Frank Sinatra started the Reprise label during 1960 and used it to release albums by many of his friends and colleagues such as Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford, and Sammy Davis Jr. When producer Jimmy Bowen was hired by the label he had a different vision and began looking for talent to make the label attractive to a younger audience.
One of the first artists he signed was the 20 year old Jimmy Griffin who he hoped to turn into a pop idol. He decided to produce Griffin’s debut album himself and brought in Jack Nitzsche to arrange the music. The result was Summer Holiday, which was a lightweight sunny pop album that was pleasant according to early-60s music standards but made little commercial impact.
Summer Holiday has now returned as a Real Gone Music reissue. The original 12 track album has been enhanced by all of his non-album tracks that were released as singles.
In many ways it was a typical album of the era. Cover songs were combined with some new material that all fit together into a pop mix. While Bowen would go on to produce dozens of hits; here he tried to mold Griffin into a younger version of the older artists he was trying to replace. Some of the best session musicians of the era provided the instrumental backing including Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, and Hal Blaine.
The title song had been a hit in England for Cliff Richard. His version is lighter than the original and the arrangement was breezy. He also moved the Eddie Cochran rocker, “Summertime Blues,” into a pop vein, which was a real stretch. He was on much more solid ground with such hits of the day as “Love Letters in the Sand,” and “Sealed with a Kiss.” Two of the more successful songs were co-written by Campbell. “What Kind of Girl Are You” and “My Baby Made Me Cry” fit his vocal style well.
The bonus tracks are more of the same. The best of the lot was “Little Miss Cool,” written by Sonny Bono, which has an edge to it. He gives a surprisingly effective cover of The Beatles “All My Loving.” On the other hand such songs as “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” and “Try” seem antiquated even by early-60s standards.
When his contact with Reprise expired, he formed a writing relationship with Robb Royer. They produced songs for such artists as Cher, Bobby Vee, Brian Hyland, Lesley Gore, and even the garage rock band, The Standells. Their greatest hour came when writing under the pseudonyms Arthur James and Robb Wilson, they won the Academy Award for their song “For All We Know.” The best was yet to come for he duo as they joined up with vocalist David Gates to form Bread, which was one of the more commercially successful light rock groups of the ’70s.
Summer Holiday is an album that is frozen in time. It presents a nice slice of music from a simpler era and remains an a smooth listen nearly 50 years later.