Album Review: The Beach Boys, 'The SMiLE Sessions

4.5

THE BEACH BOYS
"The SMiLE Sessions"
Producers: Brian Wilson, Mark Linett, Alan Boyd, Dennis Wolfe
Capitol/EMI
Release Date: Nov. 1

The Beach Boys' "SMiLE," the first 19 tracks of this five-CD set, is an essential pop music album. The version Brian Wilson released in 2004 for Nonesuch was more polished than this collection of music from the initial 1966-'67 sessions. "The SMiLE Sessions" captures Wilson, session musicians and the Beach Boys in moments that are chaotic, loopy and remarkably in synch. It's a consistently brilliant album. With four CDs reliving Wilson's hours spent shaping "SMiLE," the song "Heroes and Villains" is limned at an extraordinary level, placed under the microscope and ultimately on a throne. Hands down one of Wilson's finest melodies, "Heroes and Villains" is Gershwin-esque in its sweeping moments, hauntingly still at times and cosmically choral in others. Set early on "SMiLE," a healthy amount of listening separates the song from its epic brethren "Surf's Up" and "Good Vibrations," heard here in a more rustic version than the hit single. Those better-known tracks feel perfect in length and structure; "Heroes and Villains" lingers-were SMiLE a Broadway show, theater-goers would hum it while exiting the venue. "SMiLE Sessions" showcases Wilson's production style and temperament, which is oddly calm and precise.

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