Make It Last Forever is counterintuitively sexier when it’s not trying so hard.
Greg Carmichael and Patrick Adams are best known for producing and writing disco-era work by the Fatback Band and Phreek. On Carmichael’s own Red Greg label, the team release music by the Universal Robot Band and Donna McGhee. The latter had an underground hit in New York’s disco scene with “Make It Last Forever,” and the resulting album, originally released in 1978, has been reissued on vinyl by Wewantsounds. It’s proof that there are plenty of disco deep cuts that have yet to be explored, but even though this is a solid production, it doesn’t inspire the dramatic climax it so earnestly portrays.
The Brooklyn-born McGhee grew up singing gospel. She got her big pop break on the Fatback Band’s “(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop.” But her only solo album isn’t the kind of vocal showcase that breaks out a disco diva. Chalk it up to a novelty that wears thin and doesn’t give McGhee much room to open up her pipes.
Title opener “Make It Last Forever” earns points as one of that subgenre of dance tracks that simulates the female orgasm. But McGhee sounds like she’s holding back, at least artistically. This is no “I Feel Love” or even “Je T’Aime (Moi Non Plus).” The midtempo groove generates a steady, lightly seductive pulse. The lyrics don’t leave anything to the imagination: ”Inch by inch we’re closer/ Our paradise is near,” and the timing seems odd; mid-song, McGhee coos, “Come a little closer/ I don’t want to miss a thing.” Speculation on their unorthodox lovemaking position distracts from the love moment. If the vocal is somewhat strange, the agile bass and droning string section does the heavy lifting for McGhee’s quasi-ecstatic moaning.
For an extended-mix as sexual conquest, the track isn’t entirely satisfying, at least not outside the context of a sweat-drenched ‘70s dance floor amid piles of spandex and cocaine. Yet it’s an intriguing failure, the tension between its sensual aspirations and its actual dancefloor usefulness providing a curious lesson in record-making: its lack of sexual verisimilitude probably makes it more danceable.
Take, for instance, the 10-minute “Do As I Do,” which is, if anything, sexier than the eight and a half-minute title track. This, too, features bedroom sighs and heavy breathing, and McGhee’s cries of pleasure sound, well, more convincing than on the single. But the musical production isn’t as distinct; the bass is thicker, the beat more thumping, but it misses the simple melody that helps carry “Make It Last Forever.” The album’s A-side could be taken as an 18-minute love fest, but an erratic one. Carmichael and Adams have a flair for the midtempo groove, but not for the extended jam; not that anyone would have wanted to hear James Brown record an album-side document of sexual prowess, but his early-mid ‘70s band could have made a fascinating vamp out of it.
The album’s B-side downplays the copulating concept for three tracks that are a better showcase for Carmichael and Adams—and McGhee for that matter. This is where the production team shows off the chops that made them dancefloor heroes, if largely unheralded. McGhee still writhes in delirium here, as on “I’m a Love Bug,” but the up-tempo arrangement is more versatile, piano driving the beat like McGhee is breathing life into one of Silver Convention’s signature minimalist vamps. Carmichael and Adams went even more anthemic on other records, like the Invitations’ “We Don’t Allow (No Sitting Down in Here),” more thrilling than even the pseudo-orgasmic recordings here. But Make It Last Forever is counterintuitively sexier when it’s not trying so hard.