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Diana Ross - Greatest Hits: The RCA Years
Genres: Dance & Electronic, Pop, R&B
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A Footnote in Diana's History
Todd J. Brandt | New York, NY United States | 05/28/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ironically, the music that Diana Ross recorded at the height of her celebrity and bankability (by 1983, she was one of the highest-paid entertainers in the world) is largely forgotten today.The RCA Years have long divided fans; certainly, Ross' output from this period doesn't begin to approach the consistency and quality of her earlier or subsequent work. Listening to her RCA albums today, it is obvious that Ross was coasting; self-producing a large portion of the material, she simply sounds disinterested and soulless on many tracks.This scattershot compilation manages to pull together most of Ross' major hits from 1981-1987, and, surprisingly, some of them hold up very well. However, many are mere footnotes in a legendary career.The "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" album was a platinum-selling record, and spawned two Top 10 hits: the title track and "Mirror, Mirror." The former is one of Ross' least memorable hits, a why-bother synth-pop update of the 1956 Frankie Lymon classic. The latter, however, is one of the more compelling sides Ross recorded at RCA; a punchy, hard-driving rock-dance number featuring a juicy background track.Unfortunately, the remainder of the album was soft-focus mush, as evidenced by "It's Never Too Late," a thankless disco retread that must have sounded dated even in 1981. More worthwhile, although similarly unneccessary, is Ross' emotional but overwrought solo rendition of "Endless Love," her chart-topping duet with Lionel Richie. Curiously ommitted from this package is "Work That Body," a camp novelty which was a major Top 10 hit for Ross in England. Although its 5-minute album version is way too much of a mediocre thing, its single edit (available on the UK compilaion, "Life & Love") is an amusing curiosity.1982's "Silk Electric" went gold on the strength of the brilliant, erotic single, "Muscles," penned for Ross by Michael Jackson. The tight, steamy arrangement and Ross' intensely sexy performance can still raise temperatures. The same cannot be said of the album as a whole, which is largely (and rightfully) considered by most to be Ross' weakest. Bafflingly, neither "So Close" (the second single and a Top 40 hit) nor "Love Lies," the strongest album track, are included here--instead, "In Your Arms" is offered. A mediocre song to begin with, it is given a phoned-in interpretation and a watered-down arrangement. Whitney Houston and Teddy Pendergrass would invest considerably more feeling into their subsequent version, re-titled "Hold Me.""Ross" (1983) is perhaps the most underrated album in the diva's RCA catalog. The infamous "drugged-out" cover shot probably hasn't helped its reputation, but it's actually a decent slice of soul- and pop-lite, with production duties divided ably between Gary Katz of Steely Dan and Ray Parker, Jr. "Pieces of Ice," a quirky but irresistible dance number, was the Top 40 hit of the set, but is maddeningly not offered on "The RCA Years." Neither is the driving, similarly overlooked "Up Front," a minor chart hit. "Let's Go Up" (another lower-rung charter) and "Love or Loneliness" are fine, but the omission of the aforementioned two tracks is unfortunate.Commercially, "Swept Away" (1984) represented a rebound after the disappointing sales of "Ross." The album went gold, while the crunching, Daryl Hall & Arthur Baker-produced title track (another fabulous dance-rock number) hit the pop Top 20 and #3 on the R&B chart. "Missing You," the album's centerpiece ballad, ranks among Ross' finest performances ever, and is unquestionably the best song she recorded at RCA. Written and produced by Lionel Richie, it remains elegant, heartfelt perfection. Unfortunately, Ross' kitsch-clasic Top 20 duet with Julio Iglesias, "All of You," is MIA, as is the standout album track, "Forever Young." Also missing is the calypso-flavored "Touch by Touch," a favorite among fans (and a minor UK hit) and the Nile Rodgers-produced "Telephone," a substantial R&B hit.The best of Ross' RCA albums, "Eaten Alive" (1985), is best remembered for the fan favorite, "Chain Reaction," a sublime 60's throwback which was a massive #1 hit in England. Another audience pleaser, "Experience," is included here, as is "I Love Being in Love with You." The highly underrated title track (another of Ross' rock-influenced dance tracks) was a Top 10 R&B hit, but--you guessed it, it's nowhere to be found here. Also, the album's original closer, "Don't Give Up on Each Other," is a terrific performance which could easily have replaced several of the filler tracks on this compilation.Diana's RCA tenure ended quietly with the much-hyped but ultimately disappointing "Red Hot Rhythm & Blues" (1987). Producer Tom Dowd co-produced Dusty Springfield's seminal "Dusty in Memphis," and engineered and arranged such essential Aretha albums as "I Never Loved a Man" and "Lady Soul," but you'd never guess it from his sterile work here. Never living up to the promise of its title, the album was a bland mix of largely indifferent contemporary material and empty covers of cutesy 50's and 60's hits--Ross' revivals of The Bobbettes' "Mr. Lee," The Drifters' "There Goes My Baby" and Jackie Ross' "Selfish One" are inoffensive but thoroughly unremarkable. The sultry "Dirty Looks" was a respectable Top 20 R&B hit, but is yet another inexplicable omission here. Leonard Cohen's haunting "Summertime" and Luther Vandross' delicious "It's Hard for Me to Say" are the original album's definite highlights, and so their inclusion here is warranted; but the banal "Tell Me Again" and forgettable "Cross My Heart" are pure trifles.Clearly, Diana Ross' RCA years were patchy to begin with, and the often baffling choices made by the producers of this compilation don't help matters. It's a decent CD for completist Ross fanatics who would like newly-mastered versions of some of these songs, and novice Ross fans who are unable to obtain her largely deleted RCA catalog on CD. But it certainly doesn't showcase the diva at her frequent best."
