It's nearly impossible to talk about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys without bringing up Smile
at some point. The unfinished album, which helped precipitate Wilson's fall into decades of despair, was hyped as the next big thing as it was being made. But, of course, it never came out. But now, the original Smile
sessions are being stitched together
by the Beach Boys' longtime engineer Charles Linett, with the blessing of Brian Wilson and the rest of the group. Hopefully it will offer a further glimpse of what the original might have sounded like.
Since Smile was never completed, what exactly will be issued? Linett says the goal is to present "the whole piece as close to as it was envisioned, or as is envisioned, as possible . . . and obviously with input from Brian and from everybody else."
Yes, Wilson remade Smile in 2004, and it was great. But you know, it's still different. And some will argue that reconstructing an album 45 years after the fact still won't provide an honest approximation of what the album might have been like, which is fair. But for Smile, whose extended legacy owes much to a rabid cult following on the Internet, an official release of the sessions seems like an appropriate bit of closure for those hardcore fans out there.
Come to think of it, I can't think of many classic albums that have benefitted from the Internet as much as Smile -- which experienced a cultural resurgence in the second half of the '90s. There are countless critical debates out there about tracklistings, recording sessions, creative intentions. And if you've never heard any of the original material, it exists in abundance across the Internet. You can find hours upon hours of studio sessions that are downloadable, along with reconstructions of the albums made by superfans.
The best piece to download is probably the Ryan Marks reconstruction of Smile
). Marks went through and pieced the album together himself in 2004, and many swear its the best imagining of the album.
As for the official reissue of the Smile sessions, there's no set date for release except for "later this year," but it will come in three versions:
"A two-CD set, an iTunes LP digital album and a limited-edition boxed set containing four CDs, two vinyl LPs, two vinyl singles and a 60-page hardbound book written by Beach Boys historian Dominic Priore."
And of course, the reconstructed album will be mixed in mono, just as Wilson intended it to be. Am I the only one disproportionately excited by that box set?
----Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Adrian Covert @adilla, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.