Showing posts with label Donna Summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Donna Summer. Show all posts

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Vintage Articles:
From Sex Goddess to Bad Girl to American Superwoman (An Interview with Donna Summer) -
by Barney Hoskyns //
New Musical Express - December 18, 1982


With all the fan excitement around the recently announced reissues of Donna Summer's back catalogue - starting with a reissue program covering most of her albums from the 1980s and into the early 1990's, as well as a proposed overhaul of her Casablanca catalogue, I thought this would be a good time to post this old article from from 1982. I was in a local record store recently, where they had a small bin of old rock magazines stashed in a corner. Looking through them, I noticed this issue of NME with a Donna Summer feature story. Surely whatever it was would be worth my two dollars or so..

Published right when she was promoting her Quincy Jones-produced self-titled album, her first away from the Moroder team; it seems the writer, Barney Hoskyns, wasn't exactly convinced (and didn't seem to think Donna was either). Seemingly happy to retreat from the craziness of the previous decade, as a born-again Christian, wife and mother yet on the professional side, trying to find her musical footing all over again; whether one agrees with the writer's assessment of her 1982 'Donna Summer' album, the article captures Donna in a definite transitional period in her life and career. Not the most in-depth piece I've read on her, but perhaps one of the sharpest.

____________________________________________


From Sex Goddess to Bad Girl to American Superwoman
Interview: Barney Hoskyns, Photos: Peter Anderson

Donna Summer, once the siren of the G-spot, has grown up to become a wholesome American woman with a religious conscience. Now she's searching for a new musical baby...

“He's okay
He's paid his rent, he's president
She's all right
She's on your TV screen tonight”

         Donna Summer hates Hollywood but tonight she's sitting in its very TV heart.

She's on The Merv Griffin Show, the mid-evening parley session hosted since before you were in diapers by the prime-time personification of homely silver-haired slickness. Out of all America's TV personalities, only Johnny Carson has asked more celebrities more meaningless questions than Merv.

There's an hour to go till taping time, and in her dressing room, making-up from an enormous bag of tubes and pencils, Donna Summer is cursing the trappings of womanhood. Somewhere inside there's still a tetchy Boston tomboy; you can feel the petulance in her sharp, nasal voice. There's no Bel-Air languor, no heavy-lidded resignation to the lifeless ritual that awaits.

If Hollywood is the last intact American community, Summer hasn't settled in. For her, stardom is just a job.

In an adjoining room sit a manager, a mother, a baby and a bodyguard. Baby fails to observe the thin line that divides family from showbiz and tries to bust her way into the dressing-room; Donna's mom, a short, sagacious lady wrapped in a well-to-do ball of matronly plumage, keeps the infant in check.

On this side of the line, Summer slaps some more rouge into her cheekbones.

“This whole business is such a drag for women,” she sighs. “A man can just jump in the shower, wash his hair, and he's ready. For a woman, the preparation takes hours. Sometimes y'know, I really hate being a woman.”


         Strange sentiments, you might think from a woman whose career has run an entire gamut of feminine images from goddess to prostitute to the current nouveau American superwoman. Is the maternal Donna Summer her own girl at last?

“Well, I just want people to know me as I am. I don't want to portray any false images as a person. I don't think there are many sex symbols left – I hope people have a more realistic opinion of me now. It's important that they know that stars, in a worldly sense, have a very important role in life, and it's a big responsibility to other people to conduct yourself in an appropriate way, so that other people who become successful don't think you're supposed to act in a certain way.

“I think that when rock groups act violent or nasty or negative to other people, I don't condone it. It's no good to shun any kind of people, even when they get on your nerves.”


         Through old lip-gloss, Summer's new worldly sense speaks loud, but has anything really changed for the better? Julie Burchill says “few things are such bets chartwise as a Bible-bashing black” but actually 'Donna Summer' isn't doing particularly well. Burchill advises Prince to haul his ass over to Summer's songwriter – but which one of the album's credited 17 does she mean?

Sex may not shock, but if truth is to be told, the last thing Donna sold was that hot Moroder stuff on Sunset Strip.

The fact that Britain has taken 'State Of Independence' to its heart doesn't in itself alter the obvious fact: that the extraordinary pneumatic icon created and patented in a German laboratory – a trans-American goddess of the computer age – has been reduced to a clothes-horse. Style has become a front.

In conjunction with God, inc, Quincy Jones and the Hollywood all-stars have pulled down Moroder's subliminal statue of liberty and given you – Donna Summer, A Woman. Like her transatlantic inversion Grace Jones, the former siren of the G-spot is just... living her life.

All very well, you might say. That Bad Girl riff was degrading, exploitative trash. It turned up some awful good sounds though, didn't it? I mean, like a whole world better than this set. You see, with Moroder and Bellotte and Faltermeyer, Summer was part of a team and a perfect concept: techno-sleaze. Shove the ethics for a moment: it worked. More, it was one of the great moments of American history!

With Jones and Temperton, on the other hand (and as many Porcaros as you can fit in one studio), Donna Summer is just another artiste on another nobodaddy's books. 'Donna Summer' is the album where “the woman” steps out of her shell like Venus reborn from a recording console.

Mind, you could see it coming. 'The Wanderer' was an obvious if bizarre transition state (a high fashion tramp waiting for the train to arrive), and Geffen scrapped a further Moroder-produced album that no one wants to talk about... but to give Donna Summer a once-over Diana Ross job, to make a tasteful superstar record even more brazen than 'Diana', that's nothing short of criminal waste.

Musically, 'Donna Summer' is another case of picking up on the swings of what you lose on the roundabouts. A party bag of jarring, overdone tricks. If you don't like her rocking out with Springsteen (US Bonds meets Boney M), try her off-the-wall ('In Control'); or should you fail to appreciate the meticulous Donna-goes-'40s gloss of 'Lush Life', there's always the full-blown Hare Krishna Hollywood of 'State'.

