Amazon.com has had some specifics about The Smile Sessions box set up for a while :
SMiLE Sessions’ physical and digital configurations include an assembled collection of core session tracks, while the box set delves much deeper into the sessions, adding early song drafts, alternate takes, instrumental and vocals-only mixes, and studio chatter. SMiLE Sessions invites the listener into the studio to experience the album’s creation, with producer, singer and bassist Brian Wilson’s vision leading the way as he guides his fellow Beach Boys, singer Mike Love, drummer Dennis Wilson, lead guitarist Carl Wilson, rhythm guitarist Al Jardine, and newest member Bruce Johnston (who’d replaced Brian Wilson in the touring group during 1965), through the legendary sessions.
The box itself (13″ x 13″ x 2.5″) has a ‘three-dimensional shadow box lid’ featuring the original artwork of Frank Holmes, and contains five CDs, two LPs and two 7″ singles.
There’s a 60 page case bound book, featuring liner notes by Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, Frank Holmes, Peter Reum, Tom Nolan, Domenic Priore, plus anecdotes by Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford, Diane Rovell, Dean Torrence, Mark Volman, Michael Vosse, David Anderle, Danny Hutton (but no Van Dyke Parks, least not according to this) . The book also has a timeline, a sessionography, lyrics, Frank Holmes’ drawings, plus producer’s notes.
A six panel folder holds the five CDs and two 7″ singles, the latter being Heroes and Villains (parts 1 & 2), and Vega-Tables/Surf’s Up, both in picture sleeves. The folder features photos of the original session tape boxes.
There’s a gatefold 2 LP, ‘which features full tracklisting of the proposed unfinished album, plus stereo mixes and session highlights (not available on CDs)’
A 12″ x 12″ reproduction the orginal 12-page Smile booklet is also included , with Guy Webster’s photographs and Frank Holmes’ track illustrations, as well as a 24″ x 36″ poster of Frank Holmes’ cover art.
The Smile Sessions will be issued in three versions: on iTunes; as a two-CD set; and in a box set with four CDs, two vinyl LPs, two vinyl singles and a 60-page book. These recordings will include an approximation of the original Smile album, plus outtakes and studio banter. “We have gaps where we are missing some vocal parts,” said co-producer Mark Linett. But the release will offer “the whole piece as close to as it was envisioned, or as is envisioned, as possible,” he promised, “obviously with input from Brian and from everybody else.” While the musical extras will probably be released in stereo, Smile will be issued in mono, as Wilson originally intended.
It’s gained another CD since then (as it’s a 5CD set), which is good news. I’m hoping that at least another two discs will be added before November 1st. One has to assume that the Amazon image is an actual photograph, and of actual stuff (pics of all formats have the unsettling aura of a photoshopped-montage)…it seems more tangible in the Animated Unboxing, but you can do a lot with CGI these days.
And surely any self-respecting Smilehead could replicate their own version and variations of the Boxed Set contents :
I even have my own cover art :
Keen-eyed Smile spotters will have immediately recognised 3 discs of sessions from the Sea Of Tunes Unsurpassed Masters Vol.17 boxed-set
There’s also the pretty-looking longform 110-page paperbound book from the same set (featuring liner notes by one Gabriel Witteveen). With a more-than-competent layout, plus lyrics, session photos, the Smile booklet’s photos and illustrations, and a list of recording dates, it looks useful – there is a lot of text. Unfortunately, most of it is a history heavily-peppered with ‘theories’ and personal speculation, and mostly of worth if you agree with its author. As every Beach Boys fan has an opinion about Smile, this is just one more. This is the book’s cover, plus a randomly-chosen sample page :
Note the nice use of the Brian pic as the header for each chapter. Hang on, isn’t that Carl…?
I could chuck in another couple of CDs, for ‘bonus disc’ good value : SMiLE…As It Could Have Been, a ‘fan-mix’ (being an edited amalgam of bootleg recordings, a “what if”, rather than an ‘archive’ collection) that replicates the 2004 Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE sequence :
The disc comes in a professional looking cardboard cover slip (of vinyl album stock) that recreates the original Frank Holmes artwork for the album. There is also a full color, CD size recreation of the famous booklet that was to go with the original album. Also included is a booklet with all the track information. Finally, the disc itself has a Capitol records imprint.
This is here purely for its packaging – the sleeve uses cover slicks (cover slicks! Glossy front/matt back), and the ‘rainbow’ Capitol label on the disc.
