The Weekend Review: November 2011

Originally posted 2012-01-02 14:00:52. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

The SMiLE Sessions (The Beach Boys)

Producer: Brian Wilson, Mark Linett, Alan Boyd, and Dennis Wolfe

Released: November 1, 2011

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Surf’s Up” & “Our Prayer ‘Dialog’”

I’ll keep this one brief, as there’s already been so, so, so much written about SMiLE, that infamous, legendary album that almost was, then wasn’t, then in 2004 pretty much was, and finally in 2011 finally is.  Well, it “is” in the best, closest manner it could ever have been, as The SMiLE Sessions are compiled from what Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys managed to finish before it all fell apart, nothing new added.  So, the Sessions lack the polish and finality of 2004’s Brian Wilson Presents… SMiLE!, afforded it by modern recording equipment and, no less significantly, Wilson’s healthier state of mind.  Inversely, the 2004 version lacked the spark, the elusive x factor presented by the Beach Boys’ voices.  When blended, there simply has never been another group quite like Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston.  Accordingly, I would first recommend you hear Pet Sounds (1966).  If you’ve already heard that, you might be ready for SMiLE.  If you are, judge the version of the Sessions you’ll buy relative to how hardcore a fan you are (I had to go for the full 5-disc boxset, but you might not).  If you’re not, try out Sunflower (1970) or The Beach Boys Today! (1965) first.  But don’t forget to make it back to the greatest album that never was.  And also don’t forget to check back for more Beach Boys cover songs here on the music blog!


Camp (Childish Gambino)

Producer: Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson

Released: November 15, 2011

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Fire Fly” & “Hold You Down”

Camp is an imperfect album, with flares of talent and inspiration tempered with stretches of less notable work.  Being that this is Childish Gambino’s first studio album proper, this is all to be expected, particularly of an up and coming talent, and there is much evidence here to suggest that he is.  His attitude toward achieving success, especially in light of past experiences being ignored by girls and others, is explored across multiple tracks, the best of which is “Fire Fly,” truly the standout track for its incisive catchiness.  Childish Gambino has all the necessary bravado, as well as a unique personality and willingness to let his guard down; although I’ve heard it argued that his beats are derivative (I’m far from an authority on this front), his lyrics have an interesting blend between those typical of contemporary rap and those drastically different from the normal.

The BEST REMASTERS / REISSUES of 2011 (The Year-End Review Awards)

By Chris Moore:

This year, I didn’t listen to all that many remasters or reissues.  Pink Floyd re-released all their albums in one intimidating batch.  Had it been one at a time, I might have tried one.  Nearly every week, there have been remasters or reissues on the new release rack at Newbury Comics.  And yet, at year’s end, I am left with only one in mind that carries any weight with me:  The Beach Boys’ SMiLE Sessions box set.

This is – finally, officially – the closest we’ll ever come to hearing what SMiLE would have sounded like, had it been released in context over four decades ago.  Brian Wilson’s 2004 take on SMiLE turns out to be, as expected, a close approximation and, in some ways, a more complete version.  That is the most heartbreaking aspect of this box set: there are parts missing, instrumentation with unfinished vocals, and a general sense of genius abandoned.  This being said, The SMiLE Sessions present a gorgeous, expansive vision that may well have been yet another game changer in a series of re-visionings then taking place, led largely by the Beatles.

We’ll never know how much of an impact this album would have had, or how great a success it would (or wouldn’t) have been.  What we can do is marvel at the beauty of Brian Wilson’s vision and the Beach Boys’ remarkable vocal soundscapes.  (The deluxe box set may only be for the diehard fan, but believe me, it’s well worth it if you consider yourself to be anything approaching diehard!)

1) The SMiLE Sessions – The Beach Boys