Monday, 8 October 2018
Diana Ross - Diana Ross (1970)
Released June 1970
Recorded in Detroit
This was Diana Ross's first solo album, after many years of being Motown's queen bee, even when part of the phenomenally successful Supremes, her rise to mega-stardom began here and Motown threw their whole weight behind it. The poppy feel of the Supremes was now left behind and Ross was being presented as a "diva"-style singer of big ballads. those ballads were still given a Motown backing, however, so this is a bit of a transitional album, between Motown orchestration and the more traditional "easy-listening" backing that would come as the seventies progressed. Strangely, on the front cover, Ross is pictured looking like a street urchin as opposed to a bejewelled diva.
This is a bit of an understated and appealing album that has sort of slipped under the radar somewhat. It begins with the well-known, dramatic "Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)" which needs no introduction. "Now That There's You" is similarly punchy and vibrant, a classic big-production Motown ballad. "You're All I Need To Get By" was made famous by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, here Ross takes on both vocal parts, in an impressive and uplifting manner. Her voice is as strong as it has ever been on this one. "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You" is a catchy and soulful number which was originally recorded by The Velvelettes back in 1966. This was continuing the Motown tradition of recycling old songs on other artists' albums. This was not necessarily a bad thing, as many of the alternative versions were excellent, as is this one.
Despite it being a cover, Ross takes Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and truly makes it her own, so much so that it has long been the definitive version of the song. It is included here in its full, six minute glory. "Something On My Mind" is one of those effortless, melodic mid-pace songs she coped with easily while "I Wouldn't Change The Man He Is" breaks loose from a laid-back bluesy opening into a big brassy soulful chorus.
"Keep An Eye" is a bassy, grinding Temptations-esque number warning girls to keep an eye on their close friends, in case they take your man. This is one of the best cuts on the album. Diana's vocal is excellent on this one. I have always preferred the voices of Gladys Knight and Martha Reeves, I have to say, but hers does the business here, no doubt about that. "Where There Was Darkness" is a delicious, light number with some sweet strings, brass and percussion and another strong vocal. The stereo sound on this, and throughout, is impressive. "Can't It Wait Until Tomorrow" is a soulful slow number, with some Bacharach-style brass backing. "Dark Side Of The World" is a rumbling, half upbeat, half brooding song that stands to exemplify this album - one that has not got to the syrupy "easy listening" or slick disco phases as yet, one that still has a bit of gritty soul coursing through its veins.