Baby It’s Me (1977)

“I can’t believe the way you move me…”

“Most of us remember Martha Reeves as leader of one of the most popular soul groups in history, the Vandellas.  Now, as a solo and with the fine production of Richard Perry, she is showing signs of becoming an even bigger star,” raved Billboard magazine in its June 15, 1974 issue, reviewing the MCA release Martha Reeves.  Although the album surprisingly failed to become a commercial success, critics and fans loved it; someone else who took note was the singer’s former boss, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.  “Berry Gordy called me and asked if I would like to work with Diana,” remembered producer Richard Perry in a 2012 interview with Christian John Wikane.  “He loved the album I had done with Martha Reeves a few years earlier and wanted me to get the same vibe going for Diana.”  Miss Ross, of course, had spent nearly all of 1975 tied up in the making of her second motion picture, Mahogany, and after its completion immediately embarked on a hugely successful tour of her Tony-winning one-woman show, An Evening With Diana Ross.

By the summer of 1977, Ross and Perry finally carved out the time to team up in the studio, creating an album that Diana would describe as “a love album.  We wanted to make a record people could make love to — keep putting the arm back to the thing, and make love to it” (Rolling Stone, August 11, 1977).  Notably, this would be first studio album Diana recorded with a single producer since 1971’s Surrender, which would help give the project a cohesiveness despite the fact that songs all came from different writers.  Among them were Diana’s lablemate and old friend Stevie Wonder (his ballad “Too Shy To Say” was first featured on 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale), soul singer Bill Withers (with the oft-covered “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh”), and Carole Bayer Sager, who would later pen the lyrics to Diana’s 1980 Top 10 hit “It’s My Turn.”  In assembling the set of classy pop-soul tracks, producer Perry says his goal was, “Just to make it a little different, a little more contemporary, where the whole album would be tasteful songs and offer a lot of variety” (Wikane interview).

Motown released Baby It’s Me (Motown 890) on September 16, 1977, just as principal photography was about to begin on Diana’s third motion picture as an actress, a big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical The Wiz.  The massive production would claim the singer’s schedule until the end of the year, leaving her with little time to promote the new album.  That said, Motown didn’t seem terribly intent on promoting the album, either, waiting until late October to release the first single, a bouncy jazz-pop confection called “Gettin’ Ready For Love.”  The lag time meant radio stations and dance clubs starting playing other tracks from the album, including the disco cut “Your Love Is So Good For Me,” which was already in the Top 20 of the Billboard National Disco Action Top 40 chart by the time “Gettin’ Ready For Love” was officially released.  The split airplay ended up killing the chance for any of Baby It’s Me‘s singles to become an out-and-out smash; none of the three songs released cracked the pop Top 20, surprising given the quality of the cuts and the fact that Diana had enjoyed #1 hits in both of the previous two years.

Although the album sold and charted moderately well, it wasn’t exactly hailed a masterpiece (Rolling Stone offered up another incomprehensible review, calling the album “a minor triumph” while writing off Richard Perry as “too self-consciously arty” and Diana Ross as “campy and prone to self-parody”) and, for the most part, got lost in the attention given its predecessor (1976’s Diana Ross) and the record considered Diana’s “comeback,” 1979’s The Boss.  This is a shame, considering  Baby It’s Me is better than both of those albums; in fact, it might be the strongest record from start to finish in the Ross discography.  Diana’s vocal performances here are her most consistently exiting since Surrender; she manages to recapture the youth and vibrancy of her Supremes recordings while still retaining the maturity and complexity of her forays into jazz and blues.  Perry’s productions, meanwhile, are as classy and sophisticated as anything ever released by Motown.  As Diana had hoped, Baby It’s Me is, indeed, a love album, but it’s much more than that.  It’s an album all about the joys of life – about love, longing, dance, and friendship.  That joy is every bit as powerful 40 years after its initial release.