Folks, there's sommat for everyone, but nothing for someone that worships the lost goddess of 'Once Upon A Time' and swims yet in the rapturous ethereal strains of 'Now I Need You' or 'Working The Midnight Shift'. For the bereft and abandoned, the only consolation is the late Patrick Cowley's 16-minute 'mega-mix' of 'I Feel Love' – discreetly slipped out by Casablanca in a British-only release and clearly pointed at the flourishing meat market of Earl's Court.


         Enough of personal grievances. Let's talk. As it happens, I don't get enough time to press my case with the lady herself. It would have taken a very gentle build up to argue that the hooker of 'Bad Girls' was a more liberated object of our attention than the chic Barby (sic) doll of 'Donna Summer'. Especially with a born-again Christian. So instead, I imagine to myself that I was reporting for People magazine.

Considering Giorgio Moroder replaced unpredictable humans with programmable machines, was it easier working with him or Quincy?

“It was much easier working with Giorgio, for sure, because I kinda grew up with him and Pete (Bellotte), and to make the transition to a new producer is very hard. It's like starting all over again, learning to walk again, learning what to say and what not to say.”

Did you feel comfortable with all the songs, say 'Lush Life', which struck me as a little forced?

“That particular song was real hard. It broke my chops trying to sing it, only because you really have to try to complement the backing without making something that it's not. I had never sung, nor personally heard the song before, so it became a real labour of love.

“As a matter of fact, Quincy produced that album with almost no help from me – which is unlike me, but at the time I was pregnant, so it's really more his album.”

It doesn't surprise me. Did you invite the heavenly choir of Michael Jackson, Kenny Loggins, Dyan Cannon, et al?

“Um. No, Quincy did. When Quincy calls, people drop what they're doing.”

'Lush Life' is a pretty cynical song, isn't it? “Romance is mush, stifling those who strive / I'll live a lush life in some swell dive / And there I'll rot with the rest / Of those whose lives are lonely too...” A lot of Americans today are lush – how many are just plain lonely? Or does love always find them in the end?

“I think generally an awful lot of people are confused about what love is. They're not able to give love because they've never really known it. What they consider love is sex, possessiveness, and juvenile infatuations that don't last very long.

“When I speak of love, I mean love as in 1 Corinthians, 13, which tells you exactly what love is and what it is not. Even now I'm reconstructing my point of view of love. People fight and kill each other in the name of love, and that's wrong. Love doesn't do these things, so they're not love. They're bitterness, they're hatred, they're anxiety.”

Do you really believe what you sing in 'Livin' In America', that it is a country “of the people, for the people, and by the people”?

“That's not what I believe it is, but what it should be. What I believe is we have to go back to the beginning. We shouldn't lose faith because we are the people who can change it. We have the power and we should use it.”

But when you sing “You know the time will come / For each and everyone”, you know that's not true...

“It's symbolic when I say that. Whether it's black or Chinese or Mexican their time will come and they're going to have to focus on that problem and deal with it – unlike, say, Germany, where if they don't like a certain kind of people they just get rid of them.”

Woah! Talking of Germany, do you think the fabled Euro-disco sound was as innovative as most people seem to?

“I think in its time, yeah, it was very different and I'm thankful that I was the person it was designed for. But I don't look back, I look forward, and what I'm searching desperately for now is a baby in music, a new musical baby, as if I was pregnant and waiting for the birth of a child.”

What do you think of 'Once Upon A Time', in my humble opinion your incontestable masterpiece?

“You're one of the first people to have said that, but I think that was structurally the best album I've ever recorded.”

Were you disappointed by the reception and sales of 'The Wanderer'?

“In my opinion the album did great, because prior to 'The Wanderer' album I had always gone out on the road with every album. I'd always been there pushing the record on TV and radio.

“ 'The Wanderer' had no publicity of any kind, not in America at least, and I wasn't even there to give people a new image. As far as image went, it was a blank. It was riding on whatever momentum had been set for two years, plus I was in a law suit here and having babies there.”

So you didn't feel like you were out in the cold?

“No, because you can't always do business. Sometimes your life becomes your life. For a couple a years I was playing real life!”

What's it like being a mom?

“Well, it's kinda confusing, it's hectic, but I still wish I'd started having kids earlier.”

How do you protect your privacy?

“I find the older I get, the longer I've been successful, the easier it becomes. I guess because I feel more comfortable with it, people feel more comfortable with me. I have a bodyguard who lives with me, but he's more for my children. When I go out, I go out alone.”

Does being the mother of three children mean you won't be performing live?

“I don't know. Right now I'm trying to recuperate from the last baby, and I try not to project forward more than a month at a time. If I was just a normal person who didn't have other worldly concerns, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.”

Do you enjoy performing live?

“Oh, it's the best. It's instant reward – or instant disapproval.”

Do you like LA?

“Nope. Not at all. I'd love to live in the country, by a lake someplace, where I could ride horses or just be away from it all.”

Would you say you were a good businesswoman?

“My manager says, yes!”

Is your life isolated? How many close friends would you say you had?

“I have a lot of people that I love, but they're more like my family. Is my life isolated? Oh yes, there's certainly not a lot of freedom. You have to be careful what you say, and even if somebody's nasty to you, you have to be exceptionally nice to them. When you assume a role, you have to continue to portray something that you may not be, so as soon as you feel a person is watching, no matter who it is, you have to be acting that role out.

“But I think my manager would tell you that I'm pretty much the same person at home as when I'm out. I may have more make-up on, but.. hey, don't I seem like a natural person to you?!?”


         Before I can plead ignorance of the meaning of the word “natural”, there's an abrupt knock at the door. It's Nellie, her personal assistant, shouldering her way in and calling time in a curious Eliza Doolittle half way to refinement English accent. She informs Donna that Merv is waiting.

