Saturday, 2 June 2018
Diana Ross & The Supremes - I Hear A Symphony (1966)
Released in February 1966
Recorded at Hitsville, Detroit
This review is for the download of the Hip-O-Select remaster with additional bonus and live tracks.Firstly, the sound on all of these releases ("Meet The Supremes"; "Where Did Our Love Go"; this one and "Supremes A Go-Go") is absolutely superb. With all of them you get both the MONO and STEREO versions of the original album plus a further CD's worth of "extras" - unreleased material and live cuts. As a confirmed stereo man, I much prefer the stereo versions. They are simply wonderfully remastered. As good as I have ever heard this material.
With regard to the original album, musically. It is certainly not their best. The two great singles, "I Hear A Symphony" and "My World Is Empty Without You" are surrounded by covers of songs like "Yesterday", "Unchained Melody" and "songs from the shows" like "Stranger In Paradise". All massively orchestrated, especially Rodgers and Hart's "With A Song In My Heart" - nothing of the "Motown Sound" in many of them. People expecting the Funk Brothers' pounding backing will be disappointed by the saccharine nature of some of the tracks on this album. It seemed the thing to do in the mid 1960s for groups to record great singles and spend the rest of their time recording tributes to The Beatles and covering easy-listening standards. This changed a little with "Love Child" in 1968, but that was still three years away. The cover of The Toys' gorgeous "A Lover's Concerto" is excellent though. Diana's voice on this almost has me in tears. Lovely. "Any Girl In Love (Knows What I'm Going Through)" is a return to the Motown Sound to a certain extent and stands up well, as does the "Everything Is Good About You" with its classic Supremes sound. "He's All I Got" ends the album on a real Motown/Northern Soul high note, thankfully. The second half of the album is far more enjoyable.
This album is too much of an "easy listening" one for my liking though. One could imagine the older generation in the mid-sixties liking this. Maybe that was the intention.
The "EXTRAS" are mainly LIVE cuts from a gig at "The Roostertail" in Detroit from 1966. The sound, for a live recording from 1966, is excellent. That's as far as it goes for me though. The venue seems to have been an "entertainment" style place - eating, sitting at your table and drinking while the group entertain you. It is positively awful. The worst example of a fifties/sixties "cabaret" performance. A "house band" or should I say an orchestra who back every song in a big band/showband style. All the Motown oomph out of a song like "Come See About Me" is backing saxophoned and stringed out of it. Ditto "Baby Love" with its truly appalling improvised intro, "You Can't Hurry Love" and "Stop! In The Name Of Love". In between we get covers of contemporary easy listening standards like Jody Miller's "Queen Of The House" and The Beatles' "Yesterday" and "Michelle" and Diana's woeful attempts to joke with the audience. The "Band Introductions" and "You're Nobody Until Somebody Loves You" is truly cringeworthy. Unlistenable. You had to be there, I guess!
The sound is great and it has a historical interest but there are better ones. "Supremes A Go-Go", for example.