DONNA ALLEN-PERFECT TIMING.

DONNA ALLEN-PERFECT TIMING.

Donna Allen, whose 1986 debut album Perfect Timing will be rereleased by BBR Records on 25th February 2013, career started ten years before her debut album was released. However, Donna Allen’s career was almost accidental. She’d originally been a cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in 1976, as a favor to a friend, who was getting married, joined the Florida-based group Hi-Octane. After a year spent touring with Hi-Octane, Donna left the group, to join Trama.

Having joined Trama, they signed to Henry Stone’s T.K. Records, which was home to George McCrae, Betty Wright and K.C. and The Sunshine Band. Trama released just one album Trama, on T.K. Records’ Cat subsidiary. Produced by Saxton Kari, Trama provided the showcase for the raw, but soulful strains of Donna Allen on one of the funkiest albums T.K. Records ever released. Trama featured covers of The Bee Gees You Should Be Dancing and Betty Wright’s If I Ever Do Long. Following the release of Trama, After this, Donna decided it was time to form her own group.

After leaving Trama, Donna then formed Donna Allen and Company. They were a popular group, who performed throughout the Tampa Bay area. Eventually, Donna decided to pursue a solo career. Then when Donna started singing at the Forge Restaurant on Miami Beach, she would encounter a songwriter, arranger and producer who’d transform her career.

With Donna now a regular at the Forge Restaurant on Arthur Godfrey Road, which in previous years had enjoyed a colorful past. When Donna was singing at the Forge, it was one of the “in” places in Miami Beach. One night, Donna was approached by Lou Pace, who’d arranged the Miami Sound Machine’s worldwide hit Dr. Beat. Lou Pace was an arranger, producer and songwriter. He had numerous contacts within the music industry. However, back then, Lou didn’t know another Forge regular Fernando Pruna.

Fernando Pruna started visiting the Forge just to hear Donna Allen sing. Eventually, he approached her about producing her. Donna introduced Fernando to Lou. Straight away, they hit if off. Eventually, they’d become business partners. Deciding to join forces to further Donna’s career, they formed Triage Entertainment, which would introduce the world to Donna Allen. Given Fernando’s finances and Lou’s musical contacts, a distribution deal with Atlantic Records was secured. Having financed Triage, Fernando even owned a share in the recording studio, International Sound Recording. Soon, Triage was growing its roster. However, their first signing was Donna Allen. Work would begin on what would become her debut album Perfect Timing.

Now Triage Entertainment was formed, work began on what would become Donna Allen’s debut solo album Perfect Timing. Donna would cowrite four of the nine tracks. She cowrote Serious, Wild Nights and Bad Love with Lou Pace and Blitz. Lou and Donna also penned Satisfied with Will English. Ann Goodwin, Curtis Joseph and Robbie Kilgore contributed Sweet Somebody, while Emeridge Jones and Michelle Beaudry wrote Daydreams. Carl Sturken, Cindy Mizelle and Evan Rodgers cowrote Perfect Timing, and Bit By Bit was written by Peggy March and Steve Wittmack. Drummer Joe Galdo, Lawrence Dermer and Raphael Vigil cowrote the other track Another Affair. These nine tracks became Perfect Timing.

Recording of Perfect Timing took place at International Sound Recording, in North Miami Beach, Florida. Accompanying Donna were a rhythm section of bassist Reggie White, guitarist Gary King and drummers Harry King and Joe Galdo, who also programmed the drum machines. Keyboards and synths were played by Lawrence Dermer and Emeridge Jones, while Carlos Santos played percussion. Horns came courtesy of trumpeter Gary Concepcion and saxophonist Ed Galle. Backing vocalists included Betty Wright, Reggie White, Gary King, Emeridge Jones and Donna Allen. Lou Pace produced Perfect Timing, which was released in December 1986, ON 21 Records.

On the release of Perfect Timing in December 1986, it reached number 133 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-three in the US R&B Charts. Serious was released as the lead single in October 1986, reaching number twenty-one in the US Billboard 100, number five in the US R&B Charts and number seventeen in the US Dance Charts. In the UK, Serious reached number nine, while Satisfied reached number ninety-two in April 1987. It also reached number fourteen in the US R&B Charts and number thirty-three in the US Dance Charts. Sweet Somebody was the final single, released in August 1987, stalling at number fifty-five in the US R&B Charts and number forty-eight in the US Dance Charts. Not only had Donna Allen’s debut album Perfect Timing had proved a commercial success, but featured three hit singles. Donna’s meeting Lou Pace and Fernando Pruna had transformed her career. However, twenty-seven years after the release of Perfect Timing, how has Donna Allen’s debut album fared?

Opening Perfect Timing is the lead single Serious, which gave Donna her biggest single. Straight away, you hear an arrangement that has a real mid-eighties sound. Drums crack, and are joined by buzzing synths. It’s reminiscent of many artists of the time, including Madonna. Where things differ, is when Donna’s sassy, sultry vocal. It confidently struts centre-stage. Sweet, sweeping harmonies accompany and envelop Donna’s vocal. Then dramatic stabs of brassy horn and a vocoder are added. Thankfully, the vocoder isn’t overused. Later, a rapped vocal from Jimmy Magnoli adds to the tough, edgy and sassy sound, as Donna Allen opens her debut album Perfect Timing confidently and assuredly.

