Friday, November 4, 2011

Fletch SMiLE Sessions


Off topic a bit here. This is a bit of a music review.
You may or may not have heard of the Beach Boys legendary unfinished album 'SMiLE' that was supposed to be released in 1967. At that time, some of the rock press of the day (Cheetah magazine etc) had heard the album and hyped it as the next big thing. Some of the group though, didn't like it, apparently, and the project (the vision of the group's main composer, Brian Wilson) was left abandoned. Various songs have come out over the years on different albums, and the 1993 boxset 'Good Vibrations' featured a SMiLE suite. Brian even released a finished version of the album back in 2004, but the sessions themselves with the original Beach Boys singing on them have only been released in bootleg form - MANY, MANY bootlegs.
Wilson himself described the album at the time as 'a teenage symphony to God'.

Capital have just released the sessions, however, on November the 1st with the Beach Boys blessing.
What is the music like? It's really hard to describe. I think Pitchfork does a good job -

During this period, Wilson and Parks were working on an enormous canvas. They were using words and music to tell a story of America. If the early-60s Beach Boys were about California, that place where the continent ends and dreams are born, SMiLE is about how those dreams were first conceived. Moving west from Plymouth Rock, we view cornfields and farmland and the Chicago fire and jagged mountains, the Grand Cooley Damn, the California coast-- and we don't stop until we hit Hawaii. Cowboy songs, cartoon Native American chants, barroom rags, jazzy interludes, rock'n'roll, sweeping classical touches, street-corner doo-wop, and town square barbershop quartet are swirled together into an ever-shifting technicolor dream.
I've been a Beach Boys / SMiLE fan for many years, so I'm glad it's finally out.
If you want to have a listen, the entire 2CD version of the set is available to listen to on AOL HERE
Highlights - Opening track Our Prayer is a wordless acapella chant that would be at home in a traditional church. Track 9, 'Wonderful', a beautiful harpsicord accompanied track. 'Surf's Up' (nothing to do with surfing), which is, well, hard to describe. Check out the Piano/vocal version as well (track 26) Pitchfork again -

To my ears, the song is a high-water mark of pop songwriting, positively haunting with its melodic twists and turns. And Brian's vocal performances, with wild leaps into the upper reaches of his falsetto, give the track an almost unbearable poignancy.
 Of course, the set also features Good Vibrations.

1 comment(s):

Andrei said...

Apparently Brian Wilson has given the go ahead - but I don't know this doesn't seem right and the bits I listened too didn't seem to have the Brian Wilson touch in the mixing or sound quality (he was a magician in this regard).

Seems like a quick buck throw together to me

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