1977 in Restrospect: Donna Summer’s “I Remember Yesterday”

Disco legend Donna Summer has influenced various artists from Beyoncé to The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but the release of her 1977 concept album I Remember Yesterday would forever change the face of dance music, creating the template for modern EDM and house.

The album, originally titled A Dance To The Music Of Time, sees Summer musically travel through various decades with a disco flair to each song. Unfortunately, with the immense success of standout track “I Feel Love,” the rest of the tracks are largely forgotten. Produced by the legendary Giorgio Moroder, the song employed the use of the then-unpopular Moog synthesizer to create a pulsing, hypnotic beat that was meant to emulate futuristic sounds. In his own words, Moroder “didn’t realise how much the impact would be,” which is an understatement considering its non-orchestral production became the blueprint of all subsequent dance music. The song remains timeless even forty years later, sounding just as current as anything you’d hear in a club today while maintaining its own untouchable aura. Although this hit song and the funkadelic “Take Me” are sensual in typical Donna Summer fashion, the beginning of the record sees her lightheartedly reflecting on innocent romance in a departure from her sex symbol status. The brassy, uptempo “I Remember Yesterday” recalls Charleston-eqsue elements as Summer reminisces on good times with an old flame. The peppy 60s Motown girl group-inspired “Love’s Unkind” belies the tale of Summer as a lovelorn schoolgirl heartbroken over the boy of her dreams not returning her affections. Exceptions to the sugary sweet sentiments are “Black Lady,” where the watery blaring of horns and reverberating organ set the stage for the tale of a mysterious woman, and “Can’t We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over),” a sentimental slow song that showcases her vocal chops and seems to emulate 80s ballads before their inception.

Arguably her most famous concept album to date, I Remember Yesterday is also notable for reinventing the idea of concept albums for female contemporary use as they had been previously associated solely with the male-dominated genres of rock and folk music. Despite 90% of it being largely underappreciated, this ageless record is a testament to Summer’s versatile nature and deserves to be considered as one of the most unique and ambitious albums to emerge from the 1970s, as well as one of her best works to date.

Tracklist:

  1. I Remember Yesterday
  2. Love’s Unkind
  3. Back In Love Again
  4. I Remember Yesterday – Reprise
  5. Black Lady
  6. Take Me
  7. Can’t We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over)
  8. I Feel Love

 

 

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