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28 June 2023

Summer Albums

Summer Albums

Long days. Hot nights. Free time. Barbecues. Beer gardens.

Summer makes for more memories through music. So Road Hounds reflects on Summers past, paying tribute to the albums that will always take us back to that special place. We’ve focused on rock albums that were either released during summer, contain tracks about Summer or just have an overtly Summer feel.

And don’t forget the sunscreen!

The Cult – Electric (1987)

A chance meeting with Def Jam supremo Rick Rubin results in a fist-punching yelp of energy that demands to be heard at maximum volume in arenas, ideally during Summer. The Cult are reborn to the chest-baring stomp of Electric.  “Love Removal Machine” is still the album’s calling card, with “Li’l Devil” another instantly catchy Cult single. An enjoyable pleasure from start to finish.

Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation (1987)

A&R gurus and song doctors help craft the album which would reinvent Aerosmith as ’80s and ’90s superstars. Chock full of pre-fab radio gems like “Rag Doll” and “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” alongside the earthy voodoo blues of “St. John” and the excellent hobo-harmonica fable of “Hangman Jury.” The crowd-pleasing schmaltz of “Angel” showcases the band at the peak of its power ballad cheese.

Kiss – Alive 2 (1977)

By mid-1977, Kiss had released another three studio recordings (Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun), and with a new Kiss album needed for the holiday season, a second live album, Alive II, was assembled. Adrenaline-charged versions of “Detroit Rock City,” “Love Gun,” “Calling Dr. Love,” “Shock Me,” “God of Thunder,” “I Want You,” and “Shout It Out Loud” are all highlights. Play loud while driving with the roof down!

Lynyrd Skynyrd – God & Guns (2009)

Lynyrd Skynyrd merged Allman Brothers guitars with barrelhouse piano, then tossed in a big dose of hard rock attitude and gave it all credence with a kind of blustering and cocky honky tonk sensibility. God & Guns certainly sounds like classic Lynyrd Skynyrd, maybe with a little more contemporary Nashville on board, and there’s plenty of that Southern redneck rocker attitude on display. It all adds up to an outdoors, warm weather belter.

Living Colour – Vivid (1988)

Comprised of all black members and with know-how to inject different musical forms into their hard rock sound (funk, punk, alternative, jazz, soul, rap). Leader/guitarist Vernon Reid spent years honing his six-string chops and was one of the most respected guitarists in New York’s underground scene. The hit single/MTV anthem “Cult of Personality” merged an instantly recognizable Reid guitar riff and lyrics that explored the dark side of world leaders past and present. The album was also incredibly consistent, as proven by the rocker “Middle Man” plus the Caribbean rock of “Glamour Boys”, which tips it nicely into the Summer theme.

Black Stone Cherry – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (2011)

Bringing huge, Southern rock riffs to the world of slick post-grunge, Black Stone Cherry know when to go BIG. Opening with a stomping riff, the album kicks off on the right foot with a stomping down-home country-rock riff. Country swagger dominates the guitar work and many songs seem readymade for strip clubs, with their sleazy, churning riffage. More Kid Rock than Lynyrd Skynyrd, with a whole lot more country, equals super Summer fun.

Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts – Ballad of a Misspent Youth (2022)

Former Biters man Tuk Smith returns, guitar still firmly in hand and restless heart still somewhere in America on a hazy Summer’s day in the golden age of the late 70s and early-’80s. Better still, he’s got a big bag of classic rock riffs that sound like they’re informed by a staple diet of AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Tom Petty., Cheap Trick and Aerosmith. Yes please!

Dirty Honey – Dirty Honey (2021)

Capturing the firecracker dynamics and energy of their live sound, Dirty Honey sounds like rock and roll should. And its Summer-y because it’s got honey in it! The combo of amp crunch with sweet high-end reverb is as close to perfection as guitar tone gets. Replete with guitar flourish and strident vocals, the group conjure up the ghosts of classic Zeppelin and Aerosmith. And that’s fine with us.

Kyuss – Blues For The Red Sun (1992)

With Josh Homme’s guitar tuned down two whole steps to C, and plugged into a bass amp for maximum distortion, stoner metal pioneers Kyuss achieve a major milestone in heavy music with their second album, 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun. The gentle but sinister intro gives way to the chugging main riff in the opener, “Thumb.” This segues immediately into the galloping “Green Machine,” which pummels forward inexorably. “Thong Song” alternates rumbling guitar explosions with almost complete silence. The sun maybe red but its still shining.

Queens Of The Stone Age – Rated R (2000)

Opening with the killer “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” it’s obvious why this album is on our list. The lyrics consist entirely of a one-line list of recreational drugs that Josh Homme rattles off over and over (don’t try this at home kids!).  R is mellower, trippier, and more arranged than its predecessor, making its point through warm fuzz-guitar tones, ethereal harmonies, vibraphones and horns. It’s still got the vaunted California-desert vibes of Kyuss, but it evokes a more relaxed, spacious, twilight feel. Mark Lanegan and Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees add their psychedelic grunge in its warmer moments making this an essential Summer album.

