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Better late than never
November 1, 2011 9:37 AM   Subscribe

After 44 years, The Beach Boys' SMiLE, the most famous unreleased album of all time, has finally been released.
Even at its most remorselessly upbeat, the Beach Boys' music was marked by an ineffable sadness – you can hear it in the cascading tune played by the woodwind during Good Vibrations's verses – but on Smile, the sadness turned into something far weirder. All the talk of Wilson writing teenage symphonies to God – and indeed the sheer sumptuousness of the end results – tends to obscure what a thoroughly eerie album Smile is. Until LSD's psychological wreckage began washing up in rock via Skip Spence's Oar and Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs, artists tactfully ignored the dark side of the psychedelic experience. But it's there on Smile...
The first of a ten-part web series on the making of the album and the new reissue has been posted on youtube, featuring new interviews and rare archival footage. The full-length 2-CD version is streaming at AOL.
posted by anazgnos (162 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hmm. That streaming album is very much not working for me on any of my 3 browsers, making me FRoWN.
posted by item at 9:41 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hasn't this really been out for a while now? Like, several years anyway? I've got some great acapella mixes somewhere.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:43 AM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Smile Sessions came out in 2004. So, yeah. Still!
posted by stinkycheese at 9:44 AM on November 1, 2011


I'm glad the original sessions have finally been released. Tremendous stuff, in my personal top 10.
posted by naju at 9:45 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


RTFA, please.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:46 AM on November 1, 2011


Hasn't this really been out for a while now? Like, several years anyway?
The Smile Sessions came out in 2004. So, yeah. Still!

Not quite. Brian Wilson released his own, newly-recorded version with his solo band in 2004. The new release is the original 1966/1967 sessions by the Beach Boys.
posted by anazgnos at 9:46 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting. I have the 2004 release and it's quite good, will be fun to compare them.
posted by mannequito at 9:48 AM on November 1, 2011


Yes, thanks for this, anazgnos!
posted by joe lisboa at 9:48 AM on November 1, 2011


They've been releasing songs and fragments for years, on the first few post-Smile albums and the box set, and there are tons of bootlegs, and there's the 2004 Brian and the Wondermints version with subpar vocals, but not only is this (relatively) whole and pristine, but some of it has somehow never even been bootlegged. I can't listen to this yet, but apparently there's a different version of "Surf's Up"? That's pretty exciting.
posted by Adventurer at 9:50 AM on November 1, 2011


Streaming isn't working for me either.
posted by caddis at 9:50 AM on November 1, 2011


Hmm. That streaming album is very much not working for me on any of my 3 browsers, making me FRoWN.

Ditto. #fail.
posted by beagle at 9:52 AM on November 1, 2011


Regardless of what TFA says, TFPostTitle is incorrect, joe lisboa.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:52 AM on November 1, 2011


Surely this will make somebody go out and buy a physical CD.
posted by box at 9:52 AM on November 1, 2011


but apparently there's a different version of "Surf's Up"? That's pretty exciting.

Yeah, a version of the song recorded well after Smile was abandoned, during the Wild Honey sessions. Newly discovered. Stunning is the only word.

Sorry about the streaming, guys. Worked for me. Clips are on amazon and itunes and such.
posted by anazgnos at 9:52 AM on November 1, 2011


The re-recorded version is serviceable for what it is, but there's no way it can hold a candle to these recordings, which are the product of boundless ambition, blood, tears, sweat, LSD-soaked sweat, and the pure psychic creative juice of a genius in the middle of a nervous breakdown.
posted by naju at 9:52 AM on November 1, 2011


You can stream it on Spotify too.
posted by the1inBK at 9:53 AM on November 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think you have to be using a 1998 browser to stream from AOL. Either that or you need that CD they send in the mail.
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 AM on November 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


Al Jardine should have tried out for Gollum.
posted by gcbv at 9:55 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The streaming works perfectly in Lynx.
posted by kmz at 9:55 AM on November 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


stinkycheese: “The Smile Sessions came out in 2004. So, yeah. Still!”

As others have pointed out, that wasn't the Beach Boys. That was Brian Wilson and his newer band, the Wondermints.

This newly-released 1960s version, by the actual Beach Boys, is about a billion times better than the 2004 version. Awesome.

Thanks, anazgnos.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Regardless of what TFA says, TFPostTitle is incorrect, joe lisboa.

Only if you're really wanting to split hairs. Yes, fragments have been released on previous Beach Boys albums and compilations. Yes, a re-recorded version was done without the Beach Boys. Yes, it's been extensively bootlegged, traded, torrented, and remixed by fans. All that said, today is the first day in 44 years that you could walk into a hypothetical record store and find a Beach Boys release called Smile, the first time that the body of work has been properly recognized and canonized. And if you're even a little bit of a fan, that probably means something.
posted by anazgnos at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


Regardless of what TFA says, TFPostTitle is incorrect, joe lisboa.

Yeah, that was harsh. Sorry. But still, Brian Wilson is not the Beach Boys. So the post title is correct.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


My MSN WebTV was able to properly stream the AOL "web-site." Just type in Keyword: BCHBYSSMILE

This is just the thing I needed to break in my new speakers.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2011


Somehow my own Smile post got eaten by the internet. Whoops. Glad someone else posted it.


I will add that the Smile Shop is a great source for historical info, in-depth analysis, fan speculation (pre-Smile '04), and more.
posted by DiscountDeity at 9:59 AM on November 1, 2011


Get in line for the collector's edition: 5 CDs, 2 LPs, 2 7" singles, backlit shadow box cover based on the original art, surfboard, and autographed by Brian Wilson.

Only $6,000.

It's a little disappointing, since the surfboard doesn't fit in the box.
posted by ardgedee at 10:03 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Installed something called Spotify to listen to this. Very much worth it. So good. So, so good.

