Though never on a par with the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean had their moments. This wasn’t one of them. In fact, my first reaction when I heard Filet of Soul Redux echoed the famous opening line of Greil Marcus’s review of Bob Dylan’s Self-Portrait: “What is this shit?” Then I noticed that the CD label itself says, “Filet of Shit.” Indeed. Jan and Dean ostensibly intended the album to be a reaction to the high-art pretensions of some of their contemporaries, and to produce something lighter, perhaps on a par with Beach Boys Party, a record that incorporates false starts and assorted conversation and audience sounds.
But Filet of Soul Redux is so light it floats away, and much of it simply isn’t listenable. It combines bits of songs recorded at three California concerts in 1965 and 1966 with banter and audio effects from the studio—including breaking glass, explosions, burps, coughs, and, several times, the sound of someone apparently throwing up. The result is a record that ranks close to the two I often cite as perhaps the worst of the rock era, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and Wild Man Fischer’s Wildmania.
Jan & Dean reportedly recorded Filet of Soul because they owed one final LP to the small independent label they were leaving. But according to a press release, they “really didn’t want to waste any of the ‘good material’ on that company.” Trust me, they didn’t. This album—which the label rejected—makes a strong case against contractually obligating artists to produce records they might not want to make.
On the face of it, the program here looks interesting: it includes versions of Jan & Dean’s own “Honolulu Lulu” and “Dead Man’s Curve” (though not their several larger hits) plus covers of such period AM-radio staples as the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown,” Len Barry’s “1-2-3,” Lou Christie’s “Lightnin’ Strikes,” the Silkies’ “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” the Four Seasons' "Let's Hang On," and the Beatles’ “Michelle” and “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).”
But some of the songs are just snippets that are buried under or cut short by the sound effects, crowd noise, and assorted not-so-funny silliness; and when Jan & Dean do make it all the way to the end of a tune, their deliberately sloppy, goofy, brass-heavy versions are not likely to make you want to go back for seconds. As for the “humor,” the liner notes cite the inspiration of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but Filet of Soul isn’t anywhere near that ensemble’s league.