OF THE NIGHT
Donna Summer was a fantastic singer right from the start, and this record just proves that. Published in some countries of continental
Europe only, LADY
OF THE NIGHT is the first true solo album in Summer's career, though most fans discovered it after LOVE TO LOVE YOU BABY. Amid typical early 70's pop, rock and folk surroundings (Cher meets Linda Ronstadt and Elton John),
Donna manages to show a surprising vocal maturity. It's her passionate
and straightforward delivery which ultimately makes this album
worthwile, but there are a few tracks that stand out on their
own merit. The title track, for instance, is the absolutely charming
picture of a clever streetwalker in Paris. BORN TO DIE is a catchy,
electric rhythm & blues that could've become a hit single. WOUNDED
is an excitingly arranged, nice and plucky picture of a love
bruised woman's rebellion. LET'S WORK TOGETHER NOW's call to
social and racial integration may be a bit naive, but sounds
TO LOVE YOU BABY
a transfiguration, if listened soon after the previous album.
Here Donna seems to be putting her peculiar Central European
songstress shoes aside and turning into a sophisticated, vulnerable
and melancholic seductress. Side 1 is completely occupied by
the 16 sighing minutes of scandalous disco symphony LOVE TO LOVE
YOU BABY. Angelic voice, erotic moans and a bassline that made history: genius! On side 2 we find the murmured desolation of FULL OF
EMPTINESS, a first timid step into electro disco (NEED A MAN
BLUES) and an enchanting sea-inspired slow number (WHISPERING
WAVES) sung in that pure high voice many identify the early summer
style with. Only dynamic r 'n' b ballad PANDORA'S BOX bring us
back to the energy displayed on LADY OF THE NIGHT's best tracks.
With this album Giorgio
Moroder begins to define the most typical Summer sound of the 70's: relentless rhythms, avant-garde
use of electronic instruments, surprising melodic breaches. All
these ingredients can be found in the irresistible suite composed
of TRY ME, I KNOW and WE CAN MAKE IT (disco-perfection) and in the ultra sweet WASTED.
But a special mention goes to COULD IT BE MAGIC, a vibrating
disco cover of the Barry Manilow classic where Donna shows with
no hesitations to be already a leader (and yes, Manilow loved
SEASONS OF LOVE
A love story
told in four acts: one for every season of the year. From the
sweet excitement of falling in love in Spring to the Summer's
sensual explosion. From the first Autumn melancholies to the
breaking up, the memory that's all that's left in the Winter.
Four sound pictures which are stylistically rather different
but that coexist beautifully thanks to Donna's voice (which is
in top form, look at the super high notes in the middle of SUMMER
FEVER, and is so perfect that at times it sounds icy). Greatly
recorded at MusicLand studios, in Munich, FOUR SEASONS OF LOVE
also contains some really interesting instrumental bits, like
the brass solos by Dino Solera.
It's a masterpiece.
Donna, Moroder and Bellotte keep on offering thematically linked
songs, the theme being this time a homage to the past decades'
most representative music styles (from the roaring '40s to the innocence of the '50s, to the
Sound of young America of the '60s). The opening suite, which
incorporates the disco swinging title track, playful LOVE'S UNKIND
and Motownesque BACK IN LOVE AGAIN, is a jewel both for the beautiful
melodies and the inventive arrangements. Donna displays an amazing
vocal ability (Diana Ross and the Supremes sang this good only
in their dreams!) and keeps on shining on side 2, most notably
in red-hot BLACK LADY and exquisite classic ballad CAN'T WE JUST
SIT DOWN. And what can be said of I FEEL LOVE, the album's door
to the future? It embodies all the best qualities of good disco
music (it's sensual, energetic, fun to listen to) and it's arranged
in a way that even today sounds like a lesson in modern music
In early '77
Donna is a big enough star to work with great movie scores specialist
John Barry. The evocative sound-track to THE DEEP, a diving/narcotics
thriller starring Nick Nolte and Jacqueline
Bisset, features two versions (one more danceable, the other
mellower) of the same lovely and alluring song by Donna: DOWN
UPON A TIME...
take new paths after an album as perfect as I REMEMBER YESTERDAY.
