The SMiLE Sessions - The Beach Boys
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 46 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 42 out of 46
  2. Negative: 3 out of 46

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  1. Nov 1, 2011
    Hard to return to '67 but had this been released then, we could have heard The Beatles pushed beyond Sgt. Pepper. If only...
    Any negative reviews based on an excess of material, for example, the overload of extras on the box set, should be considered as a critique of a marketing effort and not a review of the music contained herein. There are some that just won't get it...aren't there always?
  2. Nov 18, 2011
    As a serious fan of music I strongly recommend this album. If you have listened to Brian Wilson's 2004 SMiLE or Pet Sounds you are still in for a real treat. Having heard many of these songs previously on separate releases or on internet radio, hearing them all in one complete package as originally intended is extremely satisfying. We finally get to hear what the greatest all-American album that never was, really is (or as close as we will probably ever get). Many of the out-takes have some of the more memorable moments of the collection and serve to enrich the actual "album" of songs as intended. As an American in his 20's I am much too young to truly appreciate what the release of this album represents for American pop music and the Beach Boys catalog in general. Still, the music contained within stirs my emotions and inspires me more than any recent musical release possibly could. The Beach Boys, I feel, are under-appreciated in this day and age and are regarded more as a pop staple of the 60's than as a truly innovative musical group (IMO). If you are even a little bit impressed with the musical capabilities of these guys, then please listen to this album and absorb it. This is what music can be. Expand
  3. Nov 1, 2011
    My advice: Listen to this thrilling, exhilarating album. Yes, it is occasionally exasperating and challenging. But that is because it strays far from what band member Mike Love called the Beach Boys' "formula." Band leader and creative force Brian Wilson was not interested in following a formula. Rather, Wilson wanted to create something new, interesting and exciting. And "SMiLE" succeeds, resulting in a piece of work that perfectly captures what was best about Wilson's approach to music. Expand
  4. Nov 1, 2011
    If this box set proves anything, it is that Mike Love had a very valid point to be concerned when he and the rest of the Beach Boys first heard the tapes for SMiLE in 1966. The great quality of the music is of no question, however the accessibility of the music is what separates SMiLE from anything released in 1966/67. It is silly to even try to compare it to Sgt. Pepper's or any Bay Area acts because they're not even in the same league. In fact, with SMiLE it is a totally different ballgame with different rules. It is undoubtedly hard for the average person to listen to SMiLE and get it the first time around. Like classical music, the album requires concentrated listening (and it never hurts to have some knowledge about the material before listening in order to understand the many themes of SMiLE). It may seem extreme to ask the listener to do extensive research before listening, but for those who do some outside reading, the experience is so rewarding. Every track, session, and outtake is either insightful, hilarious, gorgeous, or awe-inspiring. We have no idea if this is how the album would have "truly" sounded in 1967, but this is a fantastic approximation nonetheless and definitely worth your money. If the mood of SMiLE's music reveals anything, it is that it's awfully lonely being so talented and out there. Thankfully, we live in a time where there are just enough audiophiles and completists to demand this amazing material be heard. Collapse
  5. Nov 5, 2011
    Smile is easily one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, or assembled, by human beings. It was would would have changed popular music forever, and instead, serves as the greatest "what if" in music history. With Smile, no longer would the Beatles forever be the gods of modern rock, but a new era would have emerged with the release of such a beautiful, unique, and sometimes scary album. And simply for that background, these Smile Sessions deserve a ten.

