The Donna Summer Tribute Site


Summer Fever Pick for April 2017:

All Systems Go (1987)

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"I was hopin' that the sun would show..."

All Systems Go is kind of a strange album. It rarely shows up on fans' lists of favorite albums,  yet some of the individual songs consistently show up on fans' lists of favorites. The biggest hit off the album is Dinner With Gershwin, but somehow it never shows up on official compilation albums. (Even the 1993 Donna Summer Anthology used the title track instead.) This is one of those albums that doesn't fit into any neat little category. The songs are very diverse in style and theme, showcasing Donna's versatility as an artist. From the cheerfully bouncy All Systems Go, to the jazz-tinged Fascination and the introspective Thinkin' Bout My Baby, there is something on this album for everyone.  It's one I don't listen to often, but when I do, it's sort of like running into an old friend. And it's an old friend that recently has found new things to say to me - in particular, Thinkin' Bout My Baby has taken on new meaning for me. I find that with September 11 and then the war in Iraq, it makes me think of the people who were lost and the loved ones they left behind. And it makes me sad - sad for the people who have lost someone, and sad for the innocence we've all lost along the way.

So this month I invite you to crank up the stereo (or the iPod) and relive All Systems Go.

front cover

back cover inside picture

 

(Click any picture for a larger version)
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The pictures below were taken from a poor quality videotape of the All Systems Go video,
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The pictures below are from the video, Dinner With Gershwin. Click for a larger version.
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DONNA SUMMER
All Systems Go
PRODUCERS: Harold Faltermeyer, Peter Burnetta & Rick Chudacoff, Richard Perry, Donna Summer, Keith D. Nelson & Jeff Lams.
Mechanical maestro Faltermeyer produced six of the nine tracks on Summer's latest, so it's a bit of a surprise that the disk's liftoff is being supplied by the bouncy Perry-produced Dinner With Gershwin. Likely second single, the Summer-Mickey Thomas duet Only The Fool Survives, could provide thee oomph to put supple-voiced singer back into commercial orbit for good.

- Billboard Spotlight Review (September 26, 1987)

ALL SYSTEMS GO 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 down-tempo 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)
Review Grade: A

- Ralph Novak, People Magazine (October 26, 1987)

Despite the delays, All Systems Go is a state-of-the-art pop album that reflects Miss Summer's studiousness. The singer co-wrote the bulk of the album. And although the disk features strong songs, it is Miss Summer's singing that impresses most.

- Bruce Britt Los Angeles Daily News (October 1987)

"It's funny because that album [Cats Without Claws] was about the only one that I listened to. As a rule, I never listen to my records after they're finished but that one, I did. I must have been an omen," she jokes, noting that although the album didn't receive strong sales, "it was my most critically acclaimed record. But with this new one [All Systems Go], I decided once it was finished, I wouldn't listen to it -- to be safe!"

- Donna Summer, Blues & Soul (October, 1987)

Each song has a character and I try to sing a song with  a voice that fits that character.

- Donna Summer, Record Mirror (1987)

"I have been working with a lot of people, trying to get this album right. I recorded some stuff with Rick Chudacoff and Peter Bunetta, the same guys who did Smokey Robinson's Just To See Her. I did a song with [producer] David Foster for the Statue of Liberty restoration celebration. I was hoping the record would be released about the time of the ceremony, but it was not."

- Donna Summer Los Angeles Daily News (October 1987)

BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talks about the album in a 1987 Italian interview.
BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talks about All Systems Go in a 1987 Italian interview.
 
BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talks about All Systems Go in a 1987 BET interview.
DONNA SUMMER: Dinner With Gershwin
PRODUCER: Richard Perry
WRITER: Brenda Russell
Interesting blend of humor, smart production, and Summer's expressive vocals on this vigorous dance/pop number from the new album
All Systems Go. All Systems Go.

- Billboard Spotlight Review (August 8, 1987)

"Brenda Russell had sent the song [Dinner With Gershwin] over to the  publishing division of Geffen Records, my label, and I guess she figured they weren't going to use it, so she decided she'd end up doing it for her own album. But then, the folks at Geffen felt that it could be a hit for me so they let Brenda know.

Since she hasn't finished her own next album yet, she decided to let me do it. And I'm real glad she did! Not only that, but she produced it with Richard Perry and she was there every single day whilst it was recorded.

It was actually pretty amazing because it took almost a whole month to do just that one song -- which is the longest it's ever taken for me to do a record! But it was worth it: I think it's a really unique song, real clever lyrically ... something special."

- Donna Summer, Blues & Soul (October, 1987)

Dinner With Gershwin was written by a young lady named Brenda Russell. You know. So it's about a girl who wants to share all the wonderful things in life with the man that she loves. But he's a punk rocker, you know. And uh, [laughing] no, I'm just kidding. [laughing] No, gotta stop making up this story. That's not what she wrote at all. I just made that up.

- Donna Summer getting silly on Fan Club (October 27, 1987)

The first [single] is Dinner With Gershwin, which was written by a young lady named Brenda Russell who had a hit record a couple of years ago called So Good, So Right. It's about having dinner with Gershwin and the finer things in life. It's sort of a commemoration of him.

Stylistically it's very pop modern. It doesn't sound like me at all. It's kind of synthetic. No, that sounds terrible. It's kind of homogenized… no, that sounds worse. I don't know how to say it. High tech? Ugh. Anyway, you'll like it. The lyrics are great.

- Donna Summer, Long Island Nightlife (October, 1987)

BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talks about Dinner With Gershwin in a 1987 Italian interview.
BONUS AUDIO CLIP: Donna talks about Dinner With Gershwin in a 1987 BET interview.
DONNA SUMMER WITH MICKEY THOMAS: Only The Fool Survives
PRODUCER: Harold Faltermeyer
WRITERS: D. Summer, B. Sudano, M. Omartian, V. Weber, J. Bettis, H. Faltermeyer
Guess who's coming to dinner now? Starship's Thomas is the featured guest on this lovelorn pop ballad, which should breathe new life into
All Systems Go. All Systems Go.

