The sticker on the box said that this is the most anticipated album in rock n roll history, or something like that and really who am I to argue. Personally I would be more geeked to see a recording of The Psychedelic Stooges come to see the light of day. Or maybe a recording of some of the stage invasions The Pretty Things and Pink Fairies motorcycle club and All Star Rock Band (or whatever they were calling themselves) conducted. Or maybe even a cell block recording of the prison band that reputedly had both David Allen Coe and Screamin' Jay Hawkins as members. However, I'm just one guy out here in the rock n roll wilderness and it is certainly true that more people know the story behind the famed, or would it be more appropriate to say mythological Smile. The masterpiece that never was.
Well all I can tell you is that if you latch on to this Smile Sessions box (be it either the 2 cd or entire box set) you still ain't gonna hear it. It's probably as close as you'll ever get but this is still not the completely realized dream of what Brian Wilson had. I'm not even sure that the Smile album that he released himself a few years back is that but only he can say for sure.
If you are a true blue Beach Boys fan then you have also probably heard most of, or maybe even all of these songs before in other forms and various permutations, so just how much of a revelation this is is strictly up to you. The thing about this is that using Brian's aforementioned release, the compilers have put together what is, well, like I said the closest thing your ever going to get of having Smile by The Beach Boys.
What you get here is some nice packaging for one thing. A poster of the cover, a button, a nice booklet although it seemed to be not all that informative about a lot of the stuff I would have liked to have known about the sessions themselves but then maybe you gotta shell out the bucks for the complete box set in order to get all of that stuff.
The music is great as far as I'm concerned and a lot of that has to do with the reason why the album never came out in the first place, because it's WEIRD. Not weird in a Captian Beefheart kinda way, but it is hard to figure out what was going on in the mind of Brian Wilson at the time. The other guys in the band were not behind it for one thing, and who knows how many other people were scratching their heads wondering "Wow, what's up with Brian?"
Say what you will about Mr. Wilson but when it comes to the creation of sheer majestic pop music that can transport you to somewhere and sometime else, the guy really had the knack. The musical layers of rich texture and the beautiful harmonies that you of course expect are on here, I of course don't need to tell you that. There is also a almost hypnotic, or maybe I should say zen like element in listening to this. Underneath all the positive vibrations that Brian was intending on sending out into the world with this music, there is a current of melancholy that seems to be present but not overpowering. That is in no way to say there is a problem here, in fact quit the contrary. This music can be as life affirming as you need it to be.
After the album proper I guess, you get all sorts of alternative tracks and some studio conversations and tomfoolery. You hear Brian asking the guys if they can feel the acid starting to kick in, another time somebody is asking Dennis if he has any hash joints left, ahh the creative process. If your a completest of course you'll be getting (or already have) the box set. Being the poor destitute guy I am I had to settle for the 2 cd set which is good enough. I mean I love the song "Good Vibrations" but do I really need a whole disk worth of the song in all of it's forms and takes.