Well tonight I sat down and seriously thought about how the best songs could be combined to form one cohesive and brilliant album. While I am a fan of Wilson’s Smile of 2004, I am still fonder of the originals that he attempted back in 1966. One thing should be noted though. The lyrical content of Pet Sounds is mostly collaborator Tony Asher’s invention and thus the lyrics are very personal and written in a first person autobiographical way. While the lyrics from the Smile sessions are by Van Dyke Parks and are a bit more psychedelic, story telling and not as personal. Furthermore the lyrics of Smile are depictions of Americana, whereas the lyrics of Pet Sounds are not at all about that (except Sloop John B)….
But musically the two albums have a whole lot in common, especially since they were written and recorded consecutively after one another. Brian Wilson, in my opinion accomplished a feat in popular music composition during that year that has never been equaled, not even by Lennon or McCartney (though they came close). Note that the harpsichord is a prominent instrument for both Pet Sounds and Smile, and the sounds of the album are almost identical…..they definitely feel like one of the same pod even if lyrically they are very different.
So how could this album be put together cohesively? I felt the only honest way to let the album play would be to arrange the songs so that they would play chronologically. And this way the album would demonstrate the very brief metamorphosis of the brilliant composer in a single year. I made it a point to make sure all the songs were written and recorded in 1966. The exception of this is Sloop John B which Brian neither wrote and began recording it in 1965, but laid the final vocals down in 1966. Another exception here is Heroes and Villains which was completed in early 1967, but written in 1966 and mostly recorded in 1966. I took out my CDs and picked my 7 favorite songs off Pet Sounds, and my 7 favorite songs from the Smile Sessions. Then I spent an hour gathering the recording dates to make sure I placed the songs in the appropriate chronology. I actually feared that doing it this way would put certain songs next each other that didn’t sequence well. But surprisingly the album sequences perfectly. Firstly, Sloop John B. begins the album, which is the perfect opener because while it’s a Pet Sounds song, it has an American Story and that connects with the Smile Songs like Heroes and Villains and Cabinessence. I chose to use the mono versions of all the Pet Sounds songs as they relate better to the mono recordings of the Smile sessions.
I entitled the album on itunes “Wilson 1966” and it plays like this…..
1.Sloop John B
3.Wouldn’t it Be Nice
4.Hang on to your Ego (a more lyrically interesting version of I know There's an Answer)
5.That’s Not Me
6.I Just Wasn’t Made for these Times
7.God Only Knows
8.Good Vibrations (45 Version)
13.Heroes and Villains (45 Version) aka (Smiley Smile Version)
14.Surf’s Up (Piano / Vocal)
If you are unsure of which versions I specifically used for the Smile songs, refer to the Good Vibrations boxed set, which are the hand selected version of Brian himself.
•A few notes about the sequence….I was happy to have the two Carl Wilson master vocals next to eachother (God Only Knows / Good Vibrations)……they flow especially well and Good Vibrations really opens the door for the music of Smile. Cabinessence is the only song here that I could not find in Mono. The sound is a little different due to this, but oh well. Heroes and Villains was actually completed in 1967 so in a sense I cheated here. But the bulk of the recording sessions for this song was done in 1966 and the song was written in that year so I put it in sequence where the sessions began. It especially felt good to end the set with Surf’s Up, which I feel is Wilson’s greatest song. Leonard Bernstein called this version the greatest triumph of the rock era. It feels especially right in last place because it is Wilson alone with no other singers or instrumentalists….and the whole album comes to a culmination of this one genius composer / singer.
Thanks for reading and I hope you get a chance to listen to this……if you're really interested maybe I can make you copy.....however I have to get permission from whoever is in charge of that and no I won't charge you except for shipping, but I don't know if it's legal.