Musically speaking, in fact, ONCE UPON A TIME basically includes
variations of previously treated themes, but Summer, Moroder
and Bellotte are smart enough to make this double album a new
winner. Additionally there are some really good lyrics that dare
to step outside the realm of planet love for the first time since
LADY OF THE NIGHT. The fact that ONCE UPON A TIME tells a Cinderella-like
story doesn't prevent Donna and Pete Bellotte from painting an
effective picture of life in the modern times, not lacking in
anxieties, day dreams and repressed desires. Singing wise, Donna
keeps on using her vulnerable falsetto, even with some tasty
crescendos, up to side 2's final song (QUEEN FOR A DAY). Afterwards
she lets go of any inhibitions and shows all the feeling, power
and soul she is capable of. Even if it does contain several terrific
tracks (FAIRY TALE HIGH, SAY SOMETHING NICE, NOW I NEED YOU, A MAN LIKE YOU,
RUMOUR HAS IT) ONCE UPON A TIME is best appreciated when listened
as a whole.
GOD IT'S FRIDAY
It's the soundtrack
to the infamous disco movie Donna guest starred in, and includes
three tracks sung by her plus another track (TAKE IT TO THE ZOO
by Sunshine) co-written by her. The album's high point is of
course LAST DANCE, whose slow intro-that-starts-to-pulsate-and-then-explodes
style will become a real Donna Summer trade mark. The song is simple, lovely and inspired, and allows Donna to deliver one
of her strongest performances -one that seems to spring straight
from the bottom of her heart. The other songs performed by Donna are WITH YOUR LOVE (a delightful,
space-age rhythm & blues) and a long, lush rendition of JE T'AIME
MOI NON PLUS.
award: best rhythm & blues vocal performance female (Last
recorded live in concert at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles,
LIVE AND MORE is the album that finally turns Donna Summer into a superstar in the US. Though it would've been impossible to recreate the sonic wonders of her studio recordings,
the orchestra is great, filled with energy, and Donna has the chance to show her talents and versatility as a performer
(in addition to her great disco hits, she also shines on standards like THE MAN I LOVE and THE WAY WE WERE). The best part,
however, comes with the studio recorded MAC ARTHUR PARK SUITE.
As in I REMEMBER YESTERDAY, it's a three song medley which ends
with the first song's reprise. This time Donna dives into a spectacular, emotionally charged tour de force: highly dramatic MAC ARTHUR PARK
by Jimmy Webb and sunny HEAVEN KNOWS (sung with Joe Esposito
of Brooklyn Dreams) remain among the pinnacles of her recording
nomination: best pop vocal performance female (Mac Arthur Park).
At the height
of her commercial success, restless Donna thinks it's time for
her to make a move and, by threatening to go back to sing in
churches, is allowed by her record company to get closer to rock.
Actually BAD GIRLS contains little rock 'n' roll, apart from
HOT STUFF and its sounds as sharp as tiger's fangs. Throughout
the album, however, Donna's singing sounds warmer, more relaxed.
Most songs are still formulated in a disco fashion, but they're
open to soul, funky and rhythm and blues influences(BAD GIRLS,
WALK AWAY and OUR LOVE are the most memorable evidence of this).
Donna also finds the time to draw attention to her skills as
a composer (DIM ALL THE LIGHTS, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A YOU and
MY BABY UNDERSTANDS ) and to treat us to the thrilling performance
of ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. Really suggestive, at the end, SUNSET
PEOPLE's limousine ride through the streets of Los Angeles.
award: best rock vocal performance female (Hot stuff). Grammy
nominations: album of the year, best pop vocal performance female
(Bad Girls), best rhythm & blues vocal performance female
(Dim all the lights), best disco recording (Bad Girls).
THE RADIO/GREATEST HITS VOL. I & II
The first official
anthology in Donna's discography, ON THE RADIO contains the best
selling singles in the US, leaving out important hits like COULD
IT BE MAGIC and SPRING AFFAIR but peculiarly including an album
track like OUR LOVE. The songs are all blended together as to
form one long, highly entertaining Donna Summer medley, but what
makes this collection really interesting is the inclusion of
two new tracks: ON THE RADIO and NO MORE TEARS (ENOUGH IS ENOUGH).
