.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/548fbb26a340900961ee10e24039ee41c295892c.jpg The Smile Sessions Box Set

The Beach Boys

The Smile Sessions Box Set

Capitol/EMI
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4.5 0
18
November 1, 2011

Click to Listen to The Beach Boys' 'Our Prayer 'Dialog''

There is a moment in this five-CD ocean of music when you agree with its creator, the Beach Boys composer-producer Brian Wilson, that the greatest pop album 'ever made is still within reach. It comes during an October 1966 session for "Do You Like Worms." "You were strumming too hard," Wilson tells bassist Carol Kaye after identifying a tiny irritant spoiling the track’s dreamy symmetry of kettledrum march and hula-dance sway. "I knew I'd find it," he adds brightly, "if I really searched and reached out."

It was a brief optimism. Smile – Wilson's attempt to extend the opulent mosaic ambition of the Beach Boys' 1966 hit "Good Vibrations" across an entire LP – was soon on its way to infamy: the best rock album never finished, a victim (after more than 80 sessions over nine months) of Wilson's indecisive perfectionism and his band's rebellion against the music's complex symphonic melancholy. Wilson's main conspirator, lyricist Van Dyke Parks, was exiled from the project, and his dream record was replaced by a pale shadow, Smiley Smile. Wilson’s long dark age had begun.

The first disc in this box features the closest thing we may get to the original Smile as Wilson envisioned it, with versions of songs later rescued and/or reworked for other albums, such as "Surf's Up" and "Cabin Essence." The episodic composition and instrumental surrealism, closer to acid-bent Aaron Copland than Dick Dale, explain the dissatisfaction of the other Beach Boys. Think of this Smile as Wilson's first solo album, with those voices as golden brush strokes. Look at Wilson's 2004 rerecording of Smile as the refined version.

It is easy to project a fear of failure in Wilson's obsession with revision and minutiae in the so-called "session highlights," including more than 30 takes and fragments of the operetta "Heroes and Villains." But there is delight and confidence in Wilson’s exchanges with his studio crew. And the Beach Boys' vocal rehearsals for "Our Prayer" are sublime evidence of Smile's fundamental greatness: the searching and reaching of genius in its prime. Wilson never found it, but the greatest pop album ever made is still in here, somewhere.

Related
RS Playlist: The Beach Boys' 'Our Prayer 'Dialog''
• Beach Boys Plan Anniversary Blowout With Likely Reunion Tour
• The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: The Beach Boys
• The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Beach Boys, 'Pet Sounds'
• The Beach Boys Announce Track Listing for 'Smile Sessions'

18
prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Vans”

    The Pack | 2006

    Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com