Another another well-presented CD,
[the] Japanese-origin Smile bootleg CD (T-2580-2) that took the Beach Boys’ collectors circuit by surprise in 1990…sourced from a tape allegedly compiled by Brian’s management when a legitmate Smile Sessions was briefly considered in 1988. This tape contained the legendary original versions of Wind Chimes and Vega-Tables, Brian’s solo demo of Surf’s Up, and a rousing seven minutes of unreleasased Heroes and Villains segments. (Lee Dempsey and Elliott Kendall, Endless Summer Quarterly, reprinted in Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile!)
This is a personal favourite because a) it was the first Smile bootleg I heard that was obviously from a single source, and so had a consistent mastering quality throughout; b) it was well-sequenced (a snippet of George Fell Into His French Horn precedes the 2 parts of Surf’s Up; c) the design looks ‘official’, especially the Smile-shop on the disc (presumably because it’s Japanese); and d) because, one summer evening, probably in 1991, I went to visit a soft-spoken Scottish Byrds-fanatic, who I barely knew, just to hear his cassette copy of this bootleg.
The Vigotone/Brother Records 3 LP set is on coloured vinyl, but kind of sicky-looking (not disimiliar to the ‘psychedelic’ mess The Dukes Of Stratosphear used for their Psonic Psunspot LP). This is the vinyl counterpart of the two-disc Vigotone set that Caspar Llewellyn Smith mentions (“not hard to track down, but the delight I felt when I did was immense. Surely some things in life should be worth the extra effort to seek out?”) : ‘finished tracks’ on Sides One and Two; sessions, working versions and variants across the next three sides; and 25 minutes of Brian’s ‘Smile Session Party’ on Side Six. Plus an early version of the Ant-Bee cover of Do You Like Worms?, just to confuse. It confused me.
Its stickered sleeve’s selling points :
I took the 18″ x 18″ poster of Frank Holmes’ cover art off the wall so it would get in the photo – it’s a really nice reproduction, and has covered a (slightly worrying) crack for a good while.
This is one page of the 7 page insert, reproductions of ‘Popular Session Work Sheets’, (in chronological order). The others are Wonderful, Child Is Father Of the Man, Do You Like Worms?, Surf’s Up (1st Movement), The Elements (Fire), and Love To Say Da Da (there are more session worksheets reproduced in LLVS and Keith Badman’s book).
The Smile booklet reproduction was at one time available from the UK Beach Boys Stomp fanzine – this was the ad in LLVS:
Not bad for a fiver. I’ve blanked the address because I expect he has sold out, and thus doesn’t need to receive Postal Orders sent in vain. I didn’t have a Smile bootleg then, it had to hang around with Smiley Smile…
The 2011 Smile Sessions booklet is LP-sized, whereas this reproduction is 10″ x 10″, as originally intended. Out of 20 photos over 10 pages, only 3 are of Brian Wilson – but this is the centrefold : LLVS reprints a mid-60s Brian pic from a US teen mag with the caption ‘Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s deep in thought. Maybe he’s dreaming up one of his groovy songs!‘. This mirrored-image seems a little more ‘serious’ than any pop-star pinup…
I never liked 7″ singles much, but if this fake box has to match the Amazon description, the yellow vinyl version of Cabinessence/Wonderful from June’s Mojo ‘60s Special‘ obviously fits:
It’s the only legitimate Smile release in the photo, all the rest are obviously ‘unofficial’.
Dedicated collectors could therefore approximate a ‘deluxe’ Smile box set fairly easily. I just did. And so what the hell are these for?
Here we have : a vinyl pressing of the Sea Of Tunes Unsurpassed Masters Vol.16 Smile bootleg (plus a CD-R copy of the disc); a 2-disc version of the Japanese CD, with a bonus ‘Bits And Pieces’ disc, plus a 10″ x 10″ poster insert (with Frank Holmes booklet pics on back); CD-R copies of the 3CD Lost Smile Sessions from the Beach Boys: Archaeology 5CD set; the Odeon Smile CD, (plus a CD-R copy of the’ improved quality’ 2nd issue); a CD-R of Heroes and Vibrations; and the Unsurpassed Masters Vol. 15 3CD set (‘over three hours of tracking and vocal sessions for “Good Vibrations”‘). Other variations are also available…
Most of this was acquired at record fairs, collectors’ shops and via mail-order. Finding a Smile bootleg or fan-mix these days means a cursory Google search, and then locating the one working link amongst the dead ones.
I haven’t included two Smile T-shirts (short- and long-sleeve). And I wouldn’t even call myself a completist – didn’t bother with the Smile fridge magnets. It has, after all, ‘never been difficult for anyone interested to track down bootlegs of those sessions’.
Can I justify spending £123.97 on Amazon.co.uk? And can I even find the money?