***

Billboard: November 12, 1977

1.  Gettin’ Ready For Love:  One couldn’t ask for a more exciting opening track; featuring slicing strings, a swinging sax, and a popping bassline, “Gettin’ Ready For Love” is a soaring, enchanting pop record that’s at once mature, danceable, and romantic.  Written by the accomplished team of  Tom Snow and Franne Gold, the tune is a perfect blend of pop, jazz, and soul, with upbeat lyrics revolving around the excitement of a new romance.  Diana’s vivacious performance perfectly sets the tone; she handles the tricky, fast-paced verses nicely, her excellent enunciation skills (courtesy Motown’s infamous charm school) coming in handy here with the rapid-fire succession of lyrics such as the opening “I-sit-by-the-telephone-waiting-for-you-to-call-me…”  Beyond that, there’s a freshness to Diana’s voice that had been missing from her past several studio albums; the singer’s crisp tone and youthful energy harken back to her days as a Supreme, while the material itself is as cool and contemporary as anything featured on 1976’s Diana Ross.  Credit must also go to the fantastic musicians featured on the track, including David Hungate on the bass, Tom Scott on the sax, and the great Gene Page, who arranged and conducted the strings; the band sparkles under the tasteful direction of producer Richard Perry.  If there’s a problem with “Gettin’ Ready For Love,” it’s only that it came perhaps a few years too early; had the song ridden the wave of jazz-influenced R&B the following decade (due to the success of artists including Anita Baker and Regina Belle), it likely would have been a smash.  As it was, the track was still highly regarded enough around Motown that it was eventually released as the album’s first single, issued in October of 1977; according to Perry, “Shortly after I had finished it I went up to Berry [Gordy, Jr.]’s house with the final mix.  It was Smokey’s birthday and everybody was there.  They started blasting it and everyone was dancing and freaking out” (digital reissue booklet).  Billboard agreed, calling it “a slick, clean offering” with a “dramatic climax” in its original October 29 review; the song debuted on the Hot 100 the following week.  Unfortunately, by this time, the single’s parent album had already been available to the public for a full month, and radio stations and dance clubs were playing their own favorite tracks from it instead of focusing on the new single.  This undoubtedly hurt the song’s chart fortunes, and “Gettin’ Ready For Love” ended up peaking at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #16 on the R&B listings (it did climb into the Top 10 of the Easy Listening chart).  These so-so statistics certainly aren’t reflective of the song’s quality; “Gettin’ Ready For Love” remains one of the best singles released by Diana Ross during the 1970s, and is a dazzling way to open the album.

2.  You Got It:  This song was eventually issued as the third and final single from Baby It’s Me, hitting the market in April of 1978; it was written by famed songwriter and producer Jerry Ragovoy (“Piece Of My Heart”) and Linda Laurie, who’d charted as an artist herself with the strange “Ambrose (Part 5)” in the late 1950s.  At its core, the song is an intelligent updating of the classic Motown sound; there are strong echoes of Holland-Dozier-Holland here, from the dark sinewy verses (shades of a tortured Four Tops recording) to the kind of dynamic, uplifting chorus Diana Ross had mastered more than a decade earlier as one-third of The Supremes.  Instead of The Funk Brothers, Perry assembles a first-rate group of musicians here, from famed guitarists Ray Parker, Jr. and Lee Ritenour to accomplished background singers Becky Lewis, Petsye Powell, and Patti Brooks (the latter of whom would have a solo track, “After Hours,” featured alongside Diana’s “Lovin’, Livin’ and Givin'” on the Thank God Its Friday soundtrack the following year).  Atop the superb track offered up by these musicians, Diana again delivers an exciting vocal; her voice sparkles with a real warmth and assuredness, and her full-bodied work on the climax of the song is as powerful and exhilarating as anything she’d recorded with Ashford and Simpson.  Considering “You Got It” was released as a single a full seven months after Baby It’s Me became available, it’s no big surprise the song struggled on the charts; it peaked at #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #39 on the R&B chart, although as with lead single “Gettin’ Ready For Love,” the song did climb into the Easy Listening Top 10.  Although it didn’t stand a chance at being a major hit, this is a terrific inclusion and a great throwback to the hook-filled hits of Motown’s golden age.  (NOTE:  A few years later, “You Got It” was recorded and released by singer Diane Richards as “You Got It [You Got It All].”)

