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The Beach Boys | Smile

Capitol (2011)
By JIM MACNIE  |  November 2, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars


Never doubt the impact of whimsy as it applies to Brian Wilson's art. At the peak of his powers — 1965-'67, let's say — the Beach Boys boss was a sage arranger/composer and bona fide pop innovator. Without question, focus and ingenuity are cornerstones of the creative process behind the wealth of sounds on this five-disc package. But the music is ultimately marked by playfulness. The CDs hold the DNA of the much-mythologized SMiLE, the post-Pet Sounds opus that was shelved after Wilson let its infamous intricacy get the better of him. Composed in modular bits, tracks such as "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villains" became gorgeous suites of sound — the latter, like most of SMiLE, further gussied up by Van Dyke Parks' cinematic poesy. Wilson's 2004 update of SMiLE's gorgeous tunes, made with an adept squad of acolytes, was terrific. But hearing the original Beach Boys' vocal magic mixed with the work of the famed studio musicians responsible for nailing the particulars of these complex orchestrations is heavenly manna for any Wilson fan. Ditto for the wealth of individual snippets (piano riffs from "Surf's Up," harmony tracks from a myriad of tunes, conversation clips of Brian coaching drummer Hal Blaine on how to play like he was mad at a vegetable thief) that make up the bulk of the box set. It's a hoot to think that the panorama of pop's greatest puzzle can still be digested one small bite at time.
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