The story of Gloria Gaynor is a fascinating one, how Gloria Fowles, born in New Jersey, in 1948, was transformed into a disco diva who recorded some of the biggest disco hits of the seventies and eighties. Probably, the two best known of her singles were 1974s’ Never Can Say Goodbye and Honey Bee and of course, 1979s’ I Will Survive. However, when Gloria began her musical career it was part of The Soul Satisfiers, a jazz and pop group. By 1965, she released her debut solo single, She’ll Be Sorry. Back then, she’d no idea that the seventies would see her become one of the recognisable and biggest selling female artists of that decade.

Gloria Gaynor’s big break when her 1975 album Never Can Say Goodbye was released. On that album, she worked with Tom Moulton, the Godfather of the 12 inch remix. On that album, Tom took the first three songs on side one of the album and transformed them into a nineteen minute suite of songs. These were Honey Bee, Never Can Say Goodbye and Reach Out I’ll Be There. This nineteen minute musical suite became so popular within clubs, that the decision was made to release each track as a single. Radio edits were made of each track and released as singles. Honey Bee was the first of the tracks to be released as a single. When it was released in December 1973, it failed to chart. When it was released in April 1974, it reached number fifty-five in the US R&B Charts. After this somewhat disappointing chart placing, little did Gloria know that seven months later, her world would be turned upside down.

Never Can Say Goodbye was released as a single in November 1974, reaching number nine in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-four in the US R&B Charts. However, in the US Dance Charts, the single reached number one. Quite simply, Never Can Say Goodbye was a huge success. Record buyers loved it and clubbers too. It wasn’t just in the US that Never Can Say Goodbye was a huge success. In the UK it reached number two in the singles charts. Hoping to build on the success of its predecessor, Reach Out and I’ll Be There was released as a single in March 1975. It failed to match the success of Never Can Say Goodbye, reaching just number sixty in the US Billboard 100 and fifty-six in the US R&B Charts. Similarly, the single didn’t fare as well in the UK as its predecessor, only reaching number fifteen. However, by then, Gloria had released her debut album Never Can Say Goodbye, which gave her her first hit album.

When Never Can Say Goodbye was released, it was very much an album of two sides. The first side was taken up by the nineteen minute Tom Moulton mix of Honey Bee, Never Can Say Goodbye and Reach Out I’ll Be There. Side two was very different, given over to five slower soul songs. Of the five songs, Gloria cowrote False Alarm with Don Coan and wrote Real Good People herself. The album was produced by The Disco Corporation of America, otherwise known as Paul Leka, Tony Bongiovi, Meco Monardo and Jay Ellis. Like Gloria, they must have been really pleased at the success of the album when it was released in January 1975. It reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-one in the US R&B Charts. Meanwhile, it reached number thirty-two in the UK. This was Gloria’s most successful album until Love Tracks released in 1978, an album which featured I Will Survive. Love Tracks reached number four in both the US Billboard 200 and US R&B Charts. That may have been Gloria Gaynor’s most successful album, but Never Can Say Goodbye is seen by many people as her best album, and an important album in helping popularize disco, by introducing it to a more mainstream audience. Having told you about the background to Never Can Say Goodbye, I’ll now tell you what it sounds like. 

Never Can Say Goodbye opens with Honey Bee, the first single released from the album. When the track opens, you’re not immediately impressed, you hear someone say “take three,” with song counted in. This is something that could’ve been left out, in the production process. Following this, a soaring guitar accompanies bursts of vocal, before the track opens out properly. When it does, immediately, you realize that a great disco track is starting to unfold. Against a backdrop of the rhythm section, sweeping, swirling strings, chiming guitars, percussion and blazing horns, Gloria joyously sings the lyrics. Her voice is strong,  surrounded by a punchy, driving arrangement. Key to this arrangement are the swirling strings and constant bursts of blazing horns, add to this the backing vocalists who accompany Gloria, and this is very much a winning formula. Tom Moulton’s extended mix works really well. He takes the best of the original track, and extends it. Hence there are extended instrumental parts where the track sweep joyfully along. For six magnificent minutes you’re in disco heaven, thanks to Gloria, Tom Moulton and The Disco Corporation of America. 

When Never Can Say Goodbye opens, you’re transported to “127 disco heaven.” For anyone unfamiliar with this saying, 127 beats per minute was the speed of many of the greatest disco track, including Never Can Say Goodbye. For me, this is Gloria’s greatest disco track, far better than the karaoke favorite I Will Survive. It’s a fuller combination of swirling strings, punchy rhythm section, chiming guitars and braying horns that accompany Gloria’s vocal. On this track, her transformation to disco diva is complete, her destination 127 disco heaven. Here, she gives her best vocal on the album, a mixture of power, emotion and joy. Although her vocal is really good, the arrangement plays just as important a part, especially the rhythm section, strings and horns. Together, they’re key to the sound’s success. The same can be said of Tom Moulton’s extended mix. Again, he takes the best part and extends it, with prolonged instrumental passages just disco heaven.

