Beginning of the End
D. Ross | PA, USA | 07/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Miss Ross at her STELLER Best. From the Effervescent 'When it's to the top - still I Won't stop' to the gorgeous 'YOU GAVE ME LOVE' the CD is a brilliant continuim of what would have happened if the 'Supremes' had remained with Miss Ross. The songs prefigure the HDH Opus' that followed with Miss Freda Payne and HoneyCone. The most haunting song is 'BEGINNING OF THE END' - the slow and moody remake of an old Motown song tells of MIss Ross' pain at leaving her group - the voice is thin and sad and suites the song brilliantly. As an aside this Album cover was literally copied for the movie DREAMGIRLS!! In face the songs remain the same even though the faces were interchanged with the stars from the movie.
Diana was never better - This is a great CD"
The End Of The Road For Diana Ross And The Supremes
Ian Phillips | Bolton, Lancashire, UK | 06/14/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Cream Of The Crop (a questionable title) was yet another merely routine exercise by Tamla Motown Records to gather together canned material, B-sides and filler with a few hit singles thrown in and assemble them for an album. It was a cheap, easy and obvious marketing ploy on the part of Motown but indeed as the case with most albums by other of Motowns key artists, they usually contained a handful of really great, worth while tracks.
Like their previous studio album, Let The Sunshine In (1969), Cream Of The Crop (1969) carried many cover versions where some really hit their ultimate potential whilst others seem slightly misguided. The only purpose of these diverse cover versions was to show off what an adept and versatile a vocalist Diana Ross had became. Her solo career was now, of course, waiting in the wings. Ross' performances are rich, passionate and brimming with emotion. Ross' sparkling vocals are often some of the tracks only saving grace. All too often the arrangements are too formulaic, lacking any real adventure or invention compared to their golden years.
The only International hit single to be found scattered on Cream Of The Crop (1969) was Diana Ross And The Supremes touching swan song SomeDay We'll Be Together. Songwriters Jackey Beavers, Johnny Bristol (who provides brief backing vocal interludes on the track) and Harvey Fuqua show off their lyrical finesse whilst lead singer Diana Ross delivers a beautifully understated performance. Her seamless, easy-going performance sounds extremely effective when riding along the smooth and soulful rhythms courtesy of Motowns unsung heros, The Funk Brothers. SomeDay We'll Be Together became Diana Ross And The Supremes twelth and final No.1 smash hit and became a great trailer for the much hyped and eagerly anticipated solo career of Diana Ross, launched in early 1970.
Another hit single (albeit a very minor one) was also added on to the Cream Of The Crop collection - The Young Folks. This much underated recording, featured an impeccable lead from Ross on what was an untypical sound for "the girls" as boss Berry Gordy always referred to them as. The Young Folks had been used as the flip side to their Top 40 hit, No Matter What Sign You Are (another underated gem). After No Matter What Sign You Are was issued to D.J.'s, The Young Folks eventually generated a lot of interest and soon became a hit in its own right, climbing to No.68 on the BillBoard Charts.
Some of the recordings recall The Supremes earlier sound which proves contagious when it comes to riviting tracks like You Gave Me Love and Can't You See It's Me. They are prime examples of the Motown genre and subsequently emerge as the real highlights of the album. Ross is in glorious voice on both You Gave Me Love and Can't You See It's Me with her vocals glowing across the well-crafted orchestrations and cutting through those sharp, pulsating, repetitive arrangements like a sharp knife.
Diana Ross And The supremes lightweight but equally infectious cover version of The Four Top's Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever has a far more group oriented sound in comparison to most other tracks on here that are all practically Diana Ross' solo efforts. The harmonies of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong all blend divinley together.
Their electric cover version of The Beatles famous classic, Hey Jude, is somewhat debatable. On a personal note, I love hearing Ross' exuberant delivery on Hey Jude but it is also decidely out of context to the original and the harshest rock music critic failed to take Ross' renedition very seriously. Still to her credit she holds her own and injects the song with her oqn magical and individual touch.
Diana Ross and the Supremes made more social statements on the earthy, Shadows Of Society, which obviously had taken its cue from the social and political commentary on their chart topping soul classic, Love Child and the gritty I'm Living In Shame. Whilst Shadows Of Society certainly doesn't have the fire and edge of those familiar soul classics, it is still quite compelling within itself. The swirling, pshychedelic sounds zoom in and out of each verse, merely adding to the atmospheric feel.
The Beginning Of The End, i'm convinced, could have been a big hit single and a great swan song for The Supremes had the preferable and far superior SomeDay We'll Be Together not been released. ross' delivery on The Beginning Of The End is both sensitive and sensual and yet at the same time strong and effective. The Beginning Of The End also emerges as one of the albums ultimate highlights.
What remains of Cream Of The Crop then is pretty much standard Motown fare. Some tracks are pedestrian some totally fail to ignite. When It's To The Top (Still I Won't Stop Loving You) for instance is catchy enough with Ross putting another fantastic performance.
Surprisingly more lacklustre was the Smokey Robinson produced Till Johnny Comes where as the detour into Folk Music on their cover of bob Dylans Blowin' In The Wind is an adventurous though failed experiment. Simply injecting soul music with folk music proves to go together like oil and water.
Cream Of The Crop (1969) lacks the consistency of many of Diana Ross And The Supremes classic studio albums such as More Hits By The Supremes (1965), The Supremes A Go Go (1966), The Supremes Sing Holland Dozier Holland (1967) and Love Child (1968), though the inclusion of the gloriously timeless SomeDay We'll Be Together alone justifies buying the album. Fans will be delighted - other wont partcularly care.