December 5, 2020

Recommended Summer Listening

The sun is staying up later, the temperatures are getting warmer, and the Orioles (the Orioles? Yes, the Baltimore Orioles!) have the best record in baseball. In must be the cusp of summer. The kiddies will be out of school soon, which means most all of us will be getting on the road and driving away from the heat and humidity of our towns to the heat and humidity of other towns. Before we don a Hawaiian shirt, plaid shorts and flip-flops, we need to pick out our summer music. (This afternoon we’ll pick out our summer reading.) This is my list of recommended tuneage for the summer months, which means it’s an infallible listing. Buy them all, cranking up the sound on your Victrola, and let that smile grow into a great big grin.

There are car tunes for driving on the freeway (otherwise known as mileage disposal units) and car tunes for driving on the backroads. A good selection for the former is Pearl Jam’s Backspacer. Now, I’m not a huge PJ or Eddie Vedder fan, but this 2009 album by the Seattle band has the right mix of surf and rock to make it a very good summer travel album. Yes, you can buy it through the Amazon link provided, but if there is a Target store nearby, pop in there to buy it for $4.99. That’s what I did. Ok, I was already at the Target as I work there, but you get the idea.

(I love the people who tell me they don’t shop at Target because it’s French-owned. When I tell them that Target is based in Minnesota, they tell me, “That’s what the French want you to believe.” Really. I’m not making this up. When people tell me this, I direct them to the nearest WalMart where, I think, they will be right at home.)

Another really good interstate freeway album is First Base by the group Babe Ruth. Released in 1972, this is the best album by the British band featuring Alan Shacklock (now a record producer in Nashville) and Jenny Haan. They were very well received in Canada in their day, which is strange for a British group that played a lot of Mexican rock and roll. But it works. It is loud and fast rock, so watch your speed as you drive to this.

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If you are going to drive on rural highways through our beautiful countryside, you’ll want a different selection of music. Start with The Head and the Heart, the self-titled debut album by a fairly new indie group from Seattle. If you like Civil Wars, The Decemberists, or Iron and Wine, you’ll love this band. A great backyard album all summer long. My niece introduced me to them recently, and I’ve been listening to them steadily since.

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Another great “byway” album is Jackson Browne’s Love Is Strange. Beautiful live acoustic arrangements of some of his greatest songs. Note I didn’t say his biggest hits. But slow down songs like Late For The Sky, Call It A Loan and These Days and you have a record to listen to on the hottest and laziest of summer days.

Jack Johnson is  producer of surf movies (and a surfer himself), so it is only natural his surf songs are among the best out today. Jack Johnson & Friends: Best of Kokua Festival is a collection of songs recorded live through the years at a festival Johnson hosts each year. His “friends” include Taj Mahal, Jackson Browne, Ben Harper, Willie Nelson and Eddie Vedder. Nice friends. This is the perfect album for a beach or a pool party, or if you just want to pretend you’re at the beach or at a pool. (Which makes you a little weird, but I won’t tell.)

Ok, let’s pick up the pace once again with what I consider one of the five greatest albums of all time: Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers. This was the last album to feature Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, both of whom died in separate (by one year and three blocks) motorcycle accidents. Eat A Peach is one album I could listen to over and over from June 21 to September 20 and never grow tired of it.

Ok, two more and then I’ll let you get to buying and listening. These last two albums have yet to be released, but you can still add them to your shopping cart in preparation for the day they’re released. (Both will be released on June 5.) The first is Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Americana. While many washed-up rock stars (for “washed-up” read “Rod Stewart”) are releasing albums of tired standards, Young—who is no where near washed up—and the Horse are taking a trip much further back in time. Hey, the album kicks off with Oh Susannah. That’s right—order this today.

And then there is the aptly-named That’s Why God Made the Radio by the Beach Boys. Yes, a new studio album by the surviving ‘Boys. Brian Wilson is the greatest composer of our day, and the harmonies are still crisp and tight. Summer is not summer without the Beach Boys. If you only buy one album mentioned, it should be … well, ok, you shouldn’t buy only one album I’ve mentioned. But be sure this is included.

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Get a good start on summer with good tunes. Your ears and heart will thank me.



  1. June 12th is the release date for “Clockwork Angels” by Rush – their 19th album. Can’t wait!

  2. Good summer listenings?

    Lauryn Hill – mtv unplugged 2.0 (beautiful acoustic music)
    And of course “marvin Gaye – I want you”

    must haves..

  3. Great stuff, Jeff!

    I think the French now own the Beach Boys. But I still listen to them (through an interpreter from St. Paul).

