The Smile Sessions

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For detailed information surrounding the history and themes of these recording sessions, see Smile (The Beach Boys album).
The Smile Sessions
Compilation album and box set by The Beach Boys
Released
  • October 31, 2011 (2011-10-31) (iTunes)
  • November 1, 2011 (2011-11-01) (worldwide)
Recorded October 15, 1965 (1965-10-15)–June 18, 1971 (1971-06-18), United Western Studios, CBS Columbia Square, Gold Star Studios, Sunset Sound Recorders, and Brian Wilson's home studio, Los Angeles
Genre Psychedelic rock, baroque pop, psychedelic pop, folk rock, avant-garde, experimental, Americana
Length
  • 48:24 (tracks 1–19)
  • 143:05 (2-CD)
  • 396:28 (box set)
Label Capitol
Producer Brian Wilson
Compiler
The Beach Boys chronology
Summer Love Songs
(2009)
The Smile Sessions
(2011)
That's Why God Made the Radio
(2012)
Singles from The Smile Sessions
  1. "Cabin Essence"/"Wonderful"
    Released: June 15, 2011 (2011-06-15)

The Smile Sessions is a compilation album and box set released by American rock band the Beach Boys on October 31, 2011 that focuses on abandoned recording sessions which — if completed — would have followed the Beach Boys' eleventh studio album Pet Sounds. It features comprehensive session highlights, outtakes and an approximation of what the completed Smile album might have sounded like based on a template established in 2004 for Brian Wilson Presents Smile.

The Smile Sessions received wide critical acclaim upon release.[1] It is ranked number 381 in Rolling Stone's 2012 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[2] and won the award for Best Historical Album at the 55th Grammy Awards.[3]

Background[edit]

Though certain fragments of the original Smile recording sessions subsequently leaked from 1967–2011 via studio albums, compilations and bootlegs, a comprehensive and official package had not been compiled by Capitol Records, largely due to the logistics in organizing the hundreds of convoluted song components and out of respect for Wilson who was once deeply disturbed by some of the recordings, associating the album with all of his failures.[4]

Work on what would have been the original Beach Boys version of Smile began in 1966, following the release of their album Pet Sounds, and based on the complex engineering methods of their single "Good Vibrations". After Wilson abandoned the project, sporadic attempts would be made over the next few decades to either finish or release the album as it was. During this time, recordings from the sessions would surface in underground trading circles and become a focal point for bootleg recording makers and collectors.[5][6] Plans for Smile's resurrection as an archival release go back to the early 1980s, when it was proposed that the album be issued in some form by Wilson and/or compilers.[7] An official release of some archival Smile material was finally included in the Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys box set in 1993. A few years later, Capitol Records issued The Pet Sounds Sessions box set, which featured an assortment of alternate mixes and highlights of the Pet Sounds recording sessions spread over four CDs. There was hope that the box set would be followed by an official Smile release, but it failed to materialize.[5]

Thirty-six years after the original album's conception and a period of mental rehabilitation, Wilson reconciled with the project and released a new interpretation of the source material via a solo album entitled Brian Wilson Presents Smile in 2004.

Work on The Smile Sessions began in mid-2010 before the project was greenlit.[7] In an interview with Jeremy Roberts on February 3, 2011, Al Jardine revealed "Capitol Records plans to issue a Beach Boys version of Smile sometime this summer to begin the celebration of the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary. Smile is the Holy Grail for Beach Boys’ fans, so it will be good." Jardine also mentioned that the surviving Beach Boys "didn't do any new recording. I'm happy to see it finally come out. Brian’s changed his mind about releasing the material, but it was inevitable, wasn’t it?"[8] The release was confirmed by Capitol Records on March 11, with the acknowledgement that an official release was planned for later in 2011.

