SMiLE: the continuing saga of an unreleased album
Of all the recent SMiLE fan mixes I've heard, this one is easily my favorite. At 22 songs it is a bit too long for my taste and I feel that there are a few extraneous tracks (such as "Look", "Holidays", "George Fell" and "You're Welcome") but some of these mixes are just so damn impressive that I overlook any such 'flaws' that I might see. Besides, EVERYONE in SMiLE-land has their own opinion of what belongs and what doesn't in a SMiLE mix - that's part of the fun.
Now for the critique…I'll leave out the tracks that have little or no changes from the 'accepted' versions and start with my only criticisms. "Heroes and Villains" is a little too long for my taste at 8:00, but there ARE some very interesting variations that work and that I haven't heard before. My least fave SMiLE song, "Vega-Tables" gets a new mix that actually is enjoyable. " Surf's Up" is great, but I still prefer the Ann Wallace mix (the only mix in this set that I favor another one of).
So, what DO I like about this set? Ah, where to start…"Barnyard" and "I'm In Great Shape" are the best sync versions I have heard so far, using Brian's 'demo' with the accepted track - but without the wobbly pitch variations in Brian's voice that have plagued other attempts on joining these two. What to do with the 'water' element? Well, this version of "Love to Say Da Da" mixes 'Cool Cool Water', the 'Water Chant' and the traditional 'Love to Say Da Da' into a very believable combination! I used to hate hearing 'Cool Cool Water' in any SMiLE mix, but Mok has made a believer of me (historical accuracy be damned!).
Now I get to what I consider the most spectacular songs in this collection. Mok's versions of "Do You Like Worms" and "Child is the Father of the Man" have to be about the best I've heard. In fact, I'm adding them to my own SMiLE lineup for those songs! Both have interesting little nuances that make them unique in my book (when you've heard as many SMiLE mixes as I have lately, it takes A LOT to impress!). Like Phil Spector did for the Beatles song "I Me Mine", Mok has done to "He Gives Speeches" - he pads the song into a cohesive until that doesn't sound like just a fragment - yet another favorite on this collection.
Mok has attempted to do what all SMiLE mixologists try -to make a cohesive album that sounds like a complete SMiLE album. And he comes pretty damn close…this is a MUST for any collection.
COMMENTS BY MOK
I started listening to the Beach Boys and taking them seriously when I first heard 'Pet Sounds' as a sophomore in high school. I'd heard of an 'unfinished' album called 'Smile' around then, but never really paid much attention to it, because really, how could it top 'Pet Sounds'? I went to college still hooked on PS, and getting other people hooked as well. After college, a friend of mine (who I'd hooked on PS) lent me a book of his called 'How Deep Is the Ocean?' by Paul Williams. Hoping to shed some light on the happenings of the PS sessions, I instead found an amazing account of this 'Smile' album.
I was then highly intrigued (as was friend Eric) and we proceeded to procure any session material we could find. Since most of these discs follow no more flow than the track masters, I found myself hearing similar sections of songs over and over again, and not being able to get them out of my head. It was 'Surf's Up' and 'Vega-Tables' that intrigued me the most, perhaps due to the astoundingly musical and varied sections of each. Being an audio engineer, I felt that an edit of this material could be made, but a lot of work would have to be done. I researched as much as possible about the ideas of the album, as well as what (and what quality of) material was available. Got a couple of bucks together to get a small Pro-Tools audio recording system at home (one that I know well from the professional world) and away I went.
This project consumed all of my free time for the spring of 2001. I holed-up at home and didn't talk to many of my friends. I slowly realized that I had to take breaks, because it was getting to me psychologically. I started to feel very frustrated, and if I was getting down (without any pressure from a label or a demanding fan base), I could only imagine what Brian must have felt. In order to finish my work, I realized I had to change my thought process. Instead of going with the idea that I could 'finish' Smile, I went down another road. I felt that I was happy, for the most part, with listening to the bootlegs, but felt that too much was repetition and too much was of poor fidelity. So, I decided to make a 'Smile' that was listenable, of reasonably high fidelity, and in an order I find pleasing. I cut together all of the parts of the 'songs' that I loved hearing, in a way that satisfied me. It was also important to me to use only the original material and add no 'newly recorded' parts, as I feel the material can still stand on its own.
After I finished my work, I knew I was done. No more could be tweaked, or fudged with. I still feel this way, and my only continuing contribution to the 'Smile' world is getting it out there to as many people who'll listen. I really didn't think many others would like it, because I still considered it too long for an album and too bloated in areas, but I was surprised. All of the responses from folks I've given my mix to have positive things to say about it. I'm glad now that I'm able to pass on 'Smile' to people as something they can put in their CD players and listen to, rather than just telling them about the idea or playing pieces of it. Any notion of furthering the idea of 'Smile' being the near masterpiece it may have been is one I'm happy to continue (as well as 'Pet Sounds' being the masterpiece that 'is').
Unfortunately, I don't feel that the Smile recordings will ever be released as a completed album. This is the main reason I attempted this project. With the upcoming tour, perhaps the performances will satisfy some folks' desire of 'completion', but will we ever really be satisfied? I think for me, laboring through this project gave me enough of a sense of 'completion' on the album, but Brian will always be a mystery.
Here's a rough idea of what's on this disc and the work that went into it:
1 - Our Prayer
2 - Heroes and Villains
3 - Barnyard
4 - I'm In Great Shape
5 - Do You Like Worms
6 - Child is the Father of the Man
7 - Look
8 - Good Vibrations
9 - Holidays
10 - The Old Master Painter
11 - He Gives Speeches
12 - Wonderful
13 - I Love to Say Da-Da
14 - Mrs. O'Leary's Cow
15 - Friday Night
16 - Reprise
17 - Vega-Tables
18 - Wind Chimes
19 - CabinEssence
20 - You're Welcome
21 - George Fell Into His French Horn
22 - Surf's Up
Ultimately it's too long and overstuffed to be an 'album', but there never was an album, and this is my way to feel totally complete with Smile (if one ever can). -Mok
For a few samples of Mok's SMiLE go to:
E-mail Mok at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanna learn more about SMiLE? Well go to the SMiLE ALBUM PRESERVATION SOCIETY links page. It's the best, most comprehensive and only regularly updated SMiLE source on the web: