Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Donna Summer, The Ultimate Collection

Donna Summer is more than a piece of ass.  A lot more.  I didn’t realize this until recently because I wasn’t paying attention during the mid ’70s to mid ’80s when she was a major donna summerstar.  Dumb.  You should always pay attention.  For starters, Summer has an exceptionally strong voice.  But she has more than that.  She is a very talented songwriter who wrote or co-wrote much of her material including most of her big hits.  With a strong background in musical theatre she also has a pronounced ability to take on whatever characterization is needed to sell the song and make it work.  Summer combined her writing and characterization abilities to produce a sequence of conceptual double albums that were also major hits.  For a long time, she led the way.  Summer is a very talented woman. 

That talent was massively rewarded during her prime.  She won five Grammy Awards including awards in the R&B, Rock, Dance and Gospel categories.  She had at least one top forty tune every year from 1975 through 1984 including 14 Billboard top 10 pop singles, 4 pop #1s, and 16 #1s on various Billboard charts.  She was the first woman to have 3 #1 singles in a calendar year and the first artist of any kind to have 3 consecutive #1 double albums.  Not only were many of her singles big hits, a couple of them were revolutionary.  The 17+ minute remix of “Love to Love You, Baby” released in 1975 was a worldwide phenomenon.  The track featured Summer moaning and groaning in the throes of simulated orgasm combined with a monstrous dance groove crafted by Giorgio Moroder.  It was banned, it was salivated over, and it became a staple of the underground and emerging disco dance scenes.  Some people divide the history of disco into before and after “Love to Love You, Baby”, and it launched the careers of both Summer and Moroder.  (I also wonder if it didn’t play an unrecognized role in the “Disco Sucks” phenomenon.  If this was simulated orgasm, how could insecure males ever be sure their women weren’t jiving them all along?  Rather than deal with their secret my-dick’s-too-small fears these guys attacked disco?  Ya think?) Summer and Moroder followed it up with “I Feel Love” another monster dance and pop hit that was the first recognized song to be recorded with a completely synthesized backing track.  “I Feel Love” has been remixed more times by more people than you can count. 

When I began to wake up and learn something about Summer I naturally wanted to hear the full version of “Love to Love You, Baby” that had had such an enormous effect on the development of dance music.  I was suprised to find we didn’t have it anywhere in our collection.  No problem, right?  There’s a million Donna Summer retrospective collections out there so it should be easy to get a copy.  Turns out that isn’t the case.  All the greatest hits collections have it, but they almost all have the short radio version.  The original album of the same name which contained the long remix as side 1 is still in print but I was looking for a good career retrospective.  The only one I was able to find was the import “The Ultimate Collection” a three disc set that includes all of her major hits along with the 17 min “Love to Love You, Baby”.  Most of Summer’s disco tracks were given 12″ club mixes and, for the most part, these longer mixes are absent here.  Almost all of the tracks are the album versions.  The two exceptions are the New Radio Millenium mix of “State of Independence” and the Masters at Work 86th St mix of “I Feel Love” (the original album versions of both tunes are also included). 

“The Ultimate Collection” is remastered in 32 bit format (regular redbook CD is 16 bit) and the sound quality is excellent.   With a voice as clean, strong and pure as Summer’s, recordings as well engineered as many of these, and a sound system that will let you hear it, the 32 bit mastering is a real benefit. 

If all you want are the major hits and you can live without the complete “Love to Love You, Baby” there are many other collections out there that will more or less do the job at a lower price.  If you want a retrospective collection that includes the long “Love to Love You, Baby”, this is your only choice.  However, it’s a good choice because it includes all the hits, sounds terrific, and is a definitve demonstration that Donna Summer was so much more than a piece of ass.

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06/12/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

16 Comments »

  1. I love your article about Donna Summer’s 3-cd set. I agree with you that Ms Summer was a leader in the 70’s, and part of the 80’s, music scene. I believe she was an inspiration to many, many people all over the world, and still is today.

    Comment by Alejandro | 07/01/2007 | Reply

  2. Yes Donna is very underrated, she was the truly the Whitney Houston of the 70s. But part of being underrated is her own doing, making some spectacularly bad career choices after disco, specifically being way too intent on distancing her gay/dance music fanbase. Donna’s disco was never just disco, with a stylistic palette as varied as Donna’s, her disco was Motown, R&B, rock, Broadway, Judy Garland, jazz and everything else under the sun. And every album included a few ballads. There was no to change that formula in the 80s, she was not artistically limited by it as she always claimed. She should’ve continued on as the “Queen of Dance-Pop”, instead she allowed Madonna to steal that title, and the rest, sadly, is history (Madonna’s ok, but her voice sure as hell can’t match Donna’s.)

    New album scheduled for early ’08 though, first one in ages.

