Thirty-seven years in the making…

March 13, 2005

Music

SMiLE was supposed to be released in 1967. I was six years old then. So I haven’t been waiting for this since Brian went into his immense personal struggles. But I am like most music lovers – I do know the hype. I have heard the boots and the remixesfor years. And I have always loved seeing the Beach Boys (and Brian Wilson) in concert. One of my fondest memories of the seventies was seeing the Beach Boys performing on the Mall in Washington D.C. on July 4th.

Since then, the last time I truly th0ught about Brian Wilson was when I heard the Brian Wilson track from the Barenaked Ladies on their Gordon album. I love BnL so the song spawned some research on Brian and the pop music of the sixties. Without spending more than a few words, it is safe to say that Brian Wilson was one of the most innovative composers in modern pop music. I could say a whole lot more. But my words would not do Brian (or his artistic genius) any justice. And I have no right to comment on his personal troubles. He will need to spend the rest of his life exorcising the demons from the Summer of Love.

Where was I… Last week, I got a gift certificate to the local retail mall. I got the gift certificate from the basketball booster club (I did a video for their annual banquet). As I thought about how I would spend $25, I figured music would be the best bet. So I started looking at what had been recently released. Then I saw the hooplah about the SMiLE album. I don’t know where I was last year, but I missed the calendar release entirely. Of course, once I knew the album was out, I found an article in this week’s Kansas City Star that mentioned Brian. He will be in concert this summer. He will be performing all of the cuts from the SMiLE album. I can’t wait. Best yet, it will be performed at Starlight. Starlight is an open-air theater. And my sense of the album is that it was meant to be performed in the open air.

So I just had to get the album. Would you like a review? Well, there are hundred available on the Net. One of the best is Dominique Leone’s review at Pitchfork. But here is mine:

  • This album rocks.
  • It captures the sense of the Summer of Love.
  • It has intentionally trippy and somewhat disturbing (or at least, incongruous) elements – especially during Mrs. O’Learry’s Cow. And it is very reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper in many ways. No wonder Paul and Brian hit it off. No wonder there was so much controversy between the bands.
  • It has amazing vocal harmonies. I just wish I could have heard the entire piece with the original vocals. The Wondermints are great. And I almost hear the Beach Boys. But remember, this is Brian Wilson’s SMiLE. The Beach Boys never released this album.
  • If I close my eyes, I see the band I remembered. Brian and the Wondermints have faithfully replicated the Beach Boys sound. But this is not a sneering and smarmy remake/retake. Brian was sincere and faithful in every track.
  • Even at sixty-two, Brian has a great voice. It is a little lower than at its prime. And there is less of the exuberance that youth creates. But I would have never known that this was sung by a sectagenarian.
  • Paul wasn’t munching on carrots during Vega-tables.
  • This is not a nostalgia album. It is strong and solid on its own. And it is great – at any time.
  • Just as planned, the last track (Good Vibrations) really does leave you with a smile.

My review is simple – buy ths album. It is a fantastic follow-up to Pet Sounds – even if it is a 37-year follow-up!

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