The 'new' Surf's Up is just as stunning as it shoud be.
posted by item at 10:04 AM on November 1, 2011


you could walk into a hypothetical record store

Of course, that's the only kind of record store we've got left...
posted by Grangousier at 10:04 AM on November 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not to brag but I'll be picking up my copy of the box set from BRIAN DOUGLAS WILSON HIMSELF tonight. He's doing a signing at my local non-hypothetical store.
posted by anazgnos at 10:05 AM on November 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


Smile Sessions, 1967,

Smiley Smile, 1967,

Smile, 2004.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's doing a signing at my local non-hypothetical store.

Only in Long Beach!
posted by blucevalo at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2011


Those YouTube interviews are so full of superlatives from the Boys themselves they're basically setting the thing up to be disappointing.

Now that I'm streaming it on Spotify, one immediate reaction is that a lot of songs were pretty damn short in those days. But, it all sounds pretty good.
posted by beagle at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2011


This is good news. And, I think that whole "winning the discussion" is kind of silly, but I think anazgnos won this one.
posted by marxchivist at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2011


I never bought the Smile Sessions, but did get some pretty decent bootlegs of the original recordings around the same time. Hence my confusion. I hadn't realized Smile Sessions was a re-recording - even after RTFA.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2011


Item: Spotify is The Light and The Way.

You'll see :)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:11 AM on November 1, 2011


God, between this and the Mindy Kaling book that just came out I think I'm actually going to go to a store tonight to go shopping! And overdose on really sweet things.
posted by armacy at 10:13 AM on November 1, 2011


The Purplechick SMiLE bootleg has been my favorite version so far. I'm going to have to check this release out on Spotify and see how it compares.
posted by tommasz at 10:14 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The rarest SMiLE outtake of all.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:17 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


tommasz: This is better than the Purplechick bootleg. No question.

And this Spotify thing has fucking ads? Or was Brian so messed up in 67 that he wanted me to buy a BMW? Either way, it's jarring and awful and I hate it and I think I hate Spotify.
posted by item at 10:18 AM on November 1, 2011


Wow...you must have never lived through this thing called RADIO. One short ad every 5 songs or so - I'll take that over 10 minutes of some asshole DJ bloviating and 5 commercials for the local mattress shop.
posted by spicynuts at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


If Spotify is annoying, I believe Rdio has a freemium model with no ads:

2-CD version
5-CD version
posted by naju at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2011


Oh this is a weird hybrid "Heroes & Villains," the beginning is most of the Smiley Smile version, then spliced in the "In the cantina..." part, but not where it goes in the alternate recording where it originally came from.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2011


Hey, do y'all remember MySpace? It's also streaming over there (5CD version, or the 2CD version).

If you don't like the separate window and would prefer it in a tab, just drag the MySpace logo button into your list of tabs, and it'll make a new Playlist tab.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2011


Get in line for the collector's edition: 5 CDs, 2 LPs, 2 7" singles, backlit shadow box cover based on the original art, surfboard, and autographed by Brian Wilson.

Only $6,000.


!

And I thought the Uber Achtung Baby was a bit outrageous.

Of course, I've got the $100+ Super edition on the way to my house right now, so I can't really say thing.
posted by kmz at 10:25 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude this is great!
posted by Mister_A at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2011


The uber-special edition comes with it's own sandbox.
posted by dr_dank at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The uber-special edition comes with its own sandbox.

Complete with special Kitty surprise.
posted by donquixote at 10:35 AM on November 1, 2011


This sounds like it could have been recorded last year. I mean that in an an awe-struck way.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:36 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


This sounds like it could have been recorded last year

It sounds like it could've been recorded 10 years from now.
posted by item at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


This is crazy, in the best way possible. So dense, and such weird soundplay! SO GOOD! It makes me think of some of the stranger Beatles songs.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:39 AM on November 1, 2011


Oh this is a weird hybrid "Heroes & Villains," the beginning is most of the Smiley Smile version, then spliced in the "In the cantina..." part, but not where it goes in the alternate recording where it originally came from.

Make no mistake, this new release is as much of a Frankenstein as any of the fan mixes over the years - they just happen to have had access to the masters and the blessing/input of the principals. Some of the editing feats I've been reading about on the set are pretty amazing. It's not as though this stuff was just sitting in the vaults waiting to be put out - Surf's Up for example had to be totally reconstructed from the ground up. They will probably be going into their methodology in some more depth in the web series.
posted by anazgnos at 10:41 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ive heard this record in like 40 different iterations at this point, and it just feels more complete now. Dunno if Im just projecting into it. But its pretty special. And I thought this release would be redundant and unnecessary.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never actually listened to this album in any of its previous incarnations. First, it's freaking amazing. Second, I'd never heard the obvious Beatles influence in the Beach Boys. It's stamped all over this. Or do I have it backwards? :)
posted by spicynuts at 10:46 AM on November 1, 2011


Oh and I feel confident saying now that

Smile > Pet Sounds.

Suck it, music nerds and beardo journalists!
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:50 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


spicynuts: I'd never heard the obvious Beatles influence in the Beach Boys. It's stamped all over this. Or do I have it backwards? :)

I think it was something of a dynamic relationship of influences. Wiki links: Pet Sounds was influenced by Rubber Soul, and in turn Pet Sounds influenced Sgt. Pepper, which was recorded in the same period as SMiLE was originally being recorded.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:51 AM on November 1, 2011


This is BLOWING AWAY Pet Sounds.
posted by spicynuts at 10:52 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or do I have it backwards?