Ebony: November 1977

3.  Baby It’s Me:  The album’s title track comes courtesy legendary musician Donald Dunn (a member of Booker T. & the M.G.’s and Stax session player) and Charles C. Smith; Dunn is also credited with playing guitar on this track, and some say that’s Smith singing the harmony vocal along with Diana Ross, although the male voice is uncredited.  Interestingly, there’s another notable name listed among the credits for “Baby It’s Me” — David Foster handles the horn arrangement here, years before his name would become synonymous with power pop ballads like “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston) and “Become You Loved Me” (Celine Dion), both of which he produced.  “Baby It’s Me” certainly isn’t power pop; it’s a funky little ditty with a nice bounce to it, driven by Foster’s brass arrangement and the superb guitar playing of Dunn, Lee Ritenour, and Ray Parker, Jr.  Miss Ross sounds completely relaxed and loose here; this isn’t a performance in which she pushes her voice too much, but she doesn’t need to.  She sings the bulk of the song in harmony with that male background voice, and it’s a nice effect that gives the song an added energy and the feel of a live performance.  The addition of the secondary voice and the funkier arrangement here recall Diana’s earlier recording “One Love In My Lifetime,” which had first been featured on Diana Ross and was released as a single in August of 1976 in an effort to support the singer’s first solo hits collection.  As good as that tune was, “Baby It’s Me” has an even stronger focus and crisper production; it’s not quite as catchy, and thus probably wouldn’t have worked as a single, but it’s great album track.  The song was eventually placed on the b-side to “Your Love Is So Good For Me,” which was lifted as a single in early 1978, and it resurfaced later in 1978 when actress Raquel Welch performed the song on episode 311 of “The Muppet Show,” singing it while dancing with a giant prehistoric spider!

4.  Too Shy To Say:  The album’s first ballad is a dazzler, written by Diana’s longtime friend and labelmate Stevie Wonder and first recorded by him for 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale.  It’s an interesting bit of trivia that Miss Ross and The Supremes were probably the first Motown artists to record songs penned by Wonder (aside from the artist himself, of course); both “Baby Doll” and “Sunset” from 1965’s The Supremes Sing Country, Western & Pop were co-written by a very young Stevie Wonder with his mentor, Clarence Paul.  Even then, Diana’s velvety voice proved a satisfying tool with which to present Wonder’s material, and she would offer further proof over the years with covers of Wonder songs like “Ribbon In The Sky” (from 1983’s Central Park concert) and “Overjoyed” (from 1994’s holiday album A Very Special Season), not to mention the title track of 1991’s The Force Behind The Power, which was written and produced specifically for her by Stevie.  But for those looking for a definitive Ross-Wonder crossover record, “Too Shy To Say” is it; not only is this one of Diana’s best ballad performances of the decade, it’s also arguably one of the great all-time covers of a Stevie Wonder song.  Let’s face it; when Diana Ross is given a great ballad to sing, she delivers, and “Too Shy To Say” is a smooth, dreamy song that seems tailor-made for the singer.  Perry’s production is perfectly-pitched, toning down the complex and bouncy tracks from the album’s three previous songs to just keyboards, synthesizers, and strings here; Diana’s reading is sensitive and fully-engaged, combining the hypnotic feel of her work on “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” with the passionate, emotional readings she gave to songs like “All The Befores” from Surrender.  The end result is a romantic, bittersweet song that’s perfect for an album dedicated to love; in the Rolling Stone piece written by Ben Fong-Torres, Diana is described as listening to her work on this song and saying, “That was a good one…very nice” (August 11, 1977).  It’s interesting that Motown overlooked “Too Shy To Say” as a single candidate in favor of three upbeat singles; this is such a strong performance that it sounds like it could have at least been a big hit on R&B radio, and likely could have crossed over to pop, too.  That said, it was placed on the b-side of third single “You Got It,” and Diana kept the tune as part of her live act for a few years (she can be seen performing it on her 1980 HBO television special Standing Room Only: Diana Ross).

