New Wave Rock/Art Album. Bittersweet ending of era.
Vincent M. Mastronardi | Michigan | 10/14/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Donna Summer is surprisingly one of the few African American women that can really carry a rock tune. On "The Wanderer" she creates an atmosphere of hard edge new wave cuts that has the kids dancing to a new beat. Her vocals are even better here than on her stellar disco performances. Once again along for the ride are super producers Giorgio and Pete. There is a unique mix of synth new wave rock and gospel tinged R&B. The big hit "The Wanderer" is a funky mix keyboards and guitars melded with a deep sexy vocal by Summer. The blue sweetness of "Breakdown" is another winner with Donna telling of "cheating and fooling around" set to amazing male background and great synthesizer program. Donna goes from dark spooky rock of "Running For Cover" and then gets needy on the upbeat "Cold Love". Even the big gospel "I Believe In Jesus" is uplifting. In all a worthy Summer album full of art rather than non stop hits. Not all Summer fans are going to love this one. It's almost the beginning of the end as it comes to Donna's mega success on the charts. Then again, it's her most artistic album to date and is very courageous. But the dancy upbeat Donna seems to be gone, not to mention this intro into rock also worked as an exit, being her last rock album at all, while follow-ups will focus on strict R&B and dance pop with Christian admiration. They won't work very well. I really enjoy this rebellious side of Summer and would love to set it return someday. Get "I'm A Rainbow" and "Bad Girls" for more of a rocky Donna."
What Could Have Been The Start of Her 80's Career
KRA | East End of LI | 09/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Wanderer album has always been a release I admired for the direction that it pointed to. After a string of well crafted double albums, a single disk release to me seemed rushed, and it could have been since Donna had just signed as the first artist to Geffen Records, and they no doubt wanted to get product out as soon as possible, and Donna was still riding high from her blockbuster year of 1979.
Moving forward to the more rock/new wave edge of the early 80's, this release featured great dancable songs that never the less moved away from Disco. The Wanderer, Looking Up, Running For Cover, Who Do You Think Your Fooling, and Nightlife all were songs that you could move to, and Cold Love continued in the vein of Hot Stuff.
Grand Illusion was the most intriging track here, it is actually a real breakthrough, combining an almost 60's physcadellic aura with a London style new wave edge.
This album also featured Donna's first openly spritual song, the very disarming, I Belive In Jesus. For watever reason the secular music critics loved it (one called it the best song of it's type since Let It Be), and the Contemporary Christian Music critics dismissed it (and they wondered why Donna would never record a album for one of their labels).
Rolling Stone Magazine (long supporters of Donna) loved this album and gave it an almost classic rating, and Time reported that it shows she can be THE female rocker of the 80's.
Why did I give it 4 stars (as opposed to 5) ?, for me the album lacked a true Donna Summer ballad, and with this albums theme of Post Disco New Wave/Rock, and great Janis Joplin type ballad would have MADE the album.
Despite the progress that The Wanderer showed, Geffen Records would push Donna into a very different direction with her next release, and this album would be the last of her albums to be produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte for quite awhile (see my reviews of Donna Summer, and I'm A Rainbow).
..and for the record, when you read my other reviews of Donna's releases while at Geffen Records, The Wanderer was the only one not to have a non-album track as at least one B-side single."
The Godmother of Techno
booboo | Washington, DC USA | 07/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was 12 years old when this album came out and i remember buying every single released from the album. Although The Wanderer was the first (and most popular) cut from the album it was Grand Illusion that i latched onto. I remember it was a b-side to either The Wanderer single or Cold Love but I listened to it over and over because i'd never heard anything so mesmerizing before. That one b-side opened me up so so many other musical possibilities and as i grew older my musical intersts moved into what was called Alternative music in the 80s/ groups like The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Cure, etc. but i think it was because of listening to Donna's songs when i was a little kid that made me appreciate all those differnt sounds. These days, while others still caller her the Queen of Disco, I consider her the Godmother of Techno. With the help of producers like Giorgio Moroder she virtually invented the 12-inch dance track, was the first artist to have an all electronic top 40 hit, and paved the way for New Wave, House and Techno. I certainly hope that one day she gets the credit she deserves for being so responsible for much of the music styles we've listened to for the past 25+ years. and i applaud her for being one of the first African American artists to refuse to be pigeon-holed into an Aretha Franklin cookie-cutter charicature of what people thought an African American female should sound like."
