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The 10 Coolest Summer Albums of All Time

From the Beatles to Prince, 10 classic albums to break out when the temperature rises

The Beatles

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What do you want in a summer album? You want fun, obviously. You want sun, sweat, sex, sparkle, beats, rhymes and life. Nothing too deep and nothing dense, as Run-DMC would say. Music that's danceable or trippy or fist-pumping or ass-bumping. Music for making out or singing along or snagging your first speeding ticket. You want an album you can hear next winter and think, "Hey, this was playing when I got that toxic sunburn and/or hideous tattoo and/or hickey of unknown origin. Turn it up!" So here's an all-too-brief salute to 10 of the coolest summer albums ever made, from all over the musical and historical map. Some of these albums were hits, others got slept on, but they're all guaranteed to make your summer a lot hotter. And louder.

By Rob Sheffield

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2. The Beach Boys, 'Wild Honey'
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The Beach Boys, ‘Wild Honey’ (1967)

Brian Wilson and crew specialized in summer concept albums – All Summer Long in 1964, Today and Summer Days in 1965, the decidedly more downbeat Pet Sounds in 1966. But Wild Honey is where the Beach Boys really capture the grimy feel of beer-soaked California sand under your feet, even if they released it in December 1967. It cruises through the yearning Carl Wilson soul of "Aren't You Glad," the beach-party shindig "How She Boogalooed It," the a cappella finale "Mama Says." Wild Honey has it all – the hedonistic rock & roll spirit and humor of their early cars-and-surfboards hits, plus the pensive depth of Pet Sounds, all in one 24-minute blast.

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1. Prince, 'Purple Rain'
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Prince and the Revolution, ‘Purple Rain’ (1984)

Well, there's no contest over the Number One spot, right? Purple Rain is the summer album of all summer albums, the peak of the purple pyramid, the blood-and-thunder blockbuster all hot-weather pretenders have tried to match ever since. The summer of '84 was already a hit-packed pop-radio orgy of historic proportions, but Prince topped everyone with the mutant electro-blues of "When Doves Cry." Then he just kept rolling from "Let's Go Crazy" to "I Would Die 4 U." And the majestic guitar heroics of the title hymn purify your soul in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

 

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