The story I always heard was that Pet Sounds was inspired by/an answer to Rubber Soul. Then you have Revolver from the Beatles and the next salvo would have been Smile.
posted by marxchivist at 10:52 AM on November 1, 2011


I think it was something of a dynamic relationship of influences.

Yeah it's almost like they used the same cellist for both albums.
posted by spicynuts at 10:53 AM on November 1, 2011


Wow...you must have never lived through this thing called RADIO. One short ad every 5 songs or so - I'll take that over 10 minutes of some asshole DJ bloviating and 5 commercials for the local mattress shop.

#FirstWorldProblems

It's 2011, but bandwidth isn't universally free yet.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2011


So, I'm listening to it, but it's not doing much for me. I don't want to dismiss it out of hand, and I'd really like to know why some of you like it. Can explain what I'm missing?
posted by crunchland at 10:57 AM on November 1, 2011


To expand on my comment up there I love Pet Sounds dont get me wrong,
but before I had ever heard Pet Sounds and when people would praise it constantly when I was growing up I imagined it to be a record way more like THIS is.
Pet Sounds is awesome but it sounds kinda conventional compared to this.
Smile is like a big sprawling puzzle of fractured pieces and refractions and motifs to get lost in.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:57 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


A war to make the best thing ever is the best kind of war there is.

Wish we had more of that spirit still.
posted by sonascope at 10:59 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


tommasz: This is better than the Purplechick bootleg. No question.

Yes, yes it is. This has made my day and possibly the entire week.
posted by tommasz at 11:03 AM on November 1, 2011


Can explain what I'm missing?

Dark and Earnest. Two (not-always) great tastes that taste great together? Just taking a stab here.

Also, I always thought SMiLE made (more) sense as a teenage symphony to America as opposed to, say, (just) God.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:04 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never actually listened to this album in any of its previous incarnations. First, it's freaking amazing. Second, I'd never heard the obvious Beatles influence in the Beach Boys. It's stamped all over this. Or do I have it backwards? :)

As filthy light thief pointed out, they influenced each other quite a bit. There's a great novel called Glimpses, by Lewis Shiner where the protagonist somehow hears tracks and eventually albums (one of which is Smile) which he is able to actually capture on tape. There's an entire section where this actually leads to him visiting LA, being transported back to 1967, and helping Brian Wilson make the album instead of falling apart. It's a great examination of Wilson, the Beach Boys, and a lot of what was going on behind the scenes at the time. FWIW, it also involves dreaming about Jim Morrison, meeting Jimi Hendrix the day before he died, and a lot of stuff about family and depression (not coincidentally, the same problems plaguing Wilson). I'd hesitate to call it scifi or alternate history, but it definitely has that flavor. Weird and kind of cool, but that's what led me to salivate over Smile when Wilson was preparing to release it.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:05 AM on November 1, 2011


So, I'm listening to it, but it's not doing much for me. I don't want to dismiss it out of hand, and I'd really like to know why some of you like it. Can explain what I'm missing?

Are you listening in headphones? If not, I'd suggest doing so. If so, I can't help you.
posted by spicynuts at 11:09 AM on November 1, 2011


So, I'm listening to it, but it's not doing much for me. I don't want to dismiss it out of hand, and I'd really like to know why some of you like it. Can explain what I'm missing?

When I first heard this stuff I was totally sucked in by the oddity of a band as seemingly square as The Beach Boys having made an album that was too weird to release. I wasn't even a Beach Boys fan but something about the story hooked me. When I finally heard this stuff 10 or 12 years ago the genius of the songs just hit me in the face. It was like OK, I get it, this is exactly what you would get if you pushed a basically square unassuming harmony vocal group as far forward as they could possibly go, and it worked. Listen to the wordless backing vocals on "Barnyard" - its complexity that sounds simple. It's far-out progressive stuff built on the DNA of something fundamentally sweet and unpretentious.

"Surf's Up" is something where the genius just can't be denied, it's so in-your-face - the swooping, melismatic line, the crazy chromatic bassline at the end. And of course they gave it a fuck-off ironic joke title! Brian was perfectly happy to have people think that the most advanced song he'd ever write was just another 'having fun in the summertime' tune!
posted by anazgnos at 11:13 AM on November 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


So, I'm listening to it, but it's not doing much for me. I don't want to dismiss it out of hand, and I'd really like to know why some of you like it. Can explain what I'm missing?


To be honest its a bit about "what do you want from music"?
If you want concise and direct, this may be the wrong tree to bark up.
And that's not a slight on you, I've had those periods too where I would have considered this "bloated" and theres nothing really wrong with that view.

Personally I love how lush and layered and zigging and zagging it is. Its so overstuffed with ideas like a big pot bubbling where things emerge, submerge, and re-emerge at different times.

It's really just about what you want from it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:14 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you listening in headphones? If not, I'd suggest doing so. -- Ok. let me try that.
posted by crunchland at 11:15 AM on November 1, 2011


This is 100 times better than the Brian Wilson+Wondermints version. This is like the Oreo to the earlier version's Hydrox.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:16 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fun fact: I always thought "Good Vibrations" was a cheeseball oldies FM song (from the Orange Crush commercial no less!) until I heard it in the context of Smile.

Totally made it new and awesome.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:17 AM on November 1, 2011


I always thought "Good Vibrations" was a cheeseball oldies FM song (from the Orange Crush commercial no less!) until I heard it in the context of Smile.

"Good Vibrations" was considered so weird when it came out that Pete Townsend declared "'Good Vibrations' was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about."

By the way, that recording alone cost $50,000 and was pieced together from 90 hours of recording. The electro theremin used on it, just by itself, cost $15k.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:20 AM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Good Vibrations" was considered so weird when it came out that Pete Townsend declared "'Good Vibrations' was probably a good record but who's to know? You had to play it about 90 bloody times to even hear what they were singing about."

