Reviewed on this page:
Never Can Say Goodbye - Experience Gloria Gaynor - I've Got You - Glorious - Park Avenue Sound -
Love Tracks - I Have A Right - I'll Be There
You know, Gloria Gaynor gets a surprising amount of deference for a disco singer who was best known for covering familiar songs and had more flops
than successes even during her commercial prime. She does have a fine voice - not too rough, not too smooth -
and she isn't afraid to use it. But mostly she was in the right place at the right time, had two huge hits - "Never Can Say Goodbye" and
"I Will Survive" - and has struggled ever since. Nothing against her, I'm sure she's a terrific person, but digging into her catalog is
mostly an exercise in frustration.
Never Can Say Goodbye (1975)
Motown definitely doesn't get the credit it deserves in the development of disco (though whether anyone
wants that credit is an open question). Gaynor's debut was a disco milestone, with side one featuring three lengthy orchestrated
tunes that blend into each other in a danceable suite, and all three are Motown-derived: "Reach Out
I'll Be There" and the title track are covers, while "Honey Bee" (arranged by Norman Harris)
borrows the title, vibes, and feel from mid-60s Detroit. Anyway, the title track - arranged by Harold
Wheeler and City Life - is classic early disco, marked by the relentless high hat, galloping beat, agile strings, lengthy instrumental passages,
over-the-top diva vocals, and irresistable melody. "Reach Out" uses the same approach, but with Gaynor's smooth pipes replacing Levi Stubbs's grit, the
song has all the depth of a Christmas card.
The second side was arranged by Meco Mondardo (best known for a disco version of "The Empire Strikes Back") and produced by Monardo,
Tony Bongiovi and Jay Ellis; it's depressingly banal, cut-rate pop-soul ("We Belong Together," definitely not the Rickie
Lee Jones tune) with the exception of Gaynor's own "Real Good People,"
a belted showstopper that has the sincere emotion missing from the other songs on the side.
The rhythm section is the Hendrix-tarnishing crew of Jeff Mironov (guitar), Alan Schwartzberg (drums)
and Bob Babbitt (bass).
Experience Gloria Gaynor (1975)
No hits this time, but track for track it's far better than the surrounding releases.
Again, Side One's a dance medley and Side Two's made up of shorter, mellower tunes, but this time they're actually good:
The cotton-candy disco arrangement of "Casanova Brown," with giddy string flurries and sometimes-cooing, sometimes-sassy backing vocals, is a delight.
Two remakes - the ancient "How High The Moon" (sounding much like Thelma Houston's subsequent "Don't Leave Me This Way") and
an urgent, almost funky version of "Walk On By" - are probably the best of her covers.
The easygoing ballad "Tell Me How" has delicate horn and string touches,
and "What'll I Do" (by Burton Senior and Chris Essel) is just gorgeous.
Gaynor also gets in one tune of her own, "I'm Still Yours."
Same production crew and musicians as the debut.
I've Got You (1976)
Monardo, Bongiovi and Ellis kept working the same formula, but without much success, as they relied on unknown writers like Curtis Blandon and Don Oriolo.
This is perhaps the only Gaynor album where the soul side surpasses the dance side:
An incredibly repetitive eight-minute version of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin" is easily the lamest of Gaynor's many disco covers, while "Let's Make A Deal" and "Be Mine" are just dull.
But she's perfectly pleasant on such slight R&B numbers as "Touch Of Lightning" and the Aretha knockoff "Talk, Talk, Talk."
Same basic band, with Lance Quinn and Jerry Friedman adding extra guitars, and let's hear it for the Tony Posk Strings.
A new production team - Gregg Diamond (Andrea True Connection) and veteran jazz guitarist Joe Beck - had the not-so-bright idea of
dropping Gaynor's vocals in the mix so you could better hear Beck solo and James Gregory (presumably not the actor of Manchurian
Candidate/Barney Miller fame) play endlessly repetitive bass lines ("Most Of All," which reuses the "Fly Robin Fly" vamp).
