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The Smile Sessions Box set


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The Beach Boys' SMiLE Sessions deluxe box set

Biography

Their classic songs epitomize the spirit of the California lifestyle and The Beach Boys have become an American icon to a worldwide audience. The Beach Boys’ first hit “Surfin’” (1961) launched a string of chart-topping songs that spans nearly forty years and includes eternal anthems of American youth: “Surfin’ USA”, “Surfer Girl”, ... Read more in Amazon's The Beach Boys Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD (31 Oct. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 9
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: EMI Catalogue
  • ASIN: B004RFYEEC
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,935 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Product Description

Product Description

Never before released original 1966-’67 album sessions box set includes: Five CDs / Two LPs / Two 7” singles; a 60-page case bound book featuring liner notes, timeline, sessionography, lyrics, Frank Holmes drawings, producer’s notes and more than 60 previously unreleased photos; a six-panel folder holding five CDs and singles. Seven inch versions of Heroes and Villians and Vega-Tables; a Gatefold double LP. Also features full tracklisting of proposed unfinished album plus stereo mixes and session highlights; 12” x 12” booklet created for original release features photos by Guy Webster and Frank Holmes drawings; 24” x 36” poster of Frank Holmes cover art.

BBC Review

Finally it's time to see what triumphs, reality or myth, the destination or the journey. We've waited almost 45 years for this, the near-as-dammit definitive version of one of the great lost classics. So was it worth the heartache, the horse-trading for bootlegs, even the filler surrounding the odd SMiLE relic on flaky later albums like Smiley Smile or 20/20? No doubt about it. The world has a decent sense of how this is going to turn out from those bootlegs and – more pertinently – the 2004 version fashioned by a croaky Brian Wilson, lyricist and co-conspirator Van Dyke Parks and Beach Boys understudies the Wondermints. But there's surely nothing like the real thing. Or the real-ish thing.

It all started with SMiLE's closing statement Good Vibrations, a 1966 number one and mini-masterpiece that reputedly took Wilson a year to complete as he experimented with ‘modular’ recording. Despite the sheer ball-ache, the modular method – the recording of individual elements that could be grafted together at a later date – was to inform the creation of this entire album, a move that put session musicians through ridiculous paces and tried the patience of Capitol Records and the other Beach Boys to such a degree that something had to give. That something was the actual release of the record.

That's one take, anyway. Memories are fuzzy, but the music now it's here is pure and gorgeous, the familiar mesh of brotherly voices exquisite as ever. Its glittering peaks are singles Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains, along with Surf's Up (a different recording from the finale of its 1971 album), harmonic jewel Our Prayer and Wonderful (far prettier and fuller than its cousin on Smiley Smile); but Wilson and Parks had envisaged SMiLE as a song cycle, a "cartoon consciousness" in Parks' own words, that would be naturally symbiotic, the songs hanging together as one. All the sadder, then, that it was shelved and then filleted for ensuing albums.

Some constituents aren't perfect, with Wilson's sillier side peeking out on beautifully constructed follies like Holidays, Barnyard and Vega-Tables of course, but even at their least remarkable these are stepping stones to the good stuff. And, my, if you want stepping stones (remarkable or otherwise) The SMiLE Sessions has got 'em: the standard release is one CD with the cherishable album and another with the best of the earlier/alternative takes, but if you're prepared to remortgage your sandbox you can get five CDs of this, serving up each fascinating (and occasionally less fascinating) ‘module’. Not to mention a 3D SMiLE shop and custom-built surfboard. That's one for completists, then. But your Beach Boys collection hasn't been complete until now, has it? --Matthew Horton

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Islander on 18 Nov. 2011
Format: Audio CD
A remarkable product, and in this (expensive) form probably only for the real Beach Boy fans and buffs. That said, it is a treasure trove of information including many sessions/outtakes and newly written reminisces by many people who were intimately involved with SMiLE. Bootleg versions of all this material, and more, have abounded for decades but you will never beat this for the breadth and depth of material combined with the superb audio quality (but do remember, this stuff was recorded in the 60s!).

As has already been pointed out elsewhere on these pages, the decision to store the discs in cardboard pockets in the large folder is a stupid one, and could only have been made by a designer more interested in form than function. The discs are prone to marking by the card edges, so be very careful or better still, store the discs in paper sleeves separately within the box (there is plenty of room!).

