Self-exiled to NYC in 1967, the surf/pop chameleon sunk into the Village folk scene and built a relationship with Atlantic Records that he hoped would eclipse his professionally successful, personally painful, history with Dunhill. Unfortunately, after five years of nonstop songwriting for hire, the muse fell silent, so the week Sloan flew down to Mussel Shoals to record with the house rhythm section and producer Tom Dowd, he had to force ten songs. Sweet but slight and largely absent the usual Sloan hooks—though "New Design" is a low key knockout—the album works a loose and soulful Hardinesque groove, with Sloan sounding alternately hopeful and exhausted. High points include "And the Boundaries Inbetween" with its subtle psychedelic tinge, and the abstract kiss off of "(What Did She Mean When She Said) Good Luck," but this is definitely one for die-hard fans. Maybe with the renewed interest in Sloan and his terrific new Sailover CD, someone will reissue 1972’s Raised On Records next.
Several of the inimitably esteemed recording artistes I had the pleasure of becoming Lost In The Grooves with have recently made grand new releases available to discriminating listeners and/or readers out there in what remains of the real world. Yes of course there’s head Kink Ray’s LONG-awaited so-low album (which sounds not too bad at all to what’s left of these ears), but what truly is exciting me this week is Sundazed’s full-color re-release of that last “real” Jan and Dean long-player, Popsicle.
In truth a hasty grab-bag of hits, misses, and miscellania circa ’62 thru ’66 cobbled together to, um, commemorate Captain Jan Berry’s recent near-fatal car crash, the Popsicle album actually provides just as wild and crazy a ride as yer typical J&D LP ever would (e.g.: Side Four of The Jan & Dean Anthology Album, anyone?!!) as it veers madly from the ridiculous (“One-Piece Topless Bathing Suit,” perhaps the funniest Sloan/Barri composition this side of “Eve Of Destruction”) to the sublime (Jan’s tongue-possibly-deep-within-cheek “Norwegian Wood”) and THEN some (a fully half-an-album’s worth of selections with either “Summer” or “Surf” in the song-titles themselves: “She’s My Summer Girl” has long been a quite guilty pleasure-o-mine, you know, while J&D’s “Summer Means Fun” more than hangs ten against the Fantastic Baggys’ near-identical version, I’ll have YOU know).
So as Jan lay hovering next to death in nearby UCLA Medical Center, and his until-then hapless cohort Dean “The Boy Blunder” scoured the vaults to fulfill the duo’s contractual commitment to Liberty Records, “Popsicle” the song — originally appearing as “Popsicle Truck” on the November ’63 Drag City album — crept to the mid-twenties on the sales charts (I can distinctly remember it jumping from my childhood six-transistors as that fateful Summer of 66 was about to arrive), providing a sticky-sweet if tragically premature capper to the initial career of our most fave pop duo this side of Don & Phil. But Popsicle the ALBUM is in retrospect as fine a place as any to immediately reacquaint oneself with the majesty and true mondo-magic which was, and forever shall be, Jan Berry and Dean O. Torrence …until Sundazed gets very round to re-issuing their beyond-classic Jan & Dean Meet Batman, that is !!