Brian Wilson Resurrects Ambitious Album 'Smile'

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Listen to Bob Boilen discuss "Heroes And Villains" from Smile, as well as other top music picks for 2004 on All Songs Considered.

Thirty-eight years ago, Brian Wilson wanted to make an album like no other with what was, at the time, a revolutionary recording technique. Bits and pieces were recorded at different times with different musicians, in different studios, then quilted together. Wilson combined this elaborate "modular music" with the evocative lyrics of Van Dyke Parks and described the project as "a teenage symphony to God."

Wilson (300)

Wilson with engineer Mark Linett at Hollywood's Sunset Sound during the recording sessions of 'Smile' in April 2004. Bob Boilen, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Bob Boilen, NPR

The album, called Smile, was nearly completed, but never released. Fellow Beach Boys found the music too strange to be commercially successful. As his own drug addictions and personal problems began to spiral out of control, Wilson abandoned the project.

Almost four decades later, Wilson re-teamed with Parks to complete the album, which has surfaced throughout the years in fragments, only to further the mystique of an unfinished masterpiece. Recording began in April 2004 at Sunset Studios in Hollywood and NPR's Bob Boilen sat in on some of the sessions. Smile, the album that Wilson made to prove that rock music could be art, will be released on Tuesday.

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