Beach Boys: The Smile Sessions (2011)

Posted June 15, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

Supersized box set of the legendary shelved album has enough reasons to make a Beach Boys smile

Coming off the Beach Boys’ 1966 landmark Pet Sounds album, Brian Wilson quickly went to task on a follow-up. The plan was to take the breezy upbeat sunshine pop of Pet Sounds and interchange it with the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper psychedelic experiments while also taking advantage of the newly-revealed 8-track recorder. The incomplete album was curbed spiked by disagreements amongst the band, Brian’s LSD use and his budding mental issues that followed, along with the expensive and lengthy recording process using both 4-track and 8-track recorders. The fragments were resurrected forty-five years later from the day they were originally recorded.

Though portions of the unreleased Smile have been leaked to Beach Boy box sets in recent years, The Smile Sessions stuffs the gamut of the recordings into an envisioned complete piece of work. The other brothers may be agonizing over the package, but Wilson is upbeat over the launch, so are Beach Boy finest surfers. “Good Vibrations” is the album’s definite template, but mostly everything around the double-disc charity is a compliment to its modular production and spaced-out fun, particularly “Vega-Tables” and “Do You Like Worms.” The Beach Boy harmonies are still bubbly across the milky way of psychedelic rock (“Heroes and Villains”).

There’s plenty of outtakes that actually become fun interludes. Some will become irritated in its incompleteness, but The Smile Sessions almost feels like an interactive map that becomes whatever you want it to become. As good as the music is or may have been if actualized, the boys were hard at work turning art into science. They didn’t come out with a cure, but the experiments were just as trippy as their choice of drugs. Luckily, the album bears the resemblance of a hefty long player. The gigantic five-disc box set just reinforces more of what you’ve heard about its legend, along with creating endless possibilities of what it could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been.



  • Release Date: 1 November 2011
  • Label: Capitol
  • Producers: Brian Wilson
  • Spin This: “Good Vibrations,” “Vega-Tables”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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