Following on from the classic Never Can Say Goodbye, Reach Out and I’ll Be There is the last track on side one, and the last of the Tom Moulton mixes. Immediately, the track bursts into life, drums and horns opening the track. It features another great vocal from Gloria. Joining the horns are guitars, percussion, sweeping strings and soaring, soulful backing vocals. Together, they help Gloria to create a joyous take on the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic. Key to the sound is the punchy beats, braying horns, chiming, shimmery guitars and lush strings. They combine brilliantly, with Gloria, creating a new take on an old song.  

After Gloria’s disco diva of side one, we hear a very different Gloria on side two. This time, we hear the soulful side of Gloria Gaynor. The first of the five tracks on side two is All I Need Is Your Good Loving, which has a quicker tempo, with the rhythm section, chiming and soaring guitars joined by sweeping strings before Gloria’s vocal enters. When it does, it’s laden with emotion, accompanied by backing vocalists, while the arrangement drives along at 116 beats per minutes. There’s a punchy sound to the arrangement, thanks to the rhythm section, while sweeping strings and rasping horns combine to produce important parts of the arrangement. Their sounds produce musical contrasts, the strings a lushness, while the rasping horns produce a harshness, but combine well. Although slightly slower than the trio of tracks on side one, this emotive and joyful track would still sound good on any dance-floor. 

Searchin’ sees the tempo increase, this time to 121 beats per minute. The track opens with drama laden, swirling strings, driving rhythm section, percussion and chiming guitars. Gloria’s voice is high, full of feeling and emotion, as she searches for the right man for her. The  longer the track progresses, the better it gets. Gloria’s accompanied by backing vocalists, they unite with her during the track, their voices a perfect foil for hers. Similarly, after the dramatic opening, the arrangement is transformed into a swirling, driving and punchy track, with horns, strings and the rhythm section at it’s heart.

We Belong Together is a track that maybe owes a debt of gratitude to Northern Soul for its sound rather than disco. Throughout the track, there’s a real Northern Soul influence to the track. A piano, percussion, rhythm section and rasping horns open the track, before Gloria and a male vocalist sing the song as a duet. Their voices are a good fit, complimenting each other on this love song. Chiming guitars and swirling strings enter, helping to create a very different sounding track, one with a slightly darker sound. Sometimes, the song heads towards the stomper territory, but is whisked away at the last minute by swirling strings and rasping horns. Of the tracks on side two so far, this is my favorite track. Mind you, I’m quite a fan of Northern Soul, so this Northern Soul influenced track would appeal to me.

The penultimate track on the album is False Alarm, which Glora cowrote with Don Coan. Again, there’s a combination of dramatic swirling strings, blazing horns, driving rhythm section and chiming guitars that open the track. When Gloria sings the lyrics, it’s apparent the inspiration for them was a children’s nursery rhyme. Now that may not sound particularly appealing, and I’ll admit they’ve a throwaway, bubblegum pop quality, but this is more than made up by the chorus. The chorus, and its arrangement is excellent, full of hooks, and with the potential to have been hit number four from the album. It has a catchiness that results in the song getting stuck in your head for days. Add to this an excellent joyful, dance-floor friendly arrangement full of rasping horns, swirling, sweeping strings, chiming guitars and percussion and you’ve got a brilliant track. Why it wasn’t released as a single puzzles me.

Never Can Say Goodbye ends with the only track written by Gloria herself, Really Good People. The track nearly ends up in destination 127 Disco Heaven, stopping just a beat per minute short at 126 beats per minute. However, it’s still another disco flavoured track with rasping horns, percussion, driving rhythm section and guitars accompanying Gloria. Back vocalists joyfully accompany Gloria whose voice os fast, powerful and full on happiness, as it again, sits in the right hand channel. The backing vocalists add handclaps to an already full arrangement, with rasping horns and a driving, punchy rhythm section key to the success of the track’s sound. Although not as good as the two previous tracks, it’s still a good enough track, adding a sense of symmetry to the album. It opened with a fulsome disco track and ends with one too.  

Before I started listening to Never Can Say Goodbye I was looking forward to reviewing it and wasn’t disappointed. This is Disco Heaven 127 thanks to Gloria Gaynor and the Godfather of the remix Tom Moulton. From the opening track  Honey Bee, right until Really Good People, there’s no let up in quality, on an album that truly, is deserving of being called a disco classic. With Side One of Never Can Say Goodbye, the  first three songs on side one of the album and transformed them into a nineteen minute suite of songs by Tom Moulton.  Honey Bee, Never Can Say Goodbye and Reach Out I’ll Be There became popular in discos worldwide, thanks to Tom’s genius in transforming them into a suite of songs. On Side Two, we see a different side of Gloria, with the five songs slower, demonstrating  her soulful side. These songs prove that there’s more to Gloria Gaynor than a disco diva. Overall, Never Can Say Goodbye is an excellent and important album. The music on it is of the highest standard, capturing Gloria Gaynor at her very best. She was fortunate to work with some hugely talented people on the album, including the musicians, Tom Moulton and producers The Disco Corporation of America. Together, they combined to create some wonderful music, music that helped popularize disco music, helping it crossover to the mainstream. You too, can  hear the great disco music again, on BBR Records remastered rerelease of Never Can Say Goodbye, the album that transformed Gloria Gaynor’s career and which contains the best music she ever recorded. Standout Tracks: Honey Bee, Never Can Say Goodbye, Reach Out I’ll Be There and All I Need Is Your Good Loving.


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