Various Artists – Summer Songs, Summer Love, Summer Fun (review)

Various Artists – Summer Songs, Summer Love, Summer Fun (Fantastic Voyage) review

81 tunes – enough to keep you partying all summer long

There’s been a few other “summer” related compilations over the years – but none of them can touch Summer Songs, Summer Love, Summer Fun, just released by British reissue label Fantastic Voyage – featuring three discs jam-packed with songs all related to the warmest season of the year.

I’m not sure how they do it, but they always manage to strike a perfect balance between the obvious and the obscure. So you get “Here Comes Summer” by Jerry Keller and “Summertime, Summertime” by the Jamies, tempered with obscurities like “Summertime Guy” by Eddie Rambeau, which was written by Chuck Barris, later of the Gong Show fame, and “Long Ago Last Summer” by little-known Australian singer Diane Trask.

There’s also familiar names doing not-so-familiar songs – like the Beach Boys so-so reading of “Summertime Blues” or “Tell Me It’s Summer” by the Fleetwoods, written by a very young Randy Newman. Pre-rock singers are also featured, like Nat King Cole, Steve Lawrence, and Peggy Lee, whose deadpan “Summer Vacation” is a must-hear.

There are early recordings by stars who would shine much later – like Bobby Pedrick’s “Summer Nights” – he later became Robert John, who scored with an Eighties hit with “Sad Eyes.” The Journeymen, which featured future Mamas & Papas’ John Phillips, do “Soft Blow the Summer Winds,” while a young Carole King gets in on the action with “Queen of the Beach.” Even Elvis Presley is included with an early track “I Don’t Care If the Sun Don’t Shine.”

Instrumentals like “Summer Set” by Monty Kelly, “You Are My Sunshine” by Johnny & the Hurricanes, and “Beach Party” by the Fendermen keep the diversity going. And, can there be a better song about the end of the school year than “School is Out” by Gary US Bonds?

Summer Songs, Summer Love, Summer Fun would make a great soundtrack to your next party – the rest is up to you. —Tony Peters