Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 18 – The Alternate Smiley Smile Album (Sea Of Tunes C9953)
(73:31) Wonderful (take 1) / Wonderful (takes 4 & 5) / Wonderful (vocal overdub attempts) / Wonderful (vocal & instrumental overdub) / Wonderful (1st vocal overdub) / Wonderful (2nd vocal overdub) / Wind Chimes (takes 1 & 2) / Wind Chimes (vocal overdub attempt) / Wind Chimes (vocal overdub attempt) / Wind Chimes (instrumental insert) / Wind Chimes (instrumental insert) /Wind Chimes (insert take 2) / Wind Chimes (vocal inserts) / Wind Chimes (vocal rehearsals fade sequence) / Wind Chimes (vocal rehearsals fade sequence) mono/stereo / Wind Chimes (fade sequence takes 1-3) / Wind Chimes (fade sequence take 11) / Vegetables (bass rehearsal) / 19.Vegetables (bass track) / Vegetables (bass & piano track) / Vegetables (1st vocal overdub) / Vegetables (2nd vocal overdub) / Vegetables (instrumental insert) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 1 – take 1) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 1 – backing track) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 1 – 1st vocal overdub) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 1 – 2nd vocal overdub) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 1 – studio mix) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 2 – take 1) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 2 – take 2) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 3 – takes 1 & 2) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 3 – backing track) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 3 – 1st vocal overdub) / She’s Goin’ Bald (section 3 – 2nd vocal overdub) / Getting Hungry (rehearsals) / Getting Hungry (takes 1 & 2) / Getting Hungry (vocal overdubs) / With Me Tonight (vocal rehearsals intro) / With Me Tonight (vocal overdub intro)
Following the break down of the SMiLE sessions in May 1967, the Beach Boys ( minus Brian for the best part ) reconvened in the studio to take up the slack & deliver the missing album that Capitol were needing after their summery dismissal of “Pet Sounds”. The spell of the Beach loving band was tarnished after the gorgeous peans to teenage love & symphonic tributes to America were unleashed on the record buying public. As the record label had been waiting for Brians much muted “SMiLE” project & it became apparent that it was now sidelined by it’s creator then the remaining Beach Boys were going to have to take on the task of rebuilding the march to join the Psychedelic flow that was carousing through music in 1967.
The big question was – How? – Brian had been busy building these fragments for the past year ready to splice the full lot in to three seamless wholes on the album but without such strict supervision the case was almost lost. The songs were written but with the pieces scattered & the resultant order still mostly in Brian’s brain then the best of what was left could only be re-recorded to save the album “Smiley Smile”.
The songs here are not presented in chronological order but rather just scattered around with no thought for tracklistings & the CD can justly be split in to 6 sections. We begin with “Wonderful” – one of the more fully formed ideas from the “SMiLE” album. Tracks 1 & 2 feature takes 1, 4 & 5 of the backing track. The innocent piano of the track which is just being worked through.
The vocal overdub section is slightly more interesting as it features a little more interaction – The “One” harmonies & hums are worked through with varying degrees of success – most of them drop to false takes with the group variously commenting on their efforts or cussing their mistakes. By the time of Carl’s “Vocal overdubs” we’ve come as far as the original words for the track.
The first takes go very well until Brian detects something close to the final harmonies & curses as the apparent flaw scuppers his plans. The second pass goes better but this is apparently just an overdub of the first pass as Brian’s curse can be heard a little more quietly under the dubs. The Instrumental inserts are performed above the vocal overdubs this time using an set of wooden wind chimes & a harmonium.
The first instrumental inserts continue without the harmony attempts. Brushed clear of them they sound, ultimately, boring. The vocal inserts are better at the Brothers Wilson take the “Ting-a-Ling” harmonies & throw a lot of effort in there.
By track 15 ( Vocal rehearsals fade sequence ) – we finally get to something approaching the buzz of earlier CDs – A bout of studio chatter between Brian & Mike leads in the heavier harmonies of Mike’s voice. Firstly Mike complains about the level of volume within his earphones then Brian tries to motion the way he want’s the harmonies to work. Once these are honed to Brian’s satisfaction. The overdubs are performed over the tinkling, music box of the backing track. The next few takes Mike is joined by each Beach Boy in succession as they add their own part to the track. With each pass we get to hear the layering of the voices to the fade piece.
