ESSENTIAL DIANA ROSS ALBUMS
Ian Phillips | Bolton, Lancashire, UK | 05/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Soul Supreme Diana Ross's stunning solo debut album is arguably her most stunning and remarkable pieces of work alongside Lady Sings The Blues (1972). Her precise lyrical phrasing is passionate and strong, beautifully dripping with real, gutsy emotion. Diana may not be a singer in the sense of an Aretha Franklin or Whitney Houston, but she certainly has a strong presence vocally on each of these recordings where she gets chance to enhance her soprano perharps more effectivley than she ever did with The Supremes.
I have to admit I find Reach Out And Touch (SomeBody's Hand) a little monotonous even though Diana's crystal-clear delivery is strong, passionate and even a little on the angelic side. The waltz-like rhythm completley escapes the traditional Motown sound to which she had become famous for which perharps is a strong reason why this track was only a moderate success in comparison to what was to come. That came with Diana's startling re-working of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrells Ain't No Mountain High Enough. Produced by the fabulous Ashford And Simpson who wrote and produced the vast majority of this album, this showcased Diana's early technique of speaking through the verses, whilst the rhythm slowly builds to its exalting climax on which she is joined by a strong string of gospel-influenced backing singers. This quickly secured Diana a U.S. chart topper. And the rest as they say is history.....
The DIANA ROSS album carries some well-crafted soul/R&B numbers that amicably showcase Diana's remarkably versatility and diversity as a serious recording artist. There is so much character and drama in her voice. You really sense those emotions pouring out on numbers like Now That There's You, where her voice steadily goes from points of vulnreability to self assurance at the climax of the recording. A moody, soulful remake of another Marvin and Tammi Terrell hit, You're All I Need To Get By again features Diana's vocal expertise and this emerges surprisingly as far superior to that of the origanal. These Things Will Keep Me Loving You, a pleasantly uptemp soul-pop track, was recorded a few years before whilst she was still with The Supremes and the track sounds distinct to that era but still its a fine recording whilst she sounds utterly magnificent on the divine SomeThing's On My Mind. Her performance is effective on the bluesey I Wouldn't Change The Man He Is where she projects a lot of emotion and feeling in her silky, soulful vocal style whilst the mood goes deeper on the amtmospheric recordings, Keep An Eye (a less ambitious version recorded with The Supremes was included on the Love Child (1968) album), Where There Was Darkness and the stark Dark Side Of The World which completley turns the mood sombre yet the material remains utterley compelling. There are some rare treats to be found beyond the origanal albums track line-up on this re-released disc with a showbizzy live version of SomeThings On Mind, alternate vocal versions of Now That There's You, These Things Will Keep Me Loving You and Ain't No Mountain High Enough and some cuts left off the origanal albums release, culled from the Bonie Howe sessions of 1969 (recorded whilst she was still offically lead singer of The Supremes). Time And Love is a bouncy soul-pop number that would have suited the times perfectly had it been releases as a single whilst Stoney End (later re-recorded by Barbara Streisand) again perfectly dememonstrates her versatile vocal approach. Outstanding is The Interim, where her performance is so heartwarmingly sincere and strong. Although some may argue this recording verges on the lines of being repetitive and ponderous, the sweeping musical arrangements is complimented firmly by Diana's delivery which remains firly focused throughout making it all the more compelling. Firmly retaining the quality of The Interim was the fantastic Love, Lines, Angles And Rhymes (another track to later be re-recorded by Barbara Streisand) where her astounding delivery begs you to question why this had been lcked away in the Motown vaults for 32 years!
As a whole DIANA ROSS is a consistently excellent affair that really is no exageration to be classed as a masterpiece. Artisitic and well crafted. Highly recommended to any Soul/R&B lover!
Nicholas Ashford and Valerie Simpson always knew how to really make great records for Motowns leading lady, Diana Ross. After producing her masterpiece debut solo LP, simply titled Diana Ross (1970), Berry Gordy eagerly appointed them as writers and producers for Ross' third studio album following the disappointing sales of the Everything Is Everything (1970) Lp.
Diana Ross' crystal-clear delivery neatly surfboarded along Ashford and Simpsons often complex musical arrangements. Her singing on this album is soulful, unaffected, a little angelic even and at some points seemingly angst-ridden.
