20. True Love Survives (1981)
Sessions for Donna Summer’s I’m a Rainbow were cut short when her label boss David Geffen fired producers Giorgio Moroder and Peter Bellotte. The unfinished album was finally released in 1996 – a collection of remixes coming out this week – revealing at least one killer in Classic Summer Mode. True Love Survives shines, even in demo form.
19. She Works Hard for the Money (1983)
Perhaps the fact that she was mired in a costly legal battle with her record company gave Summer’s voice her edge over She Works Hard for the Money. Her sound is very 1983 – brilliant pop-rock – but something about her vocals and lyrics, seemingly inspired by the sight of an exhausted gas station attendant at an expensive restaurant, comes through.
18. Dinner with Gershwin (1987)
Singer-songwriter Brenda Russell’s jazz-influenced soul was surprisingly original – her 1979 single Back when sounds like prog disco, if such a thing can be imagined. Dinner With Gershwin was simpler, but still off the beaten track of late 80s pop standards. A terrific song, brilliantly delivered and a highlight of Summer’s post-Moroder career.
17. Love is mean (1977)
I Remember Yesterday was another concept album, this time with each track representing a different era in music (I Feel Love was meant to symbolize the future, in short it more than fulfilled). Love’s Unkind, meanwhile, is a glorious pastiche of a girl group: dancefloor rhythm, a melody as sweet and catchy as chewing gum.
16. No More Tears (Enough is Enough) (1979)
A duet with Barbra Streisand that rivals I Will Survive for camp bombast and fierce post-breakup energy, No More Tears happily evolves at breakneck speed, its frenzied pace seeming to portend the shift from disco to high energy. in some American gay clubs.
15. Great Illusion (1980)
The Wanderer has been a relative commercial failure, but it’s a better and far more adventurous album than it might suggest, as proven by Grand Illusion: an enveloping psychedelic whirlwind of electronic sounds, topped with a voice that sounds unexpectedly. like Kate Bush. Not what everyone expected from Donna Summer, which perhaps was the problem.
14. Bad Girls (1979)
There is a whole sub-genre of disco made up of other producers trying to emulate the chic sound; see DJ Dave Lee’s 2015 knock-off singles compilation, The Freak. Maybe Bad Girls is one of them – check out the guitar, brass, and backing vocals – but if it’s a tribute it’s of the highest quality: the song lives up to its lead title well. affecting.
13. MacArthur Park (1978)
A work of mad genius. It’s certainly a unique spirit who listens to MacArthur Park, a flowery and absurd 1968 single from Richard Harris and thinks, “It could do with a little camping. Cue Syndrums, massed backing vocals and a string arrangement that makes the original sound unpretentious. Summer’s voice is superb.
12. Dim All the Lights (1979)
You tend to hear more about the sound innovations of Moroder and Belotte than the incredible singer Summer. Dim All the Lights – a beautiful song, written by Summer alone – restores the balance. Check the note she hits at 0:46 and holds for 16 seconds.
11. Hot Stuff (1979)
Get The Full Monty out of your mind and – worse – a visibly mortified Prince Charles joining the film’s dance routine on a visit to Sheffield and focus on the sound of Hot Stuff: the tension of its hybrid disco-rock accompaniment, the pop intelligence of its writing, Summer’s raw performance.
10. The love of loving you baby (1975)
Moroder’s early recordings with Summer were a decidedly mixed bag – listen to the 1974s The hostage as proof – but they clinched gold with a Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus for the ’70s. The shock of Summer’s orgasmic moans tended to mask the skill with which Moroder extended the trail; his 17 minutes never have a lag or plateau.
9. The Sunset People (1979)
Bad Girls’ closing track delivers a fabulous electronic anthem in Los Angeles after dark. He manages to prick his evocation of the night falling on a fascinating city – “The street is alive under your feet” – with something noticeably more sinister: his characters “cling to the last breath of life”.
8. Work the night shift (1977)
The great hidden gem of Once Upon a Time takes the futuristic sound of I Feel Love to an infamously painful extreme. Summer’s weightless voice tells the story of a sex worker who watches broodingly as nightlife revelers have fun, on icy, relentless synths. It sounds so modern, it’s amazing to think he’s almost 45 years old.
7. The Spring Affair (1976)
The opening cut of the self-explanatory Four Seasons of Love is also its highlight: a magnificent dancefloor-centric evocation of a blossoming romance that’s alternately dreamy, sexy, and lightly spaced. Moroder’s house band, the Munich Machine, is absolutely on fire here, building an electric piano-led groove that is urgent but complex.
6. On the radio (1979)
Summer’s words sound like they’ve been forwarded to Google Translate – “Someone found a letter you wrote me on the radio / And they told the world how you felt” is a very weird way of say you heard a song that reminded you of your ex – but the music is sublime, going from sad reflection to utter euphoria.
5. Lucky (1979)
Summer’s contribution to the bulging pantheon of one-night stands disco songs, Lucky’s backing sounds like a more muffled relationship of I Feel Love, but it exploits the divide between chatty electronics and Summer’s ethereal voice. a completely different way. Instead of appearing erotic, he feels terribly alone, melancholy and resigned.
4. Rumor has it / I love you / I love you forever (1977)
A cheat, perhaps, condensing three tracks into a single entry, but the side medley that closes Once Upon a Time perfectly expresses Summer and Moroder’s ambitious approach to disco. More than just a streak, it’s an emotional arc – the transition from the searing anticipation of Rumor Has It to the dizzying rapture of I Love You is the highlight of Summer’s catalog.
3. Last dance (1978)
The cash-in disco movie Thank God, it’s Friday is understandably forgotten these days, but its soundtrack featured one of Summer and Moroder’s greatest creations, which deservedly won an Oscar. Intense and richly orchestrated drama, it goes from an early ballad to the perfect late-night anthem (and, on the eight-minute 12-inch version, comes back again).
2. State of independence (1982)
State of Independence shouldn’t work: it’s a cover of an unsightly cod reggae track by Jon and Vangelis, with absurd “mystical” lyrics. And yet Summer’s version is amazing. Backed by a chorus of stars assembled by producer Quincy Jones, its gradual build up to an anthem-like finale is incredibly moving and moving. An astonishing and confusing single.
1. I feel the love (1977)
Devotees of Kraftwerk may not agree, but there is a compelling argument that I Feel Love – a magnificent, sparkling spaceship of one – is the most influential piece of electronic music of all time. Brian Eno’s famous appreciation – “This will change club music for the next 15 years” – is woefully short. Forty-four years later, its sound is still an integral part of pop’s DNA. You’re never far from a new version mimicking its arpeggiated bassline, which helps explain why it hasn’t dated at all. Take your pick from the original or the incredible remix of Patrick Cowley. As DJ-producer Erol Alkan said: “It deserves to be passed on to alien planets as an example of humanity’s achievements in terms of expression.