Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Well after all the gloom of the last few weeks which is still rumbling around us, I felt like talking about something that would make some of us SMILE, Namely the fact this Beach Boys album or perhaps more accurately "The SMiLE Sessions" have after 44 years finally come out in an authorized form.
There's that much and sometimes one-sided stuff written about smile that I don't feel like going into it but in essence it was a projected follow up to the Pet Sounds album of 1966 involving collaboration between Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks dashing off fragments of music and lyric and stitching them together as a kind of audio collage a process that would involve many fragments per song.
The year 1966 it has to be remembered was one of the most important in popular music with many lyrical, musical and technological innovations all coming together revolutionizing what was thought of as low class transitory music for kids and making it into high art with such albums as Blonde on Blonde, Revolver, Paisley Sage Rosemary & Thyme and singles like Good Vibrations.
Good Vibrations really was the stating point for this album - listen closely and you'll here all the edits and overdubs - with Brian Wilson in the studio conducting session musicians making all the backing fragments ready for the beach Boys to return from touring to add their voices.
At the same time there was much interest in what was going on with even a news team filming Brian at work at Leonard Bernstein's bequest and yet these sessions never officially saw the light of day until now.
The first thing to say about the sessions and what has been issued is it's as far away from fun in the sun car and beach songs as you could ever get very few number lend themselves to the concerts you had back then with instrumentals like Holidays and even Wind Chimes as beautiful as they are to hear anew in their original form being too challenging for the concert audience of the day.
This lead to some friction between the touring band and Brian and was a bigger issue for Capitol Records who required a record to sell with potential big hits on it and Brian launched a royalties dispute with Capitol to upping the stakes.
Brian also had his demons - it's testimony to how he is today he's happy to even talk about this period - and the competition between him and the Beatles, the disagreements in the band over the session material, the fractiousness relationship with Capitol took a heavy toll on his nerviness and increasingly erratic state of mind and so the the project got put on the high shelf 90% completed with dozens of snippets left.
Parts were re-used, songs featured in other albums Surfs Up from the 1971 album of the same name, Cabin-Essense on 20/20 and re-recordings on that half hearted replacement Smily Smile like Vege-Tables and Wind Chimes and Heroes and Villains (a favourite).
I bought the two lp version with bonus tracks on side 4 because for me at least I don't have a use nay a need to be able to re-assemble any number of fragments to make my own version as Brian's version based on approximation of 2004 he did as a solo project is good enough for me.
It's also true I appreciate greatly the physical product so something as tactile as an lp sleeve with a beautiful colour art book and easy to read lyrics is appreciated and what's more this 180 gram lp pressed here in Europe sounds superb with no one click or pop.
I also find the small gap when you change discs over helps giving you time to take in the compositional delights.

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