The Glossy RCA Years
Ian Phillips | Bolton, Lancashire, UK | 04/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A misleading title as this is no by no means a greatest hits collection and is rather more a compilation of selected recordings directly plucked from her various studio sets at RCA Records. Though there are some hit titles on here, oddly enough many of her single releases on RCA don't even turn up on here! There are also some notably excellent tracks left out in the cold here: Rescue Me (Swept Away 1984), Telephone, which was actually an American single (Swept Away 1984), Crime Of Passion (Eaten Alive 1985), Dirty Looks, which had been Internationally released as a single (Red Hot Rhythm And Blues 1987), Stranger In Paradise (Red Hot Rhythm And Blues) and Shine (Red Hot Rhythm And Blues). The track line-up on here is variable in quality but overly makes an interesting hear as you could perharps describe these as Diana Ross' experimental years where she divulged into a series of styles but never once strayed from her initial field of Soul and R&B.
This compilation opens with the affectionate re-creation of her days with The Supremes on the fun, bouncy, Chain Reaction. Produced by The Bee Gees, the track was simply magical and caught onto the British public like a magnet. Chain Reaction raced to the top of the U.K charts at the dawn of 1986 and clung onto pole position for weeks on end. However American audiences were less impressed and the track stalled within the lower raches of the Hot 100. Chain Reaction was origanally a featured recording on the dynamic, Bee Gees and Michael Jackson produced album, Eaten Alive of 1985.
The breathtakingly beautiful, Summertime is deliciously delivered by Diana, with her vocal delivery dripping with such warmth, passion and feeling. Her exuberant delivery compliments the divine, sweeping musical arrangements and is hauntingly atmospheric in its tone. Summertime became one of the highlights on the fabulous, Red Hot Rhythm And Blues album, her final for the RCA label, recorded in 1987 and easily her most consistent studio album on the label.
Muscles was a slinky Pop masterpiece with its hypnotic, trance-like tone. She was aided by Michael Jackson on Muscles where he wrote and assembled the recording and was seemingly trying to convey a womans sexual fantasies (or perharps his own??????). He is also neatly gelled into the background where his backing vocals certainly add to the over-all effect. Muscles rushed into the U.S Top 10 whilst gliding in at No.15 in the U.K. Muscles was also one of the few significant recordings featured on the dreary, mish-mash affair of Silk Electric, recorded back in 1982 and her second album for the label.
It's Never Too Late was directly swiped from her debut set on the label, Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1981). This was easily one of the most dated songs on the album so why this is included on the track list is a mystery when there were much superior recordings than this forgetable fluff. The track is a late 70's sounding disco number thats overly laid back musical arrangements lacks the dynamic force of some of her monster disco classics such as Love Hangover, The Boss, Upside Down and I'm Coming Out. It's Never Too Late was issued as a single in the U.K and became a Top 50 struggler.
The hauntingly atmospheric, Experience was lifted from the explosive, Eaten Alive set. The mesmerising musical arrangements are sensual and exotic, delivered with real gutsy emotion from Miss. Ross. Though it has a strong quality, it failed to gain wide commercial recognition where it stalled within the lower reaches of the chart though sounds a timeless classic.
Love Or Loneliness was a flop single in the U.S which was taken from the worst studio album of her career, Ross (1983). It marks a neat transistion between R&B and Country and though is one of the better tracks to be found on Ross, is not really particularly memroable.
What is truly timeless is the touching, heart-felt, Missing You, dedicated to the late Marvin Gaye and written and assembled by Lionel Richie. The lyrics are strongly emotive and Dianas impeccable delivey is astoundingly strong proving the point that she does indeed possess a lot of power and volume in her voice when she really goes for it. Dianas performance just gives you goose bumps! Missing You was part of the Swept Away (1984) album and slammed its way into the U.S Top 10 charts whilst despite several re-promotions in the U.K., died a quick death.
Her cover of the 50's Doo-wop classic, Selfish One, sounds like shes back with The Supremes again where that yearning vulnreability you could always detect on her recordings with them, amazingly creeps back in her performance on here. She sounds so angelic yet absolutely stunning all the same. Selfish One was one of the featured tracks on the Red Hot Rhythm And Blues album.