Billboard: March 11, 1978

5.  Your Love Is So Good For Me:  When Baby It’s Me was released in September of 1977 without an accompanying first single, this is the song that radio and club disc jockeys immediately jumped on; “Your Love Is So Good For Me,” was already in the Top 20 of the Billboard National Disco Action Top 40 chart by the time official first single “Gettin’ Ready For Love” was released in October.  “Your Love Is So Good For Me” (co-listed with “Top Of The World”) quickly peaked at #15 on the National Disco Action Top 40 chart, but climbed even higher on various regional charts; in the October 22, 1977 issue of Billboard, for example, the song sits at #3 on the Atlanta Disco Action chart and #6 on New York’s.  A few months later, in January  of 1978, final nominations for the 20th Annual Grammy Awards were released and “Your Love Is So Good For Me” was listed in the Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female category, Diana’s fifth solo Grammy nomination.  In the wake of the Grammy nod, Motown finally released the song as an official single, although by this time momentum for the song had slowed considerably; it ended up climbing no higher than #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #16 on the R&B chart.  As with the earlier “You Got It,” the lackluster chart statistics have little to do with actual quality; this is a driving, upbeat R&B tune that manages to sidestep falling into the trap of sounding solely like dated disco thanks to Perry’s impeccable production.  Written by Ken Peterson (who also plays electric piano, synthesizers and Clavinet on the track) and featuring joyful background vocals by David Paich and Bobby Kimball (both known for being members of rock band Toto, along with Jeff Porcaro, who plays drums on the track), “Your Love Is So Good For Me” is arguably the only true dance track on the album; it moves like a speeding locomotive, chugging along from start to finish on a densely orchestrated track of blaring horns, guitars, and synth sounds.  But unlike much disco output of the decade, the vocal performance doesn’t get lost in the groove, or upstaged by it; Diana Ross commands the song with a sparkling, sultry performance.  Similar in some ways to her work on the 1976 #1 hit “Love Hangover,” the key to her performance here is how much fun she seems to be having; this song is certainly more challenging in terms of the range and power it requires, but Miss Ross again sounds free and loose behind the microphone, clearly enjoying the recording process and adding in some fun ad-libs and flourishes that really bring life to the track.  Along with the standard 7″ single, Motown released a 12″ extended remix of this song, which was backed with Thelma Houston’s “I Can’t Go On Living Without Your Love” (co-written by the Holland brothers, who’d penned the bulk of Diana’s hits with The Supremes); incidentally, it was Houston who beat Diana for the R&B Female Grammy, winning for the #1 hit “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”

6.  Top Of The World:  Although it was only released as a promotional single in the United States, “Top Of The World” did climb to #15 on the Billboard National Disco Action Top 40 chart, co-listed with Baby It’s Me‘s previous track, “Your Love Is So Good For Me.”  “Top Of The World” was released in the U.K., backed with “Too Shy To Say,” but it didn’t end up becoming a hit for the singer; it’s too bad, because this is one of the true highlights of the entire album, an upbeat number written by Tom Snow of “Gettin’ Ready For Love” and featuring a similar pop-jazz feel.  The tune is catchy as all get out; the staccato, string-laden intro immediately sets a head-bopping beat, and the chorus is probably the strongest and most memorable on the entire album.  In ways, it’s similar in tone to the work artists like George Benson and Al Jarreau were turning out at the time; there’s an elegance to the music in its tip of the hat to smooth jazz that sets it apart from other pop songs of the era.  Producer Richard Perry once again engages the great Gene Page to arrange those strings, and the soaring background vocals here are provided by Becky Lewis, Clydie King, and Sherlie Matthews.  All three singers are notable session vocalists (Lewis sings on a few of this album’s songs), but the latter two will be especially familiar to Motown fans; together with Venetta Fields, King, and Matthews made up The Blackberries, Motown’s West Coast female session singers.  In an album of outstanding vocal performances by Diana Ross, “Top Of The World” boasts one of the best; there’s a real strength to her work here, especially on the refrain, but Diana never over-sings, instead allowing her crisp delivery and supple, youthful sound to carry the song’s uplifting message.  Listening to Diana’s voice dance over such a strong melody, it’s impossible not to think of her work with the Supremes; it’s clear that Richard Perry was well-educated in the singer’s storied history as the leader of the world’s top female trio and the qualities that made her a star in the first place.  In fact, Perry had produced singer-songwriter Leo Sayer’s hit album Endless Flight just a year earlier, using many of the same musicians and background vocalists as he would on Baby It’s Me; that album contained a cover of “Reflections,” first recorded by Diana and The Supremes in 1967.  Endless Flight, by the way, contained the massive hit “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” — had “Top Of The World” been released as this album’s first single and been given a significant promotional push, perhaps it also could have given producer Perry and Miss Ross a smash.  It’s that good.

