Donna Summer - Playlist: The Very Best of Donna Summer (2013)

Donna Summer
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When I was in grade school, every Summer I would fly from my adopted home state of Texas to visit my grandmother in our hometown of Cleveland. Many weekends would find us on porches, at cookouts and block parties, and what resonated with me the most, besides the familial camaraderie, was the music. And since I'm an 80s Baby, one of the main voices I heard back then was Donna Summer's. 
 
As a pre-teen, I found her glamorous and galvanizing: the willowy frame, the full red lips and voluminous hair made Ms. Summer exciting to behold, and that strong, steady soprano fueled many of my favorite songs.
When I was in grade school, every Summer I would fly from my adopted home state of Texas to visit my grandmother in our hometown of Cleveland. Many weekends would find us on porches, at cookouts and block parties, and what resonated with me the most, besides the familial camaraderie, was the music. And since I'm an 80s Baby, one of the main voices I heard back then was Donna Summer's. 
 
As a pre-teen, I found her glamorous and galvanizing: the willowy frame, the full red lips and voluminous hair made Ms. Summer exciting to behold, and that strong, steady soprano fueled many of my favorite songs. As I grew older, the scenarios she painted about love, the fast life and other sophisticated themes spoke to me on a deeper level, yet remained capable of harkening me back to a sweeter, much simpler time. 
 
However, despite a relevancy defined by music sales, many awards and how vividly Donna Summer defined an era, she was eventually deprived by death last year at the age of 63 from seeing her highest professional honor, an induction into this year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, what could have been a solid tribute to her, this year's Playlist: The Very Best of Donna Summer, also underserves both her catalog and her fans. 
 
For one thing, the title is misleading and should be designated Setlist, simpy because the collection is simpy a cut-and-paste assembly of live versions of Donna Summer's songs from a 1999 VH1 concert perfomance compilation, Live & More...Encore!, with a few retooled previous releases that probably served as "b-sides" rather than full-fledged hits. It is certainly re-mastered and sounds well enough, but some of her most signature numbers, such as the urgent "Heaven Knows," the rock-edged "The Wanderer" and the fun and funky "Finger On The Trigger (Love Is In Control)" are curiously omitted. And how did her first smash hit and biggest single, "Love To Love You Baby," not make the cut?!?
 
Since the iconic Donna Summer is no longer here, would it have really been too much of an effort to include her empowering "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)," the original studio version with the incomparable Barbra Streisand? Why couldn't they have enhanced her most recognized songs digitally and include the longer-playing, club and remix-ready renderings of "Bad Girls" or "Hot Stuff," the ones that usually spilled into nearly 8 minute jams (or longer)? How did that become too daunting of a task?
 
Frankly, if you were deprived of seeing Ms. Summer live on stage, that's what the DVD would be for: her energy, the meticulousness of her singing and her warm, winning charisma doesn't get to shine as brightly here because half of what made the songs so lively---the visuals---aren't included. So what we're left with is a dubbed and dubiously-sequenced replica (that doesn't even remain in verbatim order listed on the DVD it was lifted from). 
 
If those 45s got cracked and your cousin refuses to return those Donna Summer albums he "borrowed" for that party way back in the day, the best way to remedy your deficit is to pick up the 20th Century Masters- The Millenium Collection, which includes the majority of her original studio-created smash hits and for probably the same price. But as far as this particular set goesit takes the easiest way out and by default, plays both the late performer, and her grieving audience, cheap. Marginally Recommended.
 
By Melody Charles 
 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

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