deluxe megazord edition of this (5cds, 2 '45s 2 Lps Book) from the missus as an early Christmas present :) Also Sainsbury's delivered early so got it last Friday!

smile-boxset-460-100-460-70.jpg

I'm a huge Beach Boys fan and have always loved the Smile songs and the dream of what a finished album containing Good Vibrations/Heroes & Villains/Cabinessence/Surf's Up/Wonderful etc would have sounded like.

Can't wait to get time to listen to the session stuff, have got various bootlegs but having it edited in a more listenable format and of higher quality will be great.

I can't be the only one excited about this, despite having heard all the songs on various albums and bootlegs over the years. I've been obsessed with this stuff for years and I never thought that a release like this would ever see the light of day.

I was gunna start a thread on this release a few weeks back but didn't know if anyone here would be bothered! Cool to see all the excitement for the release.

The Smile that was released a few years ago was glorious so I can't even begin to imagine how good this will be.

I've not listened to the 'album' part of this release yet but I can't imagine it will be as good as 'Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE'. Brian, Van Dyke Parks and Darian Sahanaja's finished album works as a piece in a way the uncompleted tracks just can't.

I remember how amazed people were at the Royal Festival Hall when we heard Wonderful go into Song For Children for the first time, new lyrics and marveling at how it fit together, same thing with Holidays.

Are there any more details on this? Who are involved and what was done to restore and re-mix/re-master the material?

I remember seeing a short featurette on the 2004 release where the young band leader of his touring band had been putting all the original Smile tapes in Pro Tools and was playing them out to Wilson to determine the correct order of all the separate pieces, but that's about it.

There's a great interview with Mark Linett, Brian Wilson/Beach Boys engineer/mixer/producer HERE. There's a second part to the interview in audio on the site too.

I think the fact that the Beach Boys have all agreed that this can/should come out is great and it was a weird, but nice, moment today in HMV seeing that Frank Holmes cover art in multiple along the 'new releases' section.

Finally!

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I've not listened to the 'album' part of this release yet but I can't imagine it will be as good as 'Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE'. Brian, Van Dyke Parks and Darian Sahanaja's finished album works as a piece in a way the uncompleted tracks just can't.

I was always surprised by what a coherent album could be made from the various recordings which exist - and I listen to them so much more than I ever did the 2004 version.

It's really good to hear hi fidelity versions of warbled and hissy tracks that I've grown so familiar with, and the session stuff that I've never heard before is nice to add extra layers to the record. It's not my favourite Beach Boys album, but I think it's totally unique, and the fact that so many iterations exist - none of which can ever be definitive - makes it all the more fascinating: turns it into one of the great works of postmodernism and a hauntological masterpiece!

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The Beach Boys are my favourite band of all time. Even though i'm so familiar with all of their songs I've suggested to the family that if they want to buy me anything for xmas, it should be this.

What's on the 5CD set? Remastered tracks?

Newly-assembled Smile mixes using Brian Wilson's 2004 Smile as a blueprint. Obviously not exactly the same, because not all the vocals were recorded back in 1966. A bunch of these songs have never been released outside of bootlegs, so it's the first time anyone is hearing stuff like Child is Father of the Man in crystal clear audio (BTW, I almost orgasmed when I heard the new vocals on the chorus). The main album is mixed in mono, the session stuff is in stereo.

They've taken some liberties with the assembly though, some of it good, some of it questionable. The vocals from Smiley Smile's Woodpecker Symphony being flown into Fire sounds great. Taking the vocals from the demo of Barnyard/I'm In Great Shape and plonking them into the studio version, not so much. Probably the best bit of tinkering is the version of Surf's Up here, a combination of the Brian piano demo, the Smile studio recording and Carl Wilson's 1971 version. Pretty awesome stuff.

Whether you should get the box set depends on whether an entire CD of Heroes & Villains recording sessions and another one full of Good Vibrations sessions sounds appealing to you. Did you like the Pet Sounds Sessions box? If so, it's no brainer. Otherwise I'd settle for the 2xCD or 2xvinyl editions

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It's not my favourite Beach Boys album, but I think it's totally unique, and the fact that so many iterations exist - none of which can ever be definitive - makes it all the more fascinating: turns it into one of the great works of postmodernism and a hauntological masterpiece!

That's such a great way of describing the material! (I had to google 'hauntological' though!)

It also begs a nice question for this thread;

What is/are your favourite Beach Boys Album/s?!

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Yeah, this is a fitting end to the Smile recordings, cleverly done for the most part, some great new additions and changes in sequence to the bootlegged recordings. Absolutely not hauntological though chaps. Terrible way to describe music in the first place, but this isn't it anyway.

Edit: In the context of music critique at least.

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Yeah, this is a fitting end to the Smile recordings, cleverly done for the most part, some great new additions and changes in sequence to the bootlegged recordings. Absolutely not hauntological though chaps. Terrible way to describe music in the first place, but this isn't it anyway.Edit: In the context of music critique at least.

I was being a little glib to use the term - there aren't many unspeakable, lingering ghosts of Marxism spooking around the Beach Boys oeuvre! - but I do think it can be a pretty useful idea outside of literary criticism, and provides a reasonable analogue for Smile (& maybe more so for Smiley Smile?), which are records that (to my ears at least) aren't necessarily fully present in the moment: they're charged with that quality of inescapable, spectral longing to them - both for a past that didn't quite happen and a future that can't possibly be.

When I listen to these songs, whilst I can hear them on their own terms... as documents of time spent in a studio in 1966, trying to make great pop music, now remastered and released in 2011... they come so loaded with tales and possibilities of what might have been that I find it interesting to explore an alternative, slightly more fantastic reading. As Derrida spoke of the ghost of Marx haunting Western society, Lo! the ephemeral glimpse of the non-existent finished album looms over these recordings!

</pseud's corner>

Anyhoo... favourite BB album is a tricky one, and has changed over time. Pet Sounds has been massive throughout my life, and I found so much in there of what seem like universal truths; but as I've got older it strikes me that a lot of what's happening on that record is a portrait of a young man on the cusp of maturity, but still prone to naivety and fucking things up. I still love it with all my heart, but maybe I just don't want to identify with it so strongly any more..?

So these days I tend to go a little either side of PS, for either Summer Days and Summer Nights (esp. side 2) or Wild Honey - although I think Sunflower may have my favourite uninterrupted run of awesome songs from Deirdre to Cool Cool Water.

</pseud's corner again>

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I've not had change to get hold of this yet. I'm intrigued to find out what they've included. I've got quite a few bootlegs of Smile as well as a few other collections, including one called Psychedelic Sounds, which is the most fucked up collection of odds and ends, lots of talking about food, random things, Brian falling into the piano and masses of psychedelic sounds and conversations. I'm wondering if any of it is featured on the 5 CD set?

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  • 10 months later...

The other day, Radio 2 broadcast the first of a two-part documentary about the Beach Boys, presented by Harry Shearer. Part 1 takes us up to a point after Pet Sounds but before Good Vibrations:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mx1mp

Probably doesn't contain many revelations that are new to people who are already big fans of them, but as someone who's only really familiar with their greatest hits and the broad strokes of their career, I enjoyed listening to it.

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Mike Love is a super cunt.

I also got the deluxe box set for my birthday. My god, it is glorious and takes up about 20 vinyl spaces on my shelf the greedy shit. Someone told me it had a light inside the shop window you could switch on. I was totally fibbed.

I love fact it is going to take weeks to listen to.

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