By 1965, Jan & Dean were riding high. Theyâ€™d minted a dozen top-40 singles, including the chart-topping â€œSurf City,â€ collaborated extensively with Brian Wilson, hosted the T.A.M.I. Show, filmed a television pilot, begun work on a feature film, and as highlighted here, added comedy to their stage act. As the last album owed to Liberty, Filet of Soul, was apparently too outre for a label looking to milk the last ounce of profits from a departing act, so a more conventionally edited version was released in 1966 as Filet of Soul – A Live One. The full length original record, with sound effects and comedy bits intact remained in the vault, unreleased for more than fifty years, until now.
Although technically a contractual obligation album, Jan & Dean used the opportunity to experiment, rather than simply complete their obligation. The duo brought members of the Wrecking Crew to the Hullabaloo Club for two nights of live recording, and then tinkered with the tapes in the studio. As they sweetened and edited the live recordings, they sought to offer something interesting, while not giving their soon-to-be-ex-label chartworthy new material. The answer was to present a live set of cover songs augmented by sound effects and satirical comedy bits. Except it wasnâ€™t an answer to their contractual obligation, as the label rejected the master and demanded more songs.
To appease the label, several songs from the duoâ€™s television pilot were added, but so too a spoken word piece that was sure to raise the labelâ€™s ire. But before the lawyers could engage, Jan Berry was involved in the auto accident that ended the duoâ€™s recording career. The label, seizing the opportunity to release amid the ensuing publicity, edited the album down to its songs, releasing a cover of â€œNorwegian Woodâ€ and â€œPopsicleâ€ as singles, the latter rising to #21. So how does the original fare? On the one hand, the label was likely right about its commercial potential among Jan & Deanâ€™s teenage audience in early 1966; on the other, Jan & Dean clearly knew what they were doing, and were ahead of their time.
The albumâ€™s opening trumpet flourish suggests something grand, only to have its pomposity punctured by the sound effect of a rooster crowing. A live take of â€œHonolulu Luluâ€ is awash with the excited screams of female fans, but the subsequent monolog, â€œBoys Down at the Plant,â€ lampoons the show business facade. The live tracks are tightly performed, if not always with huge enthusiasm, but the duoâ€™s chemistry, command of the stage and improvisational skills are on full display. The studio manipulations and dadaistic sound effects point forward to the surrealistic rock and comedy records of the late-60s and 1970s, but havenâ€™t the conceptual coherency that the Firesign Theater and others would bring to records a few years later.
Omnivore reproduces the ten tracks of the resubmitted master, and includes Beatles songs (â€œMichelle,â€ â€œNorwegian Woodâ€ and â€œYouâ€™ve Got to Hide Your Love Awayâ€), Jan & Deanâ€™s own â€œDead Manâ€™s Curve,â€ and pop hits of the day (â€œCathyâ€™s Clown,â€ â€œLightninâ€™ Strikesâ€ and â€œHang On Sloopyâ€). The recordings are taken from a mono acetate (hand labeled â€œFill it with Shit,â€ seemingly to indicate the duoâ€™s non-commercial intentions). The 10-page booklet includes liner notes by Dean Torrence and surf music historian David Beard, photos and some of the original graphical elements that Torrence designed for the originally planned release. This isnâ€™t the high point of Jan & Deanâ€™s musicality, but itâ€™s an interesting suggestion of where they might have gone, if not for Berryâ€™s accident. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]