An amazing historical collection!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By The Bogie Fan on 1 Nov. 2011
Format: Audio CD
I've been listening to various fan made reconstructions of SMiLE for a few years now and it's great to have an official release, the sound quality is much clearer of course and this IS the definitive SMiLE.

The packaging on the 2cd box is very nice and the 2nd cd is worth having for the stripped-bare versions of Surf's Up alone.

As for the songs themselves well you have to listen from start to finish as most of the tracks aren't designed to be listened to in isolation, Side Two of Abbey Road by The Beatles is a reasonable comparison though many of these songs don't have verses unlike that long medley.

The highlights and possible exceptions to this would be Heroes And Villains, Good Vibrations, and the wonderful Surf's Up which has to be one of the finest songs of this or any era (even if the lyrics don't make any sense!).

Jimi Hendrix referred to the Beach Boys around this period as sounding like "a psychedelic barber's shop quartet" as if that was a bad thing, it's actually a very good description of the album - you'll either like it or hate it depending on whether you fancy hearing such a thing.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By MG Russell on 2 Nov. 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
For those of you looking for a quick assessment, here goes.

1. As a package the 2 cd set is very good value (19 track Smile song suite plus 21 session tracks.)

2. The sound is fantastic. Very bassy. I am hearing things on some of these songs that I've never heard before.

3. The bonus tracks from recording sessions are well worth having. Again sound is superb. Solo Surf's Up a gem.

4. The boxed packaging is fine but there are no details of who is playing on the sessions, and it would have been nice to have had session dates for all the tracks. (Only given for cd2.)

5. If I had one word to describe the music it would be 'arcane'.

That's all Folks!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dav on 21 Sept. 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Received my SMiLE Sessions box promptly and in good condition. Small complaint that the plastic on the front of the "store window" is a bit warped but probably a manufacturing defect and no biggie. Yes, please move your CD discs to safe lodgings when you remove them (very cool effect with CD folder illustrated w/ session reel tape boxes).

Well, everything you wanted to hear about SMiLE is here and more. Stereo mixes sound glorious and leave you wishing for more but the Mono tracks are all breathtaking as well. If you have listened to any of the many poor-sounding "bootlegged" releases of the SMiLE material you'll be stunned at the quality and clarity of the audio on the official release.

There is no doubt in my mind that had Wilson been able to complete this project on schedule it would have been enthusiastically embraced by critics and the listening public at large and would have changed the face of pop/rock music to such a degree that Sgt. Pepper would have likely just been another record cut in 1967 with a couple of shining moments that was obviously inspired by the musical genius of Wilson. But, alas this was not to be whether the blame can be laid on outside forces or Brian's own demons or the combination of both is a subject that can fill large tomes full of facts and opinions. But I would rather focus on the music.

There is some small controversy about the sequencing, that we will really never know just how Wilson might have put the sessions together for final release. The more you listen to SMiLE the more you will appreciate the fact that there is continuity between many of the tracks and similar elements that tie certain sessions together musically.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Thomson on 5 Nov. 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Back in 2004, as a very long-term SMiLE fan, I was completely convinced that this complex, sublime and totally unrivalled project from 1967 had finally been successfully completed by Brian Wilson, Darian Sahanaja, and Van Dyke Parks. And, at the time, who really cared that something as timeless and brilliant as this had taken 37 years to complete, when, against all odds, the end results hung together so well? So, for myself at least, that was, and will eternally remain, the officially completed version of SMiLE.

And that's the successful template that this current release is mostly based on, having used all the very best takes from the original 1966/7 recordings, which were about 90% complete at the time, before being abandoned by Brian. Some tracks arguably remain somewhat unfinished - mostly in the vocal and harmony department - but this music is so strong, emotionally fertile and deep that it hardly matters. And there were a few surprises of bits and takes that I'd never heard before!

The sound quality of this mono master is excellent - powerful, clear, detailed, and extremely "trippy" - clearly the way it was meant to be heard - and it's consistently good that way, with absolutely no audible tape hiss anywhere. So it's probably as good as it's ever going to sound. I would normally prefer stereo over mono presentation, especially since full stereo mixes do exist for 95% of these tracks. But I made a delightful exception in this case, as the music sounds more other-worldly and mysterious in this form. The packaging of the 2-disc version is excellent, in a good quality box with good inner sleeves, and a 30-page booklet with a lengthy blessing from Brian himself (who'd have ever thought THAT possible!). And, at this price, you just won't get better for your money anywhere!
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