Diver Down Van Halen 1982

In many ways a return to the early albums, Diver Down is heavy on covers and party anthems. Despite barely clocking in at 31 minutes, it’s still one of Van Halen’s best records, one that’s just pure joy to hear.  Like the debut, it’s a great showcase for all the group’s strengths, with great covers of “Dancing in the Street” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”. But it’s the track “Secrets,” displaying the lightest touch they ever had on record, that steals the show. The ultimate Summer rock song.

Jimmy Eat World, Bleed American (2001)

After being dropped by Capitol, Jimmy Eat World returned in 2001 with their most consistent and accessible album to date. Bleed American features compelling lyrics, driving guitar work, and insanely catchy melodies. It’s just straight-ahead rock & roll, performed with punk energy and alt-rock smarts. The title track sets the tone for the album with its blistering guitar attack and aggressive vocals. “The Middle” actually improves upon that formula. So good it feels like Summer.

Foreigner, 4 (1981)

Foreigner had firmly established themselves as one of the top AOR bands of the era. But the band was still looking for that grand slam of a record that would push them to the very top of the heap. Released in 1981, 4 would be that album. In producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange  guitarist and all-around mastermind Mick Jones found the catalyst to achieve this. With “Juke Box Hero,” the band managed to create both a mainstream hit single and a highly unique-sounding track, alternating heavy metal guitar riffing, chorused vocals, and one of the ultimate “wanna be a rock star” lyrics.  All things considered, 4 remains Foreigner’s career peak and it’s a must have Summer classic.

Motley Crue, Theatre of Pain (1985)

Glamming-up their image on this record, Mötley Crüe began to hit their commercial stride. The power ballad “Home Sweet Home” and a remake of Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” landed them on the Top 40 singles chart for the first time. The guitar riffing sounds more pop-metal; and the sound of the record is slicker and more polished for mainstream airplay. Soundtrack to a lipstick traced Summer.

Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet (1986)

Slippery When Wet marks the point where Hair Metal officially entered the mainstream. Released in 1986, it presented a streamlined combination of pop, hard rock, and metal that appealed to everyone — especially girls, whom traditional heavy metal often ignored. Bon Jovi wasn’t nearly as hard-edged as Mötley Crüe or technically proficient as Van Halen, but the guys smartly played to their strengths, shunning the extremes for an accessible, middle-of-the-road approach. Their carefree, party-heavy attitude became the soundtrack for every Summer for the rest of the ‘80s.

Red Hot Chili Peppers, By the Way (2002)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ eighth studio album finds the California foursome exploring the more melodic freeways of harmony and texture, contrasting the gritty, funky side streets of their early days. Luckily, with this more sophisticated sound, the Peppers have not sacrificed any of their trademark energy or passions for life, universal love, and (of course) lust. The title track on its own could almost be a brief history of everything the Red Hot Chili Peppers have recorded: fiery Hollywood funk, gentle harmonies, a little bit of singing about girls, and a little bit of hanging out in the streets in the summertime. Perfect.

Poison, Flesh & Blood (1990)

On this album Poison made a bid to be taken seriously with a desire for more substance and reality in their music, as demonstrated by darker songs like “Valley of Lost Souls,” “(Flesh & Blood) Sacrifice,” “Life Loves a Tragedy,” and a more reflective power ballad, “Life Goes On.” It works surprisingly well, aided by the band’s most consistent songwriting and a wider musical range that occasionally veers into swampy blues-rock. It also contains one of their best songs, “Ride the Wind,” an ode to motorcycles and their surrounding lifestyle. That’s Summer enough for us.

Green Day, American Idiot (2004)

American Idiot is an unapologetic, unabashed rock opera. An audacious, immensely entertaining album, the music has grandiose flourishes straight out of both Queen and Rocky Horror Picture Show, all tied together with a nervy urgency and a political passion reminiscent of the Clash. Chief songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong turns into a muscular, versatile songwriter and succeeds in making time-honored guitar rock traditions seem fresh, even vital. The music fuels the anger, disillusionment, heartbreak, frustration, and scathing wit at the core of American Idiot. For many of us it was the soundtrack to the Summer of 2004.

Hey! Ho! Let’s Go: Ramones Anthology – Ramones

The Ramones are Summer in a can. They are also an ideal band to anthologize, given that their albums always played like collections of singles. Anthology does its job perfectly with no major songs missing and by telling its story succinctly. So which songs to include then? Well they all make you wanna head out to the park on a sunny day, but some more than others, especially if they mention a beach.

Southernality – A Thousand Horses (2015)

Southernality weds Southern rock to vintage Rolling Stones and Black Crowes and stomping honky tonk, while intentionally tempered by modern country’s more poppy tropes. “First Time” is a bluesy rave-up. “Heaven Is Close” begins as a simple love song with banjo, fiddle, and acoustic guitars offering a back-porch feel, but power chords, a fat snare and thudding kick drum, and gospelized female harmonies turn it into a Southern rocker. These cuts contrast sharply with the hooky, string-swept, lushly illustrated country-pop of “Smoke.” Second single “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” is spirited pop-country with a distinct melodic hook and soaring, singalong refrain. Southernality is indeed a fine debut and one that evokes a Southern Summer..

Enjoy this Playlist to go with all the albums above: