DONNA WASHINGTON-GOING FOR THE GLOW.

DONNA WASHINGTON-GOING FOR THE GLOW.

Although Donna Washington had established a reputation as a talented singer it was only when she took part in a gospel concert in her hometown of Los Angeles that she attracted the attention of record companies. At that concert, was producer and songwriter Don Daniels. Realizing that Donna had talent and potential, he recorded demos with Donna. Don sent the demos to Motown Records, where Suzanne De Passe heard the demo. She too, realised that Donna Washington was talented and had a big future ahead of her. The only problem was, Motown weren’t signing anyone more artists. So Suzanne passed the demo tape to Capitol Records. 

Soon, Donna was asked to attend a meeting with Cecil Hale at Capitol Records. Without even asking Donna to audition, he signed Donna to Capitol, telling her that she was going to be the next Natalie Cole. Then in 1980, Donna released her debut album For The Sake Of Love. Produced by Cecil Hale and Don Daniels, For The Sake Of Love was released to critical acclaim, but wasn’t a commercial success. It did lift Donna’s profile within the music industry. People within the industry were taking notice of Donna Washington. For Donna’s sophomore album, 1981s Going For The Glow, which will be rereleased by SoulMusic Records on 25th March 2013, there was a change of producer.

Veteran songwriter and producer Chuck Jackson was brought in to produce Going For The Glow. With his talent and experience, Chuck’s remit was to build on Donna’s critically acclaimed debut album For The Sake Of Love. Critical acclaim was all very well, but commercial success was what Donna Washington needed. With Chuck Jackson producing Going For The Glow, could Donna Washington achieve critical acclaim and commercial success with Going For The Glow?

For Going For The Glow, Donna Washington’s 1981 sophomore album, Chuck Jackson, who by then was a veteran songwriter contributed two tracks. He cowrote Save Your Love For Me with Tony Coleman and Share Your Life With Me with Michael Wycoff. Brenda Russell wrote Going For The Glow and cowrote It’s Something with David Foster. David Lasley also cowrote two tracks. With Luther Vandross he penned ‘Scuse Me While I Fall In Love and I See Home with Allee Willis, who cowrote I Want You Tonight with David Jenkins and Cory Lerios. The other track was Nine To Five (Come Alive) written by Thomas Jones III and Daniel Witherspoon Jr. These ten tracks became Going For The Glow, which was recorded at MCA Whitney Recording Studio in Glendale, California.

Having put together some strong songs for Donna Washington’s sophomore album Going For The Glow, Chuck Jackson pulled out the stops when it came to a backing band. At MCA Whitney Recording Studio, the band included a rhythm section of bassists Nathan East and Freddie Washington, drummers Leon Ndugu Chancier and James Gadon and guitarists Paul Jackson Jr, E.J. Mitchell and Michael McGloiry.  Paulinho DaCosta added percussion, while Michael Boddicker and Tony Coleman played synths and John Barnes, Tony Coleman, Nick Jackson and Patrice Rushen played keyboards. Backing vocals came courtesy of The Water Sisters, Maxine, Julia and Oren. The recording sessions weren’t without incident. Donna was heavily pregnant and went into labor when she had just finished the final track. Once Going For The Glow was completed, it was released in 1981.

On the release of Going For The Glow in 1981, it reached number fifty-three in the US R&B Charts. The lead single was ‘Scuse Me While I Fall In Love, which also reached number fifty-three in the US R&B Charts. Going For The Glow was then released as a single, but failed to chart. Going For The Glow had surpassed the success of For The Sake of Love. While it may not have been a huge commercial success, it marked progress for Donna Washington. However, why was Going For The Glow such a successful album? That’s what I’ll now tell you.

Opening Going For The Glow is ‘Scuse Me While I Fall In Love. Just a laid-back piano and meandering bass combine with Donna’s sassy half-spoken vocal. Then it’s all change. Backing vocalists sweep in and then the track explodes. Funky and pulsating, thanks to the rhythm section, Donna struts, sassily and confidently her way through the track. The Waters Sister add gospel-tinged harmonies, horns growl and blaze and Donna’s vocal becomes a powerful vamp. By now, it’s hard to believe this is only Donna’s sophomore album. She gives an assured, confident performance, finding her inner diva, as she struts here way through the track.

It’s Something is a mid-tempo track, with an understated, jazz tinged sound. Donna’s vocal is much more tender, but truly heartfelt. Cooing harmonies are equally heartfelt, while keyboards and the rhythm section provide a subtle backdrop. Brief bursts of growling horns add drama, but mostly, the arrangement meanders behind her vocal. This allows Donna to demonstrate her musical versatility, delivering a quite beautiful, captivating vocal.

Save Your Love For Me sees a return to the heavier, funkier sound. Stabs of grizzled horns and synths, whooping backing vocalists, swirling strings and a funky rhythm section provide a dance-floor friendly backdrop. Donna’s vocal is dramatic, deliberate. Later, it becomes emotive and needy. She’s accompanied by flourishes of soaring backing vocals, pounding drums and buzzing synths. By then, Donna is mixing drama, power and bursts of emotion. Her performance is soulful, confident and much more assured than her tender years.

