Reviews in 200 Words

Smile Sessions, The Beach Boys

In Album, podcast on November 4, 2011 at 9:13 am

They say the human voice is the most remarkable of the instruments. Primal, guttural, angelic, soaring. Voices can bring a tear to my eye sooner than any trumpet, guitar, or cello. The unparalleled voices of the Beach Boys pushed serious boundaries by career’s end. That pushing – captured here in great detail – eventually crushed them. We’ve seen Smile before in various forms:  the abbreviated Smiley Smile and Brian Wilson’s recreation in 2004. But here we have it as it was intended:  from the mouths of the Beach Boys themselves. Toss aside surf music clichés and you’re left with bizarrely arresting pop music. Forsaking instrumentation the Boys create a-capella soundscapes unlike anything they’d ever committed to tape. Brian Wilson’s tragic genius is in full effect, as well as his crisp, clear and commanding voice (recently tested in the high registers). A masterpiece of vocal composition and instrumental orchestration, Smile is the history of America seen from its shores. Byzantine, it flits between banjo-plucked Americana, lounge swing, chain-gang chanting, and church choir hymns. Like waves crashing on a shore, songs come and go. But linger awhile and you’ll find yourself catching the big one and riding it to shore.

-Jay Cullis

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