While Smile was not released in 1967 as anticipated, some Smile songs appeared on several Beach Boys albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Youll know "Heroes and Villains" and "Good Vibrations" for sure. Fans will also know "Vega-tables" and "Surfs Up." Uber-fans who bought The Beach Boys' box set got to hear the Smile tracks that had been recorded before Wilson shelved the project. While those tracks are interesting as historical documents, they left me wondering why Smile got so much attention back in the day. The 2004 release of the completed work has entirely dissolved any doubts about Smile -- this is a certified masterpiece.
Smile is bursting with creative power -- glorious, joyful and fun -- exactly what Wilson had in mind with the title. You may notice brief tributes to some of Wilsons favorite music, including Rhapsody in Blue. Snippets of "Good Vibrations" are sprinkled throughout, precursors to its fabulously updated and triumphant finale. The familiar songs are more fleshed-out and better-sounding than the single versions you have been hearing for more than 35 years. Wilsons band is amazing at bringing his vision to life. The harmonies soar, instruments and vocals have real feeling, and even the most complex passages offer no obvious difficulty to this extraordinary ensemble. Wilson uses modern production tools to perfection -- deep bass, extended highs and sonic detail much richer and more detailed than possible with the ancient analog-tape multi-tracking Wilson used to build the best Beach Boys music.
If there is any justice in the world, Smile will be recognized as one of the best rock releases of all time. Bravo Brian Wilson -- thanks for slaying the Smile demons so we could have this extraordinary music in our lives. I laughed, I cried, I was overcome that something this beautiful could finally come to us and be even better than it would have been had it been released way back when.
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