By Steven M. Housman
Beat the Summertime Blues
with Cool Things to Hear
Lazy, Hazy. Crazy Days of Summer
Are you wondering what to listen to in these dog days of summer? If so, listen up! Considering there are many people out there with various tastes in music, I thought it best to offer several musical genres just so that no one feels left out. These choices are ideal for those who choose to stay indoors and beat the heat, or for those who prefer to sip their frozen margaritas poolside and soak up the sun.
In this list of summertime music, I have selected certain discs and songs that remind one of summers' past, new music fit for those who feel a bit more adventurous and are looking for something different. Then, for those who like to download, burn, or whatever method you may have, I have included some great singles for your custom-made compilations.
NOW HEAR THIS:
Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose (2004)
You gotta hear this to believe it. Not only has Lynn made an incredible CD (her best in two decades), she has once again reclaimed her crown as the queen of country. The reason? Take some of the best songs this country diva has ever recorded, including the title cut, "Portland Oregon" (a duet with Jack White), "Miss Being Mrs.," and the phenomenal closer "Story Of My Life," which teams her with one of the hottest producers in the business (the aforementioned Jack White of The White Stripes), and this coal miner's daughter has struck gold. In this case, platinum. There's little mystery why Blender, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and dozens of other publications have given this CD five stars. Look for Lynn at next year's Grammy's. She's a shoe-in.
Shrek 2 - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2004)
For the three of you who haven't seen the film, what are you waiting for? It was amazing! Do you recall how great the music was? I've said it before, and I'll say it again, music and movies go together like a hand to a glove. MTV just got a jump on the competition. The music on this soundtrack is absolute summer fun. I'll bet it even works for winter, spring and fall as well. With the first smash single release, "Accidentally In Love" by the Counting Crows, to Bowie's reincarnation of "Changes," and the disco classic "Funkytown" by originators Lipps. Inc., among other ditties that include Pete Yorn and Jennifer Saunders (yes, that Jennifer Saunders) who sings "Fairy Godmother Song" and "Holding Out For A Hero." Go pick up a copy, it's absolutely fabulous!
Sheryl Crow - The Very Best Of...(2003)
Yes, this disc has been out for six months, and yes, the classic "The First Cut Is The Deepest" has already climbed high on the charts, but there are 16 other good reasons on this CD for why Crow has become a superstar in the past decade. They include the songs "All I Wanna Do," "Every Day Is A Winding Road," "Strong Enough," "If It Makes You Happy," "Picture" (with Kid Rock), and the summer anthem "Soak Up The Sun." This CD is a must-have for your summer pleasure. The bonus track, a country version of "The First Cut Is The Deepest" is a knockout.
Michael McDonald Motown (2003)
If you're a fan of McDonald's gorgeous blue-eyed soul vocals or just a fan of the Motown standards, this one's for you. Although released last year, this CD is still riding high on the charts. Partly because of its two Grammy nominations. Mostly because it's a phenomenal disc. The industry likes to call this disc a "comeback" for McDonald, and I suppose it's so. He's been around for quite awhile, but hasn't released a full CD that's brilliant from beginning to end in years. The wait is over. He covers gems such as Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," The Supremes' "Reflections" and four Stevie Wonder songs that include "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "I Believe (When I Fall In Love With You It Will Be Forever)" and the breathtaking "All In Love Is Fair" with such reverence, you'd swear these songs were meant for McDonald to begin with. Motown has always been about the "sound." With these and several other brilliant tracks, you won't be sorry.
Everything But The Girl - Like The Deserts Miss The Rain (2003)
This wouldn't be a must-have list of summer discs without this "Greatest Hits" gem. Just like the title suggests, "Missing" is obviously included, as are hits such as "Cross My Heart," "Walking Wounded," "My Head Is Only My House," "Protection" and "Mirror Ball," with several selections revamped and remixed. All in all, there are 20 classic tracks. These sonatas are just as fresh as they were the day you opened the original package. Even fresher, if that's possible.
DO YOU WANNA DANCE?:
Queer Trax - Various Artists (2004)
While some of you may be stepping out after dark, there are those who may want to have your own private party. Believe me, for those that are poolside, these songs work just as well before the sun sets. Queer Trax offers a non-stop mix of classic and underground hits that will bring you back to the late '80s. Highlights include Mr. Lee's "I Can't Forget," "Fantasize Me" from Pleasure Pimp, the legendary Frankie Knuckles' "Bad Boy" and "Tearin' Down The Walls" by Nouveau Nation. In all, there are 23 tracks that'll make you love the original House Music all over again. For those who missed out the first time around, do yourself a favor and find out why the expression "those were the days" means so much!
