Such an articulate and well-thought album, and incredibly up to the title "Smile," yet the original recording by The Beach Boys was one of complete misery. The saddest Beach Boy had to dig in a profound psychotic state to produce this masterpiece. The irony is that this is one of the great 'sunny' albums ever made. Once over that cultural shock, one is amazed that Brian and company decided to do a re-recorded version of what once thought was a lost masterpiece. But nothing is lost, and now we have two separate albums. One is the re-discovered Beach Boys recording and of course, the Brian Wilson re-did version of 2004. The Beach Boys version in another post.
Wilson and his co-pilot for this project (and long time band member) Darian Sahanaja did a remarkable job in bringing this album back from the darkness. Almost a clinical study in how to bring up something dead to life. Lazarus indeed! The album touches on exotica but also American theater music. It reminds me at times of Aaron Copeland's orchestral scores. The vastness of America on one album. The album is eccentric in that it paints a big picture of what things should be, and I think the sadness that comes with the album is knowing the story behind it, but alas, an imaginary landscape.
For those who know the Beach Boys' "Smiley Smile" or the singles "Heroes and Villians" "Surf's Up," and "Good Vibrations" is re-hearing these classics in their rightful place and time. It's like getting a sketch, but now we have the whole painting. Everything fits well. Van Dyke Parks' lyrics are incredible, and it's amazing that he jumped on the Brian Wilson train to fulfill this adventure. "Smile" as I listen to it, seems like an old-fashioned musical. There is nothing really avant-garde about it, yet, it is very much a modern work. Also, it doesn't compare to any other works out there. It's very original in its scope and sound. A toe tapper!