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Beach Boys’ ‘Smile’ finally released after 44 years

Beach Boys’ ‘Smile’ finally released after 44 years

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It is a legend in music circles – the epic tale of the ‘lost’ album from one of rock’s early influential bands. The album, ‘Smile’, by the Beach Boys, was made in 1967 on the heals of their successful ‘Pet Sounds’ album. And it would not see the light of day – until now, 44 years to the day it was supposed to be released.

With ‘Smile’, Beach Boys leader Brain Wilson had envisioned a record unlike any other – mixing in a wide swatch of American music including rock, folk, classical, gospel, jazz and even Tin Pan Alley. Wilson worked with composer-lyricist Van Dyke Parks to craft the record. The recording process would take place over 80 sessions and nine months, with Wilson pushing the limits on himself and the band. People involved in the project said it was unlike anything recorded. The most common reference to ‘Smile’ has been the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album.

The Beach Boys had nearly completed the record before deciding to shelve it (for various reasons, including Wilson’s health), sending it into the status of myth and legend. A Brian Wilson’s mental health deteriorated, any hopes of the completing the project went with it. Rumors would leak out over the decades, as well bits and pieces of the project (some real, some not). It wasn’t until 2004, when Wilson released ‘Brian Wilson Presents Smile’ – that he finished the project he had started over three decades before.

The new ‘The SMiLE Sessions’ uses Wilson’s 2004 release as a blueprint. But the release of the original project presents the Beach Boy at the height of their vocal abilities, especially Wilson, who was at his creative peak as a musician and producer.

The release is as close to a definitive “Smile” as we are likely to ever get. Several versions are available, including a two-CD set, a two-disc vinyl edition, and a limited-edition 5-CD boxed set. The boxed set includes copious amounts of fragments, outtakes and snippets of studio dialogue – making it a fascinating look at the crafting of an American myth.

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