It’s as if Going For The Glow veers between uptempo and slow tracks. I See Home is one of the best ballads. It fuses elements of country and soul. Again, the arrangement with keyboards at its heart, allows Donna’s captivating vocal to be the focus of your attention. The Waters’ Sisters add elegant, sweeping harmonies, while the rhythm section and flourishes of strings play important parts. Later, a searing guitar provides the finishing touch, as Donna delivers one of her most impassioned,  moving and compelling vocals.

Nine To Five (Come Alive) sees the tempo rise. From the get-go, you realize something special is unfolding. Producer Chuck Jackson ensures the arrangement doesn’t give away its secrets too soon. When the subtle piano and wistful horn enter, they prove to be a curveball. Then when the rhythm section, blazing horns and piano unite to drive this stomping track along, Donna delivers a powerful, sassy vocal. Feisty and rock-tinged, Donna is joined by The Waters’ Sisters, who add cascading harmonies. They seem to spur Donna on, as she unleashes a vocal that’s fiery, feisty, sassy and laden with confidence. For their part, her band raise their game, delivering their best performance on Going For The Glow. Along with Donna, they ensure the track swings…and then some.

Bursts of punchy horns and dramatic, soaring soulful harmonies open Going For The Glow. Having grabbed your attention, the arrangement becomes a bit more understated, with Donna’s vocal tender and soulful. Soon, she and her band begin to kick loose. Strings sweep and swirl, horns blaze and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. Harmonies sweep in and the arrangement becomes soulful and dance-floor friendly. Donna makes the song her own, using her full vocal range, pleading and begging, mixing power and passion, during this hook-laden dance track.

Horns blaze, before the arrangement to Share Your Life With Me becomes much more understated. This signals the entrance of Donna’s impassioned, needy vocal. Tender and filled with emotion, she’s joined by The Waters’ Sisters. They add tight, soulful and heartfelt harmonies. Keyboards and strings add to the arrangement’s beauty as Donna delivers a vocal laden with feeling and sincerity. Again, this demonstrates just how good Donna is at bringing life and meaning into lyrics. Given her talent, she should’ve been a huge star.

I Want You Tonight closes with Going For The Glow, an uptempo track, driven along by searing guitars, synths and the rhythm section. It’s quite different from other tracks, given its rockier feel. Regardless of this, Donna makes the song work. Feisty and deliberate, she annunciates every word, ensuring you listen to every word. While Donna plays the starring role, The Waters’ Sisters play their part. Their soaring, dramatic, gospel-tinged harmonies are the perfect foil for Donna’s vocal, complimenting her every step of they way. Along with Donna, they make this catchy, memorable song work.

Listening back to Donna Washington’s sophomore album, Going For The Glow thirty-two years after its release, it’s quite incredible that it wasn’t a huge commercial success. Donna was a hugely talented vocalist. Whether it was ballads, dance tracks or uptempo songs, Donna was equally comfortable. Similarly, Donna could deliver soulful, funky or dance tracks. She truly was a versatile vocalist. So, it’s no wonder when Cecil Hale at Capitol Records signed Donna, that he thought she’d be the next Natalie Cole. It certainly wasn’t talent Donna Washington lacked. Sadly, Donna’s career only lasted three albums. After Going For The Glow, Donna Washington only released one more album, 1982s Just For You. Like her first two albums, Just For You wasn’t a huge commercial success. So, following Just For You, Donna left Capitol Records.

Maybe Capitol wasn’t the right label for Donna Washington. If she’d signed to another label maybe she’d have enjoyed much more commercial success and critical acclaim. The other problem was that musical tastes had changed. This was the age of electronic music. Possibly, if Donna had released her three albums a few years earlier, she’d have been a much more successful artist. Whatever the reason, Donna Washington never became the next Natalie Cole. Neither did Donna Washington receive the critical acclaim and commercial success her talent deserved. Instead, she released just three albums, including Going For The Glow, which will be rereleased by SoulMusic Records on 25th March 2013. It’ll only take one listen to Going For The Glow, and you’ll realize that Donna Washington should’ve enjoyed a much longer and more successful career. Standout Tracks: It’s Something, Save Your Love For Me, I See Home and Share Your Life With Me.

DONNA WASHINGTON-GOING FOR THE GLOW.

 

2 Comments

  1. red

    Thanks for these details. I am Red from France and just discovered this artist and her album the glow of love. Love it. That’s a pity that she’s not been recognized the way she should have. Reading this text helped me understanding the reason why. Thanks again

    • Hi Red,

      Glad you enjoyed my review of Donna Washington’s Going For The Glow. Donna was unfortunate that she didn’t enjoy a more successful career. There are many reasons for that. It could be that Donna didn’t sign to the right label? Maybe she wasn’t fortunate enough to work with the right producers or songwriters? WIth another label or producer, Donna’s career might have been very different. She certainly wasn’t lacking in talent. However, as I often say in reviews, many great albums aren’t a commercial success. Indeed, some of my favourite albums weren’t commercially successful.

      Thanks again for your comments, keep reading my blog as there’s new reviews each day.

      Best Wishes,
      Derek.

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