Reconstruction[edit]

Although most of the recording sessions were recorded in high-fidelity stereo, disc one of The Smile Sessions assembles the Smile album in mono as it may have sounded in the 1960s while loosely following the template spelled by Brian Wilson's 2004 interpretation. This presentation is mixed in mono due to missing stems and as a nod to Wilson's producing methods at the time. Wilson himself made a few suggestions to the album's sequencing after it was presented to him by the compilers.[9]

Not all of the tracks in this reconstruction feature material recorded solely in the February 1966 through May 1967 timespan in which Smile was being worked on. In reference to including sessions from Smiley Smile, Mark Linett stated, "Of course there’s things that some people think–should Smiley Smile sessions be there–[with tracks such as] 'Can't Wait Too Long', we get into a very fuzzy area."[9] Some recordings utilize elements recorded by The Beach Boys at later dates or for other purposes.

  • Brian Wilson's lead vocals for "I'm in Great Shape" and "Barnyard" are taken from his and Van Dyke Parks' piano demo of "Heroes and Villains" (which includes the other two songs), recorded on April 11, 1966 for KHJ Radio and featured in full as track 36 on Disc Two in the 5-CD box set edition. The vocals were stripped from the demo and laid on the existing backing tracks, comprising instrumentation, backing vocals and animal noises by the band.
  • "The Elements: Fire" contains wordless vocals that were recorded for "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter" on June 29, 1967.
  • "Holidays" and "Wind Chimes" segue together with a pitch-shifted version of the Smiley Smile "Wind Chimes" coda, recorded July 11, 1967.
  • The water chant intro to "Love to Say Dada" was recorded on October 29, 1967 for an early version of "Cool, Cool Water".
  • Carl Wilson's lead vocal on "Cabin Essence" was recorded for the 20/20 album on November 20, 1968.
  • The "bygones", Carl Wilson's backing vocals and the "Child Is Father of the Man" coda of "Surf's Up" was recorded on June 18, 1971.

Digital manipulation is used extensively; most prominently on "Surf's Up", in which the instrumental track is mashed up and synced with the vocal stem from an alternate performance of the song.

Release and reception[edit]

After numerous delays, The Smile Sessions was released online via iTunes on October 31, 2011, and the next day on CD, vinyl, and through other online services via digital download.[10] The compilation was made available as a single CD, a deluxe 2-CD package, as well as a limited edition deluxe box set composed of 5 CDs, 2 LPs, 2 7" vinyl singles, and a 60-page booklet that features high quality photographs, essays and recording sessionography.

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 96[11]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[12]
The A.V. Club A[13]
Consequence of Sound A+[14]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[15]
One Thirty BPM 100%[16]
Paste 9/10 stars[17]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[18]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[19]
Ultimate Classic Rock 5/5 stars[20]

The Smile Sessions has been acclaimed by a majority of notable music publications. It was crowned as the best reissue of 2011 by Rolling Stone magazine and the box set version of the album won the Best Historical Album award at the 55th Grammy Awards.[3][21]

Pitchfork Media gave the album a perfect score and had particularly high praise of "Surf's Up" stating, "To my ears, the song is a high-water mark of pop songwriting, positively haunting with its melodic twists and turns. And Brian's vocal performances, with wild leaps into the upper reaches of his falsetto, give the track an almost unbearable poignancy." PopMatters claimed "There is something holy in the tapestry of the album" and when reflecting on the drama surrounding the album's history stated "Contemporary bands could certainly stand to realize that all the band myths and stories in the world don’t matter much if you can’t bring the songs, and no one brought the songs like Brian Wilson." The Los Angeles Times encouraged its inclusion in "every library of American recording history," suggesting, "university composition departments, music professors, budding recording engineers and composers should study it."[22]

Musicians including Henry Rollins have given enormous praise to the compiled recordings, calling it "even better than advertised ... Sonically, the album is one of the best things you are likely to hear in all of your life. There are moments on SMiLE that are so astonishingly good you might find yourself just staring at your speakers in unguarded wonder, as I have."[23]

Awards and accolades[edit]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Rolling Stone United States The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[2] 2012 381

Track listing[edit]

Although the tracklisting to The Smile Sessions is different from what it would have been on the original 1967 Smile album, interviews with box set compiler Mark Linett revealed that the tracklisting of the first disc would "present the whole piece as close to it as was envisioned, or as is envisioned, as possible".[24] Brian Wilson has stated that the exact running order was not decided in 1967 and that the original Smile would have been "less uplifting".[25]

Compact disc[edit]

All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, except where noted. 

