French composer Michel Legrand won the 1971 Academy Award for best score for his work on the film Summer of '42, and his "Theme from Summer of '42" not only became a Top 40 instrumental hit in a recording by Peter Nero, but was also transformed, with lyrics added by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, into a song, "The Summer Knows," that attracted recordings by Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, and others. Warner Bros. released this Summer of '42 soundtrack album, and it peaked at number 52 during 32 weeks on the Billboard chart. There's only one problem: the disc contains very little music actually heard in the film. Now, the entire "original motion picture soundtrack" concept has always had problems as a real entity, if not as a marketing proposition. Film scores tend to consist of short musical figures necessary to underline the differing moods in different scenes, while a purely auditory experience practically requires something more complete. So, when composers and record companies have come to construct soundtrack albums, they have often relied on newly arranged and recorded suites, or at least versions of a film's music that do not match what's on the film track scene for scene. But sometimes greater liberties are taken, with music not heard in the film at all added to pad out the required album length, for example. Something like the ultimate in that regard must be reflected here. Anyone attending Summer of '42 and then putting this album on the stereo is in for a rude awakening. True, the familiar theme leads things off, and it returns at the start of side two of the LP. But otherwise, the listener is bound to be baffled. What is all that lively Spanish music ("The Danger," "High I.Q.")? And how about that jazz-rock cue, complete with wah-wah guitar ("The Entrance to Reality")? That doesn't sound like the sort of music you'd have heard during the summer of 1942. And of course, it isn't. The explanation is simple. With the exception of those two renderings of the theme, this isn't the music from Summer of '42 at all. It's music from an earlier Legrand score, 1969's The Picasso Suite. Why Legrand and Warner Bros. decided to fob this off on the public is hard to guess.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann