Top 10 Albums of Summer

With another Memorial Day behind us, the unofficial start to summer has begun. And with it comes backyard barbeques, pool parties, and days of summer fun lasting through Labor Day. Regardless of what your summer consists of, one thing for sure is each of us has a brain-full of musical memories burned into our summer archives. Each moment of our pasts likely linked to a classic song like those historic moments that are synched to where we were at that frozen moment in time.

So with summer here, how about 10 “got-to-have” albums and/or artists that must be on your iPod playlist? Though the following order isn’t based on radio-airplay, Billboard’s national ranking, or total sales, my ranking is simply based on how these albums and artists move me as sun comes out and the temperatures rise.

10. Katy Perry- Teenage Dream. Released in 2010 this album is full of contemporary pop hits including Perry’s smash hit ‘California Gurls’ which became a staple of any summer get together or County Fair.

9. Bananarama- Greatest Hits. Released in 1988 this album featured the girl-trio group’s best including ‘Venus’, ‘Hey hey Na Na’, and my favorite, ‘Cruel Summer’.

8. James Taylor- White Album (greatest hits). You know it’s summer when James Vernon Taylor plays at Tanglewood in Massachusetts, and you know it’s summer at my home when Taylor’s White Greatest Hits album is playing. Released in 1976, this album contains, ‘Your Smiling Face’, ‘Fire and Rain’, and summertime favorite ‘Mexico’.


7. Rolling Stones- Some Girls
. This classic rock n’ roll band released this album in June of 1978. With hits like ‘Some Girls’, ‘Beast of Burden’, and ‘Miss You’, this album was rocking all summer long then, and continues to this day.

6. The Go Go’s- Greatest Hits. With Belinda Carlisle at the lead vocal, this California all-girl band exploded onto the national scene in the early 80’s. Their Greatest Hits album was released in the mid-1980’s and posted such summer classics as ‘We Got the Beat’, ‘Our Lips are Sealed’, and ‘Vacation’.

5. Crosby, Stills, and Nash- Daylight Again. Released in 1982, this album featured a trio of hit singles like ‘Wasted Away’, ‘Too Much Love to Hide’, and one of my all-time favorite singles, ‘Southern Cross’.

4. Kenny Chesney- No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem. Though Chesney had experienced success before this 2002 release, this album solidified him as a true music superstar. The title track, along with ‘Young’, and ‘The Good Stuff’ all find their way to summertime fun at family gatherings or the local watering hole.


3. Bob Marley- Legend
. On May 8, 1984 Island Records released a compilation of hits from Bob Marley and the Wailers. The Legend album is the largest selling reggae album of all-time, with over 25 million copies sold, with such classics as ‘Stir it Up’, ‘The Redemption Song’, ‘I Shot the Sheriff’, and everyone’s favorite, ‘Jammin’.

2. Jimmy Buffett- Meet Me in Margaritaville. Released in 2003, this albums full title ends with ‘…The Ultimate Collection’. And it truly is. The double-album set is non-stop Buffett at his best. ‘Come Monday’, ‘Changes in Latitudes…’, and ‘Margaritaville’ are just three of the hits on disc one. While disc two boasts such classics as ‘Sail on Sailor’, ‘Volcano’, and ‘Son of a Son of a Sailor’. But when it comes to a summertime feel, Buffett’s single, ‘Creola’ has that special island vibe.

1. The Beach Boys- Endless Summer. Released in the summer of ’74, this album has to be listed on everyone’s all-time summer album list, and is #1 on mine. Through the 60’s and 70’s The Beach Boys pumped out hit after hit. Each was Mike Love and the Wilson brothers’ ode to their lifestyle along the coast of Southern California. The Endless Summer double-album contains hit after hit. Go ahead, name a Beach Boys hit—- yep, it’s here. Hits like ‘Surfin’ USA’, ‘Surfer Girl’, and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ are all found on album one, while ‘Don’t Worry Baby’, ‘California Girls’, and ‘All Summer Long’ are found on album two. They even find a way to pack in ‘Good Vibrations’ as a bonus track on the album. While on the charts for an amazing 155 weeks, Endless Summer hit the #1 album spot in 1974.

Though the rankings of your all-time Summer albums may differ from this one, or even contain other classic releases, I hope you enjoy the music that makes up the memories your summer of 2011.

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Jagger Steals 53rd Grammys

On Sunday night (Febraury 13, 2011) the best of the best in the music biz gathered in Los Angeles for the 53rd Grammy Awards. The night started with a diva-studded tribute to the “Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin, who was recovering from an illness back at home in Detroit. As the evening continued the show was filled with great performances. In fact, viewers often had to remind themselves that they were watching an awards show, and not a ‘Grammy-palooza’. Three cheers for this year’s producers of the show for giving us more ‘substance’ than ‘style’. However if you wanted style, there was Lady Gaga and CeeLo. We’ll get to them in a bit.

Acts such as Lady Antebellum, Muse, and Bruno Mars all performed their hits to near perfect form, while Usher and Justin Bieber got the crowd to their feet with an inspiring duet. Their performance began with a video clip of Bieber performing for Usher a few years ago, then moving into Bieber’s acoustic version of “Baby, Baby” .