Considering Pete Townsend couldn't hear a freight train at full speed from 3 feet away if he was tied to the tracks, this is no surprise coming from him.

Anyone ever see the documentary where George Martin goes around interviewing famous songwriters about their approach to particularly famous songs? There's a section where Brian Wilson gives him access to the actual tracks for Good Vibrations and while they are both sitting at the board, George Martin remixes the fucking song and it actually sounds even MORE amazing. I was blown away.
posted by spicynuts at 11:24 AM on November 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


FYI- For the other dozen or so people who have Zune Pass, you can stream (& download) both the 2CD & 5 CD versions in the Zune Marketplace, too.

I wish my uncle was still alive to hear this. The Beach Boys were his favorite band and he told me about the mythic lost status of this album. Listening to this, Brian Wilson's SMiLE from 2004 doesn't even compare, now seeming like a demo. Buy maybe that was needed for Brian to go back and put this back together. I'm glad everyone was able to get over their hang-ups and beefs to make this happen.

And, yeah, if this thing had come out in '67--- as awesome as Sgt. Pepper's is, I think this is the album that everybody would have been talking about as the greatest rock album ever. As it is, I broke into tears just now hearing Do You Like Worms/Roll Plymouth Rock in the way God, Nature & Brian Wilson intended it for the first time.
posted by KingEdRa at 11:26 AM on November 1, 2011


Good Lord, what's next? Chinese Democracy? Duke Nukem Forever?
posted by dhartung at 11:30 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Good Lord, what's next? Chinese Democracy? Duke Nukem Forever?

The return of Jesus H Christ.
posted by spicynuts at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of these songs are literally making my hair stand at end. This is some damn good stuff.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The studio dialogue is fantastic, too. Love the Brian falling into a piano skit.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


spicynuts, do you refer to this dissection of "God Only Knows"?
posted by chrchr at 11:44 AM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


(listening on Spotify)

Jesus, this is amazing.

And that's coming from someone who loved the Brian/Wondermints album from a few years back.
posted by brand-gnu at 11:45 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want concise and direct, this may be the wrong tree to bark up.

Usually I want concise and direct. I like simple pop music. I don't mind complex arrangements, but too often, "complex" is thinly-veiled code for "confused" or "poorly-conceived."

That said: I am enjoying the hell out of this. It really is something special.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:45 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seventy-eight comments so far and no one has mentioned that Mike Love is an asshole?
In the studio, Smile's loudest detractor was vocalist Mike Love, who accused Wilson of willfully "fucking with the formula" that had made the Beach Boys one of the world's biggest bands.
Mike Love is an asshole.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:46 AM on November 1, 2011 [13 favorites]


I always thought "Good Vibrations" was a cheeseball oldies FM song (from the Orange Crush commercial no less!) until I heard it in the context of Smile.

I had the epiphany when I heard it in an elevator (no shit) a few years back; it was always just background music, just always there. But to have heard it when it first came out, it must have seemed absolutely revolutionary.

Brian Wilson was riding a runaway train of heady creativity, and basically allowed to do so due to his rep as a guy who put out the hits - now go do what you want! Had to have been thrilling and frightening at the same time.

Those YouTube interviews are so full of superlatives from the Boys themselves they're basically setting the thing up to be disappointing.


But Mike Love has some balls, doesn't he, lauding it? He's supposed to stick to the script and say I hated the thing back then, and I hate it now too. Unless it's going to make him five bucks, in which case he'll enthuse on cue.
posted by kgasmart at 11:46 AM on November 1, 2011


On preview, Halloween Jack, you beat me to it but only just barely.
posted by kgasmart at 11:47 AM on November 1, 2011


Seventy-eight comments so far and no one has mentioned that Mike Love is an asshole?

I figured that was a given amongst Beach Boys fans.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:48 AM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


The best way to understand this album is as a kind of Promethean treasure which Brian Wilson had to steal via a shamanic voyage to the dreamtime, from which he never fully returned.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2011 [19 favorites]



spicynuts, do you refer to this dissection of "God Only Knows"?


YES! I guess I remembered incorrectly. Isn't that some amazing shit?
posted by spicynuts at 11:51 AM on November 1, 2011


Holy shit! I was expecting this to be a disappointment, but it lives up to my highest expectations. How wonderful!
posted by Kattullus at 11:56 AM on November 1, 2011


This album is amazing. I'm familiar with the songs, what with Wilson's 2004 version and all, and while that introduction to the material was revelatory, this is the really amazing stuff.

That said, it seems like it might be a bit more disjointed than it was supposed to be. For instance, personally, I'd've run the vocal intro of "Child is the Father of the Man," which is its own little island of tape, right over top of the end of "Look (A Song for Children)," which is essentially a reprise of "Good Vibrations"--and which in turn could have served as an excellent segue between the two epic tracks.

But, hell, it's all plenty excellent the way it is. Not much use nitpicking.

Those fade-outs are criminal, though.

But Mike Love has some balls, doesn't he, lauding it? He's supposed to stick to the script and say I hated the thing back then, and I hate it now too. Unless it's going to make him five bucks, in which case he'll enthuse on cue.

He's had almost half a century to mull it over. How long do you think it would take anyone to come around on something so bloody obvious?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 AM on November 1, 2011


How long do you think it would take anyone to come around on something so bloody obvious?

Depends on how obstinate he is. Will be interesting to see the other 9 parts of this series to see if he offers up a mea culpa - "I was wrong." He doesn't strike me as that kind of guy
posted by kgasmart at 12:03 PM on November 1, 2011


I'm a lifelong Brian Wilson fan. Sincerely.

When he put out the Wondermints version, I couldn't believe it. And I couldn't believe how amazing
it was, all in all. A true masterpiece, living up to the years and years of mythology.

