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The Smile Sessions CD

4.2 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (31 Oct. 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: EMI Catalogue
  • ASIN: B005KGNM90
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  CD-ROM  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,448 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Our Prayer
  2. Gee
  3. Heroes and Villains
  4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)
  5. I'm in Great Shape
  6. Barnyard
  7. My only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine)
  8. Cabin Essence
  9. Wonderful
  10. Look (Song for Children)
  11. Child is Father of the Man
  12. Surf's Up
  13. I Wanna be Around / Workshop
  14. Vega - Tables
  15. Holidays
  16. Wind Chimes
  17. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow)
  18. Love to Say Dada
  19. Good Vibrations
  20. You're Welcome
  21. Heroes and Villains (Stereo Mix)
  22. Heroes and Villains Sections (Stereo Mix)
  23. Vega - Tables (Demo)
  24. He Gives Speeches
  25. Smile Backing Vocals Montage
  26. Surf's Up 1967 (Solo Version)
  27. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into a Piano
  28. Capitol Smile Promo (Hidden Track)

Product Description

Product Description

Never Before Released Original 1966-67 Album Sessions

Between the summer of 1966 and early 1967, The Beach Boys recorded a bounty of songs and drafts for an album, SMiLE, that was intended to follow the band's 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds.

The SMiLE Sessions presents the recording sessions for the album, which achieved legendary, mythical status for music fans around the world.

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Audio CD
I agree with the last reviewer that this really is one of the most remarkable and in-depth explorations of LSD-fueled music ever. Personally, I think it encapsulates the late '60s and the sense of creative freedom that prevailed during that halcyon time. In terms of the music, I don't really know where to begin as this is unlike any other album I've ever heard. It is stunningly beautiful in places as you'd expect from any record associated with Brian Wilson, it is highly eccentric (you can almost feel the LSD pulsating in the music), at times it is extremely eerie, playful and wistful. Basically I get the vibe that this album is not so much a 'teenage symphony to God' but more like a kaleidoscope musical cry for help from a desperately sad Brian Wilson who during this album completely lost touch with reality; I can't think of too many albums that musically chronicle a man's mental breakdown, besides those by Syd Barrett or Pete Green. It's highly unfortunate for the composer but what a musical journey it offers the listener!

I agree with what Brian says that this really is ahead of its time and was way too alternate even for back then. This type of creativity could only be fully appreciated by today's culture of anything goes (postmodernism). I'm not even going to make comparisons with Pet Sounds as that is meaningless when dealing with a creative exposition of this type, suffice to say that it is not easy listening BUT essential listening. It's the type of art work that grows on you each time of listening. It is definitely as important a musical statement as Pepper and will no doubt go down in the music history books as an extraordinary musical offering from a genius who, although whilst writing the music went completely mad and lost interest in life, eventually came back to tell us all of the dark journey. Was it a price worth paying? I would say definitely!
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