The fade sequence that wraps up these sessions is Brian playing out the coda to the track, sometimes unsuccessfully, tripping up over the intricate design of the chords.
“Vegetables” was part of Brian’s plan of making a keep healthy album but even that was exhumed for the Smiley Smile sessions. The first tracks ( Bass rehearsal & Bass Track ) is just that. If you enjoy roadies sound level checking then you’ll love this. Other than that I think you can skip it. The next track ( Bass & Piano track ) is more fleshed out – as the syncopation of the piano is a lot more interesting than the bass’s plod. Finally the 1st & 2nd vocal overdubs are worth the time. The bass tones only pace the harmonies with which we have the bones of the track. The second overdub tops this off with a spiders web of harmonies connecting the dots where the first was slightly incomplete.
The final ( Instrumental insert ) take almost completes the loose ends. This is the track that also features the vegetable chewing talents of Paul & Linda McCartney. It begins with the bass track & the harmonies, adds the clinking of glasses & bottle blowing percussion, then adds the carrot chomping.
On to “She Is Going Bald” – A re-write of “He Gives Speeches” from those “SMiLE” sessions & most likely Mike’s freudian anguish. This may be the most noticeable song of sections on the whole disk.
For the first section we begin, as usual, with the instrumentation – Piano & congos to begin, then the next take features only bongos & organ instead of the piano.
As for the ( first vocal overdub ) we have bongos & organ together with the newly re-written lyrics. This comes to an end with the “Sh-na-na / What a blow” chorus which is obviously recorded before Brian dosed it with the studio trickery of speeding it up to make it sound like a chipmunk harmony. Someone ‘shushes’ the band to be quiet before they head straight in to the vocals. The track actually lasts a little longer than the finished piece so it could be edited for the final take. The ( second vocal overdub ) adds little to the first but a few more harmonies. The ( studio mix ) is closer to the finished article but had the addition of the vari-speeded vocal.
( Section two ) is Mike’s twist on the ’30’s radio play narrative. Take 1 is a run through of the piano line, then take two is that piano line with the spoken word over dubbed over the top.
( Section three) is the “It’s too late mama” section. Takes 1 & 2 are, once again, the piano line the first take being a practice, take two making up the pace. ( Backing track ) is that piano line with the squeaky guitar line running through. As signified the 1st & 2nd vocal overdubs just add additional vocals to the existing backing. No surprises & no changes.
“Gettin’ Hungry” & “With Me Tonight” are possibly the most interesting & revealing pieces of the CD alone. “Getting Hungry” Begins with 4 minutes of the rehearsals, we can hear the genesis of the song being played through. The organ tune at the start is almost impossible for the group to work out. This falls in to a false start numerous times through at least 4 takes. Brian is present & sounds as if his head is together at least, guiding in the song ( It also starts with the ‘Do-so-ray .. ‘ chord progression that singers use to warm up their voice with. ) Once the backing was established ( Takes 1 & 2 ) the ( vocal overdubs ) are used together with various discordant notes & noises that didn’t finally make the final cut.
“With Me Tonight” is incomplete but does feature a lot of studio chatter while the Boys rehearse their vocals. Brian leads in the band, prompting the start time. There is a little discussion at to why Brian is holding something but he suggests it holds his nerve while he’s singing. The obvious benefit of Sea Of Tunes using these tapes is that the closeness of the harmonies is perfect. Very much like you’re stood in the circle of harmony. The rehearsals are obviously just a warm up for the main part. The overdubs are pretty much the same thing but maybe just a little tighter.
This selection, coming after the triple “SMiLE” box set from the same manufacturers, could only be a disappointment, as was “Smiley Smile” after the long wait for the proper album. As with the C.V. it does contain the odd smattering of listenable material & fly on the wall chatter but if it’s a choice between this & pretty much any other selection of the Sea Of Tunes catalogue then you may be better looking at the rest.