Thursday, February 26, 2004

There's a fascinating article about Brian Wilson's lost album in today's Washington Post:

    Wilson was the fragile musical genius who wrote, produced and performed on the Beach Boys' exuberant hits during the 1960s. "Smile" was reputed to be his ultimate achievement, a densely packed song cycle of intriguing melody and rich harmony that should have appeared at about the same time as the Beatles' classic "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album.

    But somewhere on the road to completion in the spring and summer of 1967 Wilson lost his way, scrapping large chunks of "Smile" and descending into nearly three decades of drug-induced madness from which he began to emerge only a few years ago. And "Smile" descended with him. A few pieces of the puzzle appeared on various albums to tempt and torment Wilson's fans. But the great work itself vanished, as if it had never existed.

    Until now.

    This past week, Wilson, now 61, has been treating British audiences to a modern version of "Smile," performed for the first time live onstage at Royal Festival Hall here. It's been an event of extraordinary power and poignancy, sold out for five nights, fronted by a man who barely makes eye contact with the audience, whose voice often struggles to remain on key, and whose every hesitant gesture suggests a lifetime of pain and turmoil.

Read the whole thing, even if your knowledge of the Beach Boys as artists is limited to the nagging feeling that much of their work is probably horribly underrated which you got after seeing how well Cameron Crowe used "Good Vibrations" in Vanilla Sky.

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