Two minutes later, on camera, Griffin blands out with a chat-show query to end 'em all.

“Tell me, Donna, is it true that every recording star needs an image?”

Openly grimacing at the banality of this question, Summer stalls, but quickly composes herself to meet its bold challenge.

“Well, Merv, even a tomato has an image.”

Donna Summer is no ordinary tomato, but her current phase lacks the necessary fatal glamour, perhaps even a certain subtle vulgarity. With her extra-curricular activities as a mother taking up so much time, nothing is coming from Donna herself. Perhaps the musical baby is a reunion with Giorgio Moroder.

As it says in Corinthians, “when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away”.

____________________________________________


CATEGORIES: VINTAGE ARTICLES

Friday, May 18, 2012

Donna Summer (1948-2012)

Photobucket

This year has already seen so many high-profile losses in the music world: Whitney Houston, Etta James, Don Cornelius and Dick Clark. More recently, Adam "MCA" Yauch. Stax Records' bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, in the disco realm, singer Belita Woods of the group Brainstorm earlier in the week; as recently as this Wednesday, Chuck Brown, Washington DC's Godfather of Go-Go. And now, Donna Summer.

Feeling emotional over the loss of a celebrity, in the way one would over a death in the family is always slightly uneasy for me. However, truthfully, out of all of them, this is the one which hurts the most. It's hard to fathom the loss of someone like Donna, someone who was so central to disco so much a symbol of it's success, of the times themselves.

I still recall as a ten year old, going to garage sales in our neighbourhood at the time, usually with my cousin in tow, she was a young 20 something girl who had recently immigrated to Canada at the time and had been living with us. She may have been my cousin and not an immediate one, even, but became like the sister I never had. She was so fascinated with these garage sales, these people giving away their possessions for practically pennies, that we would take them in whenever we got a chance. Thanks to these garage sales, she ended up taking an interest in vinyl for a brief moment and came back from one of these expeditions with a copy of Donna Summer's "On The Radio - Greatest Hits, Vol.2." From the groove of "Hot Stuff" and " Bad Girls" to the vocal showcases of "MacArthur Park" and "On The Radio," I would ponder the album cover as I listened (something only really possible with vinyl), wondering who was this woman? This woman with this voice soaring with feeling and clarity. I'm sure that I listened to that album more than my cousin ever did. In fact, I'm certain she barely even got to touch it once I got a hold of it. When I got around to the flipping the record over and hearing the relentless, throbbing pulse of "Sunset People," there was no turning back. I don't think any song had captured and transported my ten year old imagination more than that song did. People made records this forward thinking then? How was that possible!? A few years later, when I started taking a more serious interest in disco and in music generally, Donna Summer was naturally one of the first artists I had sought to explore.

Having fought a private battle with cancer that few knew about until now, her death seemed to come almost completely out of nowhere. She had announced, at the end of 2010, after touring for much of that year, that she was planning to take time off to record and release two albums, an album of standards and a dance record. Reportedly she had been working on one or both of them before she passed. It had been circulating among fans that she was working on her standards record with famed producer, the modern master of MOR, David Foster. Her last major public appearance had been on his David Foster & Friends concert in October of last year, so it seems entirely probable. Her final single, "To Paris With Love," originally recorded for Louis Vuitton, released in 2010, would be her 14th #1 on the Billboard Dance charts.

Since then, there had been precious little news of note. No tour dates on the horizon, no real updates on recording. Viewing one of the Donna Summer fan forums off and on, the relative silence of the past year had left some fans almost apoplectic. It's even more silly to read some of those posts now, fans will be fans, after all (especially on internet forums), however it only reinforces the absolute shock of it all. It's entirely understandable now, the woman probably wanted to avoid the media deathwatch that inevitably preceeds most high-profile deaths today. After all she had given, she was and is entitled to her dignity. It seems she was in control of her circumstances, up until the end. The loyalty of those close to her speaks volumes about her strength of character.

With the torrent of obituaries and celebrity tweets and statements flowing, New Yorker pop critic Sasha Frere-Jones had tweeted in response: "2012, and people feel like they need to save Donna Summer from disco to celebrate her. She WAS disco and disco won the war." He's absolutely right, and it's absolutely true. With Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, she crystalized the sexual revolution and the hedonism and liberation of disco with "Love To Love You, Baby." Together, they would set one of the most important benchmarks of the genre. In 1977 Summer, Moroder and Bellotte had, to steal a phrase I read years ago, split digital skies with "I Feel Love." Today, those steely synth pulses and sensual vocals are still reverberating across the popular music landscape. Like Disco at large, she defied old boundaries around "black" and "white" music. She had never been R&B, nor strictly pop. A church rooted black girl from Boston, influenced by both Mahalia Jackson and Janis Joplin, she began her career fronting a rock band and later on the German stage and studio, backed by European producers. The varied influences and styles she incorporated, not just in her disco material, but throughout her career embodied the synthesis of influences that lay at the true heart of disco.


Donna Summer - Love to Love You Baby (Live, German TV)
Uploaded by shaymcn3

There were many, who in the quest for a popular reappraisal of disco, felt the need to separate disco into two classes. In a refrain that still gets played today, many were often quick to pooh-pooh the popular disco hits of the time in favour of the disco underground. The former was, like everyone had said, the fake, cheesy pop shit that was rightfully disdained; the latter - that was the real deal. In an effort to try and fit disco into some clichéd rockist narrative of authenticity, many seemed to think the only way to do that was to separate disco from itself. However wrong-headed it often was, that dishonour never extended to Donna Summer. It may have extended to Anita Ward, to the Village People, to the Bee Gees, but not Donna. To do so would have likely run the risk of revealing oneself as someone who didn't understand the real weight of her presence and her impact on disco, on popular music, as someone who just missed the point altogether. You didn't touch the Queen. Like the music of Chic, Donna was someone whose records crossed all of those boundaries, someone who was beloved among all walks of the disco faithful. As Alex Needham wrote in The Guardian, Donna Summer's disco was, indeed, as radical as punk.

