Various Artists: Banana Split For My Baby: 33 Gems From the Good Old Summertime (Bear Family)

One has to hand it to German reissue label Bear Family; when it comes to making thematic compilations, they simply are the best. My record collection is filled with sets that range from politically incorrect songs, songs about smoking, songs and sounds of the Cold War, and the sounds of pop musicians trying to cash in on the newfound rock and roll phenomenon. Their latest compilation is entitled Banana Splits For My Baby: 33 Gems From the Good Old Summertime,and golly gee, it sure is a lot of fun! Incorporating genres ranging from country, R&B, doo-wop, rock’n roll, rockabilly, big band, surf, and even the blues, this collection promises amazing diversity from the get-go, and it doesn’t disappoint.

As you might expect, the theme is fun in the summertime, and the 33 tracks cover the gamut of what teenagers might be up to during their summer vacation. Furthermore, the song selection ranges from well-oved classics (“Sea Cruise” by Frankie Ford, “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens,  “Beyond the Sea,” By Bobby Darin) to some stunningly wonderful songs by artists you never heard of from 45s you’re never going to find, and if youdo  happen to find them, you can’t afford them. Sure, you haven’t heard Mexican trio The Dories’ wonderfully sublime Kim Fowley doo-wop production “Stompin’ Sh-Boom” Jo Ann Campbell’s gritty surf rocker, “Beach Comber,” Jamie Coe’s take on Bobby Darin’s  Chuck Berry knockoff composition “Summertime Symphony,” or the proto–Beach Boys surf rock of Belgian teenagers The Picknicks’ signature song, ”Pick–Nick Rock.”

But don’t let their obscurity fool you; these rare songs are well worth the rediscovery, while their placement between more familiar songs such as Dean Martin’s “Volare,” The Royal Teens’ “Short Shorts” and Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash,” you will swear that you’ve heard all of these songs before, even when it’s absolutely unlikely you have. There’s a reason for that; all of the songs found here glisten in the Sun, eternally timeless as they revel in the universal themes of fun, innocence, and romance that constitutes the Endless Summer known as teenage life.

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