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The Greatest Album Never Released, Beach Boys’ ‘Smile’, Is Coming Out!

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The best album of 2011 was recorded 45 years ago: After more than four decades, the Beach Boys will finally release their "teenage symphony to God," Smile. Culled from 30 hours of studio sessions and featuring no re-recorded parts, Smile will be released in a variety of formats: a two-CD set, an iTunes digital album, and a massive limited-boxed set with four CDs, two vinyl LPs, two vinyl singles, and a 60-page hardbound book, Billboard reports. The surviving Beach Boys are all on board with the Smile release -- a major achievement, since disputes halted past plans -- and the 1966 album will be released later this year, though no date has yet been confirmed.

The legend of Smile is among the greatest in rock history: Coming off their classic Pet Sounds and engaged in a battle of one-upmanship with the Beatles, who had just released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Brian Wilson's vision for Smile was so epic, it contributed to his mental breakdown and the project was shelved after it was nearly completed. (Rock historians have pinpointed Wilson's first time hearing "Strawberry Fields Forever" as the moment Smile died.) Songs from Smile cropped up on other Beach Boys releases like Surf's Up and Smiley Smile, and Wilson recorded his own acclaimed version of the album in 2004, but to this point the Beach Boys' Smile has never officially been released.

For decades, diehard Beach Boys fans have done an incredibly admirable job of circulating bootleg versions of Smile -- most notably the "Purple Chick" version -- using the album's studio sessions and whatever sound technology was at their disposal, but as the years passed and the emphasis on digital fidelity amplified, even the best of the bootlegs have begun to sound like bootlegs. So finally, the Beach Boys and Capitol are releasing a Smile that's compatible with and will sound great on today's music players. Hopefully: Back in 1995, a similar three-disc Smile set was planned and scheduled, but never released, but this time, EMI Music VP of cataloging Bill Gagnon promises, "It's coming out."

"I'm thrilled that the Beach Boys' original studio sessions for Smile will be released for the first time, after all these years," Wilson said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to this collection of the original recordings and having fans hear the beautiful angelic voices of the boys in a proper studio release." We're genuinely excited.

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