Tell Me Again is a little too sappy and girlish for my liking though Dianas delivery is exhlirating and as crystal-clear as always, though more angelic than ever and therefore occasionally loses its soulful edge which is initially the tracks shortcomings. Tell Me Again was also featured on the Red Hot Rhythm And Blues album.
Lets Go Up, taken from Ross, is little better. Its certainly upbeat but amounts too nothing but disposable Pop and is not in any way anything spectacular. Lets Go Up was lifted as a single in the U.S where it stalled at a measly, No.77.
The startling Funk-Rock driven track, Mirror, Mirror is delivered with a fiery, raw and compelling performance from its star and if anything, conveyed her clear diversity. Diana produced this nifty little classic herself and it rapidly jumped into the U.S Top 10, whilst becoming a Top 40 struggler. This also became part of the track line up on her debut RCA set, Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1981).
In Your Arms contains a ghastly, sickly-sweet tone and is virtually souless with its white-washed musical arrangements, though Diana manages to lift the recording with her strikingly breathy, seamless voice. In Your Arms remained hidden away on 1982's, Silk Electic.
What emerges as one of my favourite Diana Ross ballads of the 1980's is the Bee Gees produced, I Love Being In Love (With You) which has a sparkling, timeless quality. Her voice is breathtakingly beautiful and this was defintely one of the highlights on the classic, Eaten Alive album.
The atmospheric, Swept Away is a dazzling combination of Rock and R&B. Written by Daryl Hall, the track was one of her most adventurous and diverse recordings at RCA. Utterly compelling, the track features, fantastic and diverse musical arrangements and is ignited by a razor sharp and enduringly sassy performance from La Ross. Swept Away became a Top 20 seller in the U.S in 1984.
The Luther Vandross produced, It's Hard For Me To Say is a beautifully mellow, exotic ballad which is mesmerising from its lush orchestrations to the sensual, yet strong performance from Diana. This excellent, tugging ballad was featured on the driving, Red Hot Rhthym And Blues album of 1987.
Her cover version of Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers late 50's, Doo-Wop classic, Why Do Fools Fall In Love, loses its origanal streets of New York vibe which was where it was created and inspired, and is re-worked into, for all intents and purposes, pure Las Vegas kitsch. The track sounds dated today though enjoyed success when released as a single where it hastily bounced into the Top 10 charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
Cross My Heart is another tugging, strongly emotive ballad from Red Hot Rhythm And Blues where Diana sparkles vocally and is accompanied by divine orchestrations.
Finally this compilation is led to its grand finale - a solo version of her chart-topper, Endless Love. Arguably this version is more effective where Dianas mighty performance is remarkably powerful. It captures one of her strongest performances on record and to hear her belt out those long, lingering notes at the exalting climax of the recording makes you apprecaiate what a divine, special talent this lady truly is. Diana Ross is in a class and a style of her own. She remains the ultimate Soul Diva and a living legend!
5 stars for Diana, 1 for RCA
Ian Phillips | 06/23/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Diana Ross sounds great on this so called greatest hits album. Due to the fact that RCA has deleted all of Diana's studio albums from their catalogue except for Why Do Fools Fall in Love, this collection is the only way we can listen to this music on CD (there is a cheapo version of the RCA hits called Endless Love, so cheap it doesn't even have a cover photograph). So what's the problem with the album? It's called Greatest Hits, duh! So where are all the charting singles? Considering RCA failed to work Ross's singles to the pop market (which is why "Chain Reaction" was a number one in England but here struggled twice to get into the top 100 hot singles), one would think that her singles which charted on the R&B chart would be included. Forget it. You won't find "Pieces of Ice," "Telephone," "Upfront," "Dirty Looks," etc. And singles like "All of You," the duet with Julio Iglesis, are also absent (and this song did go top forty pop as well as adult contemporty). What about "So Close" her doo-wop number from Silk Electric? It made it to 40 on the top forty pop and it was top five adult contemporary. It too isn't on this album. Instead RCA sees fit to tell us what the greatest hits are based not on chart position or even whether or not the song was a single. And what's with the essay? Is the guy who wrote it even aware of Diana's music? He mistakenly credits former Supreme Cindy Birdsong for co-writing "I Am Me" off the Silk Electric album (and flip side of the hit single "Muscles") when in fact the Motown connected woman he means is Janie Bradford. Didn't anyone proof the essay? Didn't anyone care? Listening to this album you can hear Diana Ross cared about what she recorded. Too bad RCA didn't care about Ross, her music, or the people who bought it. Again, a five for Ross, a one for RCA (and they only get that because otherwise we wouldn't have a representation of any of her work for the label except her first studio album). If you're thinking of getting a Diana Ross album and haven't gotten Every Day is a New Day, skip this and buy Ross's latest."