Depression doesn’t stop Wilson’s SMiLE

Jarad Miles

Jarad Miles

Brian Wilson’s “SMiLE” dream began back in summer 1966. The Beatles had recently released Revolver, Lyndon Johnson was the president and Robert Kennedy a senator, and Martin Luther King fought civil rights.

Two years earlier Wilson stopped touring with the Beach Boys due to emotional problems. He would continue composing and producing songs for the band. After composing his masterpiece “Pet Sounds,” considered by many as one of the greatest albums of all time, Wilson began working on “SMiLE.” Now, a healthy buzz among those hip to the music scene swirled around his presence in the studio. However, the original tapes were shelved and unfinished in 1967 due to resistance within the group and Wilson’s struggle with mental illness.

Wilson began working on the record after his wife encouraged him to share it with the world, and after 38 years in the shadows, the record shined.

“SMiLE” opens its floodgates with “Our Prayer,” an angelic melodious fusion of ahhs, oohs, and hums steaming into upbeat drums and whistles of the whimsical “Heroes and Villains.” The words of Van Dyke Parks shoot straight from the back of Wilson’s throat in a style all his own (“Stand or fall, I know there shall be peace in the valley, and it’s all an affair of my life with the Heroes and Villains”).

In “Wonderful,” a light dancing harpsichord lifts Wilson’s voice above swirling background harmonies until fading into “Song for Children” freakish horns and into “Child is the Father of the Man” as if one big song. A wild blend of guitar, keyboard, mallets, power drills, whistles, woodwinds and leg slaps complement the abstract writing of Parks. The record’s wide array of instruments are matched by vocal and lyrical quality throughout, especially in “Surf’s Up,” not to be confused with the surf songs of the early Beach Boys.

“SMiLE” closes with the successful “Good Vibrations,” taking its listeners back and forth across Wilson’s seemingly inexhaustible musical landscape. From the sunny shores of Southern California, to the depths of mental illness, to something different ? SMiLE.

Wilson and his traveling band, The Wondermints, are currently resting after a busy two years on tour throughout Japan, Europe and the United States. No further tour dates are scheduled at this time.

Rating: 4 stars