Educate me on Smile from The Beach Boys

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Whoroger89, Jun 29, 2022.

  1. Whoroger89

    Whoroger89 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    So I'm sure this has been done to death but I was listening to something about the beatles podcast on McCartney and Brian Wilson and they talked about the Smile sessions and Brian's version. I'm not a Beach Boys fan but it has peaked my interest. So I was wondering what is the best version of it to listen to, the Smile sessions or Brain Wilson presents Smile. Thanks for all the help.
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  2. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Chicago, IL, US
    The Beach Boys recording was the real deal, the Brian record is an excellent cover version. It's worth hearing as it has some additional lyrics Van Dyke Parks added to cover blank spots in the original. If you can still find them now, I remember live recordings of Brian's tour before the record were more fun than his studio recording.
  3. JamesRR

    JamesRR Trashcan Dream

    The first paragraph of this entry explains it pretty well:

    Brian Wilson Presents Smile - Wikipedia

    "Brian Wilson Presents Smile (also referred to as Smile or the abbreviation BWPS) is the fifth studio album by American musician Brian Wilson, released September 28, 2004 on Nonesuch. It features all-new recordings of music that he had originally created for Smile, an unfinished album by the Beach Boys that he abandoned in 1967. Revisiting Smile was an intense emotional undertaking for Wilson, as he had been deeply traumatized by the circumstances that had originally surrounded the project."

    The Beach Boys' version was finally released in "hypothetical" form in 2011 as "The Smile Sessions". As for which to listen to, if you're that interested in it, listen to both. I'd start with the 2011 "Smile Sessions" and then move to Brian Wilson's 2004 re-recordings.
  4. Daniel Plainview

    Daniel Plainview God's Lonely Man

    I'd start with what's on disc 2 of "30 Years of Good Vibrations" to hear most of the songs in their original form.
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  5. I first heard the 2011 Smile Sessions version (without any prior context regarding the Smile project), and was very impressed. Now that I've familiarized myself with the history and various alternate versions of these songs, I can see some of the flaws in the 2011 reconstruction.

    However, I'd argue that ignorance is bliss. Just check out the 1st 19 tracks of the 1st disc of the Smile Sessions, pretend that it's the real 1967 Beach Boys Smile album, and have fun!
  6. bRETT

    bRETT Senior Member

    Boston MA

    The answer is both.

    BWPS was a finished version that Brian made with his collaborators, pulling all the Smile material into unified form. The Beach Boys version was then created from existing tapes using the Brian version as a template.

    The BB's version is far more astounding in terms of singing/production. Yet the Brian version has newly written parts that are essential in making Smile a completed, emotionally rewarding piece.
  7. Scope J

    Scope J Senior Member

  8. versionsound

    versionsound The six strings that drew blood

    Of those two, Smile Sessions, for sure. Brian’s version is theoretically more complete, but it was also done decades after the fact (and those were rough decades for him), so any claim that it better reflects his original intentions is a bit dubious. On the other hand, Smile Sessions is comprised of the original recordings, but not necessarily un-futzed with. Some audio magic was employed to piece things together, and like Brian’s version, some of those choices were made decades after the fact. Still, it has the advantage of using the original recordings, so it would be hard to argue that it’s not more “authentic” than Brian’s version. I own Smile Sessions both on CD and vinyl. I used to own Brian’s version on CD, but it seemed kind of superfluous after the real thing was officially released. I also own two different bootleg SMiLe CDs, which was the only way to hear it before the two official releases, and I actually prefer the Sea of Tunes Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 16 (1966-1967) CD to either official version. It’s certainly not without its flaws, but I feel like it’s more accurate to what would have been released in 1967 than the official versions.

