Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Beach Boys SMiLE Sessions Box Set - My 2 Cents

Let me start by saying I doubt there's anything I could add to the discussion about SMiLE that has not already been written ad nauseam. Still, with a legendary and historic release such as this one, the music blogger and fan in me is dying to write something about how incredible this milestone truly is. I already wrote much of my personal history with this music in an entry earlier this year (which you can read HERE), so I won't rehash any of that now (you're welcome).
All settled & cozy in its new home.
My SMiLE Sessions box arrived yesterday at our doorstep via UPS at around 1:30. Like many SMiLE nerds I took pictures, which I'll try to post later (they're in our camera at the moment). I did my best to savor the full experience of unboxing the set; I made the bed and tidied up the bedroom before settling in to open the heavy-duty shipping box (thank you importCDs.com!). As I opened the shipping box I felt like Charlie as he peeled back the wrapper on the Wonka bar to discover the golden ticket -- I saw the white of the SMiLE box and was so excited with anticipation that I actually -no lie- sharted.

The 45s contained in the box set
The box itself is bound to receive a Grammy nomination for best packaging. The 3D SMiLE Shop on the front of the box is so cool. Although I've never much cared for the word "treasure" (along with the words "chunks" and "snack", just so you know), the SMiLE box is literally full of treasures: The assembled SMiLE album on 2LPs in a gorgeous gatefold sleeve, 2 vinyl 45s ("Surf's Up"/"Vegetables" and "Heroes & Villians" Pts I & II) with picture sleeves, a hardcover book packed with incredible detail & recollections from those who starred in SMiLE's history (including new notes from Al, Bruce & Mike), a three-fold binder containing 5 CDs packed full of everything you could imagine (and probably some stuff you wouldn't imagine), a huge SMiLE poster, plus a repro of the booklet that was pressed for the original SMiLE LP that never was.
The coolest of the cool.
All of the music clocks in at well over six hours, and I've not yet listened to all of it. The album itself is in mono as Brian would have mixed it back in '67, but the studio bits and pieces are mostly in stereo, and some of them are breathtaking in their beauty, originality, and in some cases, pure obscurity. Although I've heard most of this material I've not heard it presented in this fashion. As for the bits I've never heard before, they definitely catch me off guard and make me stop to listen. There are also some bits that, even though I've heard them a zillion times, sound so good and fresh on this set that I experience a well of emotion like it's the first time (a perfect example being Dennis singing "My Only Sunshine").

Non Beach Boys fans, or even casual fans, would probably be best off with the 2CD or 2LP versions of this release. The box set, in my opinion, is for the fans who have dreamed and fantasized but never thought they'd actually see such a collection, let alone one presented with such care and respect. Personally, I expect to be digging into this music at least until the end of the year. Thank you to Brian, Van Dyke, Al, Mike, Bruce, Melinda Wilson, audio wiz Mark Linett, and Darian Sahanaja (the unsung hero behind SMiLE's resurrection), and everyone else who was able to this happen. To coin an old phrase, I hope that the smile you've sent out returns to you.

Great quote from the SMiLE Sessions book

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