It was obviously new, and not the original. I thought "Well, we'll never hear how it was supposed to
be."

And now we suddenly are.

And holy shit, it's fucking amazing. The real Beach Boys version. And it's good. REALLY good.

It kind of baffles the mind to imagine what would have happened if this weird, eclectic, stunning
piece of work was realized on time.
posted by gcbv at 12:08 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


In this thread: the two dozen or so people (myself included) who laughed their ass off when Dewey Cox went through his Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks phase while the rest of the theater sat in indifferent silence.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:10 PM on November 1, 2011 [15 favorites]


Seventy-eight comments so far and no one has mentioned that Mike Love is an asshole?

Ahh, but Brian Wilson is lauded as a genius and gets to perform this music in front of his musical peers like Paul McCartney to universal acclaim. Mike Love, meanwhile, wanders around the county fair circuit, nothing more than a novelty act these days. No use picking on the guy, he's stuck living in the Rock & Roll Hell of his own making.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:20 PM on November 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


That Guardian piece is spot on. I'm listening right now, and it's taking me back to how much I love this music. That deathly fade at the end of Heroes and Villians? Holy cow.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2011


I've always felt that Brian Wilson was a bit like Charles Babbage.

He had fantastic ideas, but conditions at the time prevented him from perfecting his masterpiece.


posted by mmrtnt at 12:31 PM on November 1, 2011


It kind of baffles the mind to imagine what would have happened if this weird, eclectic, stunning piece of work was realized on time.

Here's some fiction kind of about that.
posted by mikepop at 12:33 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


He had fantastic ideas, but conditions at the time prevented him from perfecting his masterpiece.

Any genius worth his/her salt would probably never feel that anything they did was every finished. Regardless of conditions available from now through eternity.
posted by spicynuts at 12:34 PM on November 1, 2011


I was just getting into Pet Sounds when the 2004 Smile came out. I found it a pretty lack luster work. But this... I was unprepared for how good this is.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:34 PM on November 1, 2011


I am actually going to an actual record store on my way home from work today. I loved the 2004 wilson/Wondermints version, so if this trumps that, fabulous. Surf's Up is one of the 5 or 10 greatest American Pop songs of all time. ALL TIME!
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:40 PM on November 1, 2011


This is brilliant. I enjoyed the 2004 re-recorded version, but this is the real deal.
posted by defenestration at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2011


The weird hand drumming in the beginning of Vega-Tables isn't to be missed either.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:47 PM on November 1, 2011


There's some vintage in-studio footage of Brian directing the musicians that is being given an airing for the first time. Some of it appears in those youtube clips, some more was aired on CBS this morning. Incredible stuff. (~2:00 minutes in)
posted by anazgnos at 12:56 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good Lord, what's next? Chinese Democracy? Duke Nukem Forever?

And they'll turn out to be masterpieces too! Right?

Any genius worth his/her salt would probably never feel that anything they did was every finished. Regardless of conditions available from now through eternity.

At some point though, genius or not, you gotta let go. Otherwise... Nooooooooooo
posted by kmz at 1:05 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


The 2004 Smile is really weak, and I'm glad people are now admitting that. I've always found Smiley Smile to be a great album and superior to the bootlegs of Smile I've heard. Guess I'll have to listen to this.
posted by tremspeed at 1:07 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The 2004 Smile is really weak, and I'm glad people are now admitting that. I've always found Smiley Smile to be a great album and superior to the bootlegs of Smile I've heard. Guess I'll have to listen to this

I think the value of that album was really as a "proof of concept" for the correct order and flow of the material. The production on it is too cramped, but this new version (which, to me, is as perfect and definitive as anything could ever be) would not have been possible without the blueprint which the 2004 one provided.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:14 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


item: “And this Spotify thing has fucking ads? Or was Brian so messed up in 67 that he wanted me to buy a BMW? Either way, it's jarring and awful and I hate it and I think I hate Spotify.”

Yeah, it's pretty awful. I mean, one ad every twenty songs is a steep, steep price to pay for access to almost every single song that's ever been released anywhere by anybody.
posted by koeselitz at 1:15 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Sorry for the sarcasm. What I mean is: Spotify is actually awesome. I guess maybe if you don't have a free account they blast you with ads, I don't know. All I do know is that I listen to Spotify pretty much all day every day, and being able to listen to obscure Cabaret Voltaire tracks alongside every Mekons record alongside this Smile Sessions thing alongside anything else I can think of is a fine thing; the ads really don't bother me that much.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:16 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd forgotten this was coming out. I'll have to use ordering it to round-out the minimum purchase price for free shipping from Amazon here soon. Most excellent! Thanks for posting. Off to see if I can get the stream to work now.
posted by hippybear at 1:17 PM on November 1, 2011


I give Spotify the tenner a month.
Its totally worth it.
Their mobile service doesnt so much as hiccup.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:18 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


chrchr: spicynuts, do you refer to this dissection of "God Only Knows"?

spicynuts: YES! I guess I remembered incorrectly. Isn't that some amazing shit?

It's from The Rhythm of Life, a 3-part documentary (of sorts), in which George Martin talks to various influential musicians about the meaning of music. Sadly, the only other clip I could find online is featuring Celine Dion that doesn't really say or do much. The Brian Wilson clip is also bundled with the overpriced Pet Sounds re-issue (album + DVD with clips you can get elsewhere, except for the George Martin interview and another short clip).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:22 PM on November 1, 2011


Maybe I'll give Spotify another chance. I'm usually slow to adapt to new services, and I like my current manner(s) of listening to music quite a bit. Still, there's always room for change.
posted by item at 1:27 PM on November 1, 2011


Holy shit, Spotify is actually available on my old E71. I hadn't even thought to check before.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING
posted by kmz at 1:39 PM on November 1, 2011


If there is anything worse than a band releasing an album ahead of its time that no one hears it is a band creating an album ahead of its time that is shelved. Talk about a lost opportunity. They scrap this album and then The Beatles release Sgt Peppers....
posted by Rashomon at 1:49 PM on November 1, 2011


That was Brian Wilson and his newer band, the Wondermints.

