The Smile Sessions
(2011, recorded 1966-7), 9/10
Brian Wilson famously aborted the Smile album, and it was never released, other than the huge advance single ‘Good Vibrations’. Pressure from within the band and other personal problems caused him to scrap the project, and it was never completed. The Smile Sessions is a 2011 recreation of the album from archival tapes, based on Wilson’s 2004 Smile album. It’s not an album of songs like Pet Sounds; out of the 19 tracks, only about ten are actual songs. The Smile Sessions is structured somewhat like a symphony into three movements, and many of the remaining tracks are link tracks or repetitions of lyrical and musical motifs.
Most of the major songs like ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘Heroes and Villains’, ‘Surf’s Up’, and ‘Cabinessence’ all appeared on subsequent Beach Boys albums – the only major song that didn’t appear on a studio album previously is ‘Roll Plymouth Rock’/’Do You Like Worms’. ‘Surf’s Up’ features a Brian lead vocal instead of the Carl one featured on the 1971 album.
While bootlegs of Smile have floated around for years, the one I have is longer and less organised than this, and while Brian Wilson’s solo version is excellent, it’s lacking the vocals of the other Beach Boys and Wilson’s voice has lost its range. So The Smile Sessions should be recognised as the definitive version of Smile.