Steve and I have opted for a different approach this week. Today we take you through a double album of our favourite “summer songs.” I have compiled the first disc and Steve the second. Just one thing before we start: while a number of these songs obviously are “summery” due to their titles and/or lyrics, several of them (in my disc anyway) are summer songs only to me because of how they sound, and so trying to justify their inclusion on a list of summer songs might be interesting. But enough of that; let’s launch straight into it.
Behold the first track, and not a mention of summer anywhere in the title or lyrics. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But this track, with its luscious flute and electric piano, soothing vocals and choppy drumming, evokes a Latin sort of feel and takes us on a trip to a tropical paradise. Its carefree, joyous lyrics, sung sweetly by Flora Purim punctuate the song intermittently. (I’m ignoring the fact that the lyrics are based on Scientological beliefs) A mellow opener.
Track 2 – Marlena Shaw – California Soul 2:59 (1969)
Again, no mention of summer. But one cannot help but think of summer when the intense string section kicks in and Marlena Shaw’s soaring vocal grips you like a vice. She sings of how the “soul” music of the state brings joy and makes her want to dance as the strings build in intensity to climax worthy of an action film. Absolutely astounding track.
Track 3 – DJ Cam – Summer in Paris 6:00 (2003)
Oh no, there goes Adam and his DJ’s again I hear you say. Well at least this track mentions summer. This isn’t a typical DJ track – in fact, I have absolutely no idea what contribution DJ Cam has to this track because I sure can’t hear any. Electric piano, fast-paced, jazzy drums and another sensual female vocal. “I miss/that kiss/summer/in Paris “ is drawn out across 4 lines with the seductiveness of the most wily temptress. A trumpet appears. The drums increase in intensity yet still maintains the same cool vibe. A flute appears. The song evokes the heat of a long hot summer night, where impulses run wild and romance is in the air. A personal favourite.
Track 4 – Randy Newman – I Love L.A. 3:32 (1983)
Totally 80’s, a tad cheesy and is actually supposed to be ironic, but a perfect ode to a sunny city. “Rollin’ down Imperial Highway/Big nasty redhead at my side/Santa Ana winds blowing hot from the north/And we was born to ride/Roll down the window/Put down the top/Crank up the Beach Boys baby/Don’t let the music stop.” Sounds pretty ideal, doesn’t it?
Track 5 – Mungo Jerry – In The Summertime 3:37 (1970)
Now this is as clichéd as a gangster meeting his death in a hailstorm of bullets, but as one of the original summer songs, and still one of the best, I wholeheartedly endorse its inclusion in this list. The music is as happy as the lyrics with its drawling, sunny quality. It might have been overplayed, and most people might know it from Shaggy’s inferior cover, but honestly, can you think of a happier song? “In the summertime/When the weather’s high/You can stretch right up/And touch the sky/When the weather’s right/You got women, you got women on your mind.”
Track 6 – Martha and The Vandellas - (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave 2:49 (1963)
Another bouncing soul track with its jazzy horns, toe-tapping rhythm and passionate vocals. The singer compares being in love to feeling the summer heat:
“Whenever I’m with him/Something inside/Starts to burn/And I’m filled with desire/Could it be the devil in me/Or is this the way love’s supposed to be/It’s like a heat wave!” The trio of singers works seamlessly together, hitting us with their clever, metaphorical lyrics. (Incidentally, the slightly ambiguous references to sexual desire suggest to me that the stricter censorship laws on music back then could actually spurn the artists to be more creative to weave their way around them and still get their message across. This particular writer would much prefer to hear clever, suggestive lyrics make their way back into pop songs instead of horrendous lines such as “sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me” etc. But I digress) A triumph of 60’s soul and a brilliant summer song.
Track 7 – The Isley Brothers – Summer Breeze 6:12 (1973)
The Isley Brothers, masters of seductive music, turn a somewhat tepid song called Summer Breeze, originally by Seal and Crofts, into a wondrous, soaring soul anthem with a hard rock edge. Opening with an acoustic guitar riff, interspersed with soulful piano and Ronald Isley’s sensual voice, the track builds and builds with the addition of numerous harmonies, falsettos and electric guitar interjections. Just when you thought the song couldn’t get any better, Ernie Isley begins a 2-minute guitar crescendo that closes the song. His Hendrix-like guitar adds a different kind of intensity. This is a real scorcher. What a glorious song.
Track 8 – David Bowie and Mick Jagger – Dancing In The Street 3:11 (1985)
This was originally by Martha and The Vandellas, but I didn’t want to put two of their songs on the same playlist; besides I do have a slight preference to this one. Again, it’s quite 80’s, but there’s an unmistakable vibe to it that I enjoy. It’s a party song, filled with energy and enthusiasm. “summer’s here and the time is right/For dancing in the street” “Every guy grab a girl/Everywhere around the world!” With its overproduced 80’s drums, hard rock guitar and Motown horns, it’s a really curious mix of music, but one that works well and will be sure to keep you engaged.
Track 9 – George Benson – Sunny – 2:54 (1968)
Another jazzy song, this time led by a playful guitar with effusive interjections of horns and vocal, kept right by a languorous bongo/drum pairing. Nothing much to say about this one, but it works as a nice little interlude methinks.
Track 10 – MFSB ft. The Three Degrees – TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) 3:35 (1974)
In keeping with the jazz/soul sort of theme of this disc (although this is completely accidental; it just so happens that most of my favourite summer songs are within this genre) I have decided to include the master of them all, my personal favourite soul song and one of my favourite all-time pieces of music.
TSOP is Philly soul at its purest; string sections of orchestral proportions interspersed with the typical horns of soul music and a funky beat. The song unravels in sections, with the first 2 minutes dedicated to two repeating themes. A short breakdown follows where the horns and strings build in intensity, and with just under a minute left, the three female singers known as The Three Degrees appear, repeating the lines “do do do do do do, do do” and “Let’s get it on/It’s time to get down.” If I were writing a list of greatest songs to drive to, or make love to, this would also be on it.
Track 11 – The Go! Team – Buy Nothing Day - 3:59 (2011)
Ah The Go! Team. 3 albums deep and they still sound as fresh as milk straight from the cow. Capturing the same energy as on their debut album which I raved about a few weeks ago, (see Lick My Decals Off, Baby #2) Buy Nothing Day is possibly the most perfect song from their new album. With its glorious harmonies, soaring pop chorus and wonderful sunny sound, it’s hard to dislike it. A song for a late night drive, a walk through the country or a first date, but most of all, a song for summer.
Track 12 – The Zombies – Time Of The Season - 3:34 (1968)
And thus we conclude my contribution to this double disc set with this glorious song from late 60’s. Not quite from the Summer of Love, but a song that I feel best represents the hippie ethos of peace and sexual liberation. A pounding bass line and drums open the song before it kicks into its sensual vocals, with call-and-response delivery and wonderful harmonies. The song isn’t completely languid, with long sections devoted to fast-paced psychedelic improvisation on the organ, as demonstrated in the lengthy outro. A fitting closer I believe.
Words - Adam