Picks and Pans Review: All Systems Go

updated 10/26/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/26/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Donna Summer

Summer returned to West Germany, where she first began recording 12 years ago, to make this album. Its main producer is her old friend, synthesizer expert Harold (Axel F) Faltermeyer. That makes for a sleek, rhythmically intriguing style that is, nonetheless, not always singer-friendly. On ballads such as Jeremy or Voices Cryin' Out or a downtempo duet with Starship's Mickey Thomas on Only the Fool Survives, Summer gets to flex her considerable vocal power. Such dance tunes as the title track and Bad Reputation, however, focus a lot more on bass figures and percussion surges than on Summer. While they're nothing to be embarrassed about, they're the kind of producer-dominated pop music one expects from less experienced, if not less talented, singers than Summer. There's also a strange kind of disappointment on Dinner With Gershwin, one of two songs not co-written by Summer. Composer Brenda Russell came up with a clever concept—"I want to talk moods with Picasso/ on a rendezvous/ I want to fly double with Earhart/ I want to get next to you." Midway through the tune, though, she seems to give up on the idea, ending up by repeating her first verse as if she had run out of names to use. That's not Summer's fault, of course, and the song is still fun. The same could be said of the album as a whole. Summer is a victim of her own talent in a way: A performer as good as she is generates high—perhaps unfairly high—expectations. Who ever said show business was supposed to be fair? (Geffen)

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