Movement one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Our Prayer" (Brian Wilson) group 1:05
2. "Gee" (William Davis, Morris Levy) group 0:51
3. "Heroes and Villains"   B. Wilson, Mike Love 4:52
4. "Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)"   B. Wilson 3:35
5. "I'm In Great Shape"   B. Wilson 0:28
6. "Barnyard"   B. Wilson 0:48
7. "My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter / You Are My Sunshine)" (Gillespie/Davis, Mitchell) Dennis Wilson 1:55
8. "Cabin Essence"   Carl Wilson, Love 3:30
Movement two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
9. "Wonderful"   B. Wilson 2:04
10. "Look (Song for Children)" (Brian Wilson) group 2:31
11. "Child Is Father of the Man"   group 2:10
12. "Surf's Up"   Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson 4:12
Movement three
No. Title Lead vocals Length
13. "I Wanna Be Around / Workshop" (Johnny Mercer/Brian Wilson) instrumental 1:23
14. "Vega-Tables"   B. Wilson, Jardine 3:49
15. "Holidays" (Brian Wilson) instrumental 2:32
16. "Wind Chimes" (Brian Wilson) C. Wilson 3:06
17. "The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow)" (Brian Wilson) instrumental 2:35
18. "Love to Say Dada" (Brian Wilson) Love, B. Wilson, Bruce Johnston 2:32
19. "Good Vibrations" (Brian Wilson, Mike Love) C. Wilson, Love 4:15

Vinyl LP[edit]

Both discs (Capitol T-27658) are pressed with Capitol's black/rainbow LP label used from 1962–1968. The replicated album cover remains entirely true to the original, bearing the original catalog number for the mono release (T 2580).
LP one
LP two

Box set edition[edit]

5-CD Set

All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, except where noted. 

All music composed by Brian Wilson, except where noted.

Bonus vinyl LP

As above.

Bonus 7" double-sided vinyl discs

Below are loose reproductions of what were intended to be lead singles for the original Smile album: "Heroes and Villains" (Capitol 27658) and "Vega-Tables" (Capitol 27667). Both discs feature the Capitol orange/yellow swirl "West Coast label" originally used from 1962–1968. "Heroes and Villains" was issued with its previously unused 1967 picture sleeve complete with original catalog number (Capitol 5826). "Vega-Tables" is a vinyl-exclusive mix.

All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks.

Personnel[edit]

Recording[edit]

The Beach Boys
Additional musicians

Production staff[edit]

  • Alan Boyd – compilation producer, editing, liner notes, producer
  • Chuck Britz – engineer
  • Stacey Freeman – product manager
  • Frank Holmes – design, drawing
  • Mark Linett – compilation producer, editing, liner notes, mastering, mixing, producer
  • Domenic Priore – project consultant
  • Tom Recchion – art direction, design
  • Peter Reum – photography
  • Diane Rovell – contractor
  • Mikel Samson – production design
  • Guy Webster – photography
  • Brian Wilson – arranger, compilation producer, composer, liner notes, main personnel, photography, producer
  • Dennis Wolfe – compilation producer, liner notes

Chart positions[edit]

Chart Peak
position
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[26] 84
Dutch Albums Chart[27] 20
Finnish Albums Chart[28] 46
French SNEP Albums Chart[29] 84
German Media Control Albums Chart[30] 26
Japanese Oricon Albums Chart[31] 14
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[32] 13
Spanish Albums Chart[33] 90
Swedish Albums Chart[34] 9
Swiss Albums Chart[35] 65
UK Albums Chart[36] 25
US Billboard 200[37] 27

