Top 20 Summer Albums of All Time

group walking onto a beach with a stereo

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Pop music is the perfect soundtrack for all types of summer fun from backyard cookouts to days at the beach. This is a guide to the 20 best albums to guarantee a summer of great music.

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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Beatles, 1967)

Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band


The Beatles' legendary classic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band deserves to be considered the first truly memorable summer pop album. Released June 1, 1967, it was an indispensable part of the soundtrack for the Summer of Love. Winner of the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the first rock album to do so, this album boosted rock music to be considered a true art form. The concept album was also a tour de force perfect for sitting around with a group of friends and listening all the way through.

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Stand! (Sly and the Family Stone, 1969)

Sly and the Family Stone Stand


By late spring 1969, the groundbreaking funk of Sly and the Family Stone had found its way to the top of the pop charts with the #1 smash anthem "Everyday People." Stand! became the group's breakthrough hit album with more uplifting anthems like "I Want To Take You Higher" and "Sing a Simple Song" alongside the grittier "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey." 

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Exile on Main Street (Rolling Stones, 1972)

Rolling Stones Exile On Main St.

Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones entered the summer of 1972 with their sprawling, gritty double album Exile on Main Street. Many consider it the band's artistic peak. A heady blend of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the album sounded perfect blasting loud all summer long. Included is the top 10 pop hit "Tumbling Dice."

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Endless Summer (Beach Boys, 1974)

Beach Boys Endless Summer


This double album compilation deserves significant credit for helping cement the Beach Boys' place in pop history. Released in June 1974 in the wake of the nostalgia wave generated by the film and the hit TV show Happy Days, the album is a collection of the band's classic 60s hits celebrating surfing, summer and sun. Four months after initial release, the album climbed to #1 and ultimately spent nearly three years on the charts.

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Exodus (Bob Marley and the Wailers, 1977)

Bob Marley Exodus

Tuff Gong

Reggae master Bob Marley and his group the Wailers broke into the top 10 of the US album chart with Rastaman Vibration, but it's the follow-up Exodus that many consider the group's artistic masterpiece. Amid the laidback reggae beats that sound perfect at the beach are lyrics about social change. Among the classic tracks are "Jamming" and "Three Little Birds."

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Bat Out of Hell (Meat Loaf, 1977)

Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell


 The centerpiece of this rock classic from Meat Loaf and songwriter Jim Steinman is the anthem of the hellish aftermath of summer love "Paradise By the Dashboard Light." Although it only peaked at #14 on the album chart, over time the reputation grew and Bat Out of Hell is now one of the biggest selling albums of all time moving 14 million copies in the US alone. In the UK it has spent a phenomenal nine total years on the album chart.

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Bad Girls (Donna Summer, 1979)

Donna Summer Bad Girls


The double album Bad Girls was released at the end of April 1979 with Donna Summer reigning as the Queen of Disco and arguably the Queen of Pop as well. The blend of rock and disco is evocative of hot summer nights. The singles "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls" both topped the pop charts. The album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year and "Hot Stuff" took home the honor for Best Female Rock Vocal.

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Back In Black (AC/DC, 1980)

AC/DC Back In Black


With the Australian rock band AC/DC reeling from the untimely death of their first lead vocalist Bon Scott, many fans feared for the group's future. They were on the verge of a major breakthrough following the success of the album Highway To Hell. A new album was completed with new lead vocalist Brian Johnson.

That album was Back In Black released in July 1980. Spearheaded by the singalong party classic "You Shook Me All Night Long," the new album made the group superstars and is one of the top rock classics of all time. 

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Rio (Duran Duran, 1982)

Duran Duran Rio


The music video for the song "Rio" by Duran Duran evokes summer fun for the young and wealthy. It was filmed on a yacht off the coast of the Caribbean island Antigua. The entire album is a breezy classic which also includes the group's breakthrough hit "Hungry Like the Wolf" and the ballad "Save a Prayer." To the consternation of some, the album cemented the group's status as new wave teen idols.

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Purple Rain (Prince and the Revolution, 1984)

Prince and the Revolution Purple Rain

Warner Bros.