Certainly, Disco was never short of great singers; auteurs, even. However, aside from her talent and success, what separated Donna Summer from her peers was that Summer was ambitious in ways that few of them were. There weren't many singers at the time inside or outside of disco who could move from one benchmark to another, pulling off expansive concept double-albums like "Once Upon A Time" and "Bad Girls," pursuing these grand artistic ambitions with unprecedented quality and frequency. And yet, she did. And it wasn't just because she had Giorgio Moroder in her corner, either. Surely he deserves a lot of credit, however it's often forgotten that many of Donna Summer's finest moments credited Summer, Moroder and Pete Bellotte equally. Donna was a singer who held artistic ambitions that, for a time, seemed to blossom further with each successive release.

In fact, Donna herself continued to make some good (even sometimes great) records in the 80's after the peak of disco, apart from Moroder and Bellotte. One of her biggest hits (and her most coherent contribution to the MTV age), "She Works Hard For The Money" was made without Moroder or Bellotte. Her final record for the Geffen label, "All Systems Go" (1987) is possibly one of her best from the time and certainly one of her most overlooked. Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte would also make great records apart from Summer and from each other. Moroder's own influential work, especially, needs little introduction here. However, nothing that either of them did apart from each other would ever quite reach that elusive apex of enduring popularity and influence the way their work together with Donna Summer would.

She wasn't just the First Lady of Love, one of the first titles bestowed upon her, the black Marilyn Monroe, cooing breathlessly to the throbbing disco beat; she could belt as soulfully as the best of them, she could tackle rock and country, even (she made her home in Nashville for many years, after all). Creatively, she seemed to chafe at stylistic boundaries, especially later in her career. She attempted to cross them the best way she knew how, without alienating her audience. Her now final album "Crayons" (2008, Burgundy) was proof of that. Her work often displayed an underplayed eclecticism, an eccentricity, even, that belied her 'Queen of Disco' title. Yes, she was that, but she also held a desire to reach beyond it whenever possible.

In the midst of the relative silence of the past year, released barely a month ago, Donna collaborated on a hip-hop track with her nephew, up and coming rapper O'Mega Red, on a track entitled "Angel." A song about lost loved ones watching over the living, with Donna singing the hook and melody, it was to be the very last release she would be part of in her lifetime. As the angel in the background, she had never sounded more comforting, more peaceful. It was to be her first and last hip-hop collaboration, one that was strangely prophetic and all the more poignant now that the voice is no longer with us. Rest in Peace, Donna Summer.

Further reading: Excellent pieces from Eric Henderson at Slant Magazine, Michaelangelo Matos in The Atlantic and Christian John Wikane at PopMatters (reprinted from 2008) on the life and legacy of Donna Summer..


PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
I LEFT MY HEART IN LOTUSLAND.. (UPDATES AND RE-UPLOADS) (SUNDAY OCTOBER 26, 2008)
COLOUR IT A COMEBACK? (WEDNESDAY MAY 28, 2008)
DONNA SUMMER/CYNDI LAUPER ALBUM UPDATES (THURSDAY MAY 15, 2008)
NEW DONNA SUMMER ALBUM COMING IN MAY.. (WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 20, 2008)
BBC RADIO 2: CLASSIC SINGLES - I FEEL LOVE (SUNDAY DECEMBER 30, 2007)
TWIGGY DOES DISCO.. (WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM DONNA) (TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 18, 2007)
NEW DEAL FOR DONNA (THURSDAY AUGUST 3, 2006)
DONNA SUMMER - I GOT YOUR LOVE (MONDAY JANUARY 16, 2006)


DISCO DELIVERY #64: MELBA MOORE - BURN (1979, EPIC) (SATURDAY APRIL 14, 2012)
DISCO DELIVERY #52: STAINLESS STEAL - CAN-CAN (1978, WARNER BROS.) (TUESDAY FEBRUARY 5, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #14: SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA (1979, ELEKTRA) (SATURDAY APRIL 8, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #5: GIORGIO MORODER - FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977, OASIS/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3, 2006)

LINKS:
NEW YORK TIMES - DONNA SUMMER, 1948-2012: THE QUEEN OF DISCO, WHO TRANSCENDED THE ERA (BY JON PARELES) (THURSDAY MAY 17, 2012)
NEW YORK TIMES - MEMORIES OF DONNA'S DISCO NIGHTS (BY JACOB BERNSTEIN) (FRIDAY MAY 18, 2012)
THE TELEGRAPH - DONNA SUMMER, 'QUEEN OF DISCO', DIES AGE 63 AFTER CANCER BATTLE (BY ANDREW HOUGH) (THURSDAY MAY 17, 2012)
THE GUARDIAN - DONNA SUMMER'S DISCO WAS AS RADICAL AS PUNK (BY ALEX NEEDHAM) (THURSDAY MAY 17, 2012)
SLATE - DONNA SUMMER, 1948-2012 (BY JODY ROSEN) (THURSDAY MAY 17, 2012)
THE GUARDIAN - DONNA SUMMER'S DEATH: POP MOURNS SINGER WHO TRANSFORMED DANCE MUSIC (BY TOM MCCARTHY) (FRIDAY MAY 18, 2012)
BBC NEWS - PRESIDENT OBAMA LEADS DONNA SUMMER TRIBUTES (FRIDAY MAY 18, 2012)
MTV HIVE - DONNA SUMMER SAW AND SOUNDED BLISS (BY ANDY BETA) (FRIDAY MAY 18, 2012)
THE ATLANTIC - DONNA SUMMER'S HEAVY-BREATHING BLUEPRINT FOR POP (BY MICHAELANGELO MATOS) (FRIDAY MAY 18, 2012)
SLANT MAGAZINE - DONNA SUMMER (1948-2012) (BY ERIC HENDERSON) (FRIDAY MAY 18, 2012)
POPMATTERS - SHE'S A RAINBOW: A TRIBUTE TO DONNA SUMMER (BY CHRISTIAN JOHN WIKANE)
BILLBOARD - ROCK HALL REGRETS DONNA SUMMER SNUB (BY MARC SCHNEIDER) (FRIDAY MAY 18, 2012)

CATEGORIES: IN MEMORIAM..

