Four Albums for Summer Fun

If you are in the music doldrums, or doing a lot of driving this summer and needing some tunes to keep you awake, alert, and actually interested in what is happening, I have some suggestions for you.

The first is for those, sooner or later, going to the beach. And there is no more beachy album than the first new album by the Beach Boys in 16 long years, an album put together to front or back their 50th anniversary (yes you heard me right) tour this summer. This word just in—it’s really good. I don’t know what they’ve been drinking, or what throat doctor they have been visiting, but they sound like they drank from the fountain of youth and its 1964 all over again. I actually remember 1964. I visited my cousins in Florida and there was this early Beach Boys album that my cousin had. I remember songs like ‘In My Room’ or especially ‘I Get Around’. This was still in the era when the twist was the big dance. Who were these beach bums from California and how come they all sounded like refugees from the boys choir? Anyway, if you like classic Beach Boys harmonies and summer fun tunes, this is definitely the album for you. The Beach Boys were ‘Why God Made Radio’ (as the signature track title suggests). You have Brian Wilson tunes, Mike Love tunes, Al Jardine tunes… its like old times. Hurray!

If however beach music is not your cup of tea, not to worry, how about some country/soul, or funk/country? Yes you heard right. Lionel Richie of Commodore and solo artist fame has rebooted his career with his new album, ‘Tuskegee’ which features various Nashville folks who are stars in their own right, on every track. And it has gone totally viral, right to the top of the Billboard charts.

If the tunes sound strangely familiar, well this is Lionel Richie’s greatest hits done after some country singers and pickers got hold of them. Richie has gotten wise to musical trends…. namely that Nashville is where pop, and rock, and even soul and funk, have currently gone to die….or be reborn. My personal favorites include Lady with Kenny Rogers, Easy with Willie Nelson (yes, you heard right), Sail On with Tim McGraw, Dancin on the Ceiling with Rascal Flatts, and my personal favorite, All Night Long with steel drums and Jimmy Buffett— a total party song. This album is upbeat, and poignant and shows you what a fine song writer and singer Richie has been over the years. What’s not to like?

O.K., so you like neither beach music or country music particularly. That’s o.k. how about some retro folk rock that will remind you of Neil Young or the whole of CSN and Y? I am referring to the new album by bad boy John Mayer, who despite his behavorial hijinks is in fact an excellent song writer, guitar player and a passable singer. His new album, Born and Raised is right up the alley of those who love Loggins and Messina or Poco, or CSN, or Dan Fogelberg etc. (you get the picture). Shoot the first song even reference’s Neil Young’s classic After the Gold Rush, though Mayer gets the year it came out wrong. In my judgment this is his most mature album. Maybe his musical maturation will prompt some emotional and relational maturity as well. We live in hope. Shoot even the album cover looks like something out of the 70s (think the first Jackson Browne album cover). I like all of this album, perhaps especially the tune Born and Raised which we get two editions of.

O.K., I hear a statistically small number of you out there saying— I don’t want any of that. Not to worry, there is a terrific new jazz album out by veteran performer and Michael Franks favorite— Ahmad Jamal. The album is titled Blue Moon, and its wonderful. It’s a live club album with a small jazz ensemble and it may be his best album in nearly 40 years. It involves some standard and even a few new Jamal tunes, and it has definitely got rhythm and a groove to it. It is clean and spare piano focused jazz at its best.

In the ‘we aim to please category’ at least one of these albums should please all of you. Try the sound samples out on Itunes and see what you think.

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