Released in late June, Prince's movie soundtrack for Purple Rain was one of the leading lights of a rich crop of legendary pop music flooding radio airwaves in the summer of 1984. The landmark single "When Doves Cry" introduced the upcoming album when released in May. It spent much of the summer at #1 on the pop charts reigning from July 7 through August 4.

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Born In the U.S.A. (Bruce Springsteen, 1984)

Bruce Springsteen Born In the U.S.A.


Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In the Dark" battled Prince for the top of the pop charts in the summer of 1984, and the legendary rocker lost that battle. However, the album Born In the U.S.A. stands toe to toe with Purple Rain as a pop-rock classic. It was released three weeks before Purple Rain and became the bestselling album of the year for 1984.

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Permanent Vacation (Aerosmith, 1987)

Aerosmith Permanent Vacation


By the mid-1980s, it looked like the glory days of rock band Aerosmith were behind them. The albums Rock In a Hard Place and Done With Mirrors failed to reach the top 30 on the album chart and the group was foundering in a haze of drug addiction. Group members completed drug rehab in 1986 and Permanent Vacation was recorded as a comeback project for Aerosmith. The effort, released in August 1987 was a major success. The lead single "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" was the group's first top 20 pop hit single in a decade and the album climbed to #11, the highest album chart placing in a decade. It ultimately sold over five million copies.

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Cosmic Thing (The B-52's, 1989)

The B-52's Cosmic Thing


In October 1985, the B-52's guitarist Ricky Wilson died as an early victim of the AIDS epidemic. The group was devastated by the tragedy and dropped out of public view. In 1988 the band began writing and recording new music. The result was their massively successful comeback album Cosmic Thing. Released in June 1989 it includes the summer pop classics "Love Shack" and "Roam." The album became the group's first top 10 hit album peaking at #4.

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3 Feet High and Rising (De La Soul, 1989)

De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising

Tommy Boy

 Hip hop trio De La Soul blasted into public consciousness with their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising introducing the sunny concept of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age. Lyrically, the music promotes peace and harmony in a critically acclaimed stew of playful rhymes and sampling. The album includes the top 40 pop breakthrough "Me Myself and I."

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Homebase (DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, 1991)

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince Homebase


After an initial flurry of success, the popularity of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince began to fade with the disappointing And In This Corner... album. However, buoyed by the success of the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the duo headed back to the studio for a comeback album. Homebase was released in July 1991 and includes the timeless summer pop anthem "Summertime." It became the duo's biggest pop hit peaking at #4.

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Out of Time (R.E.M., 1991)

R.E.M. Out of Time

Warner Bros.

In the wake of their biggest pop hit to date "Stand" from the album Green, R.E.M. released the album Out of Time. Hitting #1 on the album chart, it would boost the group to the ranks of the top rock bands in the US. The album was preceded by the #4 charting single "Losing My Religion." It became one of the biggest hits of the summer of 1991. In the fall "Shiny Happy People" became the second top 10 hit from the album. 

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Dookie (Green Day, 1994)

Green Day Dookie


Although the album Dookie was released in early 1994, it took a few months to truly catch on. The summer of 1994 would become the summer of the first coming of Green Day. The album is packed with the hits "Longview," "Basket Case," and "When I Come Around." Dookie went on to become one of the 40 most successful albums of the entire decade.

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Daydream (Mariah Carey, 1995)

Mariah Carey Daydream


Although it first appeared in September 1995, Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" is a perfect summer pop single. It is animated by samples of the Tom Tom Club's classic hit "Genius of Love." The rest of the album Daydream is breezy as well and began incorporating sounds of the street through Mariah Carey's growing interest in hip hop. The album also includes the hits "One Sweet Day" and "Always Be My Baby."

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The Score (Fugees, 1996)

Fugees The Score


The Fugees' second album The Score received critical acclaim upon its release in February 1996. However, it was the success of their cover of "Killing Me Softly" in the summer of 1996 that turned the album into an international smash. 

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Teenage Dream (Katy Perry, 2010)

Katy Perry Teenage Dream


The promotion for Katy Perry's landmark album kicked off with the summer pop single "California Gurls." It was released in May of 2010 with declarations of "Summer begins here!" The song debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and quickly reached #1. The album appeared in late August and debuted at #1.