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.
You might think with the range of time and genre between the tracks, it would be a jarring listening experience, but it's quite the opposite. The unifying theme of fun in the sun is enough to give the disc an incredibly cohesive sound. It's a disc of fun music, recalling memories, some older than others, of summer fun and romance.
Shag Songs: The third disc is a tribute to and celebration of songs perfect to hit the dance floor and, like the title suggests, Shag (We're talking about the dance here, not the Austin Powers connotation of the word). The dance was made popular in many movies from the same time period as the songs. Contained here are such tracks as the O'Kaysons' classic "Girl Watcher," The Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup," The Capitols' "Cool Jerk," and Betty Everett's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)".
Lighthearted and fun, it's music you find nearly impossible to sit still while listening to. It's also hard to frown or feel bad, the music is that overpoweringly warm and fun. Even if you are listening in the dead of winter, the discs of this set will bring the warmth of a summer day to the listener.
DVD: As a bonus, this set contains the Liquid Stage: The Lure of Surfing DVD. If you are a history or surfing buff you might get more out of this DVD than I did. As I am neither, and especially not all that interested in the history of surfing it didn't really hold my interest. It was presented well, with quality sound and images, but for me it was just an extra little bonus to the great music provided on the other three discs. Though, for the surfing buff it would probably be a prized extra.
Chasing the Sun is available through Time Life at all the usual outlets where you buy music. Pick it up and you'll have a slice of summer sun you can bring out even in the depths of winter to warm you up and get you moving.