Pop Reviews : The Jam Session That Never Materialized

Imagine the jam session you could have if you got a few Beach Boys, Mama Michelle Phillips, Jan Berry of Jan & Dean and legendary producer Phil Spector together with the "Wrecking Crew" session musicians who played on most of their great recordings, all reunited for the first time in ages in a tiny club.

That was the scene Thursday at the Baked Potato, site of a private party honoring the publication of a memoir by drummer Hal Blaine, who provided signature beats to many of the top Los Angeles recording sessions in the '60s and '70s.

But imagination was, for the most part, what the family and friends on hand were left with. Only after a couple hours of spirited but standard jazz fusion led by "Wrecking Crew" keyboardist (and club proprietor) Don Randi (and a "special" appearance by an Elvis imitator) did Blaine finally take the drummer's chair. Beach Boys Bruce Johnston and Al Jardine were then coaxed on stage for a room-enlivening round of "Help Me Rhonda." Sure it was sloppy, but it was also magical.

It was also too little too late. Berry and Beach Boy mastermind Brian Wilson had already split by this time, Phillips couldn't be persuaded to join in, and of course there had never really been any hope that the reclusive Spector would step into the spotlight. But at least it supported Johnston's stage comment that in the age of electronically sampled sounds, "these characters are missing from the radio. Live players really make it happen."

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