Shut up and SMiLE!

Discussion in 'Music' started by Brian Kidd, Sep 22, 2004.

  1. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    I just got my hot little hands on an advance copy of Brian Wilson's new recording of the long-lost SMiLE album.

    Some quick impressions:

    The Music

    Phenomenal. I am blown away by the melodies that are at once singable and complex. These songs were written by Brian at the hight of his creative muse and it shows. It's a shame that we had to wait so long to hear them all together.

    The Production

    Surprisingly and thankfully restrained. I had a fear after hearing Brian's last album that SMiLE would be overproduced and glossy. Not at all. It's as if modern equipment were transported back to 1966. The arrangements sound almost identical to those found on the original session tapes. There are, of course, some minor changes and the album is in stereo instead of mono, but I can't tell you how pleased I am with the results. Bravo to Brian and his band!

    Gripes

    As wonderful as the album is (and it is) I still find myself longing for the voices of the Beach Boys. The harmonies are tight and well-balanced but there was a tonal quality to the BB that will never be replicated. Also, Brian's voice ain't what it used to be. Not even close. Instead of effortlessly hitting notes that would put most people to shame I was always wondering if he would be able to stay in tune at all. He does, thankfully, but seems to strain to do so. Life has not been easy for Brian and it shows.

    Minor quibbles aside, anyone who ever questioned Brian's genius for music need only to listen to SMiLE to see what all the fuss is about. It is a staggering work and well worth the nearly forty year wait.
     
  2. Andrew Chong

    Andrew Chong Supporting Actor

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    Brian Wilson performed two songs yesterday on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. The performances were very good. I was a little surprised at the number of keyboard instruments used including one for Brian Wilson, though he didn’t appear to play it during either performance.

    I agree that that Beach Boys sound was special and heard what you mean by Brian’s voice.
     
  3. Lee Scoggins

    Lee Scoggins Producer

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    I look forward to hearing these songs. Brian is very talented. I hope we can get the hirez version of the album at some point, but I am glad the production is restrained. A welcome relief for me after the last John Mayer album.
     
  4. George See

    George See Second Unit

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    Actually you might be surprised to hear that compared to the way he's been performing good vibrations in his concerts the performance on Ellen was pretty bad....of course that just tells you how great they've been doing it in concert [​IMG]

    I've heard the full SMiLE as well and I agree fully with the first posters review. SMiLE is possibly the greatest thing I have ever heard.
     
  5. Gary E.

    Gary E. Auditioning

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    Who wouldn't want the original Beach Boys' voices? However, I find it more satisfying to just relax and listen rather than get caught up in "what could have been." I'm just glad that this has been released.

    (And if my post sounds angry, I don't mean it that way[​IMG])
     
  6. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    I've heard some recordings of the SMiLE shows, and although I'm sure that no recording could live up to actually being there, I have to agree that the piece works amazingly well live. His band is GREAT!
     
  7. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    How does this new album compare to the 35 minutes of the original SMILE that appeared on the 5 disc Beach Boys box set about a decade ago?
     
  8. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

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    Rob,

    Wilson's touring band has done an amazing job of recreating a lot of the finer details of those SMILE fragments that appeared on the Beach Boys box set. The biggest thing here is seeing how all the pieces fit together. Wilson has made some minor modifications to things we've heard before and added a few new bits, but I was particularly surprised how much of this material was familiar to me. In fact, I keep pondering what it would be like to assemble the existing Beach Boys sessions in the same sequence...
     
  9. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Thanks for your comments, Derek. [​IMG]

    I eagerly await any other thoughts and/or opinions comparing the new album to the 1994 material.
     
  10. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    This, is on my must buy list.
     
  11. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter
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    The sad fact is that although some of the songs for SMiLE were completed back in 1966-67, much was not. I've seen a few folks try to put together a version matching that of the 2004 album utilizing the old recordings and, for the most part, it can't be done. Although a great deal of the instrumental work was done, many of the vocals were simply never recorded. As far as the orchestration on the new album, it sounds nearly identical to the material from the 1960s. It's as if BW from 1966 came forward in a time machine to produce this new recording. I think that's what makes it all the sadder: knowing what Brian was capable of during that time and knowing that he'll never be that creative again. I mean, just imagine where he might have taken pop music had his ambitions not been crushed by the likes of Mike Love. Comparing his last solo album with the SMiLE album makes it seem like two totally different people were behind each of them. I think he should stop now. It would be a hell of a way to go out. He's been able to prove all of his detractors wrong about the work. It truly is genius. If you're a fan of the man's music at all then it's a no-brainer. Buy it.
     
  12. Jeremy Stockwell

    Jeremy Stockwell Supporting Actor

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    Interesting audio piece on NPR HERE about "Smile."

    JKS
     
  13. Eddie W.

    Eddie W. Stunt Coordinator

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    Rob, there were only about 6-7 finished SMiLE songs on the GV boxset released in '94. The rest were pieces that have now been fully completed for the 2004 release (which has 17 tracks, btw). Musically they sound remarkably similar, although the new ones obviously sound better sonically, having used today's technology instead of '67's. Brian's voice has naturally aged a bit, but the probably the biggest difference in the two is in the cohesion of the entire album vs, scattered tracks on the boxset. I enjoy listening to both of them though.
     
  14. Albert_M

    Albert_M Supporting Actor

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    I have Smile and love it. As Wilson?Beach Boys fan, I wasn't sure how it could live up to the legend, but it really does, and and am also excited to see it have a very respectable Billboard debut (13).

