These albums mark nothing less than a watershed in the Beach Boys' and Brian Wilson's careers. Fresh from the artistic triumph of Pet Sounds and the landmark single "Good Vibrations," Wilson began work on Smile, a project that would become a music fan's Rashomon: pop's most (in)famous unreleased album; artistic Waterloo for Wilson; near career-ruination for the band. Smile seemed an attempt to expand on the jigsaw session methodology Wilson had applied to "Vibrations." What went wrong has been debated for decades, but Smiley Smile was the album that followed in the summer of '67--a "bunt instead of a home run," as Carl Wilson admitted. Bookended by the glories of the "Vibrations" single and its truncated follow-up, "Heroes and Villains," Smiley can seem an exercise in creative schizophrenia. There's an earthy quality to remakes of Smile tracks "Wind Chimes," "Vegetables," and "Wonderful," while Wilson's "Fall Breaks," "Little Pad," and "Whistle In" underscore his playful, off-center instincts. But this album also anticipated the roots-conscious retrenchment that the Beatles and Bob Dylan would undertake at the end of the '60s.
Wild Honey has taken its place as a cult fave among fans, and rightly so. Its surprising R&B influences (epitomized by the buoyant title track, "Darlin'," and "Here Comes the Night") were not only a brave turn for a band just then at a low ebb, but a prescient pointer to the black music explosion of the early '70s. This great twofer edition includes some of the series' best tracks: a near seven-minute "in progress" suite of "Good Vibrations" outtakes as well as a complete early version; the odd, Smile-era B-side "You're Welcome"; a beautiful live rehearsal rendition of the a cappella showcase "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring"; and another suite of edited session takes for the unreleased standout "Can't Wait Too Long." -Jerry McCulley
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