Brian Wilson Presents Smile — Brilliant!

25 01 2009

brianwilson-smileSmile might be the greatest album never released.  Or, more accurately, it may be the best album to take 38 years to be released.  Even Axl Rose doesn’t sit on projects that long.

I got my hands on MP3s of Smile maybe 12 years ago.  I also got the Beach Boys box set that had some Smile stuff in it.  Someday I’ll write about the album (as a Beach Boys release) but suffice it to say, it is amazing.  It’s quirky, odd, almost avant garde.  It’s definitely trippy and might have been a huge flop had it seen the light of day in 1967.  There again, it could’ve given Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band a run for its money.  We’ll never know.  [If you really want to know more about Smile, just google it.  There are dozens of websites about it.]

It’s really hard to get me to pay much attention to old bands retreading their old material (e.g. The Who doing a Quadraphenia tour or the annual Stones tour on the strength of 35 year old songs.)  So, when Brian Wilson Presents Smile was released a few years back, I completely ignored it.  One, I assumed Brian could no longer sing.  Two, it wasn’t a Beach Boys release.  Three, I figured that I already had Smile as it should have been released.  I was happy with my bootlegs.  But I saw this disk at the library the other day and it called to me.

The most simple way to sum up my feelings about this album is that it is brilliant!  Throw whatever positive adjectives you want at it, they all work; great, fantastic, stupendous, tremendous, awesome, amazing, etc.  If you like the Beach Boys (or just quirky music) run to the store and get it.

Many of the songs on Smile were sung by Carl Wilson, probably the best singer of the Wilson brothers.  Carl, sadly, passed away years ago, thus, Brian had to be the vocalist.  Even deaf in one ear, he nailed the songs.  Unlike some of his contemporaries, his voice is still in tact, and it seems natural to hear the songs sung by him.

His back-up band is dynamite.  They do everything vocally the Beach Boys did on the original Smile.  Musically Brian Wilson Presents Smile is nearly identical to Smile as it can be found in bootleg form. [EDIT — I CHANGED THE FOLLOWING TO REFLECT THE FACTS I’VE LEARNED AND SOMETHING OF A CHANGE OF HEART] The most glaring change was to the choruses of “Good Vibrations.”  Brian brought back the original Tony Asher-penned lyrics to the song, replacing his cousin, Mike Love’s re-writes.  I personally don’t like the changes, but I like them better than when I originally wrote this.  I also don’t like Mike Love, so anything that sticks it to him is fine by me.

If you’re still reading this post, stop and go over to amazon.com or wherever you like to buy music and pick up this one.  Tell ’em I sent ya.

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2 responses

16 02 2009
Andrew Hickey

Just saw this as a ‘similar post’ from one of my own posts… Just so you know, Brian didn’t rewrite Good Vibrations – the lyrics on the Smile version are actually the original lyrics, written by Tony Asher (who co-wrote most of Pet Sounds) in 1966 before Mike Love rewrote them. If you listen to the bonus disc on the Good Vibrations box set (the box set you mention) you can hear an early take of the song with those lyrics. I do prefer the lyrics on the Beach Boys version, but it makes sense to use the different ones…

Incidentally, if you liked Smile, you should really buy the DVD (wonderful live performance of it, plus a great documentary on the making of both versions of the album) and also Brian’s most recent album That Lucky Old Sun, which is very much a follow-up to Smile, and almost as imaginative and interesting…

16 02 2009
ourboy

Thanks Andrew. The timing of your comment is perfect. I just read this bit of Beach Boys history over the weekend.

I think Tony Asher wrote some pretty nice lyrics with Brian, but I prefer Mike Love’s re-write of Good Vibrations, probably because of its familiarity.

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