Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Brian Wilson released Smile after nearly 40 years


Brian Wilson

Released: September 28, 2004

Charted: October 16, 2004

Peak: 13 US, 7 UK, 44 CN, 17 AU

Sales (in millions): 0.34 US, 0.1 UK, 0.44 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: pop


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Our Prayer/ Gee
  2. Heroes and Villains (8/5/67, 12 US, 8 UK) *
  3. Roll Plymouth Rock
  4. Barnyard
  5. Old Master Painter/ You Are My Sunshine
  6. Cabin Essence
  7. Wonderful (10/04, 29 UK)
  8. Song for Children
  9. Child Is Father of the Man
  10. Surf’s Up
  11. I’m 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 (10/22/66, 1 US, 1 UK) *
* Chart positions are for the original Beach Boys’ songs.

Total Running Time: 46:59


4.271 out of 5.00 (average of 32 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

This album lived in myth for decades” RS’20 – “the white whale of ‘60s record-making.” AMG The Smile album was intended as the Beach Boys[‘ response to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but “Brian Wilson halted work on it in May 1967 (after an exhausting 85 recording sessions).” AMG It “gradually gained a legend that not only inflated its rumored importance and complexity, but gave credence to an odd notion – that completing it, then or ever, was impossible.” AMG

It ”languished in the vaults and remained the perfect record – perfect, of course, because it had never been finished.” AMG However, nearly four decades later it finally surfaced. “Since Wilson himself was previously the most opposed to SMiLE appearing in any form, it’s a considerable shock that this new recording justifies even half of the promise that fans had attached to it.” AMG Brian Wilson “listened to the original recordings with his musical midwife, Darian Sahanaja of the Wondermints (which has long functioned as Wilson's live backing band), and then worked them into a live show and album recording.” AMG

“Everything that Wilson and his band could control sounds nearly perfect. Every instrument, every note, and every intonation is nearly identical to the late-‘60s tapes; one has to wonder whether vintage hand tools weren’t acquired for Workshop and Paul McCartney wasn’t flown in to add chewing noises to ‘Vega-Tables.’ (The players did, however, book time at one of Brian’s old haunts, Sunset Sound, and utilized a ‘60s tube console to record their vocals). No, the harmonies here aren’t the Beach Boys’ harmonies, and Brian’s vocals aren’t the vocals he was capable of 37 years ago, but they’re excellent and (best of all) never distracting.” AMG

“Longtime Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks helped [Wilson] realize his vision.” RS’20 His “new (or newly heard) lyrics fit into these compositions, and the work as a whole, like hand in glove.” AMG There are also “lush string arrangements, sublime melodies, and vocal harmonies, all impeccably constructed. Close your eyes and you can imagine how it might’ve changed the world in 1968, but with Wilson’s influence still all over scads of indie bands in 2004, it sounds and feels majestically modern.” RS’20

“Aside from the technical acumen on display, Wilson has also, amazingly, found a home – the proper home – for all of the brilliant instrumental snippets that lent the greatest part of the mystery to the unreleased SMiLE.” AMG “The former instrumentals include Barnyard; ‘Holiday,’ which is here called On a Holiday; ‘Look,’ which is now Song for Children; and ‘I Love to Say Da-Da,’ which is now part of ‘In Blue Hawaii’.” AMG

“Most surprisingly, nearly all of this thematic unity was accomplished by merely reworking the original material already on tape, which proves that Wilson was never very far from finishing SMiLE in 1967. (It’s very likely that the gulf was psychological; SMiLE had few supporters among Brian’s closest friends and family).” AMG

The new recording “reveals the record as nothing more (or less) than a jaunty epic of psychedelic Americana, a rambling and discursive, playful and affectionate series of song cycles. Infectious and hummable, to be sure, and a remarkably unified, irresistible piece of pop music, but no musical watershed on par with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Wilson’s masterpiece, Pet Sounds.” AMG

“The work that evolved divides into three sections: SMiLE begins with Americana, which takes the dream of continental expansion from the old Spanish town saga of Heroes and Villains to the landing at Plymouth Rock and, finally, the end of the frontier at Hawaii.” AMG “It continues with a Cycle of Life that progresses from the virginal grace of Wonderful to the simultaneous peak and decline of the creative life on Surf’s Up; and ends with an environmental cycle called The Elements, which includes Vega-Tables, (Earth), Wind Chimes (Air), ‘Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow’ (Fire), and In Blue Hawaii (Water).” AMG

“Wilson’s love of ‘feels’ – short passages of cyclical music that could be overdubbed and rearranged countless times – had made 1966’s Good Vibrations the ultimate pocket symphony, but had also quickly spiralled into the instability that consumed him during its follow-up, ‘Heroes and Villains, projected to be the centerpiece of SMiLE.” AMG

“Reports that the recording of Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow had caused a nearby building to burn down and whispers of ‘inappropriate music’ gave it the character of a monster, one that cursed all those who approached it and claimed the heart and mind of its major participant.” AMG

“Hopefully, Capitol is readying a SMiLE Sessions box set to release all of the vintage material, but it’s clear that nothing they dig up from the vaults will be able to match the unity of this attractive recording. It’s up to the standards of anyone who’s ever scoured the bootlegs to create a SMiLE tape, and further, it beats them all, which is the highest compliment. So, if you’ve never been burdened with a friend’s SMiLE tape before, count yourself lucky that Brian Wilson’s is the first you’ll hear. And if you have heard a few, prepare to listen to them much less religiously.” AMG

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First posted 3/29/2008; last updated 4/26/2022.

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