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692 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 28, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

One of the most mythic albums in rock-the one that pushed Wilson over the edge and sat unfinished in the vault for decades-returned in 2004 when Brian resurrected it , re-recorded it and earned his most rapturous raves in decades. The CD contains Heroes and Villains; Surf's Up; Mrs. O'Leary's Cow; Roll Plymouth Rock , and the rest of the captivating creations of Wilson and Van Dyke Parks. To watch a revelatory documentary about the history and ultimate triumph of SMiLE and see its complete performance in LA (plus an ocean of bonus features), go for the DVD!

The Greatest Album That Never Was finally is. The Beach Boys' uncompleted 1967 album Smile has remained the elusive touchstone of Brian Wilson's brilliant, star-crossed career for decades. Artistic Holy Grail and troubling professional Waterloo for Wilson, a tantalizing prism of unfulfilled promise to his loyal cadre of fans, its story has become pop music's Rashomon. Finally completed via spring 2004 recordings with his stellar, longtime touring band (none of the original '60s sessions were used, though they've been recreated here with often stunning authenticity), it's arguably as alien to contemporary pop as it might have seemed in its intended '67 context--even to ears freshly primed by the glories of Pet Sounds.

Collaborator Van Dyke Parks's impressionistic, often mischievous lyrics conjure a collage of arcane 19th-century Americana that's equal parts artful ellipse and aloof nostalgia. But wed to Wilson's innovative composition and recording techniques (echoing beat author William Burroughs's fabled cut 'n' paste methodology and exemplified by the modular "Good Vibrations"), the resulting semisuite confections challenge the boundaries of both song and album form, but with an insouciant charm that's as different from Pet Sounds as that landmark was from "I Get Around." Turns out those hypothetical comparisons to Sgt. Pepper's weren't so far off the mark. --Jerry McCulley

Smiling with Brian Music Editor Peter Hilgendorf called Brian Wilson to congratulate him on the release of Smile, and to talk about the recording and some of the history behind this highly anticipated release. Listen now.

Catch Up with Brian Wilson and the Legend of Smile:
Here are a few lists to help unravel the stories and sounds of Smile.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Our Prayer/Gee
  2. Heroes and Villians
  3. Roll Plymouth Rock
  4. Barnyard
  5. Old Master Painter/You are My Sunshine
  6. Cabin Essence
  7. Wonderful
  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

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 28, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B0002LI11M
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (692 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,753 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 99 people found the following review helpful By H. Laser on October 8, 2004
Format: Audio CD
In the "Tribute Concert to Brian Wilson" on DVD, released a couple of years ago, Sir George Martin took the stage and narrated a short film about how Brian Wilson was the biggest influence (and challenge) to The Beatles. How they were blown away when they heard "Pet Sounds." (Paul McCartney has called "God Only Knows" the greatest song ever written.. ) ..

He talked about how it took his own combined talents as their producer, the writing talents of Lennon and McCartney, and the instrumental virtuosity of all four Beatles to create their records, but Brian Wilson did ALL of that for the Beach Boys.. wrote the songs, arranged them, sang them, played instruments and ran the board during production and editing. What George Martin was saying was that it took him and all four Beatles to do what Brian could do alone.

Now who am I to argue with Sir George. As much as I love and adore The Beatles' music, he was right. I can almost picture John and Paul sitting slack jawed when they first heared "Pet Sounds." To which they answered with "Revolver" to which Brian was going to answer with "Smile" but then.. you know the rest.

The catch phrase going around about "Smile" is "Imagine if Sgt. Pepper had been shelved and released 37 years later." It is a very apt and fitting description of the feeling, the tears of joy, that any fan of Brian's will get when they play this album.
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90 of 100 people found the following review helpful By R. S. Osborne on September 28, 2004
Format: Audio CD
When the original SMiLE sessions were taking place, it was whispered that the material was far too bizarre to be released. The audience just wouldn't get it. In retrospect, the album that was (and now the album that is) was light-years ahead of its time. With so many artists having been influenced by the bits and pieces of the original SMiLE that have been lovingly put back together in true humpty-dumpty fashion, it turns out that the album that never was actually was a watershed moment in music history. Just take a listen to bands such as The Fiery Furnaces, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Flaming Lips, Dungen, The Shins, All Night Radio...the list goes on. Those bits and pieces of SMiLE gestated and gave birth to these bands, and without SMiLE and its predecessor Pet Sounds, these bands would arguably not even exist.

However, The Beach Boys' SMiLE is a fragile document of what could have been. Until now. When I first heard that Brian Wilson was going to RE-RECORD the album, I almost lost it. I thought "How could he? This will be an embarrassment and will ruin what little we have of the original, sung through post-millennia filter that will cloud Brian Wilson's vision!" Boy, was I wrong. This is not a reproduction. It is a pure and unadulterated channeling of those original sessions as if they were directly tapped through some break in the space/time continuum. This is not SMiLE redux, this IS SMiLE. Arguably, Brian's Voice lost a touch or two in the intervening decades (!), but still sounds terrific. And the backup band The Wondermints recreate the sound of "what could have been" flawlessly. Although it isn't Mike Love and Carl Wilson singing harmonies, that does not matter much. This is Brian and Van Dyke's album. It always was.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By JWK on March 31, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Who would have thought after 40 years not only would this album be finished but that it would be almost as good as if it were released in 1966? Understand, first, that despite owning seven Beach Boys albums I am far from a hardcore fan. That's why I'm stunned when I think of the greatest rock and roll album (not my favorite, but the best) as being "Pet Sounds." It's weird. I listen to music all the time and I always find great stuff. I pick a few albums at a time and listen to them extensively, and those that I listen to most I consider my favorites. Oddly enough, when I put "Pet Sounds" in, I think "This is the best album there is. None of my favorites have better songwriting, better harmonies, better instrumentation. This is the best." That's why "SMiLE" not being released until now is a tragedy in one repect and a blessing for fans like me in another. On the one hand, I firmly believe (and tell anyone who talks music with me) that if this album was released at the time of its conception, "Smile" would be regarded as the best album of all-time. Not "Sgt. Pepper." Not "Exile." Not "Nevermind." Not even "Pet Sounds." I have no doubt in my mind. On the other hand, look what we get to celebrate 40 years later. It's amazing! This crazy, paranoid, depressive, egotistical genious finishes an album 40 years past his prime - not to mention in spite of 40 years of musical changes - and it still sounds this good??

Of course not everyone is as new to this conept as I am.
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