Monday, October 27, 2008

I left my heart in Lotusland.. (updates and re-uploads)

I know it's been a while, so much so that I think I almost forgot I had this blog for a while there, but for those who still check here from time to time, I apologize for my prolonged absence. I've gotten some emails in the mean time that I still need to reply to, so I hope to get on to that in the next little while. In July after I had gotten my new turntable cartridge, I had mentioned doing some re-uploads. I managed to re-rip a couple of albums shortly after that post - Disco Delivery #55: Cissy Houston - Step Aside For A Lady (1980, Columbia) from this past June and from two years back Disco Delivery #25: Rinder & Lewis - Warriors (1979, AVI/Quality). I've updated the links on their respective pages, so hope you enjoy the music and improved sound..


In other updates, this is probably old news, but a while back I had promised a review of the Donna Summer concert (I know, welcome to three months ago) that I had planned to go to. Well I went on a little vacation to Vancouver, BC back in August and attended her concert in Richmond, BC while I was there... I always enjoy myself in Vancouver and this time was no different. I would have made a daytrip to Seattle if I had my passport, but unfortunately I didn't, so maybe next time..

Either way, I absolutely didn't want to leave (as usual). Took a lot of pix and bought a quite a few records, or at least spent a shitload of money on them (they don't come cheap out there!). As far as the concert goes, it was pretty damn awesome! With the screens, dancers (yes, dancers, I kid you not) it was reportedly her most elaborate tour in a while, and I'm very glad I got the opportunity to see her. While there were elements of the show that seemed a little bit cheesy (those dancers as football players - please!) the Queen of Disco did not disappoint vocally or otherwise and neither did the crowd, for that matter.. I've heard of concerts or shows where people rushed the stage, danced in their seats, danced in the aisles, I have never actually witnessed such a thing until that night. Never did I think I'd see such an insane crowd at a Donna Summer concert and in Vancouver, no less, which never really struck me exactly as Disco City North, but perhaps I was wrong.. On another note, the same night James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundystem were doing their DJ gig as Special Disco Version at Celebrities (a local gay nightclub, apparently becoming increasingly popular among the straights), which I unfortunately missed. I was kinda bummed when I remembered, it would have made for an even better night, but oh well..

Anyway, with that, I'll refrain from writing a big long crazy review as per usual, however my friend Eric, whom I had a great meeting with after the show, pretty much summed it up in his great review @ the Donna Tribute site.. With that, I'll leave you all with a link to the pix I took during the concert..

Also, I will be putting up a new Disco Delivery post very soon, so stay tuned..

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
COLOUR IT A COMEBACK? (WEDNESDAY MAY 28, 2008)
BBC RADIO 2: CLASSIC SINGLES - I FEEL LOVE (SUNDAY DECEMBER 30, 2007)

LINKS:
THE VANCOUVER SUN - THE QUEEN OF DISCO IS BACK, READY TO DEFEND HER MUSIC (BY TONY LOFARO) (THURSDAY AUGUST 7, 2008)
DONNA TRIBUTE - FAN CONCERT REVIEWS: AUGUST 8 & 9 - VANCOUVER, BC
PHOTOBUCKET - DONNA SUMMER @ THE RIVER ROCK CASINO, AUGUST 8, 2008

CATEGORIES: RE-DELIVERIES, ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Colour it a comeback?


Unsurprisingly, "Crayons" has been one of my frequent listens this past week, and so far reviews have been about as mixed as the genres on the record. Admittedly, even despite my own initial skepticism, I've found a lot to love on this record. It's hard to believe that all of seventeen years have passed since the last time Donna Summer has released an original album (and about eight since her last aborted comeback). In the intervening years, her status as "Queen of Disco" and her classic recordings with Moroder & Bellotte seem to have only gained currency, so understandably expectations have been anything but modest. Despite that, "Crayons" comes across as less of an opportunity to affirm her title as the "Queen of Disco" and capitalize on the appreciation, or at least the spirit of her earlier work than it is an excuse to pick up where she had left off nearly 20 years ago and record what is possibly the most diverse, self consciously current, accessible pop records of her career. Depending on one's perspective, it's either a laudable move or a missed opportunity, and it seems almost every review out there seems to fall in either one category or the other..

In a time when the music industry seems to require veteran artists to release endless streams of standards/cover albums (the first suggestion her label brought to the table, not surprisingly), I'm not sure that there's an album out there now that manages to be so unabashedly trendy, yet so un-trendy at the same time. In my mind, she deserves a good deal of credit for bucking the trend and at nearly 60, putting out an original pop record, however out of place it may seem. While the likes of Madonna and Kylie Minogue, having perfected the impeccably timed pop singer reinvention, may be able to pull off something similar without the same sort of criticism someday; between her seventeen year absence from recording and her still strong association with the disco era, considerable vocal talent notwithstanding, one can hardly say the same for Ms. Summer.. Unlike a near decade ago when the likes of Cher and Tina Turner were putting out hit records with younger producers, in the last four or so years it seems, the thought of an aging diva staging a comeback with a pop record as polished and commercial as this one today, produced by a laundry list of current hitmaking producers feels almost like a critical death wish..

