“He knew how to produce records very well. He had a very strong spirit for recording music. He was a great producer.”
When no less an authority on making records as Brian “No Pier Pressure” Wilson spoke those words, he was paying tribute not only to a dear friend and respected contemporary, but to a man whose contributions to the creation of American West Coast music is somehow seldom ever given their rightful place alongside the achievements of, say, Phil Spector or Wilson himself.
Brian was speaking, as he often does, of Jan Berry, whom as half of Jan and Dean was churning out hits back when those Beach Boys were still learning to blend voices in their parents’ Hawthorne, CA den. But as a composer, arranger and vocalist, he did so much more to craft that California Sound the world continues to happily bask beneath a half century plus later.
Jan (Far left) and Dean with The Beach Boys
In fact, such were the lengths he fearlessly went to translate his warp-speed imagination onto vinyl that he was driven to assemble what was to become world-renowned as The Wrecking Crew, that crack ensemble of session musicians who soon went on to orchestrate some of the greatest records ever made …not to mention star in a wreckless new documentary (Required Viewing, everyone!)
Jan’s Totaled Corvette Stingray
But, thanks to the Berry-knowledgeable team of producers Cameron Michael Parkes and Mark A. Moore, those sounds have now been exhumed, replenished, and lovingly created anew across Encomium In Memoriam, a collection of fresh recordings mixed with vintage Jan and Dean session snippets that far transcends the slapdash retread ethos of your typical neighbourhood-indie-band “tribute” album.
“We’re proud of our guest artists,” Moore told me. “They lent their names and talent to the project in Jan’s honor. That’s especially relevant for the five people
“Three other well-known contributors, David Marks (original member of the Beach Boys), Paul Johnson (Belairs, “Mr. Moto”), and Don Grady (The Yellow Balloon and “Robbie Douglas” on My Three Sons) were contemporaries of Jan.” In fact, may I just say I believe Grady’s recording of “Fan Tan” – one of seven recreations on Encomium of songs originally planned for Jan’s unreleased 1968 album Carnival Of Sound – transcends even the original recording.
“And Probyn Gregory, of Brian Wilson’s current band, did a tremendous job on the brass parts (trumpet, flugelhorn, French horn, and trombone),” Mark adds. In fact, whenever possible Jan Berry’s original scores – some never properly recorded decades ago – have been utilized to ensure the authenticity, not to mention reflect the loving care and attention to detail, that all involved have loyally adhered to throughout.
Sadly, Jan Berry passed away during the production of Encomium In Memoriam. It is the producers’ hopes, and mine as well, that listening to this collection will inspire many to delve deeper into the Jan and Dean canon, where there are many many treasures patiently awaiting discovery.
Be it the surfside doo-wop of “Jennie Lee” and “Baby Talk” (birthed in Jan’s actual Bel Air garage between classes at University High), gems such as – deep breath now – “The Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association” (originally B-side to 1964’s “Ride The Wild Surf,” it somehow welds SoCal vocal calisthenics atop a Bach Christmas carol), the proto-Python humor filling that classic Jan And Dean Meet Batman album or the post-accident sessions Jan held alongside former manager Lou Adler in the early Seventies, it is a massive, yet utterly unique body of work that not only continues to pay testament to Berry’s multitude of abilities but, well heck… you
Jan would have wanted it that way.
William Jan Berry
born April 3, 1941 died March 26, 2004
For more information about Encomium In Memoriam and Jan Berry, please visit http://jananddean-janberry.com/
A Jan and Dean Sampler….
…and the full “Dean Man’s Curve” Motion Picture….
(Editor’s Note – One of the great pop music TV movies. At times, it fudges on actual events, but is still a must-see for fans of not only Jan and Dean, but of the era and place from which they came)
Gary appears here whenever he wants
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