Rolling Stone: August 11, 1977

7.  All Night Lover:  If “You Got It” and “Top Of The World” contain echoes of Diana’s work with The Supremes, “All Night Lover” dives into the classic Motown sound head-on.  This song is, simply put, an all-out lovefest to the Motown sound; it’s a splendid recreation of Diana’s best work as lead singer of the Supremes, but never feels derivative or like a parody of her performances from the 1960s.  Like the previous track, there’s a real elegance to the production here; this is pop/soul at its classy, shimmering best, written by Jerry “You Got It” Ragovoy and Lenny Roberts, who’d previously worked as an engineer on albums by Cher and Liza Minnelli.  The bouncy, repetitive beat is incredibly catchy, and Diana’s vocal is masterful – she throws in some nods to her past hits (including an opening coo straight out of “Baby Love”) while still sounding like a seasoned, mature songstress.  Diana recorded the song on June 21, 1977, while being written about in Rolling Stone by Ben Fong-Torres; it’s interesting to see how collaborative the process apparently was with producer Perry, as detailed in this exchange:  “Perry says he thinks the word ‘dream’ seems to come up too often in the verse.  ‘I don’t mind it,’ says Ross.  ‘The repetition is good with me.’  They go over a lyric that reads: ‘Renew me, move me,’ and Perry suggests rewording it to ‘Renew me, do me,’ as Ross had sung in a run-through.  Ross sings it again, then laughs at the naughtiness” (August 11, 1977).  Perhaps it was that freedom and collaboration that led to the joy and “magic” in this song; in his 2012 Q&A with Christian John Wikane (included in the album’s digital reissue booklet), Perry calls the song “Pure Diana.”  Credit must also go to the stellar musicians featured on the track; David Paich, who’d sung background on “Your Love Is So Good For Me,” plays the sparkling piano, and jazz legend Bud Shank offers up a memorable flute performance.  “All Night Lover” is another song that could have garnered strong airplay had it been serviced to pop, soul, and Easy Listening stations; as with “Top Of The World,” it exists in the same tasteful jazz-pop realm populated by Al Jarreau, Roberta Flack, George Benson, and, later, Anita Baker.  That said, Perry is right; “All Night Lover” is pure Diana, which makes it pure perfection.

8.  Confide In Me:  This lovely, understated ballad was written by pop diva Melissa Manchester and Stanley Schwartz; Manchester had recently broken through to mainstream success with her 1975 hit “Midnight Blue,” a ballad which had been executive produced by Richard Perry.  Interestingly, Manchester hadn’t released an earlier version of “Confide In Me” herself; she states in the digital booklet for 2014’s Baby It’s Me: Expanded Edition that Diana “was the first to record it and it was really, really thrilling to hear her interpretation.”  This is another classy, piano-heavy song (the keys are played by co-writer Stanley Schwartz) evocative of an intimate, late-night club; one can easily imagine Diana on the stage, obscured by cigarette smoke, singing the song to an after-hours crowd.  Her vocal is relaxed and assured; she seems to be taking the lyrics “take it slow, easy go” literally, simply singing the words without artifice but letting her voice soar when it’s called for.  When Motown released “Gettin’ Ready For Love” as this album’s first single in October of 1977, it chose “Confide In Me” as the b-side; years later, the song would show up on the CD compilation Soulful Divas Vol. 3: Softly With A Song, released in 1998 and also featuring ballads by Minnie Riperton, Dionne Warwick, and Gladys Knight.  “Confide In Me” also resurfaced on episode 311 of “The Muppet Show” later in 1978 (just as “Baby It’s Me” had); this time, actress Raquel Welch sang it to popular Muppet character Fozzie Bear!

