Donna McGhee ‘Make It Last Forever’ LP/CD (WeWantSounds) 5/5

Recorded in 1979, Donna McGhee’s only solo album, ‘Make It Last Forever’, is one of the all-time soul classics, sitting just outside the disco arena and yet knocking at the door with a soulful edge that is mellow with a touch of funk. After singing with The Fatback Band, The Universal Robot Band and Phreek; a disco project set up by Patrick Adams, Greg Carmichael and Leroy Burgess, Brooklyn based Donna McGhee went solo incorporating the aforementioned collective sound into the album with great success. Each of the five tracks on the album stands up on its own accord and Donna McGhee’s music has featured on many noted album compilations and mixes over the years with names including Danny Krivit, Theo Parrish. Mr Scruff, Ashley Beedle and more paying tribute to the understated soulful groove that came packaged with that distinctive sound that Patrick Adams and co. brought to the music world and particularly the dancefloor. Whereas Roy Ayers embellished his soulful jazz sound with the vocals of say Sylvia Striplin and Ethel Beatty, Patrick Adams and Leroy Burgess’ position and direction saw vocalists including Donna McGhee and Jocelyn Brown become an important contributor for their idiosyncratic appeal.

‘Mr Blindman’ was included on ‘London Jazz Classics 3’, a collection of sounds that were mid ’90s underground classics in many of the decent clubs around the country, The track sits well amongst the varied jazz and Brazillian set of recordings that Soul Jazz Records chose to include on the compilation leaning towards a more rare groove feel. It’s one of those tracks that never seem to have dated.

The title track, ‘Make It Last Forever’, is another highlight track from the album and became widely known on the NYC disco circuit, helped in part by another version by the Inner Life project, which elevated Jocelyn Brown’s powerful distinctive voice to much wider acclaim. The Inner Life version was an instant Paradise Garage hit when Larry Levan first dropped his own extended remix of the track, stretching the song from 8 minutes to over 12 minutes, with the sheer weight of Jocelyn Brown’s voice, the idiosyncratic produced string sounds and a slow-burning solid groove making for a timeless classic. Donna McGhee’s voice may not be as powerful as Jocelyn Brown but the track is a brilliant track in its own right and one that benefits from the production sounds that the collective brought to the table, with an instantly recognizable sound that served Patrick Adams and co. well.

Personal Touch had earlier in 1976 recorded Patrick Adams’ production of ‘It Ain’t No Big Thing’ and in 1981 Fonda Rae sang with the group Rainbow Brown on another version that was hugely popular, but it was this version by Donna McGhee that was in every way the definitive version of the song and another highlight from the album. To many, ‘It Ain’t No Big Thing’ is the main track from the album, with Danny Krivit’s edit of the song bolstered that claim when he enhanced the original. Its more likely the albums catchiest song with strong lyrics and a soulful boogie feel that seems perfect for sets by DJs such as Norman Jay and DJ Spinna.

Although ‘Do I Do’ is a little over the top in a sensual Donna Summer kind of way, it’s still a solid track that has featured on lists and compilations around the world. The Harmless label included the track on their 2010 compilation, Disco Boogie, alongside seminal tracks by Al McCall ‘Hard Times’, Sybil Thomas ‘Rescue Me’ and other tracks synonymous with labels like West End and Prelude.

Every track on the album is worthy of a mention, and over the years since its release in 1979 the album has built up a cult following, aired in the same vein as artists like Ethel Beatty, Syreeta and Sylvia Striplin and other more soprano soul singers of that style. The album was released in the same year as recordings including Jean Carn ‘Was That All It Was’, Patrice Rushen ‘Haven’t You Heard’ and Ashford and Simpson ‘Stay Free’. Thanks to the WeWantSounds label who were also responsible for Alice Clark’s soul-jazz classic LP, Donna McGhee’s long-time favourite album for many, is once again available.

Mark Jones