Thirty years ago: A retrospective review of Donna Summer’s 1989 album “Another Place And Time”.
Donna Summer, THE undisputed Queen of disco. Her career really needs no introduction or appraisal. Her voice and style still resonates throughout music even today, influencing everyone from Madonna to Beyonce and beyond.
In 1988, a year after the release of her “All Systems Go” album, Donna came to London to work with hit song makers Stock Aitken and Waterman on its follow up. “All Systems Go” had not been the success it deserved to be peaking only at No.122 in the US, although the best known single from the album “Dinner With Gershwin” fared a little better in reaching No.48 and No.13 in the UK. Despite an unparalleled chart run from 1975, Donna hadn’t had a sizable hit in America since “She Works Hard For The Money” in 1983 and now at 40 years of age and the end of her second decade in music, she made a conscious decision to look elsewhere.
By the end of 1988, S/A/W had built an impressive run of chart hits and chart toppers across the globe with established acts like Bananarama as well as new hopefuls starting out in the music business, writing and producing numbers one’s for Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue. With Euro hits from Hazell Dean, Sinitta, Mel and Kim and a few others, it seemed that this was THE place to record disco-pop and dance-pop to a wide audience from teenagers to club-goers and young adults.
The producers had become renowned for their quick production turn around from writing to recording and within a few weeks, in the charts and selling ten and hundreds of thousands of records. Donna smelt success and indeed, within a few short weeks at the end of 1988 and the beginning of 1989, turned out a full album of tracks with the hope she would add to their unrivaled chart success. One problem that immediately arose was the lack of a record contract in the US. Geffen, with whom she had released her albums since the beginning of the decade had ‘let her go’ after the lacklustre performance of “All Systems Go”. What Donna needed was the means to release this record in America and reclaim her crown as the Queen of disco. In the end, Atlantic come to the rescue and picked up the album, but only after it had been released throughout the rest of the world and import sales had already penetrated the US market.
Titled “Another Place And Time”, the record featured ten tracks, three of which were co-written by Donna as well as one recycled S/A/W written track given a dramatic makeover. So let’s look at each track and decide if Donna made the right choice for what was the fourteenth studio album release for her:
1. I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt
“Another Place And Time” gets off to a rollicking start with this guitar enthused disco-pop anthem, and once the beat starts, it doesn’t relent. Donna’s vocal is soft and tender to begin with but rises in the build up to the chorus and then dominates as she enthuses “I don’t wanna get hurt, I’m not looking for just another heartache”. This was the second single released from the album in May 1989, receiving a remix that perhaps is slightly inferior to the majesty of the original album version. Nevertheless the single peaked at No.7 in the UK and spent seven weeks in the top 40.
2. When Loves Takes Over You
The pace drops with this next track which has a repetitive and seemingly never ending chorus, it’s still a catchy pop number, but doesn’t quite have the life or energy of the preceding tune. Again, this was released as a single, but long after the album and the SAW/Donna Summer ‘thing’ had ended. It managed to reach No.69 in the UK
Don’t press stop yet, the great and glorious tracks keep coming with this superb track featuring yet more of Donna’s commanding vocals in a beautiful pop surround that could so easily of been a single in its own right (it was a personal favourite of my Mum who loved this album so much). Donna’s been dropped by her ‘lover’ and states her case quite clearly: “so let me never, ever hear you say I’m not the only one”! Move on dear!
5. In Another Place And Time
Time to take the pace down with the title track that begins almost acappella and expands into a gorgeous pop ballad with Donna’s tender and sensual vocals adapting to a change of tone and style perfectly. Sublime.
Back to the dance floor with power and passion to match “This Time” as Donna “gets so sentimental” and “can’t control the beat of her heart”. This track is very reminiscent of what she was releasing at the beginning of the decade particularly with the song “On The Radio” and yet it sits so happily within its surroundings and we are glad that it’s here!
7. Whatever Your Heart Desires
More disco-pop, Euro beat joy with this confident and strident number that was used as the B side to “This Time”, so even before the album was released, we were already familiar with it and accepted it as a greatly superior ‘other side’ to most B sides of the period. Donna wants you to “take the rest of me” but also “the best of me” and this is certainly one of the best tracks on the album.
More down-tempo beats and rhythms now in this classy epic that has an often Latin/Spanish feel to it and lots of “ahhh’s” in the background. She finds it hard to “Breakaway” from her past, Donna giving hope to all with the line “forget about the bad times, hold your head up high and breakaway”. Noted.
9. If It Makes You Feel Good
Back to the floor in mighty disco-dance style with this outstanding number that was actually written and recorded by Princess for her 1986 debut album! The song was then recycled for Mandy Smith’s 1988 debut album, which failed to chart in the UK but gained its greatest success in Switzerland, where it reached No.14 there. The track, originally a down-tempo number, was never released as a single but is given a massive re-boot as a high NRG pop-dance number for Donna with an amazing keyboard backing track and together with Donna’s soaring vocals throughout, screams out for single release – and speaking personally, it should of been!
10. Love’s About To Change My Heart
Donna 1979-81 is reborn in sensational style for the album’s closing track, a fast-paced disco track with a ruling beat and Donna’s all too familiar strong and dominating voice. Hardly surprising, this was released as a single, the third in fact, and gave Donna her third consecutive top twenty hit in the UK in the late Summer of 1989 as well as reaching No.85 in the US and No.3 on the US dance chart, beating “This Time” which had peaked at No.5!
“Another Place And Time” was released on 20th March 1989 and became a big hit across Europe. In the UK the album peaked at No.17 and gaining a Gold certification, selling 180,000 copies there to date. Eventually, after signing to Atlantic, the album made No.53 in the US and has sold over 250,000 copies there, a vast improvement on “All Systems Go”. Indeed, “Another Place And Time” out performed its predecessor in virtually every territory it was released becoming her most successful studio album for six years and closing her most difficult decade on a high. Donna proved with “Another Place And Time” she was STILL the Queen of Disco and now Euro pop as well!