Without a doubt the night was a celebration of Lady Antebellum winning for their smash hit “Need You Now” and the Grammy organizers turning the show into more performances and less ‘blah, blah talk’. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry turned in what would have been the performances of the evening on any other Grammy night, but it was first-time performer, Mick Jagger, (that’s right, I said, “FIRST-time performer”) that took the designer dresses and tuxes by storm. His tribute to the late “King of Rock ‘n Roll”, Solomon Burke, was a masterpiece! His rendition of Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” got the entire audience on their feet, and then at the end, with a 10-second pause, he and the band continued for another minute or two to the crowd’s delight!

Though the 53rd Grammy’s may go down as one of the most memorable in quite some time, the evening did have a few surprises and slip ups. In the surprise of the night, Justin Bieber did not win the New Artist of the Year award, That went to Esperanza Spalding. However, to all you ‘Bieber Fever-ites”, don’t worry too much about Justin. The opening weekend of his concert/movie, “Never Say Never”, raked in over $30 million! Lady Gaga and CeeLo had the most flamboyant performances of the night, with Gaga hatching from an egg, and CeeLo “G-rating” up his “R-rated” hit “Forget You” in an outfit that could only be described as a new millenium version of Sir Elton John. In the ‘Ooops” category the nominees were Bob Dylan and the low-mic volume during his performance (however after they turned it up, maybe there was a reason for it being down), Christina Aguilera’s near plunge off the stage after the show’s opening performance (she has Jennifer Hudson, and her smokin’ hot Weight Watchers body, to thank for catching her), and Glee stand-out, Lea Michele, who flubbed up her lines during her presentation with Super Bowl stand-out, Clay Matthews.

And though Katy Perry was outstanding in her six-minute performance of a Valentine’s Day themed “Teenage Dream”, there is no doubt that the buzz around Monday’s watercoolers will be Mick Jagger and the stellar performance he pulled off at this year’s 53rd Grammy’s.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

From mid-November until the New Year radio airwaves, malls, and homes are filled with sounds of the season. And for those five weeks every year people stop to enjoy, sing along, and reminisce about the their favorite holiday songs. I’m no different. Though there are very few holiday songs that I turn away from (Feliz Navidad and Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer being a couple of them), I definitely have several that put a smile on my face, bring out the American Idol performer in me, and help me remember moments frozen in time. So as my gift to you, here is a list of my Top 5 Holiday Songs of All-time, with an honorable mention to start.

Receiving an Honorable Mention award for my Holiday Top 5 is Kenny Loggins’ Celebrate Me Home. Released in 1976, this song gets Honorable Mention because though it has become a song heard more times around the holiday, it really is a song that could be played any time of year. Only peaking at #27 on the Billboard charts in ’76, this Loggins classic has gained in popularity over the years.

Kicking off my Top 5 Holiday Songs of All-time is Nat King Cole’s 1953 classic, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts). Written in 1944 by Mel Torme, The Nat King Cole Trio first made this a hit in 1946. It wasn’t until years later that Cole himself created it into the Hall of Fame hit that it now is. Torme states that he remembers jotting down various lines like: ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’, ‘folks dressed up like Eskimos’, and ‘jack frost nipping at your nose’, and realizing that he may have the start of something when he first began to write the song.

 At #4 on my list is the 1994 hit from Mariah Carey, All I want for Christmas is You. This Carey single reached Billboard’s Top 10 all around the world, and is considered one of the most significant additions to the holiday classics catalog in quite some time. I recall in my radio days of the 90’s that when we received this single and played it, the phone lit up like a Christmas tree! A mixture of Mariah Carey popularity and a well written song had success written all over this release.

In 1998 Vanessa Williams and Bobby Caldwell release a much-covered Christmas standard, Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Originally written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, Baby, It’s Cold Outside started to be released as a holiday duet nearly every year starting in 1949. Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark took it all the way to #4 that year on the Billboard charts. Since then, duets from Sammie Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae, Barry Manilow and KT Oslin, as well as Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey have all solidified this song as one of the best written of all-time. Perhaps the best chemistry of this release can be heard from Williams and Caldwell though. The playfulness in their voices and easy harmony make this a wonderful song to listen to.

I guess the sentimental and romantic side of me comes out as I delve into my two favorite holiday songs of all-time. At #2 is the 1970 release from the late, great Karen Carpenter; Merry Christmas Darling. This song made it to Billboard’s #1 Christmas position in 1970, 1971, and again in 1973! Though I barely remember it then, I do know that it made an impact on me in my college days of the early 80’s. During that time my college girlfriend and I would be apart during Christmas Break, and this song hit home. Now years later, with me being lucky enough to have a wonderful wife, son and daughter,  I can’t help to think of others that are maybe missing someone special to them during this time of year, and in turn are writing a Christmas card or email by starting “Merry Christmas Darling”.

