When Jan & Dean hit it big with "Surf City," they'd actually already been active on the L.A. pop/rock scene for a good five years, recording numerous singles for small labels that owed much more to doo wop and teen-idol styles than surf music. This CD has over 20 tracks from the era, most taken from rare singles, including five from 1958 that were billed to Jan & Arnie (Jan's original partner was Arnie Ginsburg, who left shortly after their debut single and Top Ten hit, "Jennie Lee"). This is mawkish, primitively recorded stuff, but not without its charm and even its importance. With their white doo wop harmonies, Jan & Dean's early records were a clear influence on the Beach Boys; the best of their energetically naive, fashion-conscious singles (which Jan Berry often helped write) were a vague, but definite, forerunner of garage rock and '60s California pop/rock; and even at this point, they had a zany and infectious sense of humor, especially on their go-for-broke doo wop updates of the standards "Clementine" and "Heart and Soul." Most listeners should stick with the EMI anthology, but more specialized tastes will find a lot of this enjoyable, the hits ("Baby Talk," "Jennie Lee," "Clementine") being the standouts, though songs like "Baggy Pants" and "Something a Little Bit Different" are surprisingly goofy and satirical for the era.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger