15 of the Very Best Classic Summer Jams. (Music Review)

Thanks to making it to the front page of Freshly Pressed, this post (my 250th!) has gone viral. Thank you to everyone for your likes and wonderful comments. I really do love hearing your thoughts and suggestions. Music is a wonderful gift to us all and I love sharing my audio discoveries. Peace and Love. c

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I used to go to this little club called The Cameron House on Queen West in Toronto. On Wednesdays they had this regular night called Acid Jazz Wednesdays that featured DJ Mark Oliver. Mark is one of the best known DJs in the city and is largely credited as being one of the first to bring techno music to North America. But back then he was also playing a diverse blend of music ranging from hard trance to soul, hip hop, house, techno and everything in between. Whenever hot weather rolls around I think of nights spent at the Cameron. There was barely any room to move on the dancefloor after midnight. Every now and then someone on the PA would plead for people to smoke their blunts outside. Everyone was sweating buckets from head to toe, but loving every moment of it. This post is a tribute to nights spent at the Cameron. And even though Mark may not have played every song on this list, I think the tracks match the vibe of a hot summer night.
Happy Summer kids.

15. Desmond Dekker And The Aces – Israelites
Originally released in 1968 through the UK’s Pyramid Label.
I first heard this track when I was about 20. Sure I was briefly into the whole Ska thing in my teens, but my knowledge of the genre was pretty limited to semi-commercial bands like The English Beat. I met this Irish chick in Italy while I was traveling and she gave me a mix tape of old ska on one side and Frank Sinatra on the other. What can I say? The chick was classy.

14. Skatalites – Guns Of Navarone
Released in 1969 through London’s Trojan Records.
Another classic ska track. There’s something synonymous with music originating from Jamaica that fits in with a compilation of summer jams. This one has a multitude of horn instruments which makes it even more relevant for some reason. Probably because it’s a scientific fact that horns sound better in hot weather.

13. Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
This track first dropped in 1971 at NYC’s Buddah Records.
From the ultra cool artist that brought us Across 110th street and Superfly. Move on up is pure optimistic funk groove goodness and impossible not to love.

12. Bill Withers – Lovely Day

Original released in 1977 through Columbia and CBS in the States and Europe.
There are some songs that are a scientific impossibility not to love. This is one of them. If you are having any kind of doubts about the day ahead, or you did something regretful the night before (this is almost a daily occurrence for me) – throw this tune on. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better than a Q ray bracelet.

11. Bob Marley – Sun Is Shining
The original version of this song came out in 1970 through Tuff Gong – Marley’s own Kingston, Jamaica based label, but there are a wack load of remixes that have come out since for this tune.
I almost didn’t include a Bob Marley track for this list, until I found out it’s a federal offense in 198 countries and punishable by death if you don’t have at least one Marley tune on a summer compilation. Dodged another bullet there. Phew.

10. Stevie Wonder – Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing
This track is off his legendary Innervisions album (if you don’t have a copy, go grab one today; every one of the tracks are timeless). First released in 1973 through Tamla Records in the US.
The Latino inspired intro brings to mind Puerto Rican street banter from the curb of a New York City street after dusk with kids playing under an open fire hydrant.

9. Rick James – Mary Jane
First released in 1978 as as the second single from his debut album Come Get It! through Us motown label Gordy Records.
Sure, it’s an awesome classic testament to that green leaf that people like to roll up , but I can’t help but remember that scene in Friday with Ice Cube getting blazed. I’m still not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

8. Snoop Dogg – Gin and Juice
This track was off Snoop’s album Doggystyle, which dropped in 1993 through Suge Knight/Dr.Dre owned, West Coast located, Death Row Records and Interscope.
A track automatically synonymous with alcohol, summertime hijinxs and money. Snoop does it the way noone else can.

7. The Pharcyde – Keep Passin’ Me By
First dropped in 1993 through Delicious Vinyl in the US.
Whenever I hear this track I remember this time I was in NYC. I was waiting for the ferry to take me to the Statue of Liberty. This gang of 12 year old kids were lugging a ghetto blaster like it was 1985 and blasting this tune like they were total gangsters. And you know what? They probably were. I ended up getting on the wrong ferry and ended up in Jersey. Probably because my brain was wiped by their deathray of coolness.

6. Outkast – So Fresh, So Clean

This song is off they’re Stankonia album which first came out worldwide in 2000 through Sony owned Laface Records.
You know when it’s hot as balls out and you get home from work and you shower and change into your best duds cuz you’re all sweaty and you’ve got a hot date? Yeah, well, me neither, but I would play this song if that ever happened.