So it's more robotic and less personal than ever, despite
the inclusion of another standard, "As Time Goes By."
Schwarzberg and Maelan kept their gigs; Steve Love takes over on rhythm guitar while keys are dished out by Jack Waldman and Gene Orloff conducts the strings.
Park Avenue Sound (1978)
Largely arranged by Philly Soulsters Norman Harris and Ron "Have Mercy" Kersey, aided by blue-eyed soul vet Al Stewart on two tracks ("This Love Affair"), and the smooth, lush sound is a step up from the previous disc.
The album's short on ideas, but "Part Time Love (Is A Full Time Job)" is a gem, with James L. Williams pumping out a joyful, Jamerson-like bass line, and Gaynor's voice is endlessly likeable ("Everytime You Make Love To Me").
The main producer is Tan, surely a pseudonym; two tracks were produced by Joel Diamond and arranged by Wheeler, including the requisite cover, a painfully jive runthrough of the Ashford & Simpson-penned Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell hit "You're All I Need To Get By."
Love Tracks (1979)
Gaynor managed another huge hit, the classic testimonial "I Will Survive," and it's the centerpiece here - the lengthy groove, fluttering strings and diva vocals
epitomize late disco. But there's plenty of variety: "You Can Exit" is fun, starting with a funk hook then shifting to the dreamy territory of Aretha Franklin tunes
like "Daydreaming," with Gaynor's voice at its most Rossified; "Anybody Wanna Party?" is a hot funk number. Even the dull cuts visit various genres: disco ("Stoplight"),
ballads ("Please Be There"), faux reggae ("Substitute"). Most everything was written and produced by Dino Fekaris and Freddie
Perren; the one cover is an overly rapid dance take on Little Anthony's "Goin' Out Of My Head," done better by everyone from the Zombies
to La India - Gaynor doesn't have time to lavish attention on each syllable, and they fly by so fast it sounds like she's reciting.
The musicians include big names like James Gadson, Scott Edwards, Wah Wah
Watson, and - in a rare sideman appearance - Paulinho Da Costa.
I Have A Right (1979)
Not one to sit around, Gaynor came right back with another disc written and produced by Fekaris and Perren. "Let Me Know (I Have A Right)" is a clear imitation of "Survive," with the same wounded determination, the same tempo and the same strings, and "You Took Me In" is quite similar as well.
The standard-at-unsafe-speed is Leonard Bernstein's "Tonight," with a trumpet solo courtesy of Doc Severinsen.
Not as varied or entertaining as its predecessor, but "Midnight Rocker" is a fun funk-disco tune, Gaynor sounds fine on the ballads ("Can't Fight The Feelin'")
and at least the running time is generous.
Again, the musicians are top-echelon vets like Ready Freddie Washington; the Waters sisters are on backing vocals.
The third Fekaris production. (DBW)
I Kinda Like Me (1981)
I kinda like her too: I just wish her albums were a little better. (DBW)
Gloria Gaynor (1982)
With a cover of "Stop! In The Name Of Love."
I Am Gloria Gaynor (1984)
Few would dispute that. Includes her remake of "I Am What I Am," originally from the Broadway show La Cage aux Folles.
I'll Be There (1995)
Mechanical dance remakes of her hits - "Never Can Say Goodbye," "I Will Survive," etc. - and overfamiliar material like "I Say A Little Prayer" and Whitney
Houston's Dolly Parton-written signature song, "I Will Always Love You." Most incongruous are a couple of gospel numbers (Edwin Hawkins's "Oh Happy Day") with the same crashing electronic percussion and synths as everything
else. With seventeen tracks and no variety, the disc is painfully long...
Because Gaynor hasn't lost her voice, the project is marginally better than Martha Reeves' similar effort, but that's about all I can say for it.
Isaac Hayes duets on Barry White's "You're My First, My Last, My Everything."
Produced by Jürgen Korduletsch and co-produced by Oriolo.
I Wish You Love (2002)
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