VARIOUS ARTISTS: ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ (Culture Factory)

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Some movie critics have contended that the 1978 disco-era film, ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ – bankrolled by Neil Bogart’s Casablanca company in tandem with the film division of Berry Gordy’s Motown empire – is one of the worst movies to ever be associated with the Academy Awards. What got it into the history books was Donna Summer’s ‘Last Dance,’ which picked up a well-deserved  Oscar for Best Song. While the movie – a sprawling disaster starring a young Jeff Goldblum and Debra Winger that I once fell asleep to while watching – is risible, the soundtrack is something else altogether. Originally a double album that included a bonus 12″ single by Donna Summer, it’s now been resurrected on CD by France’s Culture Factory label as a 2-CD set that replicates the original LP’s cardboard gatefold sleeve.

The ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ soundtrack album is arguably a more accurate representation of the late-’70s disco scene than the epochal ‘Saturday Night Fever’ LP. Its elongated mirrorball grooves (there are nineteen tracks in all) with slurping hi-hat figures and lush instrumentation encapsulates the over-the-top hedonism of the era, immersing the listener in a tsunami of platform soul that’s like taking a trip in a time machine back to 1978. Disco goddess, Donna Summer, who also stars in a movie whose action revolves around a club called The Zoo, is represented by three cuts, including the aforementioned ‘Last Dance.’  She also appears on ‘With Your Love,’ and producer Giorgio Moroder’s  15-minute disco revamp of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s erotic, heavy-breathing classic, ‘Je T’Aime (Moi Non Plus),’ a song that was added to the LP as a bonus 12″ (in this Culture Factory reissue it’s appended to the end of the second CD).

There are also some super-funky cuts by The Commodores (‘Too Hot To Trot’) and Cameo (‘Find My Way’) plus some gems by three golden-throated female vocalists – namely Pattie Brooks (‘After Dark’), Thelma Houston (the Hal Davis-helmed ‘Love Masterpiece’), and Diana Ross (‘Lovin,’ Livin,’ and Givin”). Male singer/songwriter, Paul Jabara – who wrote ‘Last Dance’ for Summer – is present on a brace of his own songs: ‘Disco Queen’ and ‘Trapped In A Stairway.’ Other highlights come in the shape of ‘Take It To The Zoo’ by the group Sunshine and the engaging instrumentals, ‘Leatherman’s Theme,’ by the Wright Bros. Flying Machine and the Latin-tinged ‘Sevilla Nights’ from Santa Esmeralda.

Though the film has understandably been long forgotten, this excellent soundtrack album deserves another life. Now remastered in high-definition, it sounds more vibrant than ever. Time to put your dancing shoes on and get on down.

(CW) 4/5