“Last Summer,” John Batdorf Self-released
John Batdorf comes full-circle on the unrelentingly optimistic “Last Summer.” The singer-songwriter and Eagle Crest resident, best known for his work in the ’70s with folk-rock duo Batdorf & Rodney and rock combo Silver (whose lone radio hit, “Wham Bam,” received a resurgence in 2017 thanks to its inclusion in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”), delivers his trademark high harmonies (with help from fellow Bendite Pete Kartsounes) and soaring hooks throughout this affable set of songs that seems tailor-made for the COVID era.
In fact, the title track directly references the lockdowns/quarantines that much of the country and world has been subjected to in the last year, with Batdorf offering a plaintive plea: “Will we get back to a world where we hold each other?” But even songs written in 2019, such as “Broken” or “Hope is Everywhere,” are hard to listen to without the events of 2020 in the backdrop.
For most of its runtime, the album juxtaposes jauntier folk-rockers such as the opening track “I Wanna Be with You” with quieter songs. But not somber, as songs such as “Prayin’,” a pep-talk for anyone working toward change in these trying times, and “It’s Alright,” with strains of “Yesterday,” attest.
The one outlier is closing track “Island Girl,” written in 1993 with frequent collaborator Michael McLean, who co-wrote many of the album’s songs. Despite its almost psychedelic sound, it still fits in with the rest of the material thanks to Batdorf’s inimitable voice and optimistic lyrics. Again, “optimistic” is the key word: 2020 may be bumming everyone out, but “Last Summer” offers an antidote.