5. Blue Six – Music & Wine
Blue Six, whose real name is Jay Denes, dropped this track in 1999, through his own label; Naked Music Recordings, based out of San Francisco.
Let’s be honest here – we’ve all been through phases in life where music and wine were the only friends we had. Thank God we’ve moved on since then. Um, yeah.

4. Soldiers Of Twilight – Believe
Soldiers are a French house trio composed of Pascal Garaud AKA DJ Rork, Jean-Sébastien Ciano AKA Demon Ritchie, and vocalist Lady Bird. This track first came out in 2001 in the UK through 20:20 Vision Records.
I always forget about how awesome this song is till that bassline gets all funky and kicks in, almost at the end of the song after the six minute mark. Dum dum dum dum dum, dum, beep boop boop dallala da da, beep boop boop dallala da da. Yeah, it’s wicked.

3. Goapele – Closer
This is a self-released, debut album from Goapele, first released in 2001. Her full name is Goapele Mohlabane, and she’s originally from Oakland, California.
It’s a way slower tempo than every other track on this list, but it’s undeniably gorgeous and mesmerizing.

2. Sade – By Your Side (Cottonbelly Re-mix)
A number of remixes came out for this track in 2000 through Sony owned, Epic Records.
Ok so, full disclosure here. I had this original album on CD and probably threw it on back in the day after bringing home a hot date and it may very well have gotten me places. But that’s not the point here – it’s pure audio seduction with a smart uptempo remix so you might be able to keep your clothes on. Good luck.

1. Sergio Mendes + Brasil 66 – MAS QUE NADA

The original tune came out in 1966 through A&M in the US. There are many remixes available, but in this case, why mess with perfection?
I’m not going to pretend here – I have no frigging clue what this Brazillian classic is saying, but the vibe is 100% full on summer. I’m talking thong bikinis on the beach and mojitos on ice. It doesn’t get more quintessential than this.

Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine
This tune came off the album of the same name, first dropped in 1976 through Polydor, a division of Universal.
Perhaps the whole inspiration for this post. I first heard it courtesy of Mark Oliver and it’s everything a classic hot summer jam should be – smooth, slick and dreamy. A perfect love letter to that shining star that provides life, love and infinite possibilities.

You may also want to check out:
Ice Cube’s It Was A Good Day Gets Decoded
12 Songs To Listen To When You’re Hungover
15 of the Very Best Classic House Anthems

58 thoughts on “15 of the Very Best Classic Summer Jams. (Music Review)

  1. Good Evening: Some of these selections go beyond inspired, esp. the Goapele and Sergio Mendes & Brazil 66. Just out of curiosity, did you consider adding “Saturday Night” by Ozomatli?

  2. Solid. Any list that has Outkast is ok by me! Although, I’d have gone with Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik – definite hot, summertime groove.
    Mas Que Nada and Gin & Juice are classics that always seem to make it into all of my playlists.

    1. Great suggestion! I love that song, and especially that intro, it just hooks you right away. I miss Public Enemy, they were among the first hip hop artists I first started listening to as a teenager.

  3. I love your picks. The most noteworthy for me would be: 3,6,7,8,10 and the Bonus Track by Roy Ayers! These are all very personal favorites for me. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Those are some cool songs. I remember my summer jams from a different genre, like Van Halen, Kiss, Ratt, Dokken, Bon Jovi, Ozzy. I guess more metal than Pop/Funk. Being a teen in the 80’s and growing up watching MTV most of those bands videos were being played 3-4 times a day. Anyway, great story and congrats for getting “Freshly Pressed”

    1. Thanks man, yeah we all have our favourites growing up. I remember really being into AC/DC when I was a kid, as my older brother wouldn’t let me listen to Michael Jackson. I think he would have slapped me. So yeah I went through a bunch of genres, I think it’s important to get exposed to as much as you can. Music is universal. Thanks for your comment!

  5. This post and your blog are the reasons why blogging is so doggone cool!! I LOVE learning about new stuff…especially music!! good stuff!! Might I add Shining Star or Let’s Groove by Earth, Wind and Fire?

  6. Great list!
    Being a child of the 70’s, I much appreciated Stevie Wonder, Sergio Mendes, Bill Withers, Roy Ayers, Curtis Mayfield. In fact, I still have the records with me. I just might take them for a spin tomorrow!
    You might like to check out Matt Bianco’s Summer Song – a nice cool driving tune to that summer beach destination.
    Oh and by the way, your “hungover ” and Midnight Special list – simply sweet!

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