Finally, time to divulge my favorite holiday song of all-time. Dan Fogelberg, who recently passed away too young, was a prominent singer-songwriter with many hit songs in the 1980’s. My #1 holiday song was written in 1981, and became an instant holiday classic. His release Same Old Lang Syne went to #9 in 1981, and is often linked to this time of year based on its storyline. Same Old Lang Syne is about two former lovers meeting for the first time in many years in a grocery store on either Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The song has them chatting and reminiscing back to better days when their lives were easier and their love was strong.  During the song, Fogelberg weaves some powerful lines. “We laughed until we cried” and “she said she married her an architect who kept her warm and safe and dry…. would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn’t want to lie” are two sets of lyrics that magically set the tone of this song. At the end, with the melody of the original Old Lang Syne (heard often at New Year’s Eve) playing, the characters find that it’s time to leave and go back to their lives. The words, “…and as I turned to make my way back home, the snow turned into rain” puts a sense of finality and closure to their former relationship, with the snow representing happiness and innocence, and the rain sadness and that finality. For many reasons, this song has always moved me. There is not one person that can say they haven’t thought of running into former relationships, and wonder what they would do when and if they did. I love the storyline along with the ebb and flow of emotion. For all of these reasons that is why Same Old Lang Syne is my favorite holiday song of all-time.

Though this list serves as only an opinion, and everyone can come up with a list of their own, I hope we all can agree that this time of year is a magical season, full of wishes and hope. Please feel free to leave your own Top 5 message, if you’d like to share.

From me at AS I SEE IT, I’d like to wish you and yours a magical Christmas, and a hopeful New Year!

Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’ shines

It’s been one year since the entertainment world was turned on its head with the news of the passing of Michael Jackson. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Jackson did to music in the 80’s and 90’s what Elvis and the Beatles had done in decades prior. Though over the last ten years Jackson had been talked about more for his legal and financial problems than his musical releases, he was ready to entertain the world once again with a world tour entitled ‘This Is It’.

With the launching of the ‘This Is It’ World Tour in the spring of 2009 the paparazzi frenzy began and the atmosphere around the tour took the shape of the days of ‘Thriller’. Scheduled to kick off in the summer of 2009 in London, the ‘This Is It’ tour began creating its stage, auditioning dancers, and promoting a Michael Jackson that fans had missed for nearly ten years. There was talk of new songs, remixed classics, and a revitalized King of Pop.

Then on June 25, 2009 Michael Jackson passed away due to cardiac arrest in his California home. Jackson’s death sent those around him into shock. Many associated with the tour stated that they had seen a Michael Jackson that was determined to reinvent himself and give his fans what they had grown accustom to. Nearly two months following his death, The LA County coroner declared Jackson’s death as a homicide due to a number of prescription drugs found in the superstar’s body.

With Jackson gone, the circus that had surrounded him for so many years, known as his family and handlers, became like bees to honey. As attorneys postured for various clients, claiming to be heirs to Jackson’s estate, concert dates around the world were cancelled.

However, during weeks of rehearsals leading up to the impending concert schedule and ultimate death of Jackson cameras were rolling. They captured Jackson planning every detail of the concert and choreographing each step to each beat of each song. These minutes of video at the time of filming seemed to be just a way to capture Jackson in his element. Little did anyone know that these captured moments would be the final impression of the greatest entertainer of all-time. And Michael Jackson,unknowingly, did not disappoint.

In the spring of 2010 the 2-hour film “This Is It” hit theatres around the world. Though it became one of the most viewed concert films ever, it didn’t overwhelm the entertainment world. However, now with the first anniversary of Jackson’s death the film is being sold at video stores and being shown on the Starz cable movie channel to much acclaim. It was on a rainy evening a couple weeks ago that I was channel surfing and stumbled onto the movie. Not expecting a lot from the movie, I settled in and quickly found myself becoming emmersed in the show by Jackson’s meticulous work-ethic, and one-of-a-kind talent. “This Is It” is magnificent! It shows the King of Pop at his finest. It chronicles an entertainer in his true element. It shows the world that even with all the turmoil that surrounded the star, Michael Jackson was most at peace when he was on stage and performing like no one else.

“This Is It” not only contains all of Jackson’s hits from “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” to “Billie Jean”, but also a segment which he had planned to pay tribute to the hits of the Jackson Five. Interviews with concert promoters, choreographers, band and dance members of the tour, and personal friends of the 50-year old Jackson are also documented.

Without a doubt, “This Is It” will entertain even the slighest fan of Michael Jackson. And after watching the  nearly 120-minutes of Jackson at his finest, one will understand why Jackson’s music is being purchased at a rate we haven’t seen for over ten years. For more information on the DVD and Blu-Ray visit www.thisisitmovieondvd.com .

After not expecting to be wowed at the beginning of “This Is It”, I can’t speak about this documentary/concert footage enough. It  becomes obvious that on that fateful day in June 2009 the world not only lost a once-in-a -lifetime entertainer, but it lost one of the great humanitarians of his time, while being tormented by the ghouls of his own stardom. As one of his hits was titled, Michael Jackson was “Gone Too Soon”.