Time-Life, the company that's built a reputation on compilations, anthologies, and box sets, has struck gold again with the recent release of Chasing the Sun. This box set contains three disks of summer fun, divided and categorized with a bonus DVD documenting the history of summer's favorite water sport: surfing. Sticking with the summer theme, the box the discs are contained in is a miniature cardboard cooler.
The nice thing about compilations like this is just about every track is familiar. You know what to expect, and if this music speaks to you, then you've a few hours worth of great tunes and the memories associated with the songs and the time. The three discs included in this set are Surf Songs, Summer 1950-1990, and Shag Songs. Let's take a closer look at them individually.
Surf Songs: This disc contains twenty tracks of music highlighting and celebrating the traditional summer water sport and the beach in general. As you listen you would think it would be pretty comprehensive, but you realize it only scratches the surface. Standout tracks are "Sure Angel" by the Original Surfaris, "Surf City" and "Ride the Wild Surf" by Jan and Dean," and "Surfin' U.S.A." by The Beach Boys. Then again, it's hard to pick out standouts from a collection of solid hits.
What I love most about this style of music and this disc in particular is the wonderful harmonies and unique vocalizations. There isn't another song out there quite like the Rivingtons' "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow," with its nonsense lyrics and fun beat that oozes summer fun nor are there harmonies quite the same as you hear on the Beach Boys' or Jan and Dean's tracks.
Summer 1950-1990: This disc is my favorite, mostly for it's diversity. As the title states, it contains summer songs that span four decades – 19 of them to be exact. There's a wide variety, but with a common theme that makes it a great background disc for the summer BBQ parties or a drive by the beach with the top down. It covers such diverse territory jumping from "The Warmth of The Sun" by The Beach Boys to the "Cruel Summer" by Bananarama or "Heat Wave" by Linda Ronstadt to "Summertime" by D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince.