Summer. It's as much a state of mind as it is a season. This is particularly true for those who are still attending school. Whether you're a first-grader or a college senior, the magical lure of summer vacation, fraught with possibilities, is a powerful force. Like New Year's resolutions, many ambitious summer plans quickly fragment and are left unfulfilled. In these cases, the answer to "I know what you did last summer" is "not much."
However, some student summers prove more productive. In that season's 1968 vintage, 15-year-old Jay Kaye left Las Vegas and headed to Vancouver. His purpose was not to escape the oppressive Sin City summer heat, but to record an album for White Whale, label home of the Turtles, among others. No slacker, Kaye had done his homework well, bringing with him a stellar set of self-penned songs. Working closely with arranger Robert Buckley, also in his teens, Kaye crafted a song suite, loosely tracing a man's journey from birth to death. Producer Robert Spurgeon recruited a sympathetic cast of session musicians, including local band Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck, to form a psychedelic instrumental menagerie, a "lysergic wall of sound," if you will. But how good could an adolescent singer-songwriter be?
Astonishingly good, as it turns out. Taking cues from the best of the late '60s rock scene, with a special nod to the Beatles, Suddenly One Summer is a mature work seemingly years beyond its young creator. With a vocal style very similar to George Harrison, Kaye is in command from the start, guiding the listener through the album's rich sonic journey. Highlights abound: the sharp, smart pop of "Christine," the melancholy lament "Nobody," the cascading backwards guitars and cymbals of "Fly" (solid evidence that Kaye and Spurgeon had read the news that day, oh boy), the hazy, floating trance of "Magical Fingers of Minerva" and the jolting finale of "Dead" all fit together to form one of the era's most striking albums.
Unfortunately, it was an album that few heard upon release in 1969. White Whale confusingly chose :36 album opener "Break of Dawn" as the first single, presumably to generate publicity. The effort backfired as radio stations understandably balked at playing such a short track and the album never gained traction. Kaye formed a band to play the songs after the album was completed but it did little to boost sales. Beyond the California musical underground, the album was largely unknown. Yet, its reputation grew over the decades, especially as fans of new psych-influenced bands like the Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate and the Church began to search out their favorite bands' influences. To serve this groundswell of interest, BeatRocket scooped up the original White Whale analog tapes from which to source this reissue. Sounding better than ever, this edition of Suddenly One Summer will envelop you in three-dimensional sound and leave you wishing that this particular summer was indeed endless.