Saturday, January 11, 2014

Donna Summer (1982)

Released: July 19, 1982 (Geffen)
Produced by: Quincy Jones
Peak on the US Billboard 200: 20

Side One Side Two
Love is in Control
(Finger on the Trigger)
Mystery of Love
The Woman in Me
State of Independence
Livin' In America
(If It) Hurts Just A Little
Love is Just a Breath Away
Lush Life

 Charted singles: Hot 100 ACR&BDance
 Love is in Control 10
 State of Independence 41
 The Woman in Me 331730

In late 1981, Geffen hired Quincy Jones to refresh Summer's career once the Queen of Disco no longer had a kingdom over which to reign.  Jones, in turn, put together his usual all-star cast of studio musicians and top-notch songwriters to help him out.  Check out just a few of these names:
David Foster, Rod Temperton, Steve Lukather, James Ingram, Bill Champlain, Ernie Watts, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Sembello, Jerry Hey, Jeff Pocaro (plus a lot of other names you'd recognize if you spent as much time as I did reading and re-reading liner notes as you played your LPs.  And if you're reading this, you probably did.).
This album had all the makings of a first rate West Coast album and somehow, it never quite gelled, almost as if they thought simply bringing together those musicians was enough to shape an album. There's a few good songs here, but it's definitely more a Quincy Jones album than a Donna Summer album.  Still, I enjoy giving it a listen every now and then. No worries - Summer would bounce back nicely with her next album.

  • Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger):  A great opening track that really gets in gear when you hear the vocoder and bass line kick in at the chorus.  To the mix, add an Ernie Watts tenor solo + characteristic Jerry Hey horns = a song that gets me goin'.
  • Mystery of Love: A duet with James Ingram, this song wouldn't have been out of place on Jones' album The Dude.  The baroque keyboard lick gets tired after a while, but I enjoy the disco strings and synth solo.
  • The Woman in Me:  This one doesn't do much for me.  Although Summer gives a strong performance, this song just doesn't have a memorable melody.
  • State of Independence:  Adding a psuedo Afro-Carribean feel over a droning synth turns me off.    At least the sax solo and the "All-Star Choir" chanting nonsense lyrics make it interesting.

  • Livin' in America:  like the earlier Mystery of Love, this sounds like any other Quincy Jones song.  I would have cut the choir and brought out a funky bass line, but that's just me.
  • Protection: Imagine a typical Bruce Springsteen song sung by a woman over a disco hit-hat.  Despite it being a decent song, it just doesn't work here.
  • (If It) Hurts Just a Little:  I like the groove on this one and the way Summers vocals are overdubbed.  The funky, downward bass line, punchy horn section, and Michael Sembello guitar solo take it up a notch.
  • Love is Just a Breath Away: Summer's voice shines on this nice filler track with a good chorus and bridge.  Made even better by Steve Lukather's guitar work.
  • Lush Life:  Summer makes a valiant effort on the Billy Strayhorn standard, but her voice just isn't suited to this sort of song and the arrangement is lacking (this song doesn't need a backbeat).  It's a head-shakin' shame because the song is sooooo good.

  1. Love is in Control
  2. Mystery of Love
  3. (If It) Hurts Just a Little
  4. Love is Just a Breath Away
  5. Livin' in America
  6. Lush Life
  7. State of Independence
  8. Protection
  9. The Woman in Me

1 comment :

  1. Mark, I think we both had similar feelings about this album. That grade sounds just about right to me. Here's my review - Martin's View: Donna Summer - Donna Summer.