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The Beach Boys

SMiLE [Not Released]

SMiLE [Not Released] cover

In 1966, Brian Wilson began work on the SMiLE LP, which was intended as the ultimate pop/progressive/psychedelic record. Many vocal and instrumental tracks were recorded, but the project was abandoned in 1967 due to accumulated pressures from Wilson's family, fellow Beach Boys, and the record company, combined with Wilson's own fragile and sensitive ego. In the ensuing years, SMiLE was accorded status as the most legendary unreleased album of all time. Many, though by no means all, of the tracks in progress were bootlegged in the 1980s; many, though by no means all, of these, in turn, finally surfaced on Capitol's Good Vibrations box set. Several bootlegs of the SMiLE sessions are easily available, most featuring tracks which still haven't been officially released, or alternate takes and mixes of ones that did surface. A lot of these are interesting, to say the least, including the "Fire" part of the legendary "Elements" suite, the downright avant-garde "George Fell Into His French Horn," and extended snippets of "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villains" as works in progress. There are numerous exquisitely beautiful passages, great ensemble singing, and brilliant orchestral pop instrumentation to be found on these outtakes, but the fact is that Wilson somehow lacked the discipline needed to combine them into a pop masterpiece that was both brilliant and commercial. Depending on how much SMiLE you want to hear, you can also spring for Vigotone's double-CD compilation versions of these outtakes, or the expansive three- or four-disc box sets of SMiLE sessions released by Sea of Tunes and Vigotone.

Review by Richie Unterberger

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