Playful and heartfelt the former, aggressive and pyrotechnic
the latter, both songs start as a sweet ballad which suddenly
turns into a shiny disco-pop number and let Donna work her one
of a kind magic once more - she doesn't even get intimidated
by phenomenal Barbra Streisand.
nomination: best pop vocal performance female (On the radio).
of a new multi million dollar deal, THE WANDERER is also the
album Donna seriously start to free herself from disco with,
even if not straying too far from some rhythms. Producing staff
and arrangers are the same as BAD GIRLS (a couple of tracks aside)
but the overall sound is whiter, more avant-garde pop/rock. Donna
shows an incredible vocal versatility, switching from the low Elvis
Presley-like tones of the title track to GRAND ILLUSION's spiritual
high notes, from RUNNING FOR COVER's stunning rhythmic leaps
to the full-throated boldness of irresistible STOP ME or disarming
pop-gospel I BELIEVE IN JESUS. The album's lyrics go over Summer's
own life story and help to make THE WANDERER a definitely bold
and mature piece of work.
nominations: best rock vocal performance female (Cold love),
best inspirational performance (I believe in Jesus).
In 1981 the
news of artistic separation between Donna and her long time collaborators
goes around the world in the twinkling of an eye. The three of
them have already finished a new double album (titled I'M A RAINBOW), but the record
company has refused to release it: hence the resounding decision
to entrust Donna to the prestigious Quincy Jones team. This new pairing's
result is a self titled album which is one of Donna Summer's
most critically acclaimed works, but definitely not the faultless record some would have it to be. Quincy Jones provides his usual
widescreen funky-soul sounds and fantastic musicians (Ndugu Chancler, Ernie Watts, many others) but doesn't seem to work around Donna's voice, which sometimes seems to be left
behind in the mix. One could even object to the quality of some
compositions (LOVE IS IN CONTROL and HURTS JUST A LITTLE shine only thanks to Donna's sparkling vocals and exciting arrangements) but luckily there are
a few tracks that do not come from Jones' court (the magnificent
STATE OF INDEPENDENCE by Vangelis and Jon Anderson, the
thrilling PROTECTION written by Bruce Springsteen)
and that magically boost the listener's morale. Vocals on LUSH LIFE, the jazziest recording in Donna's discography, are nothing short of phenomenal.
nominations: best rhythm & blues vocal performance female
(Love is in control), best rock vocal performance female (Protection).
WORKS HARD FOR THE MONEY
producer/composer/arranger Michael Omartian was, according to
Donna, divinely inspired. Even without wanting to drag in Divine
Providence, one has to admit that the chemistry between the two
of them is remarkable, given the little time they've known each
other. Summer and Omartian,
in fact, share the same kind of eclecticism, a love for electronic
sounds, a taste for rhythm, strong religious views and write
jointly all the songs on this first album together (apart from
one song that's written only by Donna and another couple of tracks
co-written by Bruce Sudano or some session men). SHE WORKS HARD
FOR THE MONEY is an excellent example of modern pop music. It
begins with the marvellously infectious title track and then
reaches grounds Donna has seldom visited in the past, like WOMAN's
burning funky-rap or UNCONDITIONAL LOVE's charming calypso. There
is also room for a fine soul duet (LOVE HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN)
and for an enthralling synthesizer-driven number (TOKYO). But
the album's emotional centerpiece is the closing DO BELIEVE I
FELL IN LOVE, cleverly suspended between tradition and modernity.
Final note for the lyrics, revolving around religious or social
themes, which allow HE'S A REBEL's pure rock & roll to get
a Grammy in the best inspirational performance category.
award: best inspirational performance (He's a rebel). Grammy
nomination: best pop vocal performance female(She works hard
for the money).
by Michael Omartian and a restricted but excellent group of musicians,
Donna keeps on flirtating with American pop-rock scene. CATS
WITHOUT CLAWS' lead single is a brilliant cover of THERE GOES
MY BABY (the Drifter's classic, interesting for the effective
contrast between Donna's visceral vocals and the cold electronic
setting) but unfortunately the album doesn't possess the same
freshness as SHE WORKS HARD FOR THE MONEY -and Omartian seems
to be fully aware of it, as he often uses his beloved Yamaha
keyboards to excess, trying to hide some temporary lack of inspiration.
On side 2 there's no shortage of strong tracks, though. OH BILLY
PLEASE is a grand, greatly sung futuristic rock track. EYES is
a mid paced, mysterious electro pop rocker. I'M FREE stands out
from the rest of the album, thanks to its Caribbean feel and
the rejoicing grace in Donna's voice. The mystical finale for
voice and piano only (FORGIVE ME) is the unavoidable pass for
Grammy award: best inspirational
performance (Forgive me).
lights for the most anticipated Donna Summer album of the 80's.
On ALL SYSTEMS GO Donna appears strikingly doubtful which path
to take: she goes back working with Harold Faltermeyer (who had
arranged BAD GIRLS, ON THE RADIO and THE WANDERER) but at the
same time she tries not to lose touch with the latest trends.
