Originally conceived as a “teenage symphony to God,” Brian Wilson considers Smile to be his masterpiece, which is saying something. Wilson, a founding member of the Beach Boys, composed and arranged the music for Pet Sounds, which is among the greatest albums ever made. (It is No. 2 on Rolling Stone’s list.) He succumbed to severe mental illness and drug abuse as the 1960s drew to a close, making it impossible for Smile to be completed. But after years of treatment for schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, he regained sufficient health to reclaim his life:
Aided by musician and long time fan Darian Sahanaja of The Wondermints, and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Brian painstakingly worked throughout 2003 to release the album. In February 2004, 37 years after it was conceived, Wilson debuted the newly completed Smile at the Royal Festival Hall in London and throughout a subsequent UK tour.
The debut performance at the RFH was a defining moment for Brian. The documentary DVD of the event shows Brian preparing for the big day and, right up to show time, expressing doubts over the concept of putting this legendary work before the public. After an opening set of Beach Boys classics, he climbed back on stage for a rousing performance of the album. A 10-minute standing ovation followed the concert; the DVD shows a sprinkling of rock luminaries in the crowd, such as Roger Daltrey, Paul Weller, Sir George Martin and Sir Paul McCartney . . . [Via Wikipedia]
Rock critic Robert Christgau:
. . . Smile‘s post-adolescent utopia isn’t disfigured by Brian’s thickened, soured 62-year-old voice. It’s ennobled–the material limitations of its sunny artifice and pretentious tomfoolery acknowledged and joyfully engaged. . . . A+
It is a cohesive album that should be heard in one sitting, which makes the Youtube clip above a poor preview. So you will need to buy the CD. Even if your taste is different than mine such that Smile never ranks among your favorites, it is worth having as a monument to the human spirit. Because the more you learn about the life and times of Brian Wilson, the more you may see Smile as evidence of all of the things we most wish to believe: that perseverance pays, that deep wounds can heal, that genius will out, and that faith in something bigger than ourselves redeems.