Surf City

by: Jan & Dean

Jan & Dean's second original Liberty LP is a musical travelogue of the United States that didn't seem too inspired as a concept even in 1963 -- although one has to wonder if the travelogue idea stuck in Brian Wilson's memory as part of the inspiration for "California Girls," for which he simply devised a shorter, more attractive "map." The album is worth hearing just for the lead guitar (is it Glen Campbell, Bill Pitman, Billy Strange, or Tommy Tedesco?) on the cover of Chuck Berry's "Memphis." Little of the rest, apart from the title track and the subsequent hit "Honolulu Lulu," matches that high standard, but there is something to recommend almost all of it -- solid rocking renditions of "Kansas City" and "Tallahassee Lassie," a passable "You Came a Long Way From St. Louis" and "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," all stand out as standards worth the listening. There's also some surreal material here, such as the rock & roll version of Richard Rodgers' and Lorenz Hart's "Manhattan," with Hal Blaine kicking the hell out of his drum kit while the horns honk along behind the harmonizing -- it doesn't become another "Blue Moon," try as they might; and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," which is nearly as bizarre. Among the more appealing oddities is the beautifully sung "Philadelphia, PA," a tribute to that city's musical virtues, including Dick Clark, Danny & the Juniors, Chubby Checker, et al. (they also work the Everly Bros. in there somehow). ~ Bruce Eder

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