  4. Tell your friends to pray for peace between the USA and France.

  5. Jeff, you seem to have Internetmonk confused with Rolling Stone. That said, I have to tell you that Alan Shacklock and also Dave Hewitt (the bass player with the long blond hair in your clip of Babe Ruth) and their wives were members of our church for several years in Roswell, Georgia. Alan’s big claim to fame was that he had once produced an album for Meatloaf. On the strength of that, apparently, the pastor created a new position on staff for him: Director of the Celebratory Arts. This basically meant that he more or less non-led the choir from his position at the keyboard. This was both a good thing and a bad thing, as Alan didn’t know very much about directing a choir. Dave played bass in our praise band and I was on grand piano. I would say the church was in a transitional phase at the time. And you are the first person I have ever known who ever heard of Babe Ruth. I miss Alan and Lee and Dave and Mary. The church and the pastor, not so much. Besides being a record producer in Nashville, Alan is also (or was the last I heard) an adjunct professor in the music department at Belmont. In 2009, I blogged about Alan and Dave and Babe Ruth here.

    • Oops, did I say keyboard? How silly/forgetful of me! Alan played guitar, not keyboard.

    • Rolling Stone? I began reading that back when it was still printed on newsprint. But I disagree with most everything they say these days, so I give it a pretty wide berth…

      Alan Shacklock also wrote the song True Believers for Phil Keaggy, and I think he had a hand in producing that album for Keaggy as well. He started a band when he was 12 or 13 years old. The other guitar player in his band was Mick Taylor who took Brian Jones’ place in the Rolling Stones. He kept good company!

      • Alan Shacklock also wrote the song True Believers for Phil Keaggy, and I think he had a hand in producing that album for Keaggy as well.

        Strangely enough I was just reading about that. True Believers is one of my favourite Keaggy songs, though interestingly enough Keaggy had this to say about the album in an interview.

        I went back to Sparrow and did this pop album called True Believers which is really the most unlike me of any album I’ve ever done, in my personal opinion. It was more of a manufactured concept: “We’re gonna make a pop album for you that’s going to launch you into the next ten years.” I don’t know if it did. (Laughs) It’s an unusual album to listen to for me, but there are a couple of good songs on there, though.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Rolling Stone? I began reading that back when it was still printed on newsprint.

        Was that back when Hunter S Thomspon was writing for them?

        “Bad Craziness…”

  6. This is also pretty good listening (for all you budding theologians out there):

    It’s Tuesday night’s Bible study on Romans. About halfway through is a great new (to me anyway) perspective on the sacraments. Very interesting. And some interesting views of how paganism infects the church.

    It’s a keeper.

    Mercy. (to be read with a Minnesotan accent)

  7. Jeff–I second your suggestion of The Head and the Heart. I was introduced to their song “Lost in my Mind” on David Dye’s World Cafe and was immediately taken in.

    For fans of classic Americana I would also recommend Jonathan Wilson’s recent release “Gentle Spirit”. You’ll hear hints of the Eagles and America (the band, not the country :)). “Desert Raven” and Wilson’s cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel” are particular highlights.

  8. Sorry Jeff, but as a Texas Rangers fan who has suffered through the lean years, I would like to point out that it is indeed the Texas Rangers who currently have the best record in baseball, they took that from Baltimore on the night of the 8th with Josh Hamilton’s historic 4 home run game.

  9. petrushka1611 says

    Night Train to Nashville, volume 1, is excellent: it’s a survey of Nashville R&B from 1945-1970. It’ll have a few songs you’ve heard, but there’s one called “Rollin’ Stone” that will get you hooked.

    And you have to have Flyer by Nanci Griffith.

  10. cermak_rd says

    I love Jackson Browne’s more contemplative stuff. I think I first heard Joan Baez cover “These Days” in a record compilation (no really, it was vinyl) from one of the Newport Folk Festival from some year or other. I believe he wrote that song when he was a teenager. “Farther On”, I have always considered a deeply spiritual song and the sense of alienation of “The Late Show” is engaging.

    On the other hand, I woke up this AM to “Yer So Bad” by Tom Petty and it made me smile.

    • cermak_rd, I just looked up the lyrics for Browne’s “Farther On.” Great lyrics. I like his contemplative songs too.

  11. Anything by Metallica, Breaking Benjamin, or RHCP (Road Trippin’ is especially apropos). Of course, for me this isn’t just summer music. I can listen to this all year round.

  12. My preferred interstate listening is anything by Bruce Springsteen and U2. And Beach Music (not to be confused with Surfing Music, which is the Beach Boys’ genre) is also a must.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I love the people who tell me they don’t shop at Target because it’s French-owned. When I tell them that Target is based in Minnesota, they tell me, “That’s what the French want you to believe.” Really. I’m not making this up.

    “That’s what THEY want you to believe.”

    Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory logic now in effect.

