Jan Berry and Dean Torrence rode a wave of popularity in the early ’60s that earned the So-Cal duo more than a dozen Top 40 hits, including the #1 smash “Surf City.” The group’s good fortune came to a tragic halt in 1966 when Berry suffered debilitating injuries in a car accident near Dead Man’s Curve, a treacherous road that, ironically, was the subject of one of the group’s earlier hits. As he battled tirelessly to recover, Berry spent the next three years recording songs for a new Jan and Dean album to be titled Carnival of Sound. Despite the quality of the music, the album was never released and became one of rock ’n’ roll’s lost treasures, until now. Rhino Handmade offers two versions of CARNIVAL OF SOUND. The first is a single CD whose 29 songs include mono and stereo mixes of the album along with bonus tracks from the 1966-68 sessions. The other is a deluxe edition that combines the aforementioned CD with a vinyl version of the album in mono presented in a gorgeous hardbound gatefold jacket. To present a clear and vivid picture of what Berry was up to during this transitional phase, the collection’s producer Andrew Sandoval spent three years carefully reviewing and compiling every tape Berry submitted to Warner Bros. for use on CARNIVAL OF SOUND. “Although Jan cut multiple LP-length acetates of his work at the time, he left behind no definitive track list or sequence for the songs to be included on the album,” he explains in the liner notes. “I created the sequence you hear … by grouping his post-accident tracks together and closing with his pre-accident masters. The two parts of this story have such different flavors that they seem to flow best in this manner.” CARNIVAL OF SOUND opens with “Girl, You’re Blowing My Mind,” an upbeat poppy track that kicks off with a guitar that sounds like a jet engine. It then moves into songs that expand Jan and Dean’s signature sound, including the sitar-infused “Mulholland,” the wild imagery of “Laurel And Hardy,” the poignant ballad “I Know My Mind” and the Indian instrumentation of the title track. To round out the album, a selection of oldies was brought in from sessions Berry cut prior to his accident.
It's difficult to know how to assess this album. On the one hand, it's enjoyable listening, and it's an essential archival release -- if not as well-known as Brian Wilson's Smile, Carnival of Sound is just as tantalizing a "lost" artifact of the psychedelic '60s, buried these 40-plus years. And those factors alone make owning it a no-brainer for fans of Jan & Dean, surf music, or psychedelic music (and it embraces both). But unlike SMiLE, which was well within Brian Wilson's grasp, at least when he started it, it's clear that Carnival of Sound was pushing the envelope of what Jan Berry was capable of doing in 1967-1968; listening to it is akin to watching someone run a marathon with a partly injured foot -- they might succeed and possibly even do it well, but there's also the dread of doing untold harm to themselves in the process. Some of the material here actually pre-dates Berry's April 12, 1966 car crash; in March of that year, he had recorded a small group of covers, including "Stay" and "Yakety Yak," for a planned new album that was to carry the duo's work into wholly new territory. Then came the car wreck, and months and years of recovery.
Incomplete or not it's definitely Jan & Dean's best effort.
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