BEACH BOYS ‘SMILE SESSIONS’ AND OTHER NEW CD RECOMMENDATIONS!

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Goodbye surfing, hello God! The title of Jules Siegel’s 1967 magazine feature on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys sums up how well the group was outliving the early-’60s beach fad — and revolutionizing pop music in the process. During 1966, the twin shots of Pet Sounds in May and “Good Vibrations” in October announced first that the group had entered the vanguard of pop music and then, not content with mere critical praise, seized control of the singles charts with a chart-topper as catchy as it was complex and costly to record. Early on, though, “Good Vibrations” had actually been slated to appear on Pet Sounds, which reveals the long odds on whether Wilson could ever finish an entire album of his pocket symphonies (at least, in the time frame of a label circa 1966).

Nevertheless, beginning in August of 1966, he began planning a new album project, first called Dumb Angel and later SMiLE. Working from the ideas in his head, he and his studio musicians and band mates recorded continually during late 1966 and early 1967, putting down hours of tape during dozens of sessions. He labored over every note and, more than that, every tone, often asking his musicians or the Beach Boys themselves to revise when the results didn’t match his conception of the music going on inside his head. Such care and control produced music that was far beyond Pet Sounds, and when the impressionistic themes and lyrics of collaborator Van Dyke Parks were added, SMiLE began shaping up as the most unique LP ever produced by a pop group. That much is perfectly clear after listening to Capitol’s release of The SMiLE Sessions, the first official SMiLE release ever. (As most music fans know, the album was never completed, although elements of the whole have trickled out ever since.) Each version of the SMiLE Sessions set begins with a re-creation of what a mono release of SMiLE could have sounded like, with a track listing patterned after Wilson’s 2004 recording, Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE. Each version also includes some SMiLE sessions in stereo, in order to hear Wilson’s working method in the studio. Peeling away the layers from these tracks, several instruments at a time, reveals more of the music’s magnificence, how each element combined in ingenious ways to become the songs that have entranced Beach Boys fans over the years. The sessions and studio chatter also reveal how much of the SMiLE sessions were a family affair; far from the previous conception of Wilson holed away in the studio with a coterie of handpicked musicians, virtually all of the Beach Boys make themselves heard with suggestions and contributions both vocal and instrumental (and beside the infamous credits of Paul McCartney, even Brian’s wife Marilyn, a singer in her own right, is heard on backing vocals).All Music

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Brite Futures Dark Past
Carole King Holiday Carole

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