SMiLE

Brian Wilson

 

TRACKLIST
 
1. Our Prayer/Gee
2. Heroes And Villains
3. Roll Plymouth Rock
4. Barnyard
5. Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine
6. Cabin Essence
7. Wonderful
8. Song For Children
9. Child Is The Father Of The Man
10. Surf's Up
11. Iím In Great Shape / I Wanna Be Around / Workshop
12. Vega-Tables
13. On A Holiday
14. Wind Chimes
15. Mrs. O'Leary's Cow
16. In Blue Hawaii
17. Good Vibrations
 

Alternative versions

Japanese import
Included track only versions of "Heroes and Villians" and "Cabin Essence"
Vinyl version
Included track only versions of "Heroes and Villians", "Cabin Essence", "Wind Chimes" and "On A Holiday"


Album Trivia

Released on Nonesuch Records on September 28 2004(September 27 in Europe and UK).
Top chart position: #13 in the USA, #7 in the UJOP CHART POSITION: #13 USA #7 UK.
Certified Gold in the UK on November 15, 2004, selling over 100 000 copies.
Won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Mrs. O'Leary's Cow in 2005.
Nominated for two other Grammys in 2005 for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for engineer Mark Linett.The DVD on SMiLE was also nominated in 2006 for Best Long Form Music Video.
Named the Top Album of 2004 by Entertainment Weekly. Also rated as one of the year's best at Rolling Stone magazine, as one of the Ten Best in Spin magazine.


 

Website Comments and Review

The story of SMiLE is well-documented elsewhere, and only a brief context will be given here. After releasing his masterpiece Pet Sounds , Brian attempted an even more ambitious record, bringing in lyricst Van Dyke Parks. In the late 1966 and early January 1967 period of colloboration, some of Brian's greatest songs were written. In addition, a modular approach, already used in Good Vibrations was attempted, where feels and snippets of songs would be used and pieced together in an almost symphonic work.

Capitol had already printed covers and provisional tracklists for this work, dubbedSMiLE. For a variety of reasons, work on this concept album was shelved sometime in 1967 (no official date of abandonment can be given, and it would appear that Brian's realisation that the project would not come off was a gradual process). However, by the middle of 1967, recordings were being held for Smiley Smile, a very different album and concept, even if some of the songs were the same.

Many different reasons are given for SMiLE's 1967 abandonment, including lack of support from the other Beach Boys, drugs, Van Dyke Parks leaving the project, drugs, the onset of Brian's mental problems and Brian's own inability to fathom how to put all the pieces together. A doctoral thesis could be written on this topic, but the real truth is probably a combination of the reasons set out above.

Over half of the material projected for SMiLE came out over the course of the next six Beach Boys albums ( Smiley Smile to Surf's Up), sometimes as full songs close to the originally envisaged version, sometimes in very different versions, sometimes only fragments. The quality of this material, and the story of the abandonment of SMiLE, gradually raised the unreleased album to legendary status. There were some false dawns, including the release of further session material on the Good Vibrations box set in 1993, but the album seemed destined to remain an unreleased legend forever, or certainly in the lifetime of Brian.

Since the abandonment of SMiLE, Brian had always seemed hostile to the concept of SMiLE, usually calling it "inappropriate music." A slight thaw appeared in 2001, as Brian and his band started performing material from the era. However, it was still a major surprise when it was announced in 2003 that Brian would perform a completed version of SMiLEon February 20, 2004, in London, with a subsequent tour of England and Europe.

In late 2003, Brian and Van Dyke Parks completed the jigsaw of SMiLE, with the help of musical "secretary" Darian Sahanaja. And so, SMiLE was debuted as a three-part symphony, to raptorous applause and critical acclaim.

The subsequent recording of the completed SMiLE. using all-new vocals and tracks was greeted with some scepticism as well as some nostalgia for the Beach Boys' vocals and Wrecking Crew tracks. Concern was also raised about Brian's vocals. It was cerainly not going to be a guaranteed critical or public success on the release.

So what is the final album like? It is hard to review such a record objectively, given the background and my personal attendance at the premier. However, one must go back to the overall quality of the songs, and the recording, and say that this is an unqualified success, and simply one of the great records of all time. It is a tribute to the genius of Brian at that special time in 1966/67, the lyrical mastery of Van Dyke Parks and everyone who helped put the final pieces together in 2003

SMiLE is a dazzling journey into the heart and soul of America, its history and music. The lyrical word-play and symbolism is magic, and musically it embraces everything from symphony, to barbershop, to the acid metal nightmare of Mrs. O' Leary's Cow. There does appear to be an underlying theme of hope and rebirth through children, escapes to magical lands (Hawaii) and hearth and home. The spiritual element also seems to underpin the album, including the opening invocation Our Prayer and the relief from the fires of hell ( Mrs. O' Leary's Cow) through the water of life ( In Blue Hawaii).

There are three movements, the first incorporating the first six tracks up to Cabin Essence, appearing to have an Americana theme, incorporating historical themes and a diversity of musical styles. The second movement (from Wonderful to Surf's Up) is often thought of as the "cycle of life" and is musically the most lush and symphonic- many, including myself, rate this as one of the greatest pieces of music ever. The third movement, which seems to have been the most incomplete when the album was abandoned has some sense of the "elements" which was one of the tracks mooted for the original SMiLE. One can deem Vega-Tables to cover the "earth", Wind Chimes to cover air, Mrs. O' Leary's Cow to be "fire" and In Blue Hawaii to be water, although it can be debated if this was always the intention in 1967. Good Vibrations can even be seen to represent an "unseen", almost spiritual, element.

The linking of tracks in the completed SMiLE is wonderful, and some of the segues are some of the most special moments of the album ( Wonderful into Song For Children is just one example). This was one of the main reason many fans loved the completed version as the whole was very much more than just adding the parts. However, one ultimately must go back to the parts, and the songs that make up this album, and note that they reflect some of the greatest songs ever, and in some ways, are surprisingly accessible. The songs do stick in your mind, and in that way, almost appear "element-al" in a sense that they cover the basic melodies and feels that provoke a non-cerebral response. I certainly can't get the basic tune of I'm In Great Shape out of my mind!

SMiLE is not an "emotional" album in the same way as Pet Sounds, but there are musical parts of incredible beauty, and lyrical passages with vast meaning. Another eternal debate will be whether Brian did surprass Pet Sounds with SMiLE, but the 2004 release of this record met all the expectation and more, and showed that Brian was much, much more than just Pet Sounds . Overall, a record that has to be part of anyone's collection, and one of your first two ports of call in building up a set of Brian/Beach Boys material (since you asked, Pet Sounds is the other.

RATING: 10 out of 10


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