Spike Lee has never shied away from controversy, but Summer of Sam seems like one picture that didn't warrant the undue attention it received. Labeled as exploitation before it even hit the theaters, the film captured the frenetic, paranoia that infused New York during 1977, when the serial killer David Berkowitz was loose. Summer of Sam was about the summer of 1977, so it's only appropriate that his soundtrack was filled with songs from that summer. True, he bends the rules a bit, but only by including oldies (besides, it's hard to argue that the Who's "Baba O'Riley" was not used effectively in the film). And although he does have a punk rocker as a central figure in the film, there's no punk on the record, which is for the best, since this blend of disco, funk, pop, and rock (including such unheralded chestnuts as Roy Ayers' "Running Away," Machine's "There but for the Grace of God Go I," and Peter Brown's "Dance With Me") makes for a coherent, enjoyable record. Yes, many of these songs do appear on a number of other soundtracks -- "Best of My Love" and "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" were indelibly used in Paul Thomas Anderson's '70s epic, Boogie Nights, for instance -- but they are also integral to Lee's film. Besides, they help make Summer of Sam an entertaining listen. Considering the film's subject matter, that may be a little ironic, but it's hard to deny that as a record, Summer of Sam is fun.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine