Dean Torrence

Anthology: Legendary Masked Surfer Unmasked

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Though Jan Berry generally gets credit as the more musical half of Jan & Dean, Dean Torrence was also important to the duo, for both his singing and his wacky sense of humor. Though Jan & Dean's career basically came to a halt after Berry's serious auto accident in 1966, Torrence did record off and on after that. Sometimes it was on releases billed to Jan & Dean, sometimes it was on his own, sometimes it was in collaboration with others like Mike Love and Gary Griffin, and sometimes it was part of records billed to the Legendary Masked Surfers or Laughing Gravy. This 18-song anthology covers all that and more, and while the diligence needed to assemble the strewn parts is admirable, there's certainly little on the level of Jan & Dean's prime stuff. The earliest five tracks are 1966-1967 Jan & Dean releases on which Torrence was really the show, with Berry being incapacitated. These are moderately engaging sunshine pop, highlighted by a rather tongue-in-cheek update of the Jamies' hit, "Summertime, Summertime," and also including a couple of basic, almost folky Torrence-penned ballads, "Taste of Rain" and "California Lullaby." Next on board is the rare 1967 Laughing Gravy single "Vegetables," a cover of the eccentric Brian Wilson song from the Beach Boys' Smiley Smile album. Everything else on here save one track hails from the 1970s and 1980s, and it's less interesting, being largely given over to inferior remakes of old Jan & Dean tunes and mediocre facsimiles of the '60s surf/hot rod sound. There are also 1981 and 2002 versions of "Barbara Ann" (which Torrence sang lead on when the Beach Boys had a hit with it in the mid-'60s) and a cover of the Turtles' "Elenore" that also features Flo & Eddie. Only on the 1987 Jan & Dean cover of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" does some genuine smile-inducing zaniness come through. It's hard to dislike a record by a singer who's capable of projecting good-natured humor even on crummy tracks, but this is a pretty marginal footnote to Torrence's earlier work with Jan & Dean.

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