Various Artists – Chasing the Sun: The Greatest Songs of Summer (2007)

A friend of mine has informed me that the technical, WeatherChannel description for the kind of weather we’re having right now is “ball-sweating hot.” Funny, I’ve never heard that phrase used during one of those “On The 8’s” broadcasts. Must be a professional thing.

So, here’s the question: Do you associate particular songs/genres with summer? Honestly, I don’t think I do. When the weather is warm enough to drive with the windows down, almost anything loud will do. At least … that’s what I thought until I started plowing my way though this collection of surf/summer music. Sure, the connection between the summer and tunes like “Miserlou,” “Walk-Don’t Run,” “Pipeline,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” and “Wipeout” are fairly obvious. The problem was that I’d forgotten about all of these other songs that have shown up over the years. More on that in a minute.

Disc 2 of Chasing The Sun documents the Shag scene, which can be thought of as the beach music of the East Coast. Centered on Carolina, Shag music is much more anchored by R&B roots. I have to admit that I’d never even heard of this genre (aside: that might be because I’m from New England, where we have our own idea of the Mason-Dixon line … I think it’s just somewhere south of Hartford), but boy there are some stellar tunes: “Under The Boardwalk,” “Just One Look,” “Build Me Up Buttercup,” “The Shoop Shoop Songs (It’s In His Kiss),” and “Stay.”

It’s with the third disc that the folks at Time Life really hit the mark. They put together a pile of songs that carry the essence of summer, but come from a variety of pop genres and time periods. From Bobby Darin’s “Beyond The Sea” to Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” to “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince to “Vacation” by the Go Go’s to Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking On Sunshine,” this disc draws together the themes of the hot season from over four decades of pop music. Loads of fun, is what it is.

To cap things off, Chasing the Summer includes a DVD documentary on the history of surfing entitled “Liquid Stage: The Lure of Surfing.” I’ll say it right here: those guys were nuts. Four-story waves? You’ve got to be kidding me! All kidding aside, there is absolute no doubting the bravery and skills involved in the sport.

All of these goodies are packaged in a cute little cardboard replica of a cooler that, though it won’t easily fit in your CD rack, will make you the envy of the neighborhood. (OK, I made that last part up). So go ahead and revel a little in the sweetness of summer: No matter what your local weather, you won’t be disappointed.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.