The Wondermints are an independent band in their own right. They released three albums before becoming Brian Wilson's touring band in 1999, and they've released another album since.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:25 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


If anyone needs evidence of Mike Love's villainy, this interview from 1993 is quite telling.
See, a lot of the Brian bullshit rests around that album and it's nothing, it's just fragments. Who wants to hear about Brian's mental problems anyway? I mean, to call a record "Sweet Insanity", imagine that. A whole album of Brian's madness that no one wants to release and still everyone says he's a genius! I make "Kokomo", it goes to number one in the charts and I'm still the dumb, know-nothing, talentless Mike Love.
posted by chrchr at 3:00 PM on November 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


FWIW, aol's streaming worked fine on my ubuntu box. Don't know why.

As brilliant Wilson can be, this Smile doesn't fundamentally change my overall opinion of the material. You can hear the brilliance behind the effort. But it doesn't have a lot of coherence. Overall, I'm disappointed at the lack of focus. Too little of this album really stands on its own merit.

Comparisons usually pop up between this work and that of the Beatles around the same period. It appears to me that Wilson's work lacks focus in comparison. Perhaps if Wilson had someone like George Martin to concentrate the strong material and trim the fat? Perhaps Wilson and his collaborators were too interested in indulging raw creativity and calling it a song? Whatever the reason, it sadly still does not rise to the level of its legend.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:02 PM on November 1, 2011


Mike Love is like the Billy Corgan of being Mike Love.
posted by anazgnos at 3:05 PM on November 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


i think it's a toss-up between the 2004 version and this - the beach boys' version is edgier and has some real bite to the vocals, but brian wilson's recreation sounds more finished and thought-out - there's areas in the original mix that sound muddied, with certain things buried that probably should have been up further - and i think a few more instrumental overdubs here and there would have pulled the tracks together a bit more - certainly if this had been released in 1967, it wouldn't have sounded just like this - and i question whether some of the lead vocals would have been the final takes

i'm sure that it would have blown minds in 1967, but i really have to wonder if it would have made that much difference to the history of rock - the l a studio scene produced all sorts of vocally intricate pop at that time and made a bunch of hit records doing it - the only two hits i hear on this record are good vibrations and heroes and villians - and good vibrations had already been a hit in 66

i've got a vinyl copy of smiley smile and i think "cabinessence", "wonderful", and "wind chimes" are better there than here - and they didn't exactly set the world on fire in '67 with those songs

it would have been a notable release - and better than smiley smile overall - but i think it still would have been somewhat lost in the heavy flood of great, adventurous music that was 1967 - as much as i like it, rock wasn't headed in that direction and this wouldn't have turned it around
posted by pyramid termite at 3:10 PM on November 1, 2011


this wouldn't have turned it around

That's impossible to know from this distance, actually. Who knows what might have happened if SmiLE had come out back then? It could have been a door opening to a whole new *something* which went unexplored in the timeline we live in.

Certainly there are examples of single albums changing the direction of the musical zeitgeist. Whether this would have been one of them or not is impossible to know.
posted by hippybear at 3:20 PM on November 1, 2011


think "cabinessence", "wonderful", and "wind chimes" are better [on Smiley Smile] than here

Man...takes all kinds. I don't know if I've ever met anybody who preferred those versions after they'd heard the Smile tapes. In the run up to this release I've really been trying to come back around to Smiley Smile on its own terms, but the crushing feeling of defeat on that record is just so hard to get past.

And not to nitpick but "Cabinessence" was on 20/20, not Smiley Smile, and the version on The Smile Sessions is basically the same take.
posted by anazgnos at 3:29 PM on November 1, 2011


item: “Maybe I'll give Spotify another chance. I'm usually slow to adapt to new services, and I like my current manner(s) of listening to music quite a bit. Still, there's always room for change.”

If it's any inducement, I'll add "The Smile Sessions" doesn't appear to be a two-disk affair – it's five disks and 148 tracks, by my count. Spotify appears to have all five disks, not just the first disk or two which appear to be a reconstruction of the intended album. I've been listening to "Good Vibrations" outtakes for an hour and a half now. There is some incredible, fantastic stuff in there.
posted by koeselitz at 3:31 PM on November 1, 2011


That's impossible to know from this distance, actually.

the most influential album of 1967 was a dead flop at the time - the velvet underground and nico

somehow, i don't think the beach boys releasing smile would have changed that
posted by pyramid termite at 3:32 PM on November 1, 2011


Well, define "influential". If I remember correctly, four lads from Liverpool also released an album in 1967...
posted by hippybear at 3:35 PM on November 1, 2011


If I remember correctly, four lads from Liverpool also released an album in 1967

sure - how many bands today are doing music derived from that as compared to the velvets?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:41 PM on November 1, 2011


hippybear: “If I remember correctly, four lads from Liverpool also released an album in 1967”

pyramid termite: “sure - how many bands today are doing music derived from that as compared to the velvets?”

Too many of both, honestly.

There should be more bands with sounds derived from Van Der Graaf Generator's H To He Who Am The Only One, if you ask me. But I guess that wasn't released until 1970.
posted by koeselitz at 3:50 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


conversely, how much did the velvets influence the dominant culture for the time following the release of their album as opposed to what we saw in the aftermath of Sgt Peppers?