With songs like "Stamp Your Feet," seemingly tailor made for a Nike commercial, it's hook copping the Gwen Stefani/Fergie-inspired (or not so inspired) 'spelling bee' trend, to "Mr. Music", where she opens with a line about 'hooking up her iPod, shaking her body and being 'naughty, naughty', to "Crayons" (featuring Ziggy Marley) which sounds like K-os crossed with Rihanna, or even "The Queen Is Back" with it's Mary J. declarations backed with ABBA chords and hip-hop beats, parts of the album sound, to put it honestly, almost embarassing on paper. Admittedly, given all that, it would be extremely easy to completely dismiss the album altogether, if the results weren't as surprisingly and seriously enjoyable as they actually are.

Despite how they may come across on paper, the aforementioned first four tracks end up being some of the most infectious tracks on the record. The single, the Greg Kurstin produced "Stamp Your Feet" makes the perfect combination of dance-appeal and current pop-radio friendliness and "Crayons" (also produced by Kurstin), despite the surface similiarities to her less-than-stellar 1983 single "Unconditional Love," thankfully comes across infinitely better. Even the J.R. Rotem tracks - "Mr. Music" and "The Queen Is Back" with their slightly awkward combination of Donna and their urban styled production values, end up being some of the most memorably catchy tracks on the record.

Although not without it's low-points - namely the gimmicky, overproduced "Fame (The Game)" and "Slide Over Backwards" on which she adopts a southern alter ego whom she calls Hattie Mae Blanche Dubois, other album highlights include the latin styled "Driving Down Brazil," as well as Toby Gad produced "Science of Love" with it's memorable melody and impassioned vocal and lyric, which is, aside from the ones already released, perhaps the most obvious single on the album. As well, the more 'unplugged' tracks on the album, "Sand On My Feet" and the personal "Be Myself Again" and the socially conscious "Bring Down The Reign" are also notable moments, successfully bringing Donna and her voice into a setting in which she has rarely, if ever been heard. In so doing, they're perhaps the two tracks which most dramatically and clearly confirm the album's ambitions..

The first single and # 1 Billboard Dance hit "I'm A Fire" produced by Sebastian Arocha Morton emerges as another obvious highlight along with the international/US Circuit City bonus (also produced by Morton), "It's Only Love." Out of all the others, they are the only two tracks which seem to perfectly bridge the feeling of Donna Summer's classic disco recordings with today's contemporary dance/electronic aesthetics. It has to have been at least thirty years since a Donna Summer record has captured the sheer sensuality and sexiness in her voice as perfectly as "It's Only Love".

Although it's questionable whether this record will appeal to the same people who would buy a Fergie or Rihanna record, given how influential the work of Giorgio Moroder, particularly her work with him continues to be among newer generations of producers and listeners, there would likely be no shortage of younger, perhaps lesser known, but no less able and ambitious producers willing to return her to the forefront of contemporary electronic/dance music, if she so wishes to in the future. Anyone expecting as such with this album however, would probably be disappointed. Despite that, as a quality pop album and as a showcase of Summer's versatility, it's a roundly successful effort. Although her last original album was released seventeen years back, it's been even longer since Donna herself has sounded this engaged and exciting. So while this album may not singlehandedly untie her legacy from the past, she's at least proved that she's not about to be trapped by it, either. Hopefully the next album won't take another seventeen years.

As a side note, I've got my tickets to see her in Vancouver (well, Richmond actually) this coming August on her summer tour. It'll be my first time seeing her live, so I can't wait! I'll make sure I'll post a review and maybe some pix when I get back..

PURCHASE:
DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (US CD)
AMAZON.COM | CD UNIVERSE

DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (UK/INTERNATIONAL CD) - RELEASED JUNE 23
CD WOW | AMAZON.CO.UK | PLAY.COM

DONNA SUMMER - STAMP YOUR FEET (CD SINGLE)
PERFECT BEAT

DONNA SUMMER - I'M A FIRE (CD SINGLE - PART ONE)
PERFECT BEAT

DONNA SUMMER - I'M A FIRE (CD SINGLE - PART TWO)
PERFECT BEAT

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DONNA SUMMER/CYNDI LAUPER ALBUM UPDATES (THURSDAY MAY 15, 2008)
NEW DONNA SUMMER ALBUM COMING IN MAY.. (WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 20, 2008)
BBC RADIO 2: CLASSIC SINGLES - I FEEL LOVE (SUNDAY DECEMBER 30, 2007)
TWIGGY DOES DISCO.. (WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM DONNA) (TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 18, 2007)
NEW DEAL FOR DONNA (THURSDAY AUGUST 3, 2006)
DONNA SUMMER - I GOT YOUR LOVE (MONDAY JANUARY 16, 2006)

DISCO DELIVERY #52: STAINLESS STEAL - CAN-CAN (1978, WARNER BROS.) (TUESDAY FEBRUARY 5, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #14: SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA (1979, ELEKTRA) (SATURDAY APRIL 8, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #5: GIORGIO MORODER - FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977, OASIS/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3, 2006)

LINKS:
BILLBOARD.COM - DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (BY MIKAEL WOOD)
ALL MUSIC GUIDE - DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (BY ANDY KELLMAN)
SOULTRACKS: DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (ADVANCE REVIEW) (BY CHRISTIAN JOHN WIKANE)
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: DISC DEBUTS: "CRAYONS" BY DONNA SUMMER (MAY 27, 2008)
BLOG CRITICS MUSIC REVIEW : DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (BY DONALD GIBSON) (MAY 24, 2008)
SLANT MAGAZINE: DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (BY ERIC HENDERSON (MAY 20, 2008)
ORLANDO SENTINEL: VARIETY MARKS DIVA'S LATEST EFFORT (BY FERNANDO QUINTERO) (MAY 20, 2008)
THE WASHINGTON TIMES: VARIETY MARKS SUMMER'S RETURN (MAY 20, 2008)
NEW YORK TIMES CRITIC'S CHOICE: DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (BY BEN RATLIFF) (MAY 19, 2008)
BOSTON HERALD: DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (BY LARRY KATZ) (MAY 19, 2008)
THE MIAMI HERALD ALBUM REVIEWS - DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (BY HOWARD COHEN) (MAY 16, 2008)

POP TRASH ADDICTS: CRAYONS - THE POP TRASH REVIEW (MAY 24, 2008)
XO'S MIDDLE EIGHT: REVIEW - DONNA SUMMER'S CRAYONS (MAY 17, 2008)

DONNA SUMMER - OFFICIAL WEBSITE
DONNA TRIBUTE

CATEGORIES: NUDISCO, ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Donna Summer/Cyndi Lauper album updates..


