Mix tape is an old phrase that started in the 1980s when cassette recorders could make a decent sounding recording with relatively affordable and easy-to-use equipment. When I make a mix tape now it’s preferably from a vinyl copy in good condition, run through studio equipment to boost and even out each track, and burned directly to a CD. This mix tape, “Beautiful Summertime” is now a You Tube Playlist. It can be enjoyed here: Beautful Summertime Playlist
1. It’s a Beautiful Day “Hot Summer Day”
This is from the band’s 1969 debut self-titled album. “Hot Summer Day” is a great song which gets propelled by a descending chromatic bass line starting on the note B descending chromatically, finally landing on a C major triad arpeggio. This moment of finally-reached bliss almost immediately descends down to a B major triad....landing on the low B where it all began. This often-overlooked band had a minor hit with “White Bird” from the same album. It features David Laflamme on violin and vocals and Linda Laflamme on piano and keyboads.
2. Isaac Hayes “The Come On/Light My Fire”
Next, we have our first, extended live jam piece. To me, a mix tape is a musical odyssey, should have some “long odysseys within the long odyssey”. Isaac Hayes was certainly a great songwriter in his own right who wrote hits (along with David Porter) for Sam & Dave, among others. He had a real gift for arranging, and could take others compositions and transform them into something gloriously soulful, funky, and entirely his own. This track is from another great summertime album “Live at the Sahara Tahoe”. Just like on his studio albums, Hayes often added what would be his own published compositions, and number title them “Ike’s Rap”. This album has “Ike’s Rap V” (preceeding his cover of “Never Can Say Goodbye”). As is commonly the case, the “Rap” is a long musical vamp under his spoken introduction to what the song is really, deep down about! They are also often longer than the actual songs themselves! “Never Can Say Goodbye” is 3:56, while “Ike’s Rap V” is 4:04. For our second track, “Light My Fire” (3:10) is introduced by an extended intro featuring keyboard and guitar solos and titled “The Come On” (4:40).
3. Vanilla Fudge “Bang Bang”
Nearly every mix tape I create is always livened up with some Vanilla Fudge. “Bang Bang” is from the typical magnificent arrangement formula of Vanilla Fudge. The extended intro includes nursery rhymes, free-form jamming, and sitar-like guitar solo. Finally, the chord progression to the song comes in at 2:45, and vocals enter at 3:00. The beautiful vocal arrangement ends in just over two minutes! Vanilla Fudge has a way of digging into the core emotion of the song, and for me this song is not about playing bang bang, you’re dead as a kid necessarily, but having a childhood friend that could have been romantic in later years perhaps, but never came about. And now that person has been gone from your life for a long time.
4. The Peanut Butter Conspiracy "Living, Loving Life" 5. "Invasion of the Poppy People"
The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is a often-overlooked band from L.A. in the late 1960s. They really hit their stride with their second album “The Great Conspiracy”. “Livin’, Lovin’ Life” certainly has what it takes to be a big hit, but The Peanut Butter Conspiracy never had a high-charting song, despite the fact that the band had very popular live performances, and toured extensively. My mix tape CD let’s the record’s SIDE ONE play out after this song with the shortest track on the list, a fascinating little gem called “Invasion of the Poppy People” (:39). This track was found on You Tube for the Playlist only along with “Living Dream”, we have a bonus track here from the same album. This album is available currently along with their first album “The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading” on one CD (with three bonus tracks as well).
5. The Youngbloods "Ride the Wind" 6. "Sunlight" 7. "Double Sunlight"
The Youngbloods "Ride the Wind" first appeared as the album-closer to their masterpiece album "Elephant Mountain". Their live performances had great chemistry between the three-piece band, and Jesse delivers a sweet, playful falsetto vocal. Jess doubles on bass, and guitarist Banana is here on electric piano, delivering cascading arpeggios with a loose and lightly felt touch, and Joe Bauer holds it down on drums with continuous re-invention. This version stretches the song out to just over nine minutes, and the extended solo instrumental passages flow so well, it doesn't seem over-long at all.