Influence has many forms, is all I'm saying. What The Beatles did (in response to an album by The Beach Boys) turned nearly everything on its head for at least a decade. And while I won't deny that the Banana is still making its influence felt, so are the the aftershocks of Sgt Peppers still evident in a lot of ways. Music is continually referred to as "Beatlesesque", and it isn't "Please Please Me" they're referring to when people say that.

What I'm also saying is, what would have happened if SMiLE had come out in 1967? Nobody knows. There might have been no White Album, because the ante had been raised and the Lads felt they had to respond. Hell, we might have had another decade of the Fab Four if they'd been poked and prodded by the release of this album. Which would have changed music in ways we have no comprehension of now because it simply didn't happen.
posted by hippybear at 3:51 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


1967 was also the year that Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air came out.
posted by box at 3:54 PM on November 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


1967 was a very fertile year in music all around.
posted by hippybear at 4:03 PM on November 1, 2011


I don't think I really believe that history is a continuum. That goes for music history, too. Albums happen because groups of people get together and make them; we're not necessarily swimming in some subconscious river that pulls us along in a certain direction ineluctably. I am, for instance, absolutely convinced that this would have happened in any and all musical histories. Ditto for this and probably this.

I guess what I mean is: I like this Smile Sessions thing. I also like Rubber Soul even though everything the Beatles ever did inspired marketing execs to see dollar signs and whole industries were built up around them and eventually the weight just about killed them. I also kind of like the Velvet Underground, although Lou Reed did much better work on his own, and although they, too, inspired droves of pretentious shit bands who all thought they were cooler than everybody else because their collections were full of obscure records and because they did heroine.

I like those things, not because they were influential, but because they were and are objectively good and because they give me pleasure. People love to go on and on about how "important" this or that band or song is or was; but doesn't Smile Sessions prove that importance means almost nothing when it comes to enjoyment of music? I'm not really interested in mooning over what might have been. We have what is, and until I actually get a handle on that, I think I'll avoid alternate universe theories.
posted by koeselitz at 4:09 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Today The Beatles have a negative influence, they did what they did so well and became so familiar that sounding like them brings up inevitable comparisons that later bands can't help but suffer from. Also, until very recently, to make an album that sounds like Sgt. Pepper's you'd need a professional studio and access to dozens of extra musicians, while all that an album like VU&Nico required was a rock band, some recording equipment, and a sneer.

I'm not saying that one is better than the other. I've listened to both more often than I can count (though my favorite records by these bands are the self-titled albums, White Light/White Heat and Revolver).
posted by Kattullus at 4:20 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


And man! Bands used to churn 'em out back then. Hendrix did TWO albums in 1967? The Beatles did 12 albums in 7 years? Nowadays major rock acts release something every 2-3 years, if not longer.

Perhaps things were more creative back then because people were less self-censored and more likely to release those fringe tracks which ended up pushing the envelope.
posted by hippybear at 4:32 PM on November 1, 2011


Dang. I never expected I'd hear this. It's kind of amazing. It's obvious Wilson saw that the future of rock wasn't going to be in 2'50" pop songs. And that Mike Love didn't.

It makes me want to write an alt-history novel where Smile was completed in 1967 ... and Sgt. Pepper wasn't. How would things have been different?
posted by zomg at 4:34 PM on November 1, 2011


How would things have been different?

Well, for starters, Greetings From Planet Love by The Fraternal Order Of The Now never would have happened.
posted by hippybear at 4:38 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I find Brian Wilson's acid casualty stuff far less interesting than Pet Sounds, "I Get Around" and "California Girls." Don't mistake cult of mythology for musical quality.

/paid to see Brian on Pet Sounds symphonic tour and loved it.
posted by jonmc at 4:46 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I remember correctly, four lads from Liverpool also released an album in 1967

June 1st, '67
Something died and went to heaven....
posted by jonmc at 4:50 PM on November 1, 2011


Perhaps things were more creative back then because people were less self-censored and more likely to release those fringe tracks which ended up pushing the envelope.

No. They didn't know how long their fame would last and wanted to put out as much product as possible. The fact that it was great stuff was just luck.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on November 1, 2011


I'd like to see jonmc's sources for that statement.
posted by hippybear at 4:58 PM on November 1, 2011


hippybear, it's simple logic. Back then, the record companies (and the artists too, to a degree) had no idea how long this rock and roll thing would last, so they put a lot of stuff out. Because the Beatles/Stones/Who/Beach Boys were geniuses, the stuff was usually great.

But, like you said, these days, band seem to feel entitled to a career based on an album every 2-3 years which results in a lot of self indulgent pretentious music.

Read Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth and How the beatles Destroyed Rock & Roll for further elucidation. They explain far better than I.
posted by jonmc at 5:05 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


How would things have been different?

More bands like ELO?
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:10 PM on November 1, 2011


I don't think I really believe that history is a continuum. That goes for music history, too.

i do, but not in the sense it's usually meant - the driving force of what happened in music between ww2 and now was the technology and what it made possible - if amps exist that can create loud crunchy guitar noise, someone's going to do that - if multitrack recording studios exist, someone's going to get crazy with them - if synthesizers exist, someone's going to make new sounds with them - and if a global musical marketplace exists, there's going to be some interesting combinations of things

and when an art form turns baroque and complicated like rock music did in the 60s, there's bound to be a reaction to that, too

---

Back then, the record companies (and the artists too, to a degree) had no idea how long this rock and roll thing would last, so they put a lot of stuff out. Because the Beatles/Stones/Who/Beach Boys were geniuses, the stuff was usually great.

there's something to be said for getting good at something by doing a lot of it - unfortunately the mainstream music industry stopped encouraging that decades ago
posted by pyramid termite at 5:11 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jian Ghomeshi interviews Brian Wilson on CBC-Q

Also (rough paraphrase from memory):

"My dad used to beat me up all the time when I was a little kid. The only time he didn't beat me was when I was playing music."

