REVIEW: Donna Summer – The Journey


By: Jason Shawhan


It was about time for another Donna Summer compilation anyway. Periodically, the hits get remastered and bumped up with a new song or two, and there’s a new way to look at Donna’s collected work. 1979’s On The Radio: Greatest Hits Volume I & II was an innovative, sorta continuously mixed effort that turned her then four year reign over pop and dance music into a cohesive experience. The Dance Collection, from the early eighties, compiled all her extended version takes of some of the big hits (including the epic 17-minute MacArthur Park Suite), as well as spotlighting non-radio faves like Walk Away (which, for some reason, is not considered to be one of her hits anymore, which is a damned shame). The 1993 Donna Summer Anthology is still the definitive compilation of Summer’s work, featuring the hits that are on all of the other comps as well as several album tracks that deserved more attention (Love’s Unkind, There Goes My Baby). 1995’s Endless Summer was almost a single-disc highlights version of the anthology, and the less said about the chintzy 1998 Greatest Hits and 2003 Millennium Collection, the better.

So what does The Journey offer us? First and foremost are the two new songs she recorded with Giorgio Moroder.

“That’s the Way” is kind of sultry and midtempo-ish, but certainly interesting, even recalling aspects of “If You’ve Got, Flaunt It” from 1977’s Once Upon A Time album (still Summer’s best album and the most essential recording she ever made). And then there’s “Dream-A-Lot’s Theme (I Will Live For Love).” It’s fabulous. It is a hands-in-the-air Hi-NRG anthem that demonstrates the throughline from Verdi to Almighty, and it is certainly the finest new Summer track in some time.The rest of the collection is the hits you know and love, mastered impeccably (though space limitations require a few slightly sketchy fades). “Con Te Partiro” appears to be a rerecording (which makes sense, since Sony still owns the original version), and I still don’t understand why “State of Independence” is considered so damned essential. Don’t get me wrong, I love Donna’s work, but I think that particular song was done much better by Chryssie Hynde and Moodswings back in the early nineties.

There’s also a bonus disc of five extended tracks (damned mechanical royalties), two of which are new songs (You’re so Beautiful, a marginal track Donna did with Tony Moran, and a 12″ mix of Dream-a-Lot’s Theme (I Will Live For Love)), two of which (extended versions of Hot Stuff and I Feel Love) have been available on previous compilations, and, with no fanfare, the 12″ PWL Mix of “This Time I Know It’s For Real,” which has NEVER been released on CD in the U.S. As always with mainstream-directed remix selections, there are some favorites that I wish could have been on this disc. The unreleased Trouser Enthusiasts’ mix of “Con Te Partiro” and the full eleven-minute (Whoever actually did the mix for) Junior Vasquez DMC Mix of “Melody of Love” would have nicely replaced the two previously available mixes, and fans would be just a little more excited, I think.

Like I did with the Dead or Alive Greatest Hits record (and because I’m a passive-aggressive music critic), I also want to draw attention to some other material that should be addressed.

Try Me I Know We Can Make It, I Remember Yesterday, Love’s Unkind, Dance Into My Life, Working The Midnight Shift, Queen For A Day, Now I Need You, Sweet Romance, Theme from The Deep, Love Will Always Find You, Walk Away, Our Love, Lucky, Sunset People, Melanie, Highway Runner, Who Do You Think You’re Fooling, Unconditional Love, There Goes My Baby, I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt, Carry On, and Whenever There Is Love.

That’s twenty-two tracks that you rarely see on any of the compilations, and all of them are classics. If Casablanca/Mercury/Universal (and spiritually Atlantic and Geffen) enjoy compiling Donna’s work so often, why not change the mix up a little bit…? It’s incredibly rare to have an artist with that kind of body of work over the course of twenty some-odd years, so why not explore that catalog creatively?

It’s good to have Donna back and making dance anthems with Giorgio Moroder. No, let me rephrase that: It’s great to have Donna back and making dance anthems with Giorgio Moroder. “Dream-a-Lot’s Theme (I Will Live For Love)” ranks up there with “Melanie,” “Working The Midnight Shift,” and “Love Will Always Find You” among the finest work that the Moroder/Summer team have come up with. Here’s hoping for more.

If you don’t have any Donna Summer compilations – *****
If you have all the classics already – ***1/2

Image Courtesy of UTV