It's less than a week before the release of Donna Summer's "Crayons" and a number of album tracks have premiered on the Australian radio station, Joy 94.9 out of Melbourne, including this one, "It's Only Love," written/produced by the same team behind her club single "I'm A Fire" (Sebastian Arocha Morton, Al Kasha etc.). With the sensual feeling of "I'm A Fire" paired with a throbbing, hypnotic energy, it's an absolutely stunning contemporary dance track; in fact, I think it's club single material. Unfortunately though this won't be appearing on the standard North American release, but as a bonus track on the international release (scheduled for June 23) and reportedly as an exclusive on editions sold at Circuit City stores in the US.. Hear it here before it's gone..

I haven't been able to access it myself, but for those of you who can't wait until the release, you can stream the album in it's entirety at VH1's The Leak. Sooner or later, I'll put up a full review of the album..

Also, for those of you who want remixes, the first CD of mixes for her latest single "Stamp Your Feet," which I quite enjoy, are available officially and exclusively through Perfect Beat.

Speaking of veteran divas, Cyndi Lauper's returning with a dance album "Bring Ya To The Brink," coming out May 27th (already out in Japan). She'll be on the road this summer with the True Colors Tour and I'm kind of bummed that I won't be able to go to see her (and the awesome Nona Hendryx) on any of the Canadian stops.. As far as her album goes though, I'm not too crazy for the first single "Same Ol' Story," but I've heard some of the other tracks and I've liked what I've heard for the most part. With collaborators like Basement Jaxx, Kleerup, Axwell and the awesome Dragonette (my favourite Canadian band at the moment), there's bound to be something good on the record.

While at work last week, I heard a fun interview with her on one of my favourite shows, Jian Ghomeshi's Q on CBC Radio One where she talks about her disco roots, her Sylvester connection and goes off on her record company for calling this 'her first original album in 12 years.' Listen to the interview here.

PURCHASE:

DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (US CD) - RELEASED MAY 20
AMAZON.COM | CD UNIVERSE

DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (UK/INTERNATIONAL CD) - RELEASED JUNE 23
CD WOW | AMAZON.CO.UK | PLAY.COM

DONNA SUMMER - STAMP YOUR FEET (CD SINGLE)
PERFECT BEAT

CYNDI LAUPER - BRING YA TO THE BRINK (STANDARD CD) - RELEASED MAY 27
AMAZON.COM | CD UNIVERSE

CYNDI LAUPER - BRING YA TO THE BRINK (JAPAN CD) - RELEASED MAY 14
JPOPHELP | HMV.CO.JP

PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
NEW DONNA SUMMER ALBUM COMING IN MAY.. (WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 20, 2008)
BBC RADIO 2: CLASSIC SINGLES - I FEEL LOVE (SUNDAY DECEMBER 30, 2007)
TWIGGY DOES DISCO.. (WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM DONNA) (TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 18, 2007)
NEW DEAL FOR DONNA (THURSDAY AUGUST 3, 2006)
DONNA SUMMER - I GOT YOUR LOVE (MONDAY JANUARY 16, 2006)

DISCO DELIVERY #52: STAINLESS STEAL - CAN-CAN (1978, WARNER BROS.) (TUESDAY FEBRUARY 5, 2008)
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2007)
DISCO DELIVERY #14: SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA (1979, ELEKTRA) (SATURDAY APRIL 8, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #5: GIORGIO MORODER - FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977, OASIS/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3, 2006)

LINKS:
DONNA SUMMER'S OFFICIAL SITE
DONNA SUMMER - OFFICIAL MYSPACE
VH1 - THE LEAK: DONNA SUMMER
SOULTRACKS: DONNA SUMMER - CRAYONS (ADVANCE REVIEW)

CYNDI LAUPER'S OFFICIAL SITE
CYNDI LAUPER - OFFICIAL MYSPACE
CYNDI LAUPER'S BRING YA TO THE BRINK - THE UNOFFICIAL SITE
ROLLING STONE: CYNDI LAUPER - BRING YA TO THE BRINK (ALBUM REVIEW)
TRUE COLORS TOUR

CATEGORIES: NUDISCO, DISCO NEWS

Sunday, December 30, 2007

BBC Radio 2: Classic Singles - I Feel Love



Listen: BBC Radio 2: Classic Singles - I Feel Love


Just a couple of things to acknowledge before 2007 draws to a close. First of all, Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco herself turns, believe it or not, 59 on the 31st. Although some of her fans on the message boards out there might fuss about her weight and her wigs lately and, perhaps rightly, lament her recent snub by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; by all accounts, at nearly 60, the lady still sounds remarkable in concert. Not to mention, if there was ever a poster girl for "black don't crack," she'd be it.

