Two Super Soul Groups United On Record
Ian Phillips | Bolton, Lancashire, UK | 06/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was in the heart of downtown Detroit, early
1959, a male vocal trio calling themselves The
Primes was formed. The Primes comprised of the
vocal talents of Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams
and Kell Osborne. The Primes then set about about
looking for a "sister" group to compliment their
act. That "sister" group was formed by Florence
Ballard who recruited her friends Mary Wilson and
Betty Mcglown and were dubbed The Primettes. At
the recommendation of Paul Williams, a 15 year
old Diana Ross was added to the group.
The Primes and The primettes landed themselves a
record deal with the local Lu Pine Records label
in mid 1959. There, The Primes and The Primettes
cut numerous tracks but the labels boss was
eventually arrested on fraud charges and the
company closed its doors. This left the two
distraught groups without a record deal. But
their hopes and dreams were certainly not dented
and they intensely percevered.
The two groups went their own separate ways
though both acts ended up signing to Berry
Gordy's pioneering black music record label,
Tamla Motown Records. The Primes changed their
names accordingly to the Elgins and then again
permanentely to The Temptations. The Temptations
regular line up soon became Melvin Franklin, Paul
Williams, Otis Williams and David Ruffin.
Meanwhile, The Primettes switched their names to
The Supremes and were reduced to a trio with the
members now being Diana Ross, now The Supremes
permanent lead singer, Florence Ballard (founder
of the group) and Mary Wilson.
By the mid 1960's The Supremes and The
Temptations had become Motowns biggest selling
International stars. They had certainly had come
a long way from singing together in seedy
downtown nightclubs around Detroit.
It seemed inevitable that The Supremes and The
Temptations would one day be re-united and in
late 1968 they indeed were for a series of big
selling studio albums and top rated television
specials. At this stage, Dennis Edwards had taken
over as lead vocalist following the disrupt
dismissal of David Ruffin earlier that year. The
Supremes founder Florence Ballard had alos been
fired in mid 1967 being replaced by Cindy
Birdsong, a former backing vocalist with Patti
Labelle and the Bluebelles. The group had also
been re-christened as Diana Ross AND the
Supremes. This was an obvious marketing ploy on
the part of Motown as they were now grooming the
solo career of Diana Ross.
Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations
proved a phenomenal and dynamic success. It was
also a suitably fitting nod to both groups past.
Of the several albums they cut together, Diana
Ross And The Supremes Join The Temptations (1968)
stands today as their strongest recording
The ultimate landmark of Diana Ross And The
Supremes Join The Temptations (1968) would be the
exhilirating, I'm Gonna Make You Love Me,
produced by two of Motowns hottest new talents,
Frank Wilson and Nickolas Ashford. Injecting the
sweet, lush harmonies of Diana Ross with Eddie
Kendricks quite sensual falsetto, proved a
winning combination. An air of sexual chemistry
sizzles when their two voicesw are put togther.
I'm Gonna Make You Love Me smashed its way on to
the American charts, peaking at No.2 whilst
hitting No.3 on the U.K Charts.
What had actually been originally scheduled as
the premier single of the album was the swinging,
Try It Baby. Whilst being an excellent recording,
the jazz flavoured arrangements intertwined with
a traditionla black Rhythm and Blues feel was
(sensibly) considered not catchy enough to cross
over from the black music charts to the
mainstream Pop charts.
Try It Baby opens with a striking vocal interlude
from teh deep, husky voiced Melvin Franklin which
is set against a pattering beat. The tempo then
swiftly shifts direction when Diana Ross' soft,
exuberant delivery kicks in after Melvin
Franklins brief but effective vocal interlude.
Ross is in really great voice as always, kicking
off her heels and really getting on down with
Melvin Franklin and Dennis Edwards, though had
already proved herself a highly adept and
I'll Try Something New was lifted as the projects second single. It was a neatly balanced ballad with lead vocal duties alternating between Diana Ross and Eddie Kendricks. The glorious musical arrangements are complimented by their divine performances. Despite the quality of the ballad, I'll Try Something New surprisingly failed to sky rocket up the charts in the way I'm Gonna Make You Love Me had done, becoming only a moderate seller.
Their upbeat, energetic cover of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, I Second That Emotion, exceeds the original as their are such a wonderful range of harmonies from both groups though is mainly alternated between Diana Ross (of course) and the smooth vocals of Eddie kendricks. I Second That Emotion was lifted as a British single, where it flew straight into the Top 20 Charts, landing at No.18.
It is quite strange hearing Diana Ross singing Ashford and Simpsons Ain't No Mountain High Enough in a completely different arrangement than that of the more famous version she took to the top of teh charts as a solo artist in 1970. It's a total contrast to Ross' blockbuster solo classic and more of a direct re-working of the compelling version that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell took high into the charts earlier that year. The splitting of lead vocal duties between Diana Ross' soft, sensual sound to the explosive, rocketing volume of Dennis Edwards credible, far grittier style, surprisingly works impeccably well.
Their cover of This Guy's in Love With You showed just how versatile and diverse The Supremes and the Temptations were and proved that their talents strectched much further than beyond the grooves of their latest hit singles. Again, this is another track that really brings out the intricate, natural qualities in Diana Ross' unique and very distinct voice. Ross effortlessly glides along the sweeping orchestrations, her voice brimming tenderly with emotion against the raw, earthy tone of Melvin Franklin.
Funky Broadway is an exciting tour de force between Dennis Edwards, who sings on the first verse and Diana Ross who picks up on the second verse before uniting with Dennis Edwards to sing the chrous against the great backing vocals from both groups. Those jamming, totally infectious musical arrangements are enhanced further by the firm, assertive two leads from Ross and Edwards.
More of a routine effort was the formulaic cover of the Motown classic, Sweet Inspiration which still proves to be contagious regardless! The Temptations often gets down to some serious group harmonising but as always was the case with The supremes, lead singer Diana Ross remains firmly in the spotlight with Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong backing vocals merely used as obligation - or thats how it certainly seemed!
The two groups carry off their pleasant version of Stevie Wonders A Place In The Sun withe ease and style whilst even better is their superb cover of Smokey Robinsons' Then, with Ross' vocal delivery in particular being mesmerisingly divine, sounding simply sensational when pitched against the aggressive delivery of Dennis Edwards.
The albums grand finale is a daring but riviting cover of Elvis Presleys, The Impossible Dream, which they pull off to startling effect. The dramatic, complex Motown orchestrations are coated by two super fine performances from Diana Ross and Dennis Edwards. The track really ignites and proved to be the most adventurous and diverse recording on the album. A very succesful experimnent that is carried off with style and finesse.
Diana Ross And The Supremes Join The Temptations (1968) is an enjoyable album from start to finish and is not marred by any filler. It is an essential album for any lover of soul music. Diana Ross And The Supremes Join The Temptations (1968) bounced its way to No.2 on the U.S BillBoard Album Charts whilst racing all the way into pole position on the U.K Album Charts.