Before embarking on her solo career, Donna McGhee got her first break singing with The Fatback Band. Later,  she found herself touring with Chaka Khan, Crown Heights Affair and Teddy Pendergrass. By 1977, Donna found herself signed to the disco label Red Greg Records, releasing Make It Last Forever in 1978. Produced by the Greg Carmichael and Patrick Adams, Make It Last Forever is a true disco classic, with copies changing hands for upwards of $100. Thankfully, these days are over, with BBR Records rereleasing a remastered version of Make It Last Forever on 16th April. Featuring the seminal disco classic Mr. Blindman and the Grammy Award nominated, Donna McGhee’s debut album Make It Last Forever is one of the best albums of the disco era. After I’ve told you about Donna’s career and the making of Make It Last Forever, I’ll tell you about the music on the album.

Sometimes, coincidence can play a part in artists career. This was the case with Donna McGhee and producer Patrick Adams. In 1977, when Donna signed to the Red Greg label, this wasn’t the first time their paths had crossed. Between 1970 and 1973, Patrick Adams was the head of A&R at Perception Records, the label The Fatback Band were signed to. Then, a year after Patrick left to for P&P Records, Donna McGhee would join The Fatback Band. By that time, The Fatback Band had left Perception, joining Event Records. 

Having joined The Fatback Band, Donna spent three years with them. By 1977, Donna McGhee decided to leave the band. During her time with The Fatback Band, the band was about the group, with no individual having a starring role. Neither Donna nor Phillis Hyman, who appears on The Fatback Band’s 1976 album Night Fever, were chose for the lead vocal role. Deciding that the time was right to leave The Fatback Band, Donna’s next group was Ricky Williams and Knight Flight. This was how Donna would meet Greg Carmichael, and ultimately, Patrick Adams, resulting in a long and successful collaboration.

During the seventies, Patrick Adams had been one of the most innovative, creative and influential producers. Having founded P&P Records with Peter Brown, a record executive, the label would go on to release some of the seventies greatest underground classics. Helping Patrick was producer Greg Carmichael. Together, the pair were constantly creating and innovating and soon to join them, was Donna McGhee, adding her tender, beautiful backing vocals to their soulful and melodic creations. She would appear on many of their tracks, becoming one of their favored session singers. However, before that, she’d sign for the Red Greg label, recording her debut solo album, Make It Last Forever.

Recording of Make It Last Forever took place in 1977, with the album featuring five tracks. Greg and Patrick cowrote the title-track and single Make It Last Forever, while Patrick wrote the Grammy Award nominated I’m A Love Bug. Mr. Blindman was written by Greg, who also wrote Do As I Do. Patrick and Greg arranged and produced the album, while Donna recorded the five songs. Two tracks demonstrated a quite different side to Donna, a sultry, sensuous side on the title-track Make It Last Forever. Here, her vocal is full of gasps, groans and moan, as is also the case on Do As I Do. On the other three tracks, there’s variously everything from tenderness and fragility, to bravado and emotion in her voice.With the five tracks on Make It Last Forever recorded, all that was left for the album to be released. 

On the release of Make It Last Forever as a single, it failed to chart. The title-track, Make It Last Forever which was meant to be released as a single, wasn’t released. It had been hoped that its release as a single, would create the required buzz to sell the album. This wasn’t the case and even the release of Mr. Blindman as a single in the UK, didn’t help matters, when it too, failed to chart. Instead, Make It Last Forever remains a hidden gem of a disco album, which I’ll now tell you about.

Opening Make It Last Forever is the title-track, Make It Last Forever, co-written by Greg Carmichael and Patrick Adams. Swathes of the lushest cascading strings open this mid-tempo track, accompanied by the rhythm section, percussion and chiming guitars. As the track reveals its charms, Donna’s sensuous vocal enters, full of anticipation and desire. Meanwhile, the ever-present strings are key to the arrangement, while percussion and guitars, play a supporting role. Later, Donna’s vocal is full of moans, groans and gasps, desire and anticipation having overtaking her. For over eight minutes, this classic charms displays its hidden secrets and passion, with Donna’s impassioned, sultry vocal plus Patrick and Greg’s stunning string drenched arrangement key to the track’s success and timeless sound.

