Right up there with suds and sunblock, good music is a must-have for summer. Pick the right tunes, and you'll be knee-deep in beach bunnies in need of a good oiling. Pick the wrong ones, and even that hairy guy at the pool, the one who looks like Chewbacca in a thong, won't hang out with you. With this in mind, we present our list of Northeast Ohio's all-time finest summer listening:
1. The Ohio Express, Ohio Express (Buddah):
One of the best bubblegum records of all time, this disc is a lot like summer itself: sunny, sticky, and fleeting. "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" is the big hit here, but the group's effervescent vocals and cotton-candy guitar make Ohio Express great fun throughout. Perhaps only Xanax is more effective when it comes to eliciting smiles.
2. The O'Jays, Back Stabbers (Epic):
"Love Train" is the penultimate summer anthem: a buoyant funk classic that can turn any gathering into a love-in. The rest of the disc, arguably the O'Jays' finest, is just as stellar. Intermingling fierce R&B grooves with a dash of social consciousness, Back Stabbers works the booty and the brain.
3. The Dead Boys, Young, Loud and Snotty (Sire):
There is no better soundtrack to nights of debauchery than the Dead Boys' debut. Full of puerile, patently offensive thrills, Young, Loud and Snotty is the mark of unbounded adolescence. "I don't need romance/No girl, I just want to get in your pants," vocalist/punk provocateur Stiv Bators sneers while raunchy, hot-under-the-collar guitars coagulate into the sound of teenage lust.
4. The Pretenders, Pretenders (Sire):
If Young, Loud and Snotty was a snapshot of young males at their most brazen and bawdy, Chrissie Hynde delivered the feminine equivalent on the Pretenders' debut. Much more musically accomplished than the Boys (then again, so were the Muppets), the Pretenders mated Hynde's husky, tough 'n' sexy coo with an equally melodic and menacing guitar charge.
5. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, E 1999 Eternal (Ruthless):
An album made with the Jeep in mind, Bone Thugs' full-length debut is meant for summer cruising, with the group's manic, helter-skelter rhymes and window-rattling G-funk making Eternal hot as an exhaust pipe.
6. Cobra Verde, Nightlife (Motel):
Sexy and svelte, the heavy breathing of Nightlife is ideal for club -- and bed -- hopping. With singer John Petkovich radiating cool over a gaudy glam backdrop, Nightlife is a benchmark of sophisticated decadence. Too bad it doesn't come with a designated driver.
7. The Cowslingers, Americana-a-Gogo (Shake It):
The Cowslingers represent the lowbrow underbelly of summer fun: drive-in movies, ice-cold cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and horseshoe tossin'. Buoyed by barnburners like "Too Many Pills," "Stoned, Drunk, and Trippin'," and "Cheap Trucker Speed," this deep-fried cowpunk classic is the stuff that backyard barbecues are made of.
8. First Light, Reggae Meltdown (Thin Ice):
With laconic melodies, slowly unfurling rhythms, and a vibe of togetherness, reggae music naturally exudes the warmth and buoyancy that make the season great. And Reggae Meltdown is one of the best reggae records to ever come out of Cleveland -- a hybrid of roots-reggae, rock, and rap that's as scorching as its title suggests.
9. Boulder, Ravage and Savage (TeePee):
At the multiplex, summer is all about excess: blowing shit up and bombarding audiences with fireworks. The rippers in Boulder offer the aural equivalent: loud, brash, over-the-top man metal that's like a vinyl Armageddon.
10. The Volta Sound, My All American Girl (Orange Sky):
An enveloping psych-rock gem featuring waves of fuzzed-out guitar and blissful vocals, My All American Girl is a portal to the Summer of Love sans the ugly specter of '60s bell-bottom fashion.