Wandering into Artistry
Nse Ette | Lagos, Nigeria | 02/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What can be said about this masterpiece that hasn't been said?
This was the first LP by Donna Summer I ever owned. Recorded while Donna was pregnant with her second daughter Brooklyn, it was produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. It was a step into the New wave movement, as well as including doses of Donna's new found Christian faith. While not as commercial or successful (it made it to number 13 on the hot 200 and was certified gold for sales of over 700,000 copies) as her previous efforts, this was very experimental and ahead of it's time.
In her recent autobiography 'Ordinary girl', she mentions imitating her 'main man' Elvis while she was growing up. This she does on the albums opening track 'The wanderer', a wonderful slice of synthesized rock with a dance beat, echoing vocals on the chorus, and lower register tremulous vocals throughout the song. It climbed to number 3 on the hot 100 and sold a million copies to give her the 10th gold single (in those days, gold was for sales of a million copies, compared to half a million today) of her career.
'Looking up' a piano driven rocker with a dance beat, is a declaration of her faith. With simple lyrics and a catchy sing-along chorus, this is one of the album's highlights, especially the part where she self harmonises the lines 'someone who understands..'.
'Breakdown' with its male backed chorus and Donna singing in a crystal clear falsetto is another delight.
'Grand illusion' is a technological masterpiece. Swirling synthesizers, electronic effects, falsetto, sprinklings of vocoder, and an unusual beat set this apart from the rest of the album. 'Harmony, we need harmony' she sings, and we do.
'Running for cover' is a deep, dark tale of a young girl running from the terrors of the city. Penned entirely by Donna, it begins downbeat, then frenetic drumming and wailing guitars conjure an image of running and fear. A masterpiece!
'Cold love' is a stomping rocker, with a scratchy intro, a great guitar riff (which Michael Jackson stole for his song 'Black or white', check it out) and sharp, icy vocals. It garnered her second Grammy nomination for best rock song by a female, and made it to number 33 on the hot 100.
'Who do you think you're fooling' is a delightful number about the pretensions of stardom. Sung in a lower register to a bouncy beat, it made it to 40 on the hot 100, giving the album 3 top 40 hits.
'Night life' is the closest to her disco days. Similar in theme to 'Sunset people' (from 'Bad girls'), she sings in a lower register, to a dance beat and a great guitar riff with twirlings of synthesizer, especially when the song breaks.
'Stop me' is a punk rocker, similar to a Blondie song, complete with its hand claps and a delightful sax break.
The closing track is 'I believe in Jesus', again penned by Donna alone. It earned her the first of her 3 (to date) Grammy nominations for best Gospel song. With simple, nursery rhyme like lyrics, powerful singing and a male backing choir this is the most overt flaunting of her faith. Beautiful!
In all, it is an album of largely simply (almost minimalist) crafted, superbly executed songs. A very artistic statement! Released almost 24 years ago, it still sounds fresh and innovative.
The cover photographs, shot by Harry Langdon, are beautiful, mysterious and surreal, in keeping with the theme of the album. Great!
I would recommend this album to anyone, a fine testament to the phenomenal talent of a great singer."
An Aquired But Rewarding Taste
Andre' S Grindle | Bangor,ME. | 09/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Summer makes it pretty clear on the Bobby Darin-inspired rock
of the tital track,"Cold Love" and others that she is completely
through with disco.Filled with rocked-up guitars and roudy,slinky
singing Donna Summer proves (however needlessly) that she CAN be a rock 'n roll star and not just a mere disco queen.My own favorite is "Grand Illusion",an unusual piece fashioned in layers
of leslie-amplified percussion.Certainly an artistic triumph for the singer "The Wanderer" is a must-have for fans who don't
care much for disco but do like Donna Summer.Curious?"