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July 22, 2014

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CD review: The Beach Boys’ ‘The Smile Sessions’

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The Beach Boys 'The Smile Sessions'
Three and a half stars

Forty-four years after drugs and disagreements relegated Smile to “legendary unreleased album” status, the should-have-been follow-up to 1966’s Pet Sounds is finally ours to hear ... and hear ... and hear. Okay, The Smile Sessions also comes as a svelte two-disc’er, but if you’re gonna bother with this stuff, you gotta go all out. We’re talking five discs, 144 tracks and six-and-a-half hours here. It’s not easy, but it sure is interesting—a fly-on-the-wall peek into the most mythical of all rock recording sessions. Sure, no one needs to hear “Heroes and Villains” broken into 34 bits and pieces, but anyone the least bit curious about Brian Wilson’s process ought to anyway. More than any hash or acid reference (yeah, they’re there), his genius is the takeaway, as he relentlessly directs session players and the other Beach Boys through his intricate, ever-changing arrangements. Would Smile have trumped Sgt. Pepper’s if completed on schedule? You’ll have plenty of time to contemplate as you listen along.

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