Brian Wilson just won a Grammy® for Best Historical Album, The Smile Sessions Deluxe Box Set. I heard those words several hours ago. In my heart I always knew this day would come. There are few musical journeys as exceptional as those from the Smile Sessions (spanning February 1966 – April 1967). After repeated distractions and shortcomings the album’s sessions were shelved. Over time multiple versions and releases leaked out hints of the music’s dynamism.
When I first discovered the Smile sessions through various bootleg cassette and vinyl releases in the late 1980’s I was so completely enamored that I spent days upon days listening and deciphering the different feels and moods emitting through the speakers. After hearing Pet Sounds (1966) it didn’t seem as though the Beach Boys could ever get any better, but there was clearly more to the group than that of the simple West Coast imagery suggested by the band’s name and striped shirts. The Smile music goes beyond Pet Sounds. Wilson and lyricist Van Dyke Parks tapped into their psychedelic consciousness and went for broke.
This is the best music made by anyone, anywhere. Don’t take my word for it, but do pay attention to the fact it won for “Best Historical Album.” The Grammy® people finally got it right. It wouldn’t have mattered what year the Smile Sessions were released, because it would have won for the same reason (regardless of the year).
“I’m so proud I could cry. I guess Van Dyke and I were on to something after all. Thanks to the Boys for such beautiful vocals.”
— Brian Wilson (reflecting on receiving the Grammy®)
On to something? For the uninitiated and more casual fans, the Smile Sessions includes the group’s most recognized 1960’s hit single “Good Vibrations.” Undoubtedly you have this song somewhere in your iTunes collection or on just about any Beach Boys compilation. Listen to every incremental moment of the track’s 3:36. Catch the subtle shifts between verse and chorus, and dig that crazy bridge. “Good Vibrations” is jazz-fueled pop psychedelia at its finest.
If you like the musical style of “Good Vibrations,” then you’ll love the Smile Sessions deluxe box set. The sessions include music on American history, psychedelic pop, Beach Boys harmonies and wistful ballads. You get to really peel back the layers and appreciate just how advanced Brian Wilson was in the studio environment.
Although the Smile Sessions has won the Grammy® for the best Historical Album, it (the award) is – in a sense – unimportant. The simple truth is Brian and Van Dyke did know what they were doing. It turns out that the idea of making an album’s worth of music about the white man’s contamination of Western civilization and territorial domination during the golden era of the United States via the Beach Boys was indeed a, “good idea.”
Now, thanks to the efforts of Grammy® winners Alan Boyd, Mark Linett and Dennis Wolfe (and a long list of names that includes Tom Recchion and Melinda Wilson) we have tangible proof that speaks for itself.
When accepting the award compilation producer Alan Boyd said, “We’d really like to thank the Beach Boys, Brian, Capitol Records and Brothers Records for allowing us the opportunity and the privilege to work with this amazing music. …”
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©2013 David M. Beard / All rights reserved
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