Friday, December 02, 2005

A SMiLE from ear to ear!

Artist: Brian Wilson
Title: Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE
Format: DVD-Video

5.1 Mix by Mark Linett

For those not familiar, SMiLE was the project Brian Wilson was working on after Pet Sounds, the brilliant masterpiece that finally showed the world that Wilson was a musical genius. A combination of drug abuse, mental illness and band infighting prevented the project from seeing the light of day, until Wilson's band leader Darian Sahanaja encouraged his boss to finally face his past and give the world what they waited almost 40 years for. With the help of his stellar band, Wilson brought SMiLE to life, and the joy and sorrow heard on this incredible work was worth the wait! The live DVD of SMiLE, recorded on a soundstage in Los Angeles, is another step forward for the once bed ridden and reclusive Beach Boys leader. Brian Wilson is back!

The music: How to describe SMiLE? Part Americana, part pop, part classical, part Tin Pan Alley....pure heaven! Starting with the angelic Our Prayer/Gee, Wilson and the band are in great voice. Heroes and Villains, with it's modular form and sudden changes, chugs along nicely. The band and orchestra really hit a high point on Cabin Essence, with it's dynamic and forceful chorus rising to a thunderous climax to end the first "suite". The second part of SMiLE is possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Wonderful, Song For Children, Child Is Father Of The Man and Surf's Up cement Brian Wilson as one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. I defy any music lover to not get a lump in their throat listening to the melodies and harmonies as they soar higher and higher. Part three brings us some humorous moments during Vega-tables, but they are short lived as the bombast of Mrs O'Leary's Cow shakes things up, and the show closer, Good Vibrations provides a fitting end to an overall fantastic performance. The band is top notch vocally and musically, and the picture quality is excellent as well.
Score: 10/10

The mix: The 5.1 mix does not offer too many moments of discreteness, save for some effects during Mrs' O'Leary's Cow, but instead offers a superb "you are there" feel. The soundstage is nicely spread out across the front with some vocals and instruments wrapping around the sides. Fitting for the music.
Score: 9/10

The sound: Quite possibly the best Dolby Digital DVD I have ever heard. Incredible dynamics and clarity. Had this been a less compressed DTS 5.1, my head might have exploded!
Score: 10/10

Overall: 9/10

The DVD also comes with the excellent documentary Beautiful Dreamer, which gives a history of the SMiLE project and the trials and tribulations Wilson faced. Overall this is one of my favourite DVD packages. It's great to see Brian Wilson SMiLING again!


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