    Comment by Johnny | 07/02/2007 | Reply

  3. I so agree with Johnny’s statement that Donna Summer is underrated and still, to this day, has not gotten the comeback success that she deserves. People labled her as Disco and would not listen to the other non-disco songs she released. If Patti LaBelle says ” She has the voice of life ” then you know she’s got to be good.

    Comment by Anthony Johnson | 07/02/2007 | Reply

  4. To me, Donna Summer is the consumate artist. There is nothing she cannot do and do well! She has not been given her propers and is well over do. Her voice is so clear, strong and recognizable. We simply do not have many in todays’ music like Summer. She was and is a trailblazer and deserves to be inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

    Comment by Darrell Russ | 07/02/2007 | Reply

  5. Okay, how many of these do I have to respond to? Donna is simply the best. I hope Burgundy Records and Donna know how to get the world to understand that—again.

    Comment by Eli | 07/03/2007 | Reply

  6. Agree on many statements you made about Donna. First and foremost she has the VOICE, the PRESENCE and the DELIVERY of a fine song. This has been proven many times commercially but moreso, Donna’s talent is hidden in what was not commercial and that is what needs to be heard. If you want disco, Donna delivers. IF you want ballads, dig deep into ANY of her albums to find soul, heartbreak, love and inspiration. Donna was once called the “Pop Prophet” and a number of songs on her albums confirm this. Forget the thin voices and the studio refinement of many, many others. Listen, BUY and ENJOY a true vocal storyteller like DONNA SUMMER.

    Comment by lst dnce | 07/07/2007 | Reply

  7. After listening to Donna sing for over 29 years now, her voice is as magical today as it was back then. She deserves to be recognized as the ultimate female vocalist. She can sing ANYTHING and make it beautiful. She can make you dance, laugh, cry and experience any and every human emotion possible. Her incredible talent is beyond what any words can describe. And I believe that I can speak for all of her loyal following that our greatest hope is that she never stops singing! God bless you Donna Summer and thank you for being a part of our lives!

    Comment by Jim Fitzgerald | 07/07/2007 | Reply

  8. I’m glad you finally paid attention, she will forever be the Queen of dance music, but Donna Summer is unclassifiable. No other female artist is able to cover so many musical styles and do it perfectly. Unfortunately, that’s been her downfall, as the general public doesn’t get this and neither do record companies. She’s way ahead of her time. In 50 or 100 years from now , they will get it. Long live Donna Summer!!

    Comment by Anthony | 07/14/2007 | Reply

  9. donna- nice piece of ass indeed! nice voice, too.

    thanks,

    augie

    Comment by augie | 07/11/2008 | Reply

  10. I’M BRAZILIAN MAN, AND WHAT I CAN SAY ABOUT DONNA SUMMER, JUST SHE ALWAYS WAS THE QUEEN OF DISCO, IN 80’S WHO WAS THE BEST. ESCUSE ME MY ENGLISH, BYE.

    Comment by JOSE RAMOS | 07/26/2008 | Reply

  11. I´m looking for the song On my honnour by Donna Summer I need to knoww in wich album is please if anybody knows I aprecciate it Thanks.

    Comment by cecilia molina | 08/07/2008 | Reply

  12. “On My Honor” is on “Bad Girls”.

    Comment by kmurnane | 08/09/2008 | Reply

  13. Where and how can i get her entire collection

    Comment by kiai | 09/12/2009 | Reply

  14. Thats True Summer was leader in 70’s n 80’s aswell but i think she is leader of today also b.coz of her strong voice.

    well her entire collections u can find here
    [audio src="http://mp3.juno.co.uk/MP3/SF286829-01-01-03.mp3" /]

    Comment by Sabahat | 11/02/2009 | Reply

  15. I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, I grew up with Donna Summer music, I had ALL her albums and ALL the DJ extended mixes of all the songs that were released. I was a club DJ in Northern Calif., all around the SF bayarea. And then, in 2000, I was ripped off of all my vinyl records, by a huge fire in the club I was spinning in. I have been able to download a lot of Donna’s older abd some newer stuff, but the ONE I LOVE THE MOST was from the Once Upon A Time album, called Queen for a Day. I love it for her clean strong vocals, and for Moroder’s UNCANNY musical arrangement of early pre-techno/disco…AWESOME!!! If someone knows where I can find/download this cut, PLEASE RESPOND HERE, I WILL GET IT. Thanks!!

    Comment by Fierceblue | 12/13/2009 | Reply

  16. No final dos anos 80, conhecei a ouvir a sua músicas e a gosta da voz que combina com qualquer música. Comecei a compra discos, cd e dvd. Por isso Donna Summer continua sendo minha fâ na América do norte. I love Summer.

    Comment by gilmar | 12/20/2009 | Reply


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