    TLDR: Get Smile Sessions for sure. If you like it, maybe explore other iterations of these recordings.
  9. mike's beard

    mike's beard Forum Resident

    The Smile Sessions all the way. BWPS replicates the original music perfectly but there's no getting away from the fact that by 2004 Brian's voice was a shell of what it used to be and nobody - NOBODY - can reproduce the Beach Boys harmonic blend.
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  10. SurrealCereal

    SurrealCereal Forum Resident

    The “reconstruction” on The Smile Sessions is what I always listen to. It’s noticeably unfinished and the track order doesn’t necessarily reflect Brian Wilson’s vision (he never specified anything of the sort IIRC), but it’s still a fascinating and very listenable glimpse into a potential masterpiece. It’s also the most “authentic” Smile experience IMO. Brian Wilson’s 2004 Smile is also good for what it is, but it’s a whole different animal from the 1967 Smile. Brian himself has said that it’s not how Smile would’ve turned out had he finished it back in the 60’s, and the vocals and most of the arrangements are very obviously done later. I find the fragments on The Smile Sessions the most compelling, but there’s something to be said for hearing a “finished” version, even if it diverges from the original vision.
  11. Whoroger89

    Whoroger89 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for all the responses so far
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  12. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Searching For Simplicity

    Grab the 2011 5 cd SMiLE box or the 2 cd version...depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go.

    Brian Wilson Present is solid, but it's just not quite the same as 1966/67.
  13. The SMiLE Sessions! It features the young Brian Wilson who still had a beautiful voice and all the other golden voiced Beach Boys at their peak. The 2 CD set is fine for all but the most fanatical fans (like me).
  14. O Don Piano

    O Don Piano Senior Member

    If/when you get around to listening to it, leave a review here. Let us know what you think.
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  15. classicrockguy

    classicrockguy Forum Resident

    Livingston NJ
    Not to confuse the issue, but I've heard way better Smile reconstructions than Sessions by people on the internet, such as Purple Chick and Mock
    Sessions is one I would start with, but it has some questionable editing/mixing in some parts
  16. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Searching For Simplicity

    Start with official, and then go to the unofficial.
  17. jwoverho

    jwoverho Licensed Drug Dealer

    Mobile, AL USA
    As professionally assembled as BWPS is, it doesn’t have the atmosphere, vibe, and “the spook” as they say, of those original sessions.

    You have to look at the limitations of the medium at the time (LP format), as well, to get a better idea of a 20 minutes per side work rather than the long form BWPS.

    More doesn’t always mean better. I’d say the original SMILE was about 90% complete.
  18. JoeRockhead

    JoeRockhead Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    skip it
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  19. Ma Kelly

    Ma Kelly Forum Resident

    And then roll your own. That's the beauty of the thing after all - there is no definitive version, so you may as well construct one to suit your preferences.
  20. the real pope ondine

    the real pope ondine Forum Resident

    agree! this is how i would do it, and if you don't like it you have lots more Beach Boys to enjoy
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  21. Brian's version is the only complete version and as it came out first, the only one I would recommend. Sure, for the faithful, the original recordings (which are by default unused outtakes) are essential to have, although when you get beyond the core 12 songs it becomes much less interesting and a bag of novelties of mixed value.
  22. George P

    George P Notable Member

    Brian Wilson's SMiLE vs Beach Boys' 2011 SMiLE
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  23. Whoroger89

    Whoroger89 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thank you I will
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  24. CliffL

    CliffL Forum Resident

    Sacramento CA USA
    That 2011 Smile issue is where I got on board and first really heard Smile also (I bought the 2-CD version). I'd read about Smile and knew a little bit about the history, but I was stunned when I heard it in proper context on the put it bluntly, "my mind was blown!" What an incredible piece of music.
  25. pool_of_tears

    pool_of_tears Searching For Simplicity

    It doesn’t matter if Brian “finished” it in 2004. It will always be a work-in-progress. The creator didn’t finish it at the time of original conception.
    I disagree with the material beyond the “core 12 songs” being “much less interesting and a bag of novelties of mixed value”. It’s all a fascinating window into Brian’s fragile psyche.

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