"Imagine not being able to hear your own music in Stereo...!"

Are you listening in headphones? If not, I'd suggest doing so. If so, I can't help you.
posted by ovvl at 6:02 PM on November 1, 2011


So what would all you '60s rock snobs suggest for a simple, non-aficionado guy like me who just enjoys good music: the 2-disc version or the 5-disc version? What am I missing with the smaller set? Is is disruptive to the continuity of the album? I don't want to waste the money on the long version if it's mainly a collector's item. Or are we talking hours upon hours of continuous, outrageously good tunes? Break it down for me.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 6:04 PM on November 1, 2011


You definitely want the two disc version. In fact, you just want the first disc of the two disc version. The rest of the discs are outtakes and alternate takes and things.
posted by chrchr at 6:15 PM on November 1, 2011


Thanks for that, chrchr. That's exactly what I needed to know.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 6:17 PM on November 1, 2011


Wow. After hearing a few seconds, I entered wild whirlwind trying to figure out how to stream Spotify to my stereo through an Apple TV. Answer: Airfoil.

This is cool.
posted by madh at 6:25 PM on November 1, 2011



"Imagine not being able to hear your own music in Stereo...!"

Are you listening in headphones? If not, I'd suggest doing so. If so, I can't help you.


Like Rob Lowe, Stephen Colbert, Alan Moore, and me, Brian Wilson has single-sided hearing loss.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:07 PM on November 1, 2011


OK, late to this, but I'm wondering if the fact that I have probably 5 hours worth of bootlegs from these sessions means I can skip this. Yes? No? Maybe? Do I really need 30 more minutes of "George Fell Into His French Horn"? And the Purple Chick boot is about the fifth one I've heard, and I'm not so sure it's my fave. There's a few comments on this above, but really, is this just a thing for completists and object fetishists? Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy these are finally out there... or maybe I'll just listen on spotify.

So, in closing, hooray for Brian.
posted by sleepy pete at 7:08 PM on November 1, 2011


sleepy pete: listen to one of the available online streams for free. If you then feel like the project deserves some of your money for coming into fruition finally, buy a copy to support it. Otherwise, all you've lost is a bit of your time, and nobody is poorer for the effort.
posted by hippybear at 7:11 PM on November 1, 2011


In fact, you just want the first disc of the two disc version. The rest of the discs are outtakes and alternate takes and things.

Agreed. But even the first disc has alternate versions and such, which I find a bit annoying. Where does the album as a definitive statement end? With track 20, "You're Welcome", I'm assuming. So they should've just had the first disc end there.
posted by naju at 7:19 PM on November 1, 2011


So, the album ends with Good Vibrations. Everything after that is a bonus track.

You can see the full track listings of the various versions of the new release on this wikipedia page, and it's very clear where the actual album ends.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 PM on November 1, 2011


Argh. Thanks hippybear.
posted by naju at 7:26 PM on November 1, 2011


Better late than never, but is it too late to write in and tell them the name of my favorite vegetable?

It's hard to believe that my web browser has been pointed at AOL for this long.
posted by sfenders at 8:00 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]



posted by unliteral at 8:30 PM on November 1, 2011


sleepy pete- I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, there are some pretty professional boots out there and I agree the purplechick version is fairly low in the ranking. But if you bothered to collect several versions previously you clearly love it enough that owning this version is going to be worth it. I'm on my first listen and the sound quality is better than anything I've heard previously. The new version was clearly made on the best/newest equipment and with the input of BWilson. Not blown away, but I think this will be my go to version from here on out.
posted by Locobot at 9:13 PM on November 1, 2011


Thanks, Locobot. That's what I was looking for.
posted by sleepy pete at 9:14 PM on November 1, 2011


Pitchfork gives it a perfect 10.
As it should.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:25 PM on November 1, 2011


Again? Honestly, I find this all very confusing. Which one should I listen to?
posted by flotson at 3:13 AM on November 2, 2011


this is good.
posted by grubby at 3:48 AM on November 2, 2011


flotson: “Again? Honestly, I find this all very confusing. Which one should I listen to?”

This one. This is the one you should listen to.
posted by koeselitz at 6:59 AM on November 2, 2011


Again? Honestly, I find this all very confusing. Which one should I listen to?

Are you looking for just the actual album? The first 19 tracks of the first disc or stream. The rest of that disc and the entire 2nd disc (and 3rd-5th of the special edition if you're interested) are alternate/outtakes.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:30 AM on November 2, 2011


I'm still super confused on what is actually new/unreleased on this version compared with what's on Smiley Smile. The only differences in the track lists I can pick up are:

1. Our Prayer (released on 20/20 in 1969)
3. Do You Like Worms (this is on a boxset)
5. Surf's Up (released in 1971 on an album of the same name)
9. I Love to Say Da Da (release on same boxset as Do You Like Worms)
posted by smithsmith at 7:32 PM on November 2, 2011


The Smiley Smile versions of "Wind Chimes", "Vegetables", and "Wonderful" were all minimal re-recordings made at Brian's home studio, not the legit Smile stuff.
posted by Adventurer at 12:09 AM on November 3, 2011


I'm still super confused on what is actually new/unreleased on this version compared with what's on Smiley Smile.

The box overlaps with Smiley Smile not at all. As mentioned those are entirely different recordings of vastly different arrangements. There is overlap with 20/20, Surf's Up (1971) and the 30 Years of Good Vibrations box set, but none of those releases even attempted what this box set does. None of them present either the reconstructed album sequence or the sessions in any depth, as the various versions of the new box set do.
posted by anazgnos at 9:51 PM on November 6, 2011


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