Brian Wilson, for those who don't know, was the genius behind the Beach Boys. Shortly after putting together the greatest Beach Boys album of all time, Pet Sounds (it was named by Rolling Stone magazine as the second greatest rock and roll album of all time, behind only Sgt. Peppers ), he started on an album called Smile , in partnership with Van Dyke Parks, which he described as a "teen symphony to God." It was, in actuality, the work of a very stoned young man who was slowly losing his mind, and although the work was groundbreaking, the planned release of Smile never occurred, due to infighting between the group and the fact that Brian withdrew to his bedroom for over a decade, paranoid, way overweight, and seriously drugged out. And the Beach Boys, practically overnight, were eclipsed by the Beatles and become a quaint footnote in history. But Brian has always been revered by musicians, who knew what he was all about, and has been the subject of so many songs of late, such as Bare-Naked Ladies and Belle and Sebastian, and the influence of countless others.
Since the time that Smile became a frown, Smile releases have been announced every other year or so, but it never came to be. At first, Brian couldn't get his act together, then he started to work on actually getting his act together. Plus, he was extremely paranoid about this, his greatest work. He didn't want to screw it up, frankly. So the tapes were left in the recording studio, gathering dust, never released.
So how is the final product? Well, I don't think it's completely his vision at the time (the famous "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," for example, was supposed to be part of a larger suite of songs about the elements), and much of it true fans have heard in some form or another (the Beach Boys in later years would pillage from it mercilessly in order to drum up publicity, most reprehensibly "Surf's Up," where Brian didn't even know they were rerecording it until after it had been released), but even so, it's truly an orgasmic listening experience. Brian's vocals sound clear and crisp, and the album bounces around American musical history like a dizzifying acid trip, repeating themes and then morphing into something totally new and unexpected. It's filled with twists and turns, darkness and light, gentle, peaceful periods followed by scary turns, hard rock followed by jazz followed by Hawaiian music followed by old victrola music followed by the distinctive Beach Boys sound. And then, of course, there's "Heroes and Villains" and "Good Vibrations"--but that's only the beginning and end of the journey.
In this critic's opinion: This album, on a scale of 1-10, this album scores an 11. Get it, sit back with the lights down low, and ENJOY!