February 2010 sees Official the release of Jan & Dean's "Carnival Of Sound" album. Technically though, other than Dean's newly designed and stunning album cover (to the left) this is just a Jan Berry project. I find it hard to call it a Jan & Dean album, as Dean is not to be heard on it, and Jan is only heard on one song, and then it is just his guide "la la la" vocals that are heard.
What we have here then is a concept of a Jan & Dean album, with Jan Berry at the desk in the studio, using studio personel and friends to construct an album with the feel of a Jan & Dean album. Remember, this was made during a time when Jan had not long had his horrific car accident, so therefore Jan was learning to be as "normal" as he could again, learning to walk, talk and learning to do all the basics that so much of us take for granted.
The CD has 29 tracks culled from the "Carnival Of Sound" sessions, tracks 1-15 are the original album versions, tracks 16-26 are the stereo versions ("Only A Boy" is only available in mono) plus there is "Girl You're Blowing My Mind" Jan's final mix and an alternate backing track, and Jan's demo (with "la la la's") of Laurel & Hardy.
The first thing you notice about this album is the stunning sound quality! As the album was recorded in a "real" studio, the sound of the source material is nothing short of brilliant. Never will you have heard these songs in this much depth of sound. That said, for the Jan & Dean collector, other than the amazing 16 page booklet, stunning cover-art and the track "Don't Drop It" (an instrumental track), the album does not offer much new for Jan & Dean fans.
One look at the track list to the left and you can see that Jan Berry's name as a co-writer is quite prominant on these tracks, though "Only A Boy" and to some extent "Tijuana" (Little Old Lady with new words!) were written before Jan's accident. Also, there are a number of cover versions on this album, so for me, Jan's writing credentials are with the stunning "Girl You're Blowing My Mind", "Mulholland", "Fan Tan", "Only A Boy", "Carnival Of Sound", "Laurel & Hardy", the amazing "I Know My Mind" and "Hawaii". Yes, seven tracks are the real "Carnival Of Sound" for me as a reviewer, tracks which were as good as anything Jan & Dean had released before Jan's accident.
"Carnival Of Sound" for Jan & Dean is akin to "Smile" by The Beach Boys. It's like the pieces of a puzzle that have finally been put together, however, in "Carnival's" case, it is still missing something, as neither Jan & Dean can be heard on the release. Brian Wilson released his version of "Smile", and it was great because he knew the order of play, the way in which the songs were meant to be heard and the vibe of the recordings. With "Carnival" though, it still feels like a collection of demo records, as good as the sound quality is.
It is of some debate if this should indeed be called a "Jan & Dean" album, in the same way that Dean created "Save For A Rainy Day" and released it as a Jan & Dean album. Both Jan and Dean wanted to keep the name alive, and I believe "Rainy Day" has much more of a Jan & Dean feel to it than "Carnival".
So, is it worth buying? Of course it is! Does it offer anything new? Not much to the collector, but the combination of amazing sound quality and superb packaging means it's a must have for any casual Jan & Dean buyer.
*Thank you to Mark Moore for proof reading and correcting errors.