Do As I Do, written by Greg Carmichael has a quite different sound, with the tempo increasing slightly. There’s a sense of drama and desire in Donna’s vocal, with her vocal reaching an orgiastic climax, as layers upon layer of luscious strings enveloping Donna. Meanwhile, a pounding rhythm section provide a backdrop that’s reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ disco single Miss You. The bass and drums sound similar, providing the perfect beat, but with Greg and Patrick adding something that’s missing from Miss You….soul. Augmenting the rhythm section are shimmering vibes and piano, while Donna sounds as if she’s reaching a dramatic climax. When combined with a pulsating disco beat and luscious strings, the result is a track that showed disco pretenders just what a disco track should sound like.

It Ain’t No Big Thing is a track that bursts into life, with the sweetest, swaggering vocal from Donna laden with bravado. This is surprising given the song’s about the breakup of a relationship. Again, Patrick and Greg utilize strings, while the tempo is the slowest on the album, just 98 beats per minute. Opening with just piano, the strings, vibes and rhythm section then combine. Like the previous track, the pounding bass plays an important part in the arrangement, while Donna’s vocal is sometimes multi-tracked. Her voice is full of confidence and bravado, not perturbed  at the end of her relationship. Later, the bass, vibes, piano and guitar combine, adding a sprinkling of funk. Hissing hi-hats, then vibes add a contrast during the breakdown, before Donna’s vocal reenters. Still it’s sweet and sassy, as one of the best tracks on Make It Last Forever 

Mr. Blindman was the only single released from Make It last forever, but only in the UK. For some reason, it failed to make an impression on the charts. Why a song as good as this wasn’t a hit, seems strange. Donna’s vocal is impassioned and dramatic, delivered in a punchy style, reflected in the arrangement, which comes in punchy, dramatic waves. From the get-go, the track is dramatic, chiming guitars, swirling, sweeping strings and the rhythm section weaving their magic, providing the perfect backdrop for Donna’s vocal. Swathes of strings, backing vocals and guitars accompany Donna, as the track unfolds, with Donna revealing her love for the man who fails to recognize her devotion and adoration. With a song as good as this, it’s no wonder that this classic track is still played by DJs today and features on so many compilation albums.

Closing Make It Last Forever is the Grammy Award nominated I’m A Love Bug. Written by Patrick Adams, the track’s an explosion of drama, joy and sensuality. With swathes of strings cascading, the tempo is quicker, with Donna’s vocal a combination of joy and later, sensuality. As the track begins, she’s joyous, before later, moaning and groaning her way through the track. Meanwhile, the arrangement is dramatic, strings, flourishes of piano and the rhythm section key to its sound. For part of the track, Donna’s vocal drops out, replaced by just the band, who give a highly accomplished performance, proving that key to the success of this album, and much of the music produced by Greg and Patrick, was using the finest musicians available. This was the case with singers too, with Donna playing her part in many of their later success for P&P Records.

Sadly, after the failure of Donna McGhee’s debut solo album Make It Last Forever, Donna never released any further solo albums. Instead, she would play an important role in the success of Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael’s music. She can be heard on many of their most important collaborations. That Donna never released another solo albums is quite sad and disappointing, because Donna McGhee was blessed with a great voice and is a hugely talented singer. The five tracks on Make It Last Forever demonstrate this, with her voice a mixture of sensuality, passion, emotion and joy. Together with Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, Donna created in Make It Last Forever, an album that should’ve been a much bigger commercial success. When you listen the five tracks, they’re of highest quality, with Donna’s talent shining through. One reason for the album’s commercial failure is the nature of several tracks. Make It Last Forever was meant to be released as a single, but given the sensuous sound and Donna’s moans and groans, it was never going to be played on radio, either in the US or UK. Given that any single needs radio play to help its commercial success, this wouldn’t be the case here. Even if it had been released as a single and subsequently banned, then this may have helped sell copies of the single or album, but not enough to make Make It Last Forever the commercial success it deserved. However, thirty-four years later, Make It Last Forever, a timeless sounding album has been remastered and rereleased by BBR Records, with three bonus tracks. One of the bonus tracks is Danny Ktivit’s Re-Edit of It Ain’t No Big Thing, which is an excellent reedit. Together with single versions of Make It Last Forever and It Ain’t No Big Thing, BBR Records is the perfect opportunity to rediscover Donna McGhee’s only solo album Make It Last Forever, a classic disco album. Standout Tracks: Make It Last Forever, Do As I Do, It Ain’t No Big Thing and Mr. Blindman.


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