Thursday, May 26, 2005


Heroes And Villains Part 1

The Smile DVD set has two discs, one with the "Beautiful Dreamer" documentary, and the second with the complete live performance of the reconstructed "Smile" suite. So far, I've only had the chance to watch the documentary DVD, which was indeed interesting for not only the background but some of the at-work glimpses, which are indeed moving. The documentary isn't afraid to point the finger at least partially at Mike Love (although it's done in a circumspect manner, probably because of the then-pending litigation between Mike Love and Brian Wilson) for the abortion of the original Smile project, however, it doesn't unnecessarily dwell on that. There are many cool insights, especially from Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine, the Wrecking Crew bastions who anchored the sessions, along with many other observations from friends and interested parties (including interestingly, Sir George Martin; there's a very heartwarming scene at the concert venue just before the show with Paul McCartney greeting Brian). I was incredibly impressed with Brian's touring band, who's absolutely amazing in pulling off this rich, difficult music. Some of the instrumentation is intriguing, lots of el-cheapo instruments that you wouldn't have expected (e.g Danelectros, low-end Fenders) pulled together in what's probably the first rock symphony. The band's previous live recordings with Brian (the Roxy album, plus the complete Pet Sounds CD and DVD) were nothing short of amazing, recreating sounds that I thought simply couldn't be duplicated on stage.

One rather interesting theme in the backgrounder portion of the documentary is that there's a bit of disingenuous denial on the part of some observers that drugs had something to do with the original album's eventual demise. Brian's honest enough to admit in the documentary that he was indeed gobbling down certain substances (although the documentary makes the point that LSD was legal until sometime in 1966 in California) and that he might've indeed been impacted, but the external observers are more blameful of the rest of the Beach Boys and Murry Wilson for Brian's state than anything else. I can only say that Brian seems a very haunted man as a result of everything he's been through, however, there are just some moments when he opens up and it's as if a spotlight begins shining. For whatever it's worth, this does indeed seem to be healing this genius.

The only thing of course is to watch the actual concert, and I'll admit to having mixed emotions about it. While I love Pet Sounds, and was blown away by Brian and the band pulling off reproducing it live, Smile's an album that really isn't for everybody. It's definitely a mood thing with me, as the Dumb Angel concept is something that's just a bit out there, and the travelogue theme (which I'd never heard about until Van Dyke Parks mentioned it in the documentary) is just a bit forced. There's lots of music I like here, but truth be told, there's much more filler and interstitial stuff here than in Pet Sounds, which I just relate to on the basis of being an angst-ridden kvetch. The snippet I saw of them reproducing Cabin Essence was indeed awesome, as in many ways I regard that as Brian's vocal magnum opus (during the "Who ran the iron horse" bit). Other bits, such as Roll Plymouth Rock, or Vega-Tables, just leave me cold, to be honest. Perhaps the inclusion of something like Til I Die might've changed my opinion, or for that matter, the live arrangement of Heroes and Villains (as done on the 1972 In Concert album) might change my opinion. The album is a bit lethargic and monotonous in tempo, unlike the much more dynamic Pet Sounds.


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