Gay Days Orlando - Randy Bettis (2004)
If it's a star-studded dance mix you're looking for, look no further. Randy Bettis has meticulously mixed some of the best "stars" and songs from his annual stint in Orlando. This compilation has fifteen tracks that include Michelle Weeks' version of "Heaven Knows," Boy George offers us "When Will You Learn," Colton Ford & Pepper Mashay cover "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" oh so well, and Donna Summer teams with legendary producer Bruce Roberts on "Whenever There Is Love." Other stars and songs include Taylor Dayne's "How Many," Simply Red's "Fake," Deborah Cooper's "Real Love" and Elton John & Kristine W's "When The Money's Gone." Speaking of which, this will be money well spent on an absolute ass-kickin' comp.
Best of Club 69 - Various Artists (2004)
For the few fans of dance that didn't know, "Club 69" was Peter Rauhofer's alias before he went by his own name in 2000. With such a talent, what took him so long to be recognized? Go figure. But while you do, this CD is a must for your collection. It's all of Club 69's diva songs with 69's favorite vocalists Kim Cooper and dynamo Suzanne Palmer. Highlights include the campy "Let Me Be Your Underwear," "Sugar Pie Guy," "Twisted," "Diva," "Style" and "I Look Good." Other favorites include "Warm Leatherette" and "Drama." If your favorite isn't listed, chances are it's on this disc. It's not called "Best of" for nothing.
SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCSH-EN WITH MARTHA:
Martha Stewart Living - Summer Entertaining (2001)
Before Martha had any thoughts of how to redecorate a cell, she and Rhino Music Corporation put together several discs of her favorite music for different occasions. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the line-up of artists and actually played this great summer compilation. It includes k.d. lang's "Summerfling," Bebel Gilberto's gorgeous "So Nice (Summer Samba)," the King Harvest classic "Dancing In The Moonlight" and 11 other spectacular tracks. Who knew Martha had such good musical taste? While you're sipping one of Martha's homemade beverages, I seriously summon you to serve this disc up to your company, or even yourself. It really IS a good thing!
GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN:
Women & Song - Various Artists (2000)
I came across this CD a couple of years ago, and I keep going back to it because of the diversity of the exceptional artists and songs. All tracks were meticulously chosen for this collection, and there's something for everyone. It kicks off with Cher's "Strong Enough," which I have always called her "I Will Survive" number. Other highlights include Sarah McLachlin's "Possessions," k.d. lang's "Constant Craving," The Pretender's "Brass In Pocket (I'm Special)," Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," Aretha's "I Say A Little Prayer" and Chaka's Khan's brilliant and original "I'm Every Woman." Great summer listening for any woman or man.
Melissa Etheridge - Your Little Secret (1995)
I have a confession to make; I'm in love with Melissa Etheridge. I was from the first time I heard her on the radio in the '80s. I own every album, so I found it rather difficult to narrow it down to just one for your summer listening. But, if I have to, I guess it would be the brilliance of this 1995 disc. My favorites include the title track, "I Want To Come Over," "Change," "This War's Over," "I Really Like You" and "All The Way To Heaven." If you already have this CD, you know what I'm talking about. If not, hurry and pick it up. I won't tell, it'll be just our little secret.
MISTY WATER COLOR MEMORIES -- THE CLASSIC SUMMER ALBUMS:
The following CD's are albums I own from summers gone by. These were important albums then, as they are important CD's to me now. I still play them, for they're classics, and they remind me of summer.
Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1977)
This isn't a classic for nothing. This album dominated the summer of '77 while disco was all the rage. Why? Perhaps because of "Dreams," "Go Your Own Way," "Don't Stop," "The Chain," "You Make Loving Fun," "Gold Dust Woman," and that's just half of the album. This landmark album was released on the strength of the first single "Dreams" and stayed on top for a mesmerizing 32 weeks! Fleetwood Mac made other albums, but none could compare to this.
Donna Summer - Bad Girls (1979)
On the heels of Summer's multi-platinum Live and More opus six months earlier, the anticipation for this album was mind-blowing. I recall the first single "Hot Stuff" going straight to Number One in May of '79, then the album hit and went through the roof. There was even a full-length uninterrupted album listening session on the radio the eve of its release! How many artists get that kind of treatment today AND still live up to the hype? The album spawned so many hits, including "Bad Girls," "Dim All The Lights," "Walk Away" and a record that stands alone in synth history, "Sunset People." I played this album for years, and still listen to the disc at least once a month. A true masterpiece.