- Billboard Spotlight Review (November 21, 1987)

"I look at songs like I would a play. I try to imaging what my characters might sound like. On the new album there is a song called Bad Reputation, where a mother is telling her daughter to be cool about sex. The tone of my voice is very authoritative. I don't bust my chops trying to sound like Donna Summer. I am an actress."

- Donna Summer Los Angeles Daily News (October 1987)

I have a song on the new album called Thinkin' Bout My Baby, and to me, it's a song about a girl who's walking down the street. She's thinking about her boyfriend because she just had a fight with him and she's looking for him. It's a nice song , a real mellow song. It's sort of like Love To Love You, in a way, in that you can put it out in a room and it doesn't invade you. But, at the same time, it seduces you. It's simple with nice vocals and a great saxophone solo. Very musical. I think you'll like it.

- Donna Summer, Long Island Nightlife (October, 1987)

I produced one track myself (Thinkin' About My Baby) with two of the musicians from my band, Keith Nelson and Jeff Lams -- which just happens to be my favourite track.

- Donna Summer, Blues & Soul (October, 1987)

"Voices Cryin' Out is my socially critical song on the album. I started out writing it about people who are hungry, and then it ended up also being about kids my daughter's age. She's 14 now, and so she's almost as old as I am in her mind, and all these things that are yet to come in her life are screaming at her 'come on and try me, come on' so she's feeling all this stuff going on inside her and yet she can't do it. So there are these voices crying out to her and those lyrics I think are the best on the album. Musically, it's not a commercial song, but the message on the song is what it's about."

- Donna Summer Cashbox Confidential (November 4, 1987)

 

Click the audio icon to hear any clip in streaming MP3 format.

1. All Systems Go (D. Summer/ H. Faltermeyer)
2. Bad Reputation ( D. Summer/ P. Burnetta/ J. Erickson)
3. Love Shock (D. Summer/ B. Sudano/ H. Faltermeyer)
4. Jeremy (D. Summer/ A. Slavic/ H. Faltermeyer/ H. Treiber/ P. Floss)
5. Only The Fool Survives (D. Summer/ B. Sudano/ M. Omartian/ V. Weber/ J. Bettis/ H. Faltermeyer)
6. Dinner With Gershwin (B. Russell)
7. Fascination (E. Schwartz/ D. Tyson)
8. Voices Cryin' Out (D. Summer/ H. Faltermeyer)
9. Thinkin' Bout My Baby (D. Summer/ J. Lams/ K. Nelson)
Bonus Track: Tearin' Down The Walls This track appeared as the b-side to the UK 12" single for Dinner With Gershwin.

 

Strangely enough, although Dinner With Gershwin is probably the most well-known track from All Systems Go, it never appears on official greatest hits compilations - including the 1993 Anthology box set. But, its video did make the 1994 video compilation, Endless Summer.
There is a rarely seen video for All Systems Go featuring Donna against a computerized background. (See video captures above.) 
There were two videos filmed for Dinner With Gershwin, only one of which has ever been released. You can find the released version on the video compilation, Endless Summer
All Systems Go was Donna's last album released on Geffen Records and the second Donna Summer album where she got a producer's credit (on Thinkin' Bout My Baby).  [Yes I know - I used to say it was the first time she got a producer's credit......   but I goofed.  I completely forgot about My Baby Understands on Bad Girls.]
Before All Systems Go came out, it is rumored that Donna was working on another album to be called Lovin' You and to be produced by Michael Omartian. I don't know how many tracks were recorded for that album, but along the way more producers were brought in and the Omartian tracks fell by the wayside. The song Lovin' You was later recorded by Italian singer, Raffaella Carra. The two women sang it together for Donna's appearance on Raffaella's television show.
If you look at the lyric sheet for Thinkin' Bout My Baby, there are extra words that do not appear in the recording. After the lines: "I was searchin' for a summer day/ I was hopin' for someone to say/ Would you come out? Instead I stood and I pout", the lyric sheet has these lines: "I was wanting, just another chance/ To make you, feel my fine romance/ Didn't know, want to go."
Thinkin' Bout My Baby was originally a 10 minute track, but it was cut down at the request of the record company.
A song called Silver Girl (about the Statue Of Liberty) was written by Donna (with David Foster) for an early incarnation of All Systems Go. She sang it occasionally in concert back in the 80s and one fan managed to remember some of the words: 

As we come from distant shores
A new life to explore
Tasting freedom
A new land to behold
Oh freedom
There’s a statue in the harbor
Her light shines brightly
For all the world

Wherever your coming from
Whatever you are looking for
Wherever your going to
My heart is an open door.

Her lantern burns brightly
Beneath is the beautiful silver girl

Her lantern burns brightly
A source of light for all the world
All the world
This silver girl

This is America
I’m in America
We're in America

In 2014 the album was remastered and rereleased as a deluxe edition with the following extra tracks: Tearin' Down The Walls, All Systems Go (edit), All Systems Go (extended remix(, Dinner With Gershwin (edit), Dinner With Gershwin (extended version), Dinner With Gershwin (instrumental), and Only The Fool Survives (edit).

 

All Systems Go is sadly out of print, but used copies turn up on ebay.com or gemm.com from time to time. The deluxe edition is available at places like Amazon as a separate album and as part of a box set. The Endless Summer video collection is sometimes  available at Amazon.com and other vendors in VHS format only, although a DVD version did come out in Brazil a couple of years ago. However the video quality was definitely analog and not digital.
 
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