She explores ultra sophisticated pop-jazzy surroundings but, on most of the record's first side, she gets entangled in second-rate techno
dance arrangements and weak material (BAD REPUTATION, LOVE SHOCK). The second part of the album is amazing: FASCINATION and
VOICES CRYING OUT contain some of the best melodies (and strongest vocals) she's ever put on record. The Richard Perry-produced DINNER WITH
GERSHWIN is a sparkling pop/R&B masterpiece. On the soulful closing track, THINKIN' BOUT MY BABY, Donna proves she could have been the Queen of smooth jazz. Easily.
PLACE AND TIME
crisis somehow goes on, but this time she decides to face it ironically
and with a bit of courage: following her husband's advice, Donna
makes up her mind and lends her talents to notorious Stock, Aitken
and Waterman rhythmic alchemies. After less than a month's work
an album comes out and seems to be saying:"Ok, we had better
times and collaborators, but let's try and do our best"...
And their best is not bad at all. It's hard to embrace
this album wholeheartedly (sometimes the atmosphere gets too
easy and Donna in not involved in the project like she could
have) but some songs are undeniably good: THIS TIME I KNOW IT'S
FOR REAL and SENTIMENTAL both have a winning melodic line, THE
ONLY ONE lets Donna's voice reach for indomitable high notes,
LOVE'S ABOUT TO CHANGE MY HEART's dramatic power is nothing short
On the cover
Donna sports a platinum-blonde mane, but it's the blackest sounding
record she's ever done. Produced, arranged, mixed and partially
played by versatile Keith Diamond, MISTAKEN IDENTITY is an album
that feels the pulse of the American and British early 90's black
music scenes, "house" trends and Soul II Soul-like
sounds included. The overall approach is certainly more serious
and personal compared to the previous album, trying to get some
artistic reliability again. Donna throws herself into it heart
and soul. She lets her magnificent voice shine on every single
track, from the magnetic opening rhythm 'n' blues (GET ETHNIC)
to the glittering new age dance of CRY OF A WAKING HEART, up
to the moving, ending pop gospel (LET THERE BE PEACE). She writes
her strongest and most meaningful lyrics, including a vibrating
thank you to her long time fans (FRIENDS UNKNOWN) and a strong
statement against the abuses committed by the police (MISTAKEN
IDENTITY). Everything's alright, then? Almost. Sounds like a
paradox, but what is mostly missed here is a catchy chorus a
la Stock, Aitken and Waterman...
DONNA SUMMER ANTHOLOGY
It's the anthology
of the first times: it's the first greatest hits package Donna
is personally involved in since ON THE RADIO; it's the first
to put together the Casablanca, Geffen, Mercury and Atlantic
hits; it's the first to feature tracks from the unreleased I'M
A RAINBOW album. There are quite a few reasons to hold it in
great consideration. And they can be heard right from the start,
thanks to the original version of LOVE TO LOVE YOU BABY, the
single edit versions of COULD IT BE MAGIC, SPRING AFFAIR and
HEAVEN KNOWS (all of them for the first time on a cd release)
or a rare demo version of MAC ARTHUR PARK. Surprises keep on
coming with the NO MORE TEARS' Columbia single version and CARRY
ON, free-and-easy reunion with Giorgio Moroder, previously included
only in a producer's musical project. But the most intriguing
songs are certainly the unreleased tracks from the 1981 album:
DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA is a bit disappointing if compared
to the prodigious versions of the song Donna's been singing in
concert since 1981, but I'M A RAINBOW can be easily placed among
Summer's most meaningful recordings and one can't help wondering
how they could keep it in the vaults for such a long time.
years after their last work together, Donna returns to collaborate
with Michael Omartian to make one of her reoccurring (and several
times postponed) musical dreams come true: the Christmas album.
As we all know, Donna has already included religious tracks in
her pop albums, but this is different. This is her big chance
to show what she can do in a traditional spiritual context, and
she doesn't blow it. Backed for the first time by an orchestra,
Donna approaches some of the most loved seasonal standards with
the greatest ease and respect, perfectly balancing technique
and passion like only greatest artists can do. Along these lines,
her reading of THE CHRISTMAS SONG is magic. But Donna's greatness
comes out especially when lyrics let her play a part, as it happens
with melancholic I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS or splendid LAMB
OF GOD (which she is also the author of). The highest point,
however, is an incredibly moving version of Amy Grant's BREATH
OF HEAVEN, a song Donna brings to a level the original singer/songwriter
could never imagine to reach.
