The spring 2001 version of this two-LP-on-one-CD compilation, in 24-bit sound, is the best way ever to hear either of these albums. Smiley Smile was one of the most genial and unpretentious examples of psychedelic music to emerge in 1967, although at the time it was a difficult album for many fans to appreciate. A lot of it is comprised of what amounts to languid, almost impressionist sound paintings, some of them, such as "Wonderful" and "Wind Chimes," quite stunningly beautiful, and others, such as "Vegetables," beguiling in their innocent goofiness, while still others, like "With Me Tonight," combined those attributes. The 2001 reissue finally lifts about as many layers of hiss -- a result of the use of a makeshift studio, and overdubs on many of the cuts -- as are ever likely to disappear, to get at the music and how it must have sounded to the group when they played it back. Thus, one can hear the action of the bass on "Vegetables" and "Heroes and Villains," and the playing and singing on "Wind Chimes" all now seem several feet closer to the microphone than on previous issues; the opening on "Gettin' Hungry" now leaps out of the extended silence off the fade from "Wind Chimes." Wild Honey was, even more than its companion album, an unfairly maligned effort in its own time -- Smiley Smile had a realistically druggy ambience that was, understandably, harder to take than the highly produced psychedelic efforts of the Beatles and others; but Wild Honey was a solid, accessible, soulful rock & roll release, every song a little jewel (and a few, like the title cut and "Darlin'," quite weighty) that ought to have been on every stack of platters for any teenage dance party thrown over the next decade. The album always had a good sound, and the 2001 reissue only makes a great record even better, pushing the clarity to a higher level -- the drumming on the title tune, "Aren't You Glad," or "I Was Made to Love Her" is as prominent as the vocals, which are all awesome, and it's also easier to appreciate the little details, like the exquisite bass workout in the rhythm section of "I Was Made to Love Her" -- and the massed vocals on "Country Air" are so clean and radiant here that it's like hearing the song for the first time. The compilation is augmented with some fascinating early working versions of "Good Vibrations," the lost B-side "You're Welcome," an alternate take of "Heroes and Villains" from the Smile album sessions, plus a rehearsal of "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring" from a 1967 concert, and the lost (and exquisite) Smile album artifact "Can't Wait Too Long" -- alas, there evidently weren't any Wild Honey leftovers. Note: Capitol previously issued a version of this disc in 1990, with a duller, hissier sound; it should be replaced by the version carrying the 2001 date.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder