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Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally brilliant - but some D.I Y. is necessary.., 5 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: The Smile Sessions (Audio CD)
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!

Apart from the main 48 minutes of SMiLE, the 2-disc set also features an extra 95 minutes of studio material of tracks in the making, which is mostly in good quality stereo. These are actually very revealing of the studio conditions - which sound everything from inspired (Surf's Up), to ingenious (Cabin Essence), to stoned and soul-destroying (Heroes And Villains).

The slight issue for me personally, is the overall presentation of this version. On the plus side, as compared to the 2004 version, all the very-difficult-to-impossible editing and complicated cross-fading between different takes has been very successfully done. However, if you'd prefer to hear something that resembles the smooth and seemless 2004 version as closely as possible, you'd have to make some further simple edits yourself, using suitable software. I decided to try this, and found the results to be little short of magical for me.

To present this work in 3 smooth suites like the 2004 version - rather than as this somewhat disjointed collection - you'd have to slightly shorten some middle sections of tracks which, in their virgin state here, go on for slightly too long (Look, Workshop, Vega-Tables, Wind Chimes). You'd also have to remove some original fade-outs to join up all the tracks correctly, and move the position of "I'm In Great Shape" from track 5 to track 13, so that it correctly precedes "I Wanna Be Around".

It shouldn't take too long to do it - it took me about 2 or 3 hours - and was fairly simple and immensely satifying to achieve, using suitable software (eg: Magix Audio Lab). However, not everybody would be willing or able to do this. Which is unfortunate, because so much very hard work has already gone into what is already presented here. If only Capitol had had the foresight to fine-tune and connect up most of these tracks to more closely resemble that wonderful 2004 presentation, I would actually have been that much happier, knowing that I was holding a "finally officially completed" original version.

But that's just my personal opinion. Everybody has vastly differing opinions about SMiLE, which makes it an eternal and fascinating topic of discussion. The very attractive aspect of SMiLE, apart from the music, has always been that sense of mystery and curiosity, and what it would have sounded like if it had been completed in 1967 - which, of course, nobody will ever know. But I reckon it no longer really matters, now that these excellent original masters finally officially exist.

So, whatever you decide to do with this truly wonderful and sublime music, enjoy!!
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 6 Nov 2011 09:27:37 GMT
L J Thomson says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Nov 2011 10:18:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Nov 2011 11:09:48 GMT
That's a rather crude comment to make, is it not, Mr T? And what exactly is your point, anyway?

Like I suggested in the review, it only took 2 or 3 hours to help bring true a lifelong dream for me of completing perhaps my most favourite album of all time. If you find it necessary to potentially insult all genuine SMiLE fans (which you yourself are clearly not), then perhaps you ought to objectively consider the credibility of your own "busy" lifestyle first. Then consider this:

In these very uncertain times, I reckon it can only be an uplifting thing that some people do actually have a little free time on their hands for some escapist and constructive entertainment and pursue a harmless and satisfying hobby, such as attempting to complete, in their own personal way, the unfinished legend that is SMiLE, if, like myself, it really matters to them?

You are also clearly unaware that this kind of thing has been going on among many circles around the world since it was abandoned in 1967, and there have always been many fan clubs totally devoted to the entire album project. Also, it's worth mentioning that there were several enervating comments, such as yours, that are known to have originally contributed to the lessening of Brian Wilson's enthusiasm and focus to finish the album in the first place.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Nov 2011 10:52:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Nov 2011 10:53:32 GMT
L J Thomson says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Nov 2011 16:41:12 GMT
L J Thomson says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on 8 Nov 2011 15:53:19 GMT
A totally unneccesary argument with pointles insults. IF you want to change and edit tracks etc. so be it. As this was a piece not fully completed at the time, some speculation as to how it could/should have been is all the more interesting. Beethovens' Fifth WAS completed, so that 's a silly comparison right there. 'The Beatles' album is no arguement either, just in case you were considering it.

Posted on 11 Nov 2011 10:53:46 GMT
A. Holliday says:
I would have thought the person with the life was the one doing something he enjoyed and getting a lot of satisfaction out of it. The person without a life would be the bitter small minded jerk that can't handle that...

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2011 11:34:04 GMT
L J Thomson says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2011 20:53:08 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 11 Nov 2011 23:10:54 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2011 23:28:21 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 28 Nov 2011 22:04:41 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Nov 2011 00:36:17 GMT
Paul Johnson says:
Guys, guys - he's a troll, that's all. Like all trolls he feeds on attention, so let's just ignore his bile.
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