The opening number was the upbeat title track, Surrender which drove into the urban R&B market where Ross sounds suitably husky and even a little raw at the tracks dramatic climax. Ross' over-all performance sparkles as she enhances her exquisitley unique vocal style to great effect. Ross had developed something of a penchant for melodrama at this early stage in her solo career which actually brought out the character and drama in her voice. Though Surrender stalled at a rather disappointing No.38 on the main BillBoard Hot 100, U.K audiences were far more appreciative and the track climbed its way up into the main Top 10 charts.
Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You, which also featured the songwriting talents of Brian Holland, had origanally been recorded by an obscure Motown artist, Rita Wright. Ross' version is more fully formed where her pleading vocals compliment the floating orchestrations.
More startling was the haunting, atmospheric Soul classic, Remember Me. Remember Me was seemingly cradled with mixed emotions. Could this perharps have been a message to her mentor and one-time lover Berry Gordy (their affair came to an abrupt end that year when Ross married a white Jewish businessman, Robert Silberston)? Something is evidently stirring up those hidden emotions inside her as you hear that yearning, anguish-filled voice which merley adds to the tension of the slightly chilly and soulful musical arrangements. Remember Me has since become one of Ross' key classics.
And If You See Him continues the formula of Remember Me with its racing rhythm and another vocal performance from Ross sounding like shes in constant dispair. Ross even quite effectively shifts vocal pitch mid-way through the track to keep up with the rather frantic orchestrations. Despite all the manic hysteria of the recording, And If You See Him does emerge as another compelling Ashford and Simpson masterpiece.
The only recording on the album not to have been written by Ashford and Simpson was the H-D-H classic, Reach Out I'll Be There, sung by one of Motowns best ever male groups, The Four Tops. Ashford and Simpson blatantly attempted to recapture the magic and fire of Ross' blockbuster classic, Ain't No Mountain High Enough. Though not quite managing to recapture the momentum of Ain't No Mountain (which, lets face it, was certainly not an easy task to accomplish) this stunning re-working is deeper and darker than the origanal. Like Ain't No Mountain, the track is led to an exalting climax after a gradual build up and Ross rides along a tidal wave of musical arrangements. Her voice is just pure soul on this number. Reach Out I'll Be There should have been a classic but it stopped at just No.29 on the Top 100.
The whole format of the Surrender (1971) Lp is vaguely similar in its ethos to her first album where the second half settles down to more intricate, mellower sounds that are filled with rich and compelling performances from Ross.
Didn't You Know You'd Have To Cry Sometime swerves narrowly into more gospel-like terriotry with the strong, effective gospel-backing on the chrous to Ross' more softer leads on the verses. Yet again the whole format of the recording is constructed with the beginning of the track sounding smooth and a little sensuous even, leading up to the grand, dazzling crescendo.
A Simple Thing Like Cry contains another stunning and soulful performance from Ross and is quite an exceptional album track.
Ross delivers a stirring performance on Did You Read The Morning Paper? which blends a gentle piano back-drop into its well-crafted, Jazz-flavoured arrangements. Far mellower is the almost dreamy ballad, I'll Settle For You, where Ross displays her unique and effortless flair for ballads.
The funky I'm A Winner, which has Las Vegas written all over it, features Ross giving it all shes got as her vocal delivery steadily grows stronger throughout the track sounding impressivley razor sharp as she hits those high notes towards the climax.
Surrender then winds down gently with one last ballad, the exhilirating All The Befores. Much of Ross' music has a soothing, theraputic quality and never more so than on this sparkling, vibrant and perfectly delivered number (and i'm not just being biased).
Surrender (1971) is a classic album in the Soul Divas extensive catologue as it features her in glorious voice throughout, perfectly complimenting Ashford and Simpsons startling and soulful compostions. Carefully conceived as a full studio project and not weighted down by mediocre "filler" (as slightly the case with the Everything Is Everything (1970) album), this perharps is essntial Diana Ross to even the most casual fan.
Although Surrender wasn't a huge seller in the U.S, sales in the U.K were fuelled by the Top 10 success of the classics, Remember Me and Surrender, and the album became a Top 10 seller.
*(Incidentally the Surrender album was re-named I'm Still Waiting in the U.K to cash in on that tracks chart-topping success that year, though it had origanally been recorded as just an additional track for Everything Is Everything).