Secondly, although I'm around eight months late for this, her seminal classic, one of the most iconic Summer/Moroder/Bellotte compositions, "I Feel Love" also turned 30 this year.. Although it was an anniversary that went relatively unacknowledged, its influence certainly has not. Reportedly called "the sound of the future" by Brian Eno upon hearing it for the first time, "I Feel Love" was one of the touchstones of not only disco, or even Donna Summer's career, but of the pop music landscape in general. Along with all the other groundbreaking electronic records of its time, its success seemingly opened the floodgates for all manner of electronic experimentation (and imitation) on the dancefloor and beyond, solidifying the legacy of its producer Giorgio Moroder, perhaps just as much, if not moreso than Donna herself. Arguably much of what could be considered 'electronic music' today owes a debt to its legacy...

Released in May 1977 and included on Donna's "I Remember Yesterday" (1977, Casablanca) LP, "I Feel Love" was, in my opinion, the one shining moment on what was likely the weakest of Donna's otherwise excellent string of disco concept albums. Although not necessarily a bad album, one couldn't help but feel that the whole time travel/nostalgia concept probably sounded much better on paper than on record. Between the cover and its unflattering deer-in-headlights photo of Donna, and a largely unconvincing mish-mash of disco styled nostalgia, "I Feel Love," the album's 'song of the future', with its powerful, pulsing sensuality, placed right at the end of the record, effectively obliterated everything else..

Granted, most people reading this are likely well aware of its significance, so consider this a little bit of preaching to the coverted, so to speak.. However, in honour of its 30th anniversary, I thought this might be a good opportunity to put up the audio from the Classic Singles documentary on "I Feel Love" by the good people at BBC Radio 2. The broadcast, which originally aired November 2005 (which I'd been holding on to ever since), runs approximately 30 minutes and gives what is probably one of the most recent and comprehensive overviews/tributes to this song that I know of. Hosted by the one and only Alison Goldfrapp, herself no stranger to the Moroder influence, the program runs like a documentary on not only the influence and making of "I Feel Love" itself, but also of Giorgio and his evolution as a producer up to that point.

Although not nearly as detailed and in-depth as Radio 2's "The Record Producers" doc on Nile Rodgers from nearly a year ago, they manage to cover a good bit of ground in its 30 minutes, with much of the program being devoted to Giorgio speaking in his own words. Although unfortunately Donna herself didn't take part in it, they included some choice confessionals from the likes of Jimmy Sommerville, Debbie Harry and the Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic, who manages to sneak in the best quote in the whole thing. I'm sure they could have easily gone an entire hour, but even within the 30 minutes, Giorgio still manages to shed some light on some pretty interesting points regarding the making of "I Feel Love" and his own feelings about its influence..

Although it has been argued that Giorgio could have had anyone sing "I Feel Love" and made it a hit, given the feel of Donna's essential yet often dismissed vocal stamp combined with her immense popularity at the time, it's doubtful whether any other combination could have made quite the same impact or created the same magic. Although not among her most explicit, "I Feel Love" still remains one of Donna's sexiest moments on record, with the effortlessly sensual caress of her voice providing the perfect counterpoint to the cool, mechanical precision of the music. Aside from groundbreaking, it's nonetheless a wonderfully sublime moment of shiny, glittering electro-eroticism; the hypnotic, throbbing pulse of its unforgettable bassline resonating today, just as it did thirty years ago.

Also, just in case anyone's in need of additional visual aid after all that, here's a wonderful vintage live performance of "I Feel Love," complete with synths and robot dance:




Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Live)
Uploaded by DonnaSummerVEVO


..and here's yet another, more recent (and more polished) live performance from her 1999 VH-1 "Live & More..Encore" special:




Donna Summer - I Feel Love (Live & More..Encore! - 1999)
Uploaded by EndlessDonna


PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
DISCO DELIVERY #40: MUNICH MACHINE - A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (1978, CASABLANCA) (SUNDAY APRIL 29, 2007)
BBC RADIO 2 - THE RECORD PRODUCERS: NILE RODGERS (SATURDAY JANUARY 6, 2007)
NEW DEAL FOR DONNA (THURSDAY AUGUST 3, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #14: SUZI LANE - OOH LA LA (1979, ELEKTRA) (SATURDAY APRIL 8, 2006)
DISCO DELIVERY #5: GIORGIO MORODER - FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1977, OASIS/CASABLANCA) (FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3, 2006)
DONNA SUMMER - I GOT YOUR LOVE (MONDAY JANUARY 16, 2006)

PURCHASE:

DONNA SUMMER - THE DANCE COLLECTION CD (INCLUDES 'I FEEL LOVE' 12'' VERSION)
CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM

DONNA SUMMER - BAD GIRLS (DELUXE EDITION) (2 CD) (INCLUDES 'I FEEL LOVE' 12'' VERSION)
AMAZON.COM | CD UNIVERSE

LINKS:
DONNA SUMMER TRIBUTE SITE
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE @ WIKIPEDIA
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE 12'' @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (PATRICK COWLEY REMIX) 12'' @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (PATRICK COWLEY REMIX) 12'' @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
DONNA SUMMER - I FEEL LOVE (REVIEW) @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
DONNA SUMMER - FEEL LOVE @ ROLLING STONE
DONNA SUMMER - I REMEMBER YESTERDAY LP @ DISCOGS
DONNA SUMMER - I REMEMBER YESTERDAY LP (REVIEW) @ WARR.ORG
GIORGIO MORODER @ WIKIPEDIA
GIORGIO MORODER INTERVIEWS
GIORGIO MORODER @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
AND WE DANCED - I FEEL LOVE
SONGFACTS - I FEEL LOVE

CATEGORIES: MINI DELIVERIES, ARTICLES & RAMBLINGS, INTERVIEWS, DISCO NEWS, VISUAL DISCO

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Liza does Donna

Yes! Believe it.. Just stumbled across this goodie on YouTube

Liza Minnelli does "Bad Girls"


From the 1980 CBS special "Goldie & Liza Together"

Love that ending... "Yes?.. Bad!"

CATEGORIES: VISUAL DISCO

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