    However, for one to properly review music, the actual music must be evaluated. And the music presented to us in the form of these sessions blows the imagination. Smile is music that will never be forgotten, engraved in the minds of those who hear it. It is truly a "teenage symphony to God", a masterpiece, and a perfect collection of music. From the gorgeous harmonies and church-like aura of "Our Prayer" to the mind bending twists and turns of "Heroes and Villains", and to the masterpiece, the majestic "Surf"s Up", Smile always keeps you wondering, what's next? Even for those who have heard countless bootlegs and versions prior to this release, like myself, Smile is something all together new and exciting. The actual "album", plus the sessions, provides the listener with everything anyone could possible want from the Smile era. It is perfect, and absolutely flawless, in every way shape or form. And best of all, Smile is still not finished. It never has been, and it never will be. But this is as close as we're ever going to get, and let's us wonder, even more now than ever, what would have really happened if Smile was released in January of 1967.
  6. Nov 12, 2011
    A masterful recording! The beach boys lay out beautifully eerie vocal harmonies on a canvass of complex instrumental arrangements, providing listeners with a magnificent piece of pop-psychedelia, who's beauty and sophistication would leave fans of "Pet Sounds" open-mouthed and astonished. However, the real triumph of smile is the drastic mood swings reflected in the sadness of a young man aching over lost-innocence ("Wonderful") to the cheerful drug-induced frivolity of candy-wrapper consumption ("Vegetables"), culminating in a complex display of intensity, anxiety, and finally a subdued calmness that underlies the elements suite. Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys capture sadness and laughter, pain and joy, hardship and humanity, and all the remaining contradictions that sum up the American Experience, from the conquest of American Indians to the shores of Blue Hawaii. That said, this is still an unfinished album. While, engineers Mark Linnett and Alan Boyd do an incredibly job making a piece of music that stands as a full album, this collection contains snippets and half-tracks, some of which stand on their own ("Do You Like Worms"? "Child is the "Father of the Man"), but others that ring hollow in the absence of completion ("Holidays", "Look"). At other times, the engineers try to create the appearance of completion through the inclusion of ill-advised fly-ins and other snippets that were probably never intended for conclusion on the final album. Thus, the myth of "Smile" still remains. Fans looking for a semblance of resolution, a glimpse as to what "Smile" would have been if finished and released in 1967, will stand disappointed. What we have is an unfinished work, but one who's breadth and beauty, merits a listen or a thousand. Expand
  7. Dec 21, 2011
    Quite possibly one of the best albums I have ever heard in my entire life. And it's unfinished. If this had came out in '67 it would've drastically had changed music, no doubt.
  8. Nov 5, 2011
    This is Beethoven's 10th or Schubert's Finished;-it is what we 60's survivors were missing when we were scandalously offered left-over scraps on Smiley Smile and Friends.Brian's 2004 version was the prelude. This is the Real Thing! With the youthful energy and the original sounds. An incredible labour of re-assembly of the atomised parts of that crashed and derided folly of Brian Wilson.This puts Cabinessence,Surf's Up and Good Vibrations up on their fallen pedestal,and re-unites them with the other lost jewels in the crown;-Wonderful,Child of Man,Wind Chimes.And all of this Symphony is now Complete.
    Ludwig van,Franz and now,Brian.
  9. Feb 11, 2013
  10. Sep 17, 2014
    Simply put, The Smile Sessions is one of the greatest albums ever made - and it is unfinished! Taking from the magical recording sessions of Brian Wilson's drug-fuelled 1966 and 1967, the compilers (along with Brian Wilson himself) have faithfully recreated the lost album SMiLE as close to as it was originally envisioned in 1966.

    All the greatest moments have been captured perfectly,
    including "Heroes and Villians," "Surf's Up," "Wonderful," "Vega-Tables," "Cabin Essence" and "Mrs O'Leary's Cow" all appearing in their best versions - as they were originally intended and written. That is how The Smile Sessions trumps all previous bootlegs and especially 2004's Brain Wilson Presents Smile - because it features the original band, the original instrumentation, the original sound and feel and the original vision as it was in 1967. This is no recreation, it is instead the definitive collection of the album which was practically finished when it was scrapped. (Interviews since the demise of the album have suggested the piece was 90% finished in 1967.)

    Not only are the standout tracks incredible, but the tapestry of music which Wilson composed to weave all the songs together in to one big symphony is equally beautiful. At times (Mrs O'Leary's Cow, Child Is Father Of The Man) the songs can be confusing and challenging, at other times (Gee, I'm In Great Shape) they are upbeat and enjoyable, and at certain points (Our Prayer, Holidays) they can be emotional, nostalgic or moving. This only goes to show how affective Wilson's music was, and what potential the album had.

    However the one moment left out thus far is undoubtedly the album's greatest. 'Love To Say Dada' begins the end of the album with what sounds like a summoning, a spiritual experience where the group is calling fourth something special. The song then bursts in to a prayer, a short and loud escalation of voices which sounds almost religious, right before 'Good Vibrations' starts. It's a remarkable ending to the album - one of the greatest moments in music which I have ever experienced. We know that, because Wilson was involved in the compilation process, this was how Brian wanted to present Good Vibrations to the world, and it is magical. Hearing it this way for the first time send a chill down your spine.

    Although Good Vibrations had already been a single before this album, and even with Heroes and Villians being Brian's centerpiece to the album, it's impossible not to consider SMiLE as being an album which was built specifically to house one of the greatest songs ever created. The song was so good that it demanded an album of equal strength to present it. The Smile Sessions captures this intention faithfull and flawlessly.

    In conclusion, this album is not pop or rock music alike anything else ever created or heard before - it is almost a challenge to hear for the first time, and therefore may not resonate with every listener. However, it goes without saying that if SMiLE had seen release in 1967 - with that final 10% filled in - it would have changed music forever. It would have reinvented the art, and it would have probably been the greatest album of all time. As it is, in this form, that lack of the final 10% means it falls short of a few albums, and certainly of Pet Sounds, but it is still one of the greatest albums you are ever likely to hear. Made even more remarkable by the accompanying story. So find a dark room, put on some headphones, sit back and listen to those (sometimes dark) good, good vibrations.

Universal acclaim - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 22
  2. Negative: 0 out of 22
  1. Jan 31, 2012
    Even though it'll never be fully completed, Smile is a welcome time capsule from an unrepeatable moment in popular culture. [Dec 2011, p.106]
  2. Dec 16, 2011
    This release reorients us around familiar material, but outdoes all previously existing versions in the scope of its execution and comparative completeness.
  3. Dec 15, 2011
    Ultimately Smile is a case of what might have been, and after all this time that's probably only to be expected. [Dec. 2011 p. 140]