After several decades of empty promises, The Beach Boys’ lost album Smile will finally see release later this year—which, yeah right. But no, Capitol swears it really means it this time, announcing that what it’s calling The Smile Sessions is currently being prepared by engineer Mark Linett and archivist Alan Boyd, and that this time everyone involved with the band, including Brian Wilson, is enthusiastically behind actually putting it out after 40 years of waiting, with Bill Gagnon, a senior VP at EMI, avowing, “It’s coming out.” Right—sure it is, Bill Gagnon. Spoken like a total Bill Gagnon. But no, okay, we’ll play along: The Smile Sessions will be available in a two-CD set, an iTunes digital album, and a limited-edition boxed set with four CDS, two vinyl LPs, two vinyl singles, and a 60-page hardbound book by Beach Boys historian Dominic Priore. Oh, well, we guess if it’s a hardbound book, this must actually be happening.
Of course, our skepticism is rooted in the fact that fans have been hearing that Smile was due for release for over 40 years now, pretty much ever since the Beach Boys signed to Warner Bros. in 1970. Since then, it’s taken on its own mythology as the group’s elusive masterpiece, a reputation stoked by stories of strangely elaborate recording sessions and the fact that it more or less drove Brian Wilson crazy. Diehards have cobbled together bootlegs over the years, and there have been reports of digging through the tapes for a revival as far back as 1988, with Capitol announcing in 1995 that it was prepping a three-CD compilation called The Smile Era that never materialized. Still, the closest Smile has come to an official release was in 2004, when Wilson took some of the material on the road and cut a version with his touring band. Linett says it’s that album that will serve as the “blueprint” for The Smile Sessions, which will be “as close to as [Smile] was envisioned as possible.” Sounds promising, but as always, we’ll believe it when we see it.