    The other album he released this year, can't compare to something so ambitioua as Smile, but it's a good album and I enjoy. The duets with Elton John and his late brother Carl, are worth it alone to me, plus great end song, the Waltz, and an interesting Wilson tune with Clapton on guitar. Wilson also dueted with McCartney. It's decent and catchy like you would expect, but not essential. Again though, good stuff.
     
  15. Anthony_J

    Anthony_J Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm still digesting SMILE and am trying to make up my mind. I definitely recognize the genius behind the concept album and feel that the album in it's entirety really highlights how amazing the bookend tunes are in context (Heroes and Villians, Good Vibrations).

    I'm still undecided about the in-between bits. I like the way he used some melodic and lyrical touches to tie the pieces together, but I have yet to get into the overall "concept". It feels like Sgt. Pepper's would have felt had the Beatles not ditched the concept thought three songs into the thing.

    I can definitely see why the original group balked at recording the album. It's drastically different. Either a masterful work of genius whose sum is greater than the individual parts or the longest They Might Be Giants clip ever. Either way, it merits repeated listening and was worth the wait.
     
  16. JohnTRU

    JohnTRU Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm actually listening to it now as I type.

    I've had SMiLE bootlegs for a few years now, and was always frustrated (not at anyone really, just frustrated) that there wasn't any coherent order to the music, the tracklisting was pretty much based on outsider's speculation. Part of me even thinks that even Brian in 1966/67 didn't know exactly how the album was supposed to fit together. Having it finally here in an order Brian ok'd is fantastic.

    As far as I'm concerned, comparing this to the bootlegs or the 35 minutes on the GV boxset - there's no contest - 2004 Smile wins hands-down. Of course I long for Brian's 60's voice on the songs, but what we got here ain't all that bad folks. Where Brian knows he can't hit the notes, he moves to a lower note and lets the others take the notes, and it sounds great. Also, I know it will be considered sacrilege but I prefer this version of 'Good Vibrations' - it just sounds better. I could always tell that the original was a pieced-together affair, and not having Mike Love singing helps too, of course.

    But I know some will never be happy. For years people have been asking this to be released, and even better than just dumping what the die-hards had on bootleg anyway, Brian went back into the studio with his kick-ass band and re-did the whole thing for us. But there's the grumblings that the original should've been released, even though it wasn't finished.

    I'm loving what got released. It's the 'head' album compared to Pet Sounds being the 'heart' album. I won't compare to two as they're apples and oranges, except to say I love them both.

    [Edit]

    Just another quick note. A lot of the reviews I'm reading are saying how it's no 'Sgt Pepper' (grossly overrated album, btw). I don't think a lot of the reviewers are putting themselves in the environment it was suppsoed to come out. Imagine what the impact would've been if it had come out in late-1966 as originally planned, or even early-1967. I think the impact would've been pretty decent.
     
  17. Anthony_J

    Anthony_J Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't think Sgt. Pepper is the right frame of reference for Smile, there's simply nothing from that era in the "pop/rock" genre that compares because it's so different. At the end of the day, Sgt. Peppers would have been a group of individual songs done by the "concept" band, whereas Smile seems to be a collection of song fragments that together make up the entire piece.

    The closest comparison I can think of would be Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (and that was still six or seven years too late)or maybe the last half of Abbey Road.



    As a self professed Beatles freak, I have to defend the honor. While I agree that Sgt. Pepper probably gets too much attention based on the intentions of the band rather than the content of the album, the presence of "A Day in the Life" on the album alone negates the "grossly overrated" statement. Not mention the fact that Sgt. Peppers (along with Revolver) exhibited one of the first forays by a pop group into studio experimentation and really opened the boundries for what a band could do sonically.

    But I must admit that it was Pet Sounds that gave the Beatles the courage to make a non-pop rock album. I wonder what would have happened if Smile were released in 1967? Would it have changed the music landscape of today?
     
  18. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

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    Well, you guys convinced me, I guess I'll pick up this version. I was seriously in the "Not original,/ not buying it" camp, seeing as I completely fell in love with the tracks released on the box set, and couldn't imagine the BW of today singing these songs. But based on the above, the music sounds similar, just tweaked up, and music was 75% of the charm to me anyways (BB harmonies can make you cry, so they well be missed, I'm sure.)

    Looks like I'll be spending some money on this tonight on my way home.
     
  19. Steve_Knutzen

    Steve_Knutzen Screenwriter

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    My God this album is incredible. After all the "only the Brian of 67 could finish it" talk, here it is with most of all the pieces in a very coherent and impressive package. I'm a little curious as to why "She's Goin Bald" isn't included. I know it made it onto Smiley Smile but sans the Speech Making Businessman verse. Perhaps upon re-evaluation, BW and Van Dyke felt it didn't fit.
    Best Beach Boys solo album: Most definitely!
    Best Beach Boys album: Perhaps with the '67 Beach Boys' vocals it could equal or surpass Pet Sounds, but not in this form.
     
  20. JohnTRU

    JohnTRU Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm a Beatles freak too [​IMG]

    By saying "grossly overrated" - I wasn't referring to the boundaries it opened. No matter how much people like myself continue to debate over the musical aspects of the album, its inlfuence on nearly all music that followed it is undeniable. However, my statement was purely musical. I simply do not think that the album is anywhere near as fantastic as has been spoken about since the day it was released. I actually only like 'A Day in the Life', 'She's Leaving Home', 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' and the title track as songs. The other just gel with me. Sure, 'Smile' has its fair share of slight songs, but they have a humour that the Pepper songs don't.

    Gimme 'Abbey Road', 'Revolver', the white album or 'Rubber Soul' anyday over Pepper.
     

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