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Smile Sessions - The Beach Boys". Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Beach Boys, 'Smile 2011 Version'". Rolling Stone. November 18, 2003. Retrieved June 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Alyssa Toomey and Rosemary Brennan (February 10, 2013). "2013 Grammy Awards Winners: The Complete List". E!. Retrieved April 12, 2013. 
  4. ^ Himes, Geoffrey (October 1, 2004). "Brian Wilson Remembers How To Smile". Paste Magazine. Archived from the original on January 8, 2008. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Wilonsky, Robert (December 23, 1999). "The Forever Frown". Phoenix New Times Music. phoenixnewtimes.com. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ "The Smile Sessions review". 
  7. ^ a b Christmas, Ed (March 11, 2011). "Beach Boys Engineer Mark Linett Talks 'Smile' Release". Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Pretty Darn Close - Beach Boy Al Jardine On His New Solo Album, Plus SMILE - Worldnews.com". Article.wn.com. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "SMiLE Sessions - Mark Linett Interview (transcript)". Icon Fetch. iconfetch.com. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Beach Boys' 'Smile Sessions' Bumped to August 9 Street Date". Retrieved August 10, 2011. 
  11. ^ The Smile Sessions at Metacritic Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "The Smile Sessions". Allmusic. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  13. ^ Murray, Noel (November 8, 2011). "The Smile Sessions". One Thirty BPM. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  14. ^ Roffman, Michael (November 3, 2011). "The Smile Sessions". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  15. ^ Petridis, Alexis (October 27, 2011). "The Smile Sessions". The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  16. ^ McMullen, Chase (November 9, 2011). "The Smile Sessions". One Thirty BPM. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  17. ^ Kane, Tyler (November 1, 2011). "The Smile Sessions". Paste. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  18. ^ Richardson, Mark (November 2, 2011). "The Smile Sessions". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  19. ^ Fricke, David (November 1, 2011). "The Smile Sessions Box Set". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  20. ^ Swanson, David (November 12, 2011). "Smile Album Review". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved November 12, 2011. 
  21. ^ "10 Best Reissues of the Year: The Beach Boys, 'The Smile Sessions Box Set'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  22. ^ Roberts, Randall (November 6, 2011). "'Smile Sessions' reveals creation". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  23. ^ Henry Rollins. "Henry Rollins: The Column! The Beach Boys' SMiLE: Even Better than Advertised". LA Weekly. 
  24. ^ Christman, Ed (March 11, 2011). "Beach Boys Engineer Mark Linett Talks 'Smile' Release". Billboard. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Ear Candy Mag interview with Brian Wilson (10-16-04)". 
  26. ^ "ultratop.be The Beach Boys – Smile" (ASP). Hung Medien (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  27. ^ "dutchcharts.nl The Beach Boys – Smile" (ASP). Hung Medien. MegaCharts. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  28. ^ "finnishcharts.com The Beach Boys – Smile" (ASP). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  29. ^ "lescharts.com The Beach Boys – Smile" (ASP). Hung Medien (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  30. ^ "Album Search: The Beach Boys – Smile" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  31. ^ ビーチ・ボーイズ–リリース–ORICON STYLE–ミュージック "Highest position and charting weeks of Smile by The Beach Boys". oricon.co.jp (in Japanese). Oricon Style. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  32. ^ "norwegiancharts.com The Beach Boys – Smile" (ASP). Hung Medien. VG–lista. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  33. ^ "The Beach Boys – Smile" (ASP). Hung Medien. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  34. ^ "swedishcharts.com The Beach Boys – Smile" (ASP) (in Swedish). Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  35. ^ "The Beach Boys – Smile– hitparade.ch" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Swiss Music Charts. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Chart Stats – The Beach Boys – Smile" (PHP). UK Albums Chart. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved August 23, 2012. 
  37. ^ "allmusic ((( The Smile Sessions > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". allmusic.com. Retrieved August 23, 2012.