Keyboards tease and toy with you, as Sweet Somebody wonders whether to reveal its secrets. Synths buzz and beep, before Donna delivers a powerful, strident vocal. It’s not unlike Chaka Khan. Both deliver vocals with power and presence. One thing Donna doesn’t lack is confident. She’s self-assured and sassy, strutting confidently through the track. Soaring harmonies, bursts of rasping horns and the rhythm section accompany Donna, who unleashes a strident, sassy vocal.

Satisfied was the second single released from Perfect Timing. Washes of synths, deliberate, spacious drums and a moody, pounding bass accompany Donna’s sensual vocal. Soon, she’s unleashing another powerful, grizzled vocal. Donna demonstrates her wide vocal range. Tender, backing vocalists accompany her, while the arrangement fuses funk and eighties electronica. Dance-floor friendly, funk and sensuous, this track is all these things and more. It should’ve replicate the success of Serious.

Daydreams allows the soulful side of Donna Allen to shine through. The tempo drops, with the arrangement taking on a much more soulful, R&B sound. While there’s still an eighties electronica sound, this is downplayed, allowing Donna to deliver a heartfelt and emotive vocal, with backing vocalists for company.  Donna delivers an inspired and impassioned vocal, demonstrating a side of Donna Allen that she should’ve concentrated more on. Especially given how powerful, soulful and emotive a vocal Donna has.

Wild Nights sees Donna change style again, as things get funky, sensual and steamy. Her band kick loose. Drums crash and reverberate, while horns growl and Reggie White lays down one of his trademark funk-laden bass line. Backing vocalists take charge, adding soaring, dramatic vocals. They give way to Donna’s powerful, vampish, sassy vocal. Soon, Donna and her backing vocalists sing call and response. They seem to feed off each other. One drives the other to greater heights, while the band lay down some funky licks. It sees whether it’s soul, funk and dance music, Donna Allen is just as home.

Perfect Timing sees a return to the soulful sound of Daydreams. The track has a lovely mellow, laid-back soulful sound. Her band provide a mid-tempo, understated arrangement, with keyboards, guitar and drums combining. Cascading harmonies sweep in, before Donna unleashes a tender, needy and impassioned vocal. Her vocal is filled with sincerity and hope, growing in power, pain and passion. Again, Donna proves that she’s at her best on soulful tracks like this.

Beeping, spacious, synths open Bit By Bit before chiming guitars, washes of synths and crispy drums combine. This marks a return to the electronic arrangement of earlier tracks. One thing doesn’t change…Donna’s powerful, soaring, soulful vocal. Assured, emotive and confident, she grabs the lyrics, injecting meaning into them. As if spurred on, the band up their game. The arrangement grows in power and drama, horns rasp, drums pound and harmonies soar, as they match Donna, a true diva every step of the way.

Percussion, synths and punchy vocals open Another Affair, which is very different to any other track on Perfect Timing. When Donna’s tender, wistful vocal enters, it’s filled with hurt and heartache. Drums pound and crash, while scatted harmonies add to the arrangement’s hypnotic sound. Later, Donna’s vocal veers between sensual, joyous and teasing, before the band take charge. When Donna’s vocal briefly returns, it drifts into the distance tinged with laughter at Another Affair. 

Bad Love close Perfect Timing perfectly. It’s another dance track. Drums, keyboards, percussion and synths combine, before chiming guitars and Donna’s frustrated, angry vocal enters. She delivers the lyrics with her trademark power and soulfulness. Urgent harmonies add to the drama, as Donna unleashes another diva-esque vocal, closing Perfect Timing with another confident, assured vocal.

When you listen to Donna Allen’s debut solo album Perfect Timing, one thing strikes you, and that’s just how good a vocalist Donna is. The word diva describes Donna’s delivery perfectly on many of the songs on Perfect Timing. Powerful, sometimes sassy and sensual, other times emotive and impassioned, Donna’s vocal is always at the heart of a song’s success. Other times, Donna’s vocal is hugely soulful, especially on the two soulful cuts Daydreams and Perfect Timing. These are two of the best cuts on Perfect Timing. Maybe this soulful side is something Donna should have explored more after Perfect Timing. On the release of Perfect Timing, the fashion was for the electronic sounding arrangement. This wasn’t going to last forever. Musical tastes would change, whether sooner, or later.

So, when musical tastes changed, some artists had nowhere to go. For Donna Allen, she could easily have further explored her soulful side. After all, it’s on the soulful songs on Perfect Timing that Donna Allen was at her very best. Granted her vocals on other tracks allowed her to unleash some powerful diva-esque vocals. Unlike many vocalists, Donna Allen was a versatile singer. You’d expect that Donna Allen would go on to enjoy a long and successful career. That wasn’t the case. She only released one further solo album, Heaven On Earth in 1988. After her short solo career, Donna worked as a backing vocalist for many artists, including nine years singing backup for Gloria Estafan and The Miami Sound Machine. It seems that despite her talent, Donna Allen’s solo career was far too short, lasting just two albums. The best of Donna Allen’s two album solo career was Perfect Timing will be rereleased by BBR Records on 25th February 2013. Standout Tracks: Sweet Somebody, Satisfied, Daydreams and Perfect Timing.

DONNA ALLEN-PERFECT TIMING.

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