Surf City: The Best Of Jan & Dean

Jan & Dean

EMI Legendary Master Series, 1990

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Jan and Dean were responsible for some poor to average albums, an inability to reproduce their sound in concert and some of the best singles of the mid 1960s this side of the Beach Boys -- in fact, these guys would rank a solid second behind the Boys in terms of vocal surf sounds.

The 22 songs contained on The Legendary Master Series Surf City:  The Best Of Jan and Dean present Jan and Dean at their best, as their legacy is essentially that of a singles band. It's all you need by the band.

Jan Berry did not have the musical vision of Brian Wilson but he was savvy enough to transform Jan and Dean from the producers of lite pop to multi-million-selling artists of the 60s. Like Wilson, Berry had the ability to layer sound and while his voice and that of partner Dean Torrence were not as strong as any of the Beach Boys, by the time Berry finished a song in the studio it sounded like a virtual chorus. As I mentioned above, this would bite them in concert as they could not reproduce the sound as a duo. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Interestingly, Dean in a somewhat recent interview said that Jan Berry and Brian Wilson were not that close but that basically it was a business relationship that brought them together.. Brian found an additional outlet for his songs, Jan found great music to record and both found a way to make money. And for a five-year period, the songs kept coming and selling. Brian Wilson co-wrote such songs as "Surf City," "Drag City," "Dead Man’s Curve," "New Girl In School," "Ride The Wild Surf" and "Sidewalk Surfin’." Combine these with "Linda", "Honolulu Lulu," "The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)," "Popsicle" and more and you have a strong catalogue of songs.

"Surf City"’s opening line "two girls for every boy" and the play on the word "Linda" from the song of the same name are memorable. "The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)" is still fun and is probably the best Jan and Dean example of layered sound. "Ride The Wild Surf," "Dead Man’s Curve" and "Drag City" all represent the California surf sound well.

The musical careers of Jan and Dean essentially ended in April of 1966 when Jan Berry’s Stingray hit a parked truck. Berry had to learn to talk again, such were his brain injuries. While they would tour again with a multitude of backup singers and remain popular on  oldies tours until Berry’s death, their impact upon the recording and music industry was over. Dean Torrence would go on to form a successful company that developed album covers.

I think that music history has treated Jan and Dean fairly. The music is not essential but it's fun, and although much of it is dated it's worth hearing for a good time. And Surf City: The Best Of Jan and Dean presents them at their best.

Hey, surf’s up!

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of EMI Legendary Master Series, and is used for informational purposes only.