Warner Music France is providing a breezy soundtrack for summer with the fourth installment of California Groove. Arriving seven years after Volume 3, this impressive 6-CD box set is a little bit country, a little bit-rock-and-roll – not to mention filled with pop, lounge, jazz, dance, R&B, soul, and beyond. It’s too eclectic to be filed under “yacht rock,” though many of that so-called genre’s bright lights are here, including Christopher Cross and Steely Dan. What it is, however, is a collection of sleek, chill, California-inspired sounds that will “tune out all the nasty weather,” as the opening track from Rai Thistlethwayte goes.
What sets California Groove Volume IV apart from similarly-styled sets is that its breezy and soft but not exclusively retro. There’s a modern sheen to these tracks (118 total), whether the remixes of Cross (“Ride Like the Wind”) and Nicolette Larson (“Lotta Love”) or the brand-new tracks in a vintage spirit from artists like Young Gun Silver Fox. Multi-instrumentalist Geyster, based out of France, has provided the connective tissue for the disparate assortment of tracks with brief, evocative musical interludes.
Crate-diggers will appreciate the deep tracks peppered throughout California Groove IV from familiar but perhaps unexpected names including Chris Hillman (“Clear Sailin'”), Burt Bacharach (“Pacific Coast Highway,” “Touch”), James Taylor (“Woman’s Gotta Have It”), J.D. Souther (“Something in the Dark”), The Dwight Twilley Band (“Sleepin'”), Randy Crawford (“In Real Life”), Air Supply (“We the People”), Eddie Rabbitt (“Suspicions”), ABBA’s Agnetha Faltskog (“Let It Shine”), and Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin with a cadre of LA’s finest musicians (“Monkey on My Back (The Last Run)).” Christopher Cross is heard on multiple tracks including the non-LP B-side “Mary Ann.” Bacharach, already on hand with the lithe, sax-led instrumental “Touch” and captivating “Pacific Coast Highway,” teams up with David Foster for Al Jarreau’s boisterous and catchy “Girls Know How” from the original soundtrack to director Ron Howard’s comedy Night Shift. Among the true surprises is Queen Latifah’s engaging take on 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.” A handful of obvious choices are here, like Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” or The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue,” but by and large, the songs make for fresh (re)discoveries.
Cult favorites are on hand, too, such as Alessi (New York-born twins Bobby and Billy) or Rob Mehl, a purveyor of what might be described as contemporary Christian yacht rock. Like Mehl, the music of Mike Lundy was recently unearthed by the Aloha Got Soul label and is reprised here for further enjoyment. Aura’s soulful 1979 “Let’s Go, It’s Over” melds Chicago-esque horns with ethereal vocals. Louise Goffin, daughter of Carole King and Gerry Goffin and an accomplished singer-songwriter in her own right, delivers effervescent pop with 1988’s “In the Mood.” Of a more recent vintage, Louis Lake offers smooth, languid, dream-pop on “Tropical Nights,” and the torch of melodic rock is carried on Work Drugs’ AOR-oriented “Miami Nights.” Zervas and Pepper (2017’s “Class of ’96”) and Byrne and Barnes (2016’s “Never Gonna Stop Lovin’ You”) snugly fit into the “I can’t believe it’s not the ’70s” groove. This set might also make instant fans for bands like Monkey House, whose moody, brass-infused “It’s Already Dark in New York” might be the best Steely Dan song that Donald Fagen and Walter Becker never wrote.
America kicked off the original volume of California Groove in 2009 with their timeless “Ventura Highway.” Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell make an appearance here, backing their longtime pal and collaborator, singer/songwriter Jeff Larson, on a previously unreleased 2018 remix of his “Rain Soaked Cloud.” The atmospheric, beautifully-produced and sung track evokes the best of the West Coast pop-rock sound which America defined. Larson also offers the invigorating “You Remind Me of the Sun” with Jeffrey Foskett, culled from the duo’s sensational 2018 album Elua Aloha.
This transporting collection is handsomely packaged in a sturdy lift-off slipcase. Each disc is housed in its own illustrated sleeve and contains an insert with credits for each track. A separate eight-page color booklet has the credits for the set. Compilation producer David Dutreuil has assembled a top-notch assortment of refreshing summer sounds that just might, a few months from now, prove the perfect antidote for the winter blues. California Groove IV is available now from Warner Music France via Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada!