Donna Summer

Back Off Boogaloo

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Donna Summer's earliest recordings have been the focus of quite a few budget CDs; one of them is Back Off Boogaloo, which Columbia River put out in 1999. When many American fans of the Queen of Disco hear the phrase "earliest recordings" in connection with her, they are likely to respond, "Oh, you must mean the Love to Love You Baby album." Well, that release's sexy, erotic title track was Summer's big breakthrough hit in the United States back in 1975, and the album certainly qualifies as an example of early Donna Summer -- early, but not earliest. The singer made some little known recordings in Munich, Germany, before "Love to Love You, Baby" and even 1974's "The Hostage," which was a hit in Western Europe but not the U.S.; nine of them are offered on Back Off Boogaloo. These little known performances were the calm before the storm; although competent, they don't hold a candle to the gems that Summer came up with when she hooked up with the Giorgio Moroder/Pete Bellotte team. As a singer, Summer hadn't fully blossomed when she made these early-'70s recordings, which range from the funky title track to the glossy Euro-disco of "Fun Street" and "Shout It Out." But from a historic perspective, Back Off Boogaloo is certainly interesting -- serious historians will want to hear what a pre-Moroder/Bellotte, pre-"Love to Love You, Baby" Summer sounded like on covers of War's "They Can't Take Away the Music" and Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)." Casual listeners, however, will want to pass on this CD, which is strictly for completists and hardcore collectors. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi