It’s been a long time that I have been trying to formulate the words to describe this album.
This nothing worse than a tribute album, regardless of what the intention is of the final
product, rarely do we see one that is released that even offers a glimmer of the original
artists expertise. So, to Encomium In Memoriam Vol. 1, the Jan Berry “tribute” collection
conceived mostly Mr Mark A.Moore from the official Jan Berry website.
Before you take a listen to this album, I want you to think of one thing. The Jan & Dean
release “Silver Summer”, which to all intense and purposes was a Dean Torrence & Mike
Love production. For, on listening to this album, that is what a lot of this album felt like
to me. That is not a bad thing, it’s just the album really does sound in a lot of cases like
sterile versions of Jan (and indeed Dean’s) songs. As the liner notes point out so early
on, this album was not created in the same way as Jan Berry produced his albums, there
was not a studio filled with musicians each playing a different instrument… And I guess
this is what gives it that generic, sterile and somewhat laid-back fair that the album
mostly lays out.
The opening track “The Anahiem Azuza & Cucamonga…” starts the album off. The first thing you’ll notice is that the backing track, for the most part sounds exactly like Jan’s backing track, however on the break in the middle of the song when the instruments drop out, you are left with the knowledge that this was indeed mostly recorded with the aid of modern computers and instruments. Vocally, it’s good, but it’s not great. From the very beginning of this album it fails as though every is being held with a pair of tweezers to ensure that everything sounds as Jan had planned it to, and I guess in some sterile way it does… without the rawness and emotion that Jan Berry’s originals brought us.
Track 2 is “It’s as easy as 1,2,3”, originally available on Jan & Dean’s albums with Jan and Jill Gibson singing, and in a number of Jill Gibson solo versions, this new version starts off very unpromising! The opening notes are so synthetic that I thought the track was headed for a nose-dive before it had even started, however once past that initial 5 seconds the track is surprisingly good. Singing is superb, and the backing track is faithful to the original.
Onto track 3, how on earth could anyone cover “Dead Man’s Curve” one would think. Well, just listen to the 1977 Dean remake and then listen to this. This new version has much more akin to that 1977 remake than to the Jan & Dean album or single versions from the 1960’s. Again, this is a great tribute to Jan’s memory, but more like a remake of a remake.
Track 4 is “Ace Of Hearts”, a beautiful doo-wop sounding trip back to the 50’s. This song so reminds me of the 1970’s artists Mud, who were 1950’s revival artists during the 1970’s. It really is a great song, great vocals and a track I’m sure Jan would be proud to hear.
“She’s My Summer Girl” follows, which starts with an awful electronic sounding piano and a rhythm so steady and lack-lustre that anyone who listens to this track should really listen to the original straight away to remember how great a track that was. Vocally it’s pretty weak, and we all know Jan & Dean were not the best singers, but this version is just a weak re-creation of the original.
Track 6 is the instrumental “B Gas Rickshaw”, and I have to praise the team for a great effort on this one. It’s as though the makers of the album knew there was no vocals so threw everything they had into the instrumental mix. Ok, about one minute into it where there is a breakdown and drum-roll, the drums sound a bit synthetic, but apart from that this is easily the best of the opening 6 tracks.
“When it’s over” follows quite strongly after “B Gas”, the backing track is nice and subtle and the only thing that lets the whole thing down is the harmonising vocals. They just don’t seem right for some bizarre reason. Again though, a beautiful song re-created with all the love and attention it deserves.
“I Found A Girl” is track number 8, with quite whimsical vocals, and a pretty average backing track. This song actually gets much better 42 seconds into the song when everything suddenly comes to life. It’s as though the producers realised the song was going no-where, so they picked up the pace and the energy and saved a song that could have turned out much worse than it eventually did.
I’ll skip “Filet Of Droll (Part 1) as its just some sound-effects and really nothing more than a bit of filler and move onto track 10, “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”. We all know The Beatles version of this was a beautiful song, we all know that Jan recorded numerous versions, and this version is apparently a combination of various ways Jan wanted to record the song. Either way, it should have been left alone, if anything it will just make potential listeners go and listen to The Beatles. Average at the very best.
“Bat No.4”, “Filet Of Droll (Part 2)” and “Bat No.1” follow, all examples of what Jan was trying to achieve before his accident, all pure filler that could have been placed into one track at the end of the album as a bonus. You’ll find it interesting once… Maybe.
Track 14 is where the whole mid-section of the album takes a HUGE turn. “Carnival Of Sound” and the eight tracks are
masterpieces that were obviously a passion of the producers and creators of this album. “Carnival Of Sound” is beautiful, the
backing track sounds perfect and achieves what it is supposed to sound like and the vocals are just mind blowing. Thank you
Mark A.Moore for tracks 14-22, they are worth the price of entry.
“Blowin’ My Mind” was always a track that did blow my mind. Here again Jan’s writing talents after his accident show just what
might have been. A great backing track, great vocals and lyrics and impressive production make this a great stand out track.
Track 16 see’s “Fan Tan” re-created perfectly. This is an all round great musical and vocal production. The backing track is
beautiful, and the song is melodic and it all gels perfectly, just like Fan Tan!
“Love & Hate” was always a messy record, though this version has been re-created lovingly and for once I can appreciate much
more than I ever did before. As with the rest of track 14-22, this is worth the price of admission.
“I Know My Mind” was recorded in many different versions, and track 18 lets us listen to one of the slower takes of the song.
Beautiful lyrics, great vocals, great backing harmonies and a melody that is as sophisticated as it is simple. The break at 1.55secs
into the song is just stunning, and this tracks reminds me so much of a modern Brian Wilson track that it’s unbelievable.
“Mulholland” is somewhat let down by it’s rather synthetic opening refrains, however once past that we have another great re-
creation of a brilliant Jan Berry song. Vocally it’s not the strongest of tracks 14-22, however it’s still a great track.
And to track 20, one of the last of the great songs on this album “Laurel & Hardy” sounds different without Davy Jones singing it, however it’s still a powerful, fun and simple song. Again, another brilliant track that the producers and artists should be proud to have re-made.
Both “Flight Number 9 (Cheyenne)” and “California Sunshine (On My Mind) are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that have just fallen into place. If Jan had not had his accident then these two numbers exemplify to me what kind of music Jan would have been making. Production on both these tracks is stunning; vocals on both are great (if a little country influenced on Sunshine!) and are a welcome addition to any music fans library.
Track 23, “Continuous Eternal”, a sprawling, horrific Prose Poem put to one of Jan’s unfinished backing tracks. Just picture “California Saga – The Beaks Of Eagles” by The Beach Boys, and this new track is like a terrible version of that. Ok, some people will enjoy it, but I cannot see the average Jan & Dean listener listening to this more than once. Horrific in every respect.
Tracks 24-29 are outtakes of various songs and studio chatter. Interesting and a great listen.
Track 30 is possibly the worse version of “Surf City” EVER produced. Remember that Go Go’s version from the Brian Wilson Tribute Concert? Well, imagine that (yes, a female singer), but vocally sounding like she’s never heard the song, can’t be bothered to sing the song and actually wants to do the song more harm than justice. Avoid at all costs, if you never listen to this, you will not miss anything!
So, there we have it, a mixed bag that was saved by tracks 14-22. It does remind me of the many times Dean has re-recorded Jan & Dean material, and it reminds me quite often of a crazy sound lab where they all wear white and try and be as synthetic and sterile as possible as not to disturb the once brilliance of Jan Berry.
Beautiful in places, horrific in a few other places, however this is a must buy for any fan of Jan & Dean.
Mark Adams - 11 March 2009