Almost a single
disc version of the DONNA SUMMER ANTHOLOGY, ENDLESS SUMMER is
made precious by two great new songs, MELODY OF LOVE and ANYWAY
AT ALL, which in a sense sum up what Donna is mostly capable
of in the pop field: to aim at a song's very essence and to bring
it to its most emotional development, whether it's a trendy dance
tune or an evocative power ballad.
the rights to every Donna Summer album originally released by
Geffen Records and Atlantic, PolyGram finally decides to bring
to light I'M A RAINBOW, the legendary unreleased 1981 album produced
by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. It's hard to say why they
decided to shelf it in the first place, because it's such a good
offering. Maybe Geffen didn't want Donna to take a path of her
own, maybe didn't want her to free herself completely from her
past. As a matter of fact, I'M A RAINBOW, proceeding down THE
WANDERER's track, represents a further departure from Summer's
previous works. It contains no disco music, no sensual themes,
no falsetto tones. It's a rhythm and bluesy collection of romantic,
introspective songs masterly enlivened by electronic sounds.
A bore? Far from it. Lively tracks like I BELIEVE IN YOU (a new
duet with Joe Esposito which Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
could have enjoyed) or PEOPLE TALK (a true FLASHDANCE sound forerunner)
alternate with fine melodic islands (YOU TO ME, the exquisite
title track, a passionately delivered DON'T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA
- superior to the version included in the ANTHOLOGY) passing
through more ambitious sides like TO TURN THE STONE and I NEED
TIME. The only trouble lies in some fillers' presence, but in
the compact disc era it's easy to find a remedy for it...
For a Sylvester
Stallone movie that is packed with special effects, they opted
for an extremely melodic symphonic score. The credits theme,
WHENEVER THERE IS LOVE, is written by Bruce Roberts (ALL THROUGH
THE NIGHT, NO MORE TEARS...) and sung by its author together
with Donna, whose stellar performance make a jewel of an otherwise
only fairly good song - by Roberts' standards.
Though it runs
for almost 50 minutes, CARRY ON is just a maxi single including
9 different versions (some of them a little odd) of the track
Donna returned to work with Giorgio Moroder with. A simple toccata
and fugue which says it all: Donna's golden voice doesn't need
much to take off and fly...
award: best dance recording.
PRESENTS LIVE & MORE ENCORE!
true that life begins at 50. Just when many were starting to
believe that her recording career was going nowhere, Donna signs
with the Sony label and, with more than a little help from VH1,
brings out a live (and more) album that it's so good and enthralling
that it can be easily picked as the best record to begin a Donna
Summer collection with. More info
nomination: best dance recording (I will go with you).
POWER OF ONE
it would seem that the best tunes belong to Cartoonia. Sure,
the second Pokémon animated feature ain't no Disney masterpiece,
yet its theme song has all the requisites necessary for becoming
an evergreen. Skillfully produced by David Foster, THE POWER
OF ONE is an evocative ballad that starts flowing gently like
a brook and then sweeps away like a swollen river. Donna's performance
is one of those that leave a mark. On the heart.
OF THE PROMISE
(Sparrow Records, 2000)
going back to one's roots! After spending 30 years measuring
herself with everything that can be regarded as pop, Donna gets
back to the musical comedy - inspirational musical, to be exact.
The occasion is given her by CHILD OF THE PROMISE, a new play
that can be described as a well-done attempt to create a prequel
to JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. The man (arranger / writer / producer)
behind the project is Michael Omartian, so it really doesn't
come as a surprise if the two songs performed by Donna were written
just for her. In CHILD OF THE PROMISE Donna "voices"
Elizabeth (St. John the Baptist 's elderly mother) and it's pretty
interesting to notice how she sings in a lower key than the usual,
in order to convey the sense of maturity required by her role.
If not THE most moving song ever recorded by Summer, WHEN
THE DREAM NEVER DIES is certainly in the TOP 5.
SONGS FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD
THE MUSIC OF MISTER ROGERS
(Songs From The Neighborhood, 2005)
The tribute to Mister Rogers
(the legendary author and TV host who entertained generations
of American children) contains performances by such great singers
as Roberta Flack, Jon Secada, Crystal Gayle, B. J. Thomas. Donna's
version of ARE YOU BRAVE? is a pop/r&b gem, but the whole
CD strikes with its warm atmosphere, top notch production, variety
in the arrangements.
award: best musical album for children.