The First Class

Summer Sound Sensations

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For almost anyone who's interested enough in the First Class to own a record by them, this 21-track compilation should be enough. Summer Sound Sensations has songs from both of their albums, as well as some non-LP singles, no less than five cuts from their unreleased third album, and a previously unissued 1985 outtake, "Silver Surfer." The big 1974 hit "Beach Baby" is here, of course, and much of the rest of the material also sounds rather like a middle-of-the-road spin on the Beach Boys, with a bit of bubblegum pop and singer/songwriter fare thrown into the mix. There's also a peculiarly nostalgic cast to many of the songs, sometimes quite self-consciously looking back to better and more innocent times. Those who love the Beach Boys and California sunshine pop might appreciate the tribute-like emulation of that style, but the '70s slickness of the production and cutesiness of some of the lyrics can get icky. Who else but the First Class, for instance, could look back (as they do on "I Was a Star") on having sand kicked in their face with smiley face cheer, gamely grinning that singing along with records made such indignities bearable? Occasionally they opted for arty ambition, but efforts like "Bobby Dazzler," a sort of mini-story about a fading pop star, weren't going to rival Pete Townshend or Randy Newman's gifts for telling concise offbeat tales in song. Once in a while they escaped the Beach Boys bag entirely, getting into vaudeville rock on "Baby Blue" and muted blue-eyed soul at other points, but sub-Brian Wilson songwriting and production were never far from their thoughts.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 5:10
2 3:10
3 3:44
4 3:37
5 2:35
6 3:32
7 3:02
8 3:29
9 3:18
10 4:43
11 4:05
12 2:26
13 2:31
14 3:32
15 3:02
16 4:04
17 4:15
18 3:30
19 3:36
20 5:25
21 4:20
blue highlight denotes track pick