Five summer albums that really scorch

Some music is tailor-made for open-topped convertibles.

Ladies of the canyon

Joni Mitchell's sun was already in ascendancy when she penned the hit song "Woodstock" for buddies Crosby, Stills & Nash (even though she wasn't at the summer of '69's defining music festival). Joni's own version anchors this breakthrough 1970 album, which also features "Big Yellow Taxi," "For Free," and classic singalong "The Circle Game."

the low end theory

First released in 1991, this Tribe Called Quest album was immediately recognized as a classic. Its best rhymes, from "Scenario" and "Buggin' Out," have since become entrenched in the vocabulary of modern rap, recycled, and reimagined by a new generation of emcees. As a summer soundtrack, you could do no better – "The Low End Theory" is relentlessly funny, whip-smart hip-hop gold.


The sultry sounds on this enduring 1976 album – with hits like "Cherry" and "Traveling Light" – will carry you through a humid afternoon like a slow roll in a ragtop. J.J. Cale's blues-infused rock provided a wellspring for such guitar giants as Eric Clapton (who covered many Cale songs and collaborated with him on an album just last year) to Mark Knopfler. Masterly lyrics add some edge.

Lovin' spoonful – greatest hits

"I'm blowin' the day to take a walk in the sun, and fall on my face on somebody's new-mowed lawn." The underappreciated Lovin' Spoonful, a hippie jug band from New York City, made that inviting confession in their summer smash "Daydream" four decades ago. Also on the same album: the great escape anthem "Summer in the City."


The cover of Led Zeppelin's fifth record isn't bright orange for nothing. This album is a sunburst of jangly and jagged riffs, epitomized by "Over the Hills and Far Away." From the James Brown pastiche, "The Crunge," to the reggae of "D'Yer Mak'er" (pronounced "Jamaica") to the rollicking swell of "The Ocean," with its doo-wop coda, this is music for July's "Dancing Days."

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