Vinyl Review: Donna Summer – Love To Love You Donna

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Dance music has long suffered from amnesia, with new artists and fans rarely remembering who came before them. When I went to Ultra a few years back and talked to the young club-goers in attendance, I met house fans who didn’t know who Carl Cox was; dnb-fanatics who were unfamiliar with Goldie; and hardcore techno lovers who were unaware that Moby had released albums outside of Play.  I didn’t even dare ask them if they knew who Donna Summer was – I didn’t want to set myself up for the inevitable heartbreak.

I suppose that Love To Love Donna is an attempt to rectify this situation. A brand-new compilation features remixes of classic Donna Summer tunes by some of the hottest names in “EDM” today, it’s the best bet that Donna Summer has of being rediscovered today’s dance fans, even if the mixes included are a bit hit-or-miss.

Thirteen tracks are included on Love To Love Donna, and most of Donna’s biggest hits are covered in one way or another. The album opens with a remix of Summer’s first hit, “Love To Love You Baby,” remixed by Giorgio Moroder (who co-wrote and produced the song originally) along with Chris Cox. Like a lot of the best mixes on the album, it doesn’t radically change the original song structure. Instead, it  just works to amp up the intensity with some extra beats and production effects. It’s an obvious attempt to “modernize” the track, but it works quite well. The same goes for the remix of “Hot Stuff” by Frankie Knuckles and Eric Krupper, although it really doesn’t “modernize” the tune as much as make it sound like a classic from the mid-80s instead of one from the late-70s thanks to its synth-heavy, upbeat reworking.

But if we’re going to talk about making a retro sound work, then we need to talk about the fantastic mix of “Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)” by Chromeo and Oliver. They smartly keep the structure of the song almost identical to the original, including all of Summer’s vocals, and instead focus on the dated music that surrounded it. The twangy guitar riff of the chorus is stripped out completely, and the overly harsh synth (think “Neutron Dance” but bad) is toned down to be much less abrasive. Everything else is pretty much kept in tact, including the awesome vocoder bit. It’s an easy album highlight, an impressive feat considering that the original version couldn’t hold a candle to many of Summers other hits. Laidback Luke also shocks with his remix of the much-maligned “MacArthur Park,” transforming it into an oddly energetic and entertaining electro house banger…about leaving a cake out in the rain.

Okay, it’s still one of the stupidest songs ever written, no remix is going to change that, but it’s a lot of fun.

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The remixes that don’t work fail because they ignore or disregard what made the originals so great in the first place. “On The Radio” is ruined by Jacques Greene’s atrocious take on the tune, which buries it under a shitty layer of echo effects and minimal techno nonsense. And Benga does the impossible and fucks up “I Feel Love” by REMOVING  THE SYNTH MELODY FROM IT. Yo, Benga (if that is your real name) you are not Giorgio Moroder, shit, you aren’t even Harold Faltermeyer, you do not have the right to remove one of the most influential and important synthesizer lines of all-time and replace it with your own goddamn nonsense. What the hell.  Conversely, Afrojack’s take on the song is great because he realizes how dope that synthline is and bases his whole damn mix around it – as it should be. Remixes of “Sunset People” and “Working The Midnight Shift” also fail to capture the energy and excitement of the original versions, but at the very least they’re listenable, if boring.

One “new” track is included here as well, “La Dolce Vita,” a song that Summer apparently recorded as a demo years ago but never got around to putting on an album proper. While the original version remains unreleased, this remix/rework by Giorgio Moroder is fantastic, an accurate and infinitely catchy ode to her classic 70s sound, with big synths and eminently danceable four-on-the-floor beats. It also serves as a loving tribute to Summer, as Moroder himself appears in the middle of the song to declare his (vocoded) love for the departed singer.

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The vinyl edition of the album is spread across two 180 gram yellow records. The color is a bit dull, but they sound great and that’s what matters. I only heard a couple pops and clicks, and they play with very little surface noise. They’re great for both the clubs and for home listening. The LP unfortunately does not come with a download code, but if you buy it from Amazon you get an “auto-rip” of the CD copy.

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“I Feel Love (Afrojack Remix)” – Digital Version

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“I Feel Love (Afrojack Remix)” – Vinyl Version

In what should be no surprise, the CD tracks are overly compressed and too loud. I didn’t hear any noticeable clipping or distortion, but they could definitely be turned down a notch or two. That is, except for Laidback Luke’s remix of “MacArthur Park,” which has zero clipping and has not been compressed to brickwall levels.

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“MacArthur Park (Laidback Luke Remix)” – Digital Version

A quick check of the linear notes explains how this happened.

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Good job on Laidback Luke for taking control of his music and making sure it’s mastered properly. That’s almost as impressive as making “MacArthur Park” a tolerable tune.

This is an uneven collection for sure, but the quality mixes more than make up for the weaker ones. If you’re a die-hard Summer fan then the album is a must-buy, but for casual dance music fans who are curious about Summer’s amazing legacy, maybe sample it first and then buy only the mixes you like via iTunes or Amazon. Hopefully enough will move to generate a second volume, because I feel like there’s more to mine here.

Deamau5 remix of “She Works Hard For The Money.” Make it happen people.

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