    The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

    • cermak_rd says

      I’ve heard people call it Tar-jay before. I thought it was because they were mocking the supposedly upper crust shoppers there. Seriously, I don’t know where that image came from. Target and Walmart have the same merchandise, by and large. And there aren’t bouncers at either asking for income verification! When I need something from one of them I tend to hit the one that’s closer to where I currently am. I don’t buy groceries at either because they don’t carry the variety that my local grocers do.

      • I think it’s meant as a joke, like the people who call JC Penney “Jacque Pen-nay.”

  14. warren merriman says

    I don’t believe it. You attack John Macarthur and Al Mohler, but you recommend the Beach Boys. Maybe there is hope for you yet. If you like the Beach Boys music, I would recommend you try to get the Beach Boys songbooks by the Hollyridge Strings. These are fully orchestrated instrumental versions of the Beach Boys music (there are either 2 or 3 songbooks).

  15. Can’t help but give a shout out to Bruce Cockburn for his 1976 song “Silver Wheels”.

    Read each line as fast as you can as you will get a sense of how the song goes. (Slow down for the refrain.)

    Amazing description of a road journey rushing by.

    Silver Wheels

    High speed drift on a prairie road
    Hot tires sing like a string being bowed
    Sudden town rears up then explodes
    Fragments resolve into white line code

    Refrain: Whirl on silver wheels

    Black earth energy receptor fields
    Undulate under a grey cloud shield
    We outrun a river colour brick red mud
    That cleaves apart hills soil rich as blood

    Highway squeeze in construction steam
    Stop caution hard hat yellow insect machines
    Silver steel towers stalk rolling land
    Toward distant stacks that shout “Feed on demand”

    100 miles later the sky has changed
    Urban anticipation — we get 4 lanes
    Red orange furnace sphere notches down
    Throws up silhouette skyline in brown

    Sundogs flare on windshield glass
    Sudden swoop skyward iron horse overpass
    Pass a man walking like the man in the moon
    Walking like his head’s full of irish fiddle tunes

    The skin around every city looks the same
    Miles of flat neon spelling well-known names
    Fat wheeled cars squeal into the sun

    Radio speakers gargle top 40 trash
    Muzak soundtrack to slow collapse
    Planet engines pulsate in sidereal time
    If you listen close you can hear the whine

    • Love that song!

    • My Canadian musical education continues apace, Michael. Thanks!

    • Great song. “Lord of the Starfields” is another favorite of mine from that album (In the Falling Dark)–one of Bruce’s best ever.

      • Steve Bell’s version is a favorite of mine.

        • Been a Steve Bell fan (no relation) since 1994 when I heard him interviewed by CBC radio at the Winnipeg folk festival as we were driving through. Been to countless concerts since then. I love his Bruce Cockburn cover of “Pacing the Cage”.

          • Steve Bell’s album “My Dinner With Bruce”, all songs written by Cockburn, is an absolute celebration of their combined talents. One of our favorites here at Broken Road.

      • You don’t want to know how many hours I spent learning how to play Lord of the Starfields on guitar. It was my favourite song to play at coffee houses and church.

  16. Richard McNeeley says

    At least you didn’t mention “On the Road Again” or “Convoy”. Driving at night I prefer Jazz more than anything else, but during the day Styx, The Police, Grand Funk Railroad, Steppenwolf, Crosby Stills and Nash, Foreigner, Dick Dale, Dire Straits and many others too numerous to name.

    • I, for one, get a kick out of CW McCall’s truckin’ songs — my dad used to be a truck driver and one of our biggest thrills as kids was to get to go with him during the summers.

  17. First paragraph was true till Josh Hamiliton came to town. Let’s Go Rangers! Now for music – Iron and Wine always a good choice and new studio album by Rush due out.

  18. If you’re going to wear a Hawaiian shirt, you should listen to some Hawaiian music. Here are 10 albums to listen to:

    1. The Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band Volume 1
    2. Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters Collection 1
    3. Brothers Cazimero – Live Caz
    4. Israel Kamakawiwoole – Facing Future
    5. Kealii Reichel – Kawaipunahele
    6. Mahaka Sons of Niihau – Live at Hank’s Place
    7. Keola and Kapono Beamer – Honolulu City Lights
    8. Hapa – Hapa
    9. Olomana – Like a Seabird in the Wind
    10. Hui O Hana – Young Hawaii Plays Old Hawaii

  19. Clinton just didn’t know what Iz is — or _who_ Iz is, to be precise.

    • Her boss would know who Iz is.

      • I was thinking more of the “Mr.” side of Clinton equation, ca. 1998.

        In any case, by coincidence, I was in B&N today for about 45 mintues, and for reasons known only to them, they played Iz’s “Hawaai” lament on a continuous loop the whole time. Surreal.

  20. Jeff, thanks for the tip. The Beach Boys album is now destined for Broken Road. Your finder’s fee is in the mail. 🙂