Michael Jackson - Off The Wall (1979)
While I'll get an argument, or two, or four, or more that this album is better than its follow-up Thriller, bring it on. Of course I can't argue the fact that "Billie Jean" from Thriller is probably the self-proclaimed King of Pop's greatest hit of all-time. I will say that as a whole, Off The Wall took me through 1979 and straight through the summer of '80. From the opening lyrics and heavy beat of "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," segueing into "Rock With You" and "Workin' Day And Night," pausing and then continuing with "Off The Wall," the gorgeous simplicity of "She's Out Of My Life," and the Stevie Wonder penned ""I Can't Help It." This was Michael before the paparazzi followed him everywhere, before the night of the Grammy Awards in 1984 (or as some called it, "The Michael Jackson Show"), before the elephant man's bones, and his love affair with Liz Taylor and plastic surgery. Off The Wall was the ultimate pop/R&B album that defined the 21 year-old Jackson as a talent to be reckoned with. Thriller wasn't his only astonishment. That was just a phenomenon waiting to happen.
Tina Turner - Private Dancer (1984)
Released just in time for the summer of '84, I don't know anyone who wasn't praising the former Acid Queen and playing this "autobiographical" event. I couldn't get enough of it. From the opening of "I Might Have Been Queen" through "What's Love Got To Do With It" (THE song of the summer), to "Better Be Good To Me," "Show Some Respect," "Steel Claw" and the ultimate title track. I knew that this album was destined for greatness the first time I heard it, and the second, and thousands of plays later. This one always reminds me of that summer and never fails to put a smile on my face.
Madonna - True Blue (1986)
This album did not leave my turntable, nor did the cassette from my car, for the entire summer of '86. How could it? Right after I was over "Papa Don't Preach," "Open Your Heart" and "Where's The Party?" from overexposure, I started listening to side 2 (yes, albums and cassettes had sides!). I discovered "True Blue," and the song that defined my summer, "La Isla Bonita." Who knew in 1983 while we were wondering when this girl would be washed up, we'd still be talking and listening, and hanging on to every word over twenty years later? Who knew?... She did.
THE ALL-TIME CLASSIC SUMMER DISCS:
The Beach Boys - Sounds of Summer (2003)
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
Santana - Supernatural (1999)
Grease - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1978)
k.d. lang - Invincible Summer (2000)
Prince - Purple Rain (1984)
The Mama's & The Papa's - Greatest Hits (1990)
Donna Summer - Once Upon A Time (1977)
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (Remastered 1999)
The Beatles - Abbey Road (1968)
YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT?
DO IT YOURSELF:
To make your perfect ultimate summer music CD, page 54 of this issue features some suggestions of singles to burn and make for your own compilation. They'll be fun for you, and after someone catches the drift, it'll be a nice cool icebreaker for conversation on a hot summer night.
My list for the Top 50 ultimate summer songs, not in any particular order
"Desert Rose" - Sting
"Summer Nights" - Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta
"Happy Together" - The Turtles
"Out In The Country" - Three Dog Night
"The Main Event/Fight" - Barbra Streisand
"Summerfling" - k.d. lang
"Summertime" - Billie Holiday
"Summer" - War
"Hot Fun In The Summertime" - Sly & The Family Stone
"Smooth" - Santana
"I Got You Babe" - Sonny & Cher
"We Got The Beat" - Go Go's
"Boys Of Summer" - Don Henley
"Two Hot Girls On A Hot Summer Night" - Carly Simon
"Crazy In Love" - Beyonce
"Beach Baby" - First Class
"Dancing In The Street" - Martha & The Vandellas
"See You In September" - The Happenings
"Saturday In The Park" - Chicago
"Summer Of '69" - Bryan Adams
"Satisfaction" - The Rolling Stones
"Summer Rain" - Johnny Rivers
"The Warmth Of The Sun" - The Beach Boys
"The Summer Wind" - Frank Sinatra
"Sunshine Superman" - Donovan
"Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days Of Summer" - Nat "King" Cole
"La Vida Loca" - Ricky Martin
"Summer In The City" - Lovin' Spoonful
"Summer Me, Winter Me" - Barbra Streisand
"California Dreamin'" - The Mama's & Papa's
"Dancing In The Street" - Mick Jagger & David Bowie
"Soak Up The Sun" - Sheryl Crow
"Theme From 'A Summer Place'" - Percy Faith
"Cherish" - Madonna
"In The Summertime" - Mungo Jerry
"Sealed With A Kiss" - Bryan Hyland
"The Summer Knows" - Barbra Streisand
"Weekend In New England" - Barry Manilow
"Vacation" - Go Go's
"Love Hangover" - Diana Ross
"Once Upon A Summertime" - Barbra Streisand
"12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)" - The Mama's & Papa's
"Get Down Tonight" - K.C. & The Sunshine Band
"Lady Marmalade" - Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink
"Street Life" - The Crusaders Featuring Randy Crawford
"Summertime" - Janis Joplin
"Summertime Blues" - Eddie Cochran
"Summer Breeze" - Seals & Crofts
"School's Out" - Alice Cooper
"Circle In The Sand" - Belinda Carlisle
© 2004 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.