The Beach Boys

Unsurpassed Masters, Vol. 16 (1966-1967)

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This 16th volume in Sea of Tunes' all-Beach Boys-all-the-time Unsurpassed Masters series is none other than another set of bootleg takes from the legendary SMiLE project that Brian Wilson emotionally, psychologically, and literally walked away from in 1967, leaving it as perhaps the most famous unfinished album in pop music history. Countless different bootleg versions of the original SMiLE sessions have been bouncing around for decades now, and even though Wilson "finished" the album with all new recordings in 2004, the aborted 1967 model continues to fascinate, charm, and frustrate its many fans and admirers. The thematic and loopy cartoon Americana Gothic arc of the finished version is cool to see revealed in Wilson's newer rendition, but the original tapes are in many ways more powerful and striking, due in no small part to the angelic singing of Carl Wilson and the other Beach Boys. Even broken into tantalizing and frustratingly unfinished fragments like this, these 1967 recordings suggest a world that almost was, and if Brian Wilson feels the matter is closed, it really isn't, because although you can make a wonderful facsimile that approximates the past, you can't, no matter how hard you try, escape it.

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