If disco weren't such a limiting genre, Donna Summer might have already been recognized as the Diana Ross of the '70s. Besides a fine, dramatic voice, immense charm and unusually tasteful technical control, she's got a little bit of what made Ross special; an erotic, bitchy sullenness, perpetually threatening to break through the slick pop surface of her music. To Summer's credit, ever since "Love to Love You, Baby" made her a star, she's tried her best to escape the disco sex-doll image it created. She's done this most notably with the fairytale concept alum, "Once Upon a Time," a sizable portion of which is reprised on side one of "Love and More."
While the "Once upon a Time" material is more than adequate, it's side two that really shows Summer at her grandest - as an old-fashioned soul singer out of early-'60s Motown, with tips of the hat to straight pop and blues. Whenever she gets away from the strictures of disco, she can be quite extraordinary. She moves easily from the bouncy wit of "Only One Man" to the raunchy blues funk of "Some of These Days," and redeems even the high-class kitsch of "The Way We Were" with an all-out torchsinger's passion that easily surpasses Barbea Streisand's rather mannered original.
Though the hits are exiled to side three, they come across fairly well (especially the sweeping, irresistible "Last Dance"). The exception, of course, is "Love to Love You, Baby," a tune that cuased snickers when first released. Now, mercifully reduced to three minutes, it just sounds embarrassing. Side four is a big studio-production number, "MacArthur Park Suit," that contains an interminable discofied version of the Jimmy Webb song as well as some new material, all of which is pretty ghastly. Like "Love to Love You, Baby," it too seems a relic of some other time - a time that one hopes will soon be forgotten should Donna Summer continue to develop the enormous potential as a pop stylist she displays so often on Love and More. DONNA SUMMER: LIVE AND MORE - Casablanca NBLP 7119.