Sound check 





(Oasis, 1974)

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 sincere.


(Oasis, 1975)

Sounds like 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.


(Oasis, 1976)

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 it!).


(Casablanca, 1976)

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.


(Casablanca, 1977)

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 craftsmanship.


(Casablanca, 1977)

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 DEEP INSIDE.


( Casablanca, 1977)

Difficult to 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.


(Casablanca, 1978)

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.

Grammy award: best rhythm & blues vocal performance female (Last dance).


(Casablanca, 1978)

Almost completely 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 career.

Grammy nomination: best pop vocal performance female (Mac Arthur Park).


(Casablanca, 1978)

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.

Grammy 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).


(Casablanca, 1979)

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.

Grammy nomination: best pop vocal performance female (On the radio).


(Geffen, 1980)

The result 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.

Grammy nominations: best rock vocal performance female (Cold love), best inspirational performance (I believe in Jesus).


(Geffen, 1982)

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.

Grammy nominations: best rhythm & blues vocal performance female (Love is in control), best rock vocal performance female (Protection).


(Mercury, 1983)

Meeting famed 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.

Grammy award: best inspirational performance (He's a rebel). Grammy nomination: best pop vocal performance female(She works hard for the money).


(Geffen, 1984)

Assisted again 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 Heaven's gates...

Grammy award: best inspirational performance (Forgive me). 


(Geffen, 1987)

Shadows and 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.


(Atlantic, 1988)

Donna's artistic 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 of breathtaking.


(Atlantic, 1991)

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...


(Mercury, 1993)

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.


(Mercury, 1994)

Exactly ten 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.


(Mercury, 1994)

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.


(Mercury, 1996)

After acquiring 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...


(Universal, 1996)

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.


(InterHit, 1997)

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...

Grammy award: best dance recording.



(Epic, 1999)

Maybe it's 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

Grammy nomination: best dance recording (I will go with you). 


(Atlantic, 2000)

Once again 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.


(Sparrow Records, 2000)

Talk about 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, 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.

Grammy award: best musical album for children.





Donna Summer @ iTunes