Beach Boys' lost 'Smile' recordings to be released Nov. 1
The Beach Boys’ long-ago shelved “Smile” sessions will finally see the light of day in official form on Nov. 1, when Capitol Records releases a double album set nearly 45 years after the material was recorded and seven years after group leader Brian Wilson completed and re-recorded his own version of the fabled “lost” album.
“Smile” was planned as the follow-up to “Pet Sounds,” now widely hailed as one of the greatest albums of the rock era, and one that famously was an inspiration for the Beatles to record “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in order to top their stateside competitors.
Capitol will release “The Smile Sessions” material in several configurations, including a 40-track, two-CD set, a vinyl two-LP edition and an expanded box set with five CDs plus the vinyl double album, two 7-inch singles and a digital copy.
In 1966 and 1967, Wilson recorded extensively, working to bring “Smile” together. But between dissension over his adventuresome musical direction from both other members of the group and Capitol executives as well as the group's efforts to launch its own label, Brother Records, the "Smile" album, originally titled "Dumb Angel" and described by Wilson as "a teenage symphony to God," was shelved. Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown, the deterioration of his mental health exacerbated by drug abuse.
After decades in which he refused to even talk about anything related to “Smile” because of the residual trauma, Wilson resurrected it, re-teamed with lyricist Van Dyke Parks to create new linking segments, premiered it in its entirety in London early in 2004 and recorded and released it with the backing of the Brian Wilson Band. It was named album of the year by several rock critics and stands as the best reviewed non-reissue album of all time on the Metacritic.com review aggregate website.
Some of the songs intended for “Smile,” including the hit single “Good Vibrations,” “Surf’s Up,” “Heroes and Villains,” “Cabin Essence,” “Our Prayer” and “Wonderful,” showed up on separate Beach Boys collections, but this will be the first time a cohesive “Smile” with the group's original recordings has been issued in official form.
Most of the tracks have been bootlegged for decades, and a cadre of “Smile” aficionados has traded material over the Internet -- for free to avoid copyright infringement issues -- as part of a virtual community called the Smile Project.
Along with the music itself, the Capitol release will include the original cover artwork and booklet created by Beat artist Frank Holmes, which also includes new essays by Wilson and surviving original band members Mike Love and Al Jardine as well as longtime band member Bruce Johnston. The box set will have a tie-in to Operation Smile, an international cooperative effort that provides free surgery to children with facial deformities such as cleft lips and palates.
-- Randy Lewis
Photo: "Smile" original album cover by artist Frank Holmes. Credit: Capitol Records.