But there has never been a serious attempt to revive the original, unreleased Beach Boys SMiLE album until now. Whether or not The SMiLE Sessions will go down as the definitive, or even the final word on SMiLE remains to be seen. But for now, it should more than satisfy long suffering fans who have waited decades for this album.
If nothing else, this ambitious attempt to resuscitate one of rock's greatest lost masterpieces is noteworthy for the fact that it was made with the blessing and participation of both Brian Wilson and the surviving Beach Boys alone. Symphony to God or otherwise, the idea of these two often warring parties meeting anywhere but a courtroom has to be seen as nothing short of an act of the Almighty Himself.
On the two disc deluxe version (there is, naturally, also a larger boxed set), you get the album in its intended sequence, in pieces put together from the original sessions. Yet, while the actual SMiLE album was never officially completed, there is nothing unfinished sounding about what you get here.
The multiple layers of strings and voices that Wilson heard in his head, methodically pieced together as they were, sound as complete here as on the 2004 solo version recorded using modern technology. But if anything, the mix here is a lot warmer sounding. This is especially evident on songs like "Do You Like Worms (Plymouth Rock)" and of course "Good Vibrations." As good as the young cats in Wilson's 2004 band sounded, there is simply no substitute for the multi-tracked vocals of the original Beach Boys in all their sixties prime.
But mostly, finally hearing the multiple layered vision Brian Wilson must have originally imagined come to life is just astounding. The genius of songs like "Cabin Essence" and "Surfs Up" is something he has rarely achieved since (although he came close on the self-titled Brian Wilson solo album with both "Love And Mercy" and the "Rio Grande" suite).