Two somewhat uneven Jan & Dean transitional albums are paired together on this CD. The duo had just moved into surf music in a serious way at the time they cut the Surf City album in 1963, and the title track and "Honolulu Lulu" represent the new sound, surrounded by some rather more standard (albeit well-played) rock 'n' roll covers and strange attempts at turning pop into rock 'n' roll. Folk 'n Roll isn't too different, cut at the outset of the folk-rock boom, with a handful of covers of then-current genre interspersed with some forced humor and seriousness. Jan & Dean basically ran into the same problem around 1965-66 that their East Coast harmony vocal rivals the Four Seasons did, in that life suddenly started turning more serious for their teenage audience. Nothing could pull the plug faster on Jan & Dean's music than seriousness ("Dead Man's Curve" aside, which didn't seem really serious until Berry's accident), and while no one will ever accuse "Folk City" of being overly serious (or remotely as inspired as "Surf City"), "The Universal Coward" showed the limits to which they could stretch their humor, especially right in the middle of the Vietnam War. The parts that work do outnumber those that don't, however, especially on the Surf City portion, the sound is very good, and even the failed tracks show some wrinkles to the duo's sound that are often forgotten today.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder