POP CLASSICS

 

BRIAN WILSON Smile (Nonesuch)

When Brian Wilson announced that he was going to finish Smile, I must be honest to say that I was highly skeptical and wondered who was the mean soul that was pressurizing Brian to revisit (reopen?) old wounds for the sake of commercial gain.

Also, I had my doubts – if Brian was not equipped to complete Smile at age 24, at the peak of his powers – how could he do so in the twilight of his life?

But, when I first heard Smile in its entirety albeit via a bootleg of live gig in London, I must confess that I cried.

He did it!

As David Leaf quotes Brian in the lavish album liner notes – “Our Smile dream has come true.” Indeed.

In the last 37 years, as the Smile legend has grown, his numerous fans have shared Brian’s dream of Smile and the fulfilling of this dream with this release is nothing short of a miracle.

Detractors have questioned, rather loudly, what the fuss is and have variously derided Brian and his fans. Well, their loss.

For fans of Brian Wilson, it’s always about how Brian’s music made us feel. No other songwriter of the rock era has been able to convey emotions through his music quite like Brian. 

And Smile is for the fan who has waited patiently to hear these songs threaded together into a coherent whole. Certain pieces have been re-interpreted from their more famous cousins. Notably, the mid-60s singles “Heroes And Villains” and “Good Vibrations.” Significantly absent (or perhaps less emphasized) is the much discussed Elements suite – in fact, “I Love to Dada” the famed water section has gone AWOL and somewhat submerged in the new “In Blue Hawaii.”

However, whatever your qualms may be on this development, what is indisputable is the sheer genius of the Children section with the truly awesome sequence of “Wonderful,” “Song For Children,” “Child Is Father To The Man” and “Surf’s Up” which demonstrates that ultimately the beautiful dreamer is really the child in all of us. Faith, hope and trust resides in our child-like belief that anything is possible –

 

“Surf’s Up!

Aboard a tidal wave.

Come about hard and join the young and often spring you gave.

I heard the word.

Wonderful thing!

A children’s song.

A children’s song – have you listened as they play?

Their song is love and the children know the way.”

 

Kudos must go to Jeffrey Foskett and especially Darian Sahanaja, who have been instrumental in helping Brian (and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, of course) put this unlikely masterpiece back together.

We will never know if this new Smile reflects in anyway what Brian intended all those years and in truth it doesn’t really matter – our Smile dream has come true!

 

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