There is not much debate that The Beach Boys created some of pop’s greatest and most influential works. From the oceanic vibes of “Surfin’ Safari," to the harmonizing vocals of “I Get Around," The Beach Boys modeled a form of music which got them hundreds of hits: sing about girls, the hip kids, and summer vibes. However, one of the greatest Beach Boys’s works came when they broke this simple model, but not without a wait.
Intended to be the follow up to the classic Pet Sounds, recording for the album SMiLE began in May of 1966. Described by Brian Wilson, leader of the Beach Boys, as a “teenage symphony to God," the album never truly saw a release until 38 years later when Wilson re-recorded the album as Brian Wilson presents SMiLE in 2004, which only featured some of the tracks that were supposed to be included on the original version of SMiLE. Fast forward seven years, and we have the release of The SMiLE Sessions Box Set. This box set of five CDs, two LPs, two 45 RPM singles, and a 60 page booklet pieces the original album together completely for the first time.
The songwriting and instrumentation on the album is undeniably forward thinking. From the Hawaiian tribal chants on “Do you like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)," to the sounds of drills on “I wanna be Around/Workshop," the album not only shows The Beach Boys at their most experimental stage of their career, but also at their best sounding. The album even shares many parallels with The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in terms of its orchestration, and can even be looked as a precursor to the Beatles’ classic album.
The extras held in this box set piece the story of SMiLE together. The LPs hold most of the takes that were used to construct this album. One of the LPs has over 30 takes of sessions from recordings of “Heroes and Villains." For any Beach Boys fan, these recordings are not only enjoyable to listen to, but put you right in the shoes of the Wilson's while they recorded.
But the best part of this entire release is finally being able to hear SMiLE the way it was intended to be heard. While most of the songs on this album eventually made it onto other Beach Boys releases, never have they been put together in a release structured exactly the way it was meant to be. It took 45 years for the album to finally be released in its original form, but every waking second proves that it was worth it.