"Sunlight" is a beautiful song from "Elephant Mountain" that couldn't be left off this mix tape! Isn't summer all about singing a beautiful song about a beautiful woman with your acoustic guitar? One of the interesting things about this album is the little instrumental jams they squeezed in between songs. After "Sunlight", is "Double Sunlight" (:41), with just a couple acoustic guitars alone jamming over the main changes of "Sunlight", in double-time, with a different groove.
8. The Zombies "Time of the Season"
The next tune is the first widely-recognized hit song on this compilation. "Time of the Season" by The Zombies is the peak, album-closer from "Odessey & Oracle". The organ, featured prominently on this track, is seeming to dominate the mood of this mix tape!
9. Al Green "Summertime"
My next pick for the CD is "Summertime" by Al Green. This album-closer from "Tired of Being Alone" is a short, simple and sweet. Their are many great versions of this Gershwin/Heyward classic, but this one seems to fit right in the middle of this collection of songs. Al's vocal seems to stretch out every word of the lyric. You get the feeling of wanting to enjoy each tiny moment of every day.
10. Arthur Brown "Child of My Kingdom"
Eventually, summertime has to end. It's not always just about love and happiness and flowers and sunshine! Towards the end of our happy vacation, we realize we have to go back to our day-to-day problems in our routine at some point. Arthur Brown's debut album "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" definitely includes extreme heat, as SIDE ONE practically revolves around the theme of "Fire", from the centerpiece hit song "Fire" (and introductory "Fanfare - Fire Poem"), and lyrics later on the side's other tracks talking about burning, and reprising a line from the Fire Poem. The second side still burns, but cools down a bit as well. The album-closing track "Child of My Kingdom" is dominated by jazzy section with piano and soft baritone vocal. It does get a bit crazier before going into an organ-driven blues section, before returning to the calmer, dreamy section which continues through the end.
11. Tim Buckley "Pleasant Street"
Tim Buckley was an extraordinarily talented L.A. singer/songwriter from the late 1960s. He along with his song Jeff have continued to be a notable influence by many highly-regarded musicians after their tragically short lives. "Pleasant Street" is from his masterpiece "Goodbye and Hello". Here again, we have the descending bass pattern, on a keyboard-driven tune. To me, this song is about being frustrated about not being able to live an idealized world that you may have believed existed when you were younger and more naive. Of course, the last verse includes having a lover, so there is some little bit of Pleasant Street you have and share to be grateful for.
12. Terry Reid "Bang Bang"
We return now to our childhood memories, this time revisited by Terry Reid for "Bang Bang". Terry is the vocalist who was Jimmy Page's first choice for a band he was forming which later became Led Zeppelin. He turned the gig down, and recommended Robert Plant. You can hear what appealed to Page in his dynamic vocals which earned him the nickname "Super Lungs". This track is largely driven by organ, though Terry's guitar solos definitely stand out as well. Terry's debut album, "Bang Bang You're Terry Reid" is very appropriately titled, as his voice is sure to blow you away.
13. The Doors "Light My Fire" (Live 1970)
We finally are ready to hear the most popular, recognizable song on this mix tape! "Light my Fire" by The Doors is the ultimate extended album track, which takes the listener on a long journey in itself! This version from a 1970 performance, which appeared originally on the album "Alive She Cried", in my mind is a definitive performance of this piece. This further extends Ray Manzarek's organ solo, Robbie's guitar solo, and Jim Morrison takes his own solo with "Graveyard Poem". This organ-driven compilation I feel was largely due to the recent passing of Ray Manzarek, which had me re-exploring his work, and other keyboard work from the same era.
14. It's a Beautiful Day "Time Is"
Our closing track brings us back to It's a Beautiful Day, and their tour-de-force album closer from their first album. "Time Is" begins on a single note on organ that "Hot Summer Day" that seems to be revisiting a bit of "Hot Summer Day". This followed by free-form, seemingly chaotic jamming, gradually getting faster over the soaring duet between organ and violin. At 1:39, the vocals enter. At 3:09, the extended instrumental passages begin with the band chaos breaking down at 4:50. The drum solo begins at 5:01. By 5:20 the rest of the band has gradually faded out. At 6:56 vocals return (the band gradually re-enters and builds up speed once again for the repeat of the first verses, and the song finally ends at 10:08. The key line to the lyric printed alone on the inner gatefold cover is "For those who love, time is eternity...".