9.  The Same Love That Made Me Laugh:  Baby It’s Me‘s penultimate track is a funky Bill Withers classic that gets a dark, driving reading by Richard Perry and Diana Ross.  The song first showed up on the 1974 Withers LP +’Justments; released as a single, it peaked at #50 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the R&B chart.  Perry’s decision to have Ross cover the song is a brilliant one; the producer would later discuss the song in his 2012 Q&A with Christian John Wikane, saying “Diana delivers one of her most sultry vocals in the verses and then explodes in the choruses.”  Indeed, the song itself demands more from the vocalist than perhaps any other on the album; sections of her performance can only be described as “wailing,” and the singer exhibits real power and range as she stretches out various words and phrases over several bars.  She also gets the chance to do some wordless improvisation at just more than three minutes into the track that foreshadows her dynamic work on The Boss album a few years later.  The production is beautifully done; Gene Page returns for his third string arrangement on the album, and this time lends them a darker, more complex feel.  Noted percussionist Lenny Castro, who’d met Richard Perry through his work with Melissa Manchester, also gives the song an urgent, thumping beat.  Although “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” was never released as a single, it did gain club play at the time; co-listed with “Your Love Is So Good For Me,” the song charted at #10 on the regional disco chart for Detroit in the October 29, 1977 issue of Billboard.  Had it been pushed at radio, this song likely could have gained strong airplay on soul stations; in an album filled with songs dedicated to the blissful joys of love, this is a terrific reminder that sometimes (in the words of Bill Withers) “it hurts so much.”

10.  Come In From The Rain:  Discussing this song with Christian John Wikane in 2012, producer Richard Perry commented, “I’d known the song for quite some time through Carole [Bayer Sager].  At the time we were very close.  I produced, of course, ‘Nobody Does It Better’ (Carly Simon) and ‘When I Need You’ (Leo Sayer), both co-written by Carole.  It just suddenly dawned upon me that this would be a great song for Diana and perfect way to close the album.”  “Come In From The Rain” was written by Carole Bayer Sager with Melissa Manchester, who first recorded it for her 1976 album Better Days & Happy Endings; earlier in 1977, pop duo Captain & Tennille covered the song and named an album after it, and Sager herself recorded it and placed it on her self-titled album the same year.  “Come In From The Rain” is the most purely “pop” song on the album, a lovely ballad that begins with a simple, understated verse and slowly builds to a sweeping, cinematic finish reminiscent of Diana’s work with writer/producer Michael Masser (incidentally, Masser and Carole Bayer Sager would eventually team up to give Diana Ross one of her most lasting hits, 1980’s “It’s My Turn”).  As on the pair of previous ballads, Diana’s clear, ringing soprano is showcased brilliantly; she’s never sounded better, and is bolstered by the strong material and production.  Co-writer Manchester would later say of Diana’s rendition, “To have any great singer sing your songs is always a thrill and she brought such a beautiful reading to ‘Come In From The Rain'” (Baby It’s Me: Expanded Edition digital booklet).  Over the years, many other artists would sing “Come In From The Rain,” including Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli, and Cheryl Lynn, but this version stands shoulder-to-shoudler with the very best of them; it’s Baby It’s Me‘s final proof that when Diana Ross is given strong material and surrounded by top-notch musicians, nobody does it better.

***

Even without a smash hit single, Baby It’s Me performed commendably on the charts, climbing to a peak of #18 on the Billboard 200 and #7 on the R&B Albums chart.  Unfortunately, a planned second collaboration between Diana Ross and Richard Perry never happened; soon after the release of Baby It’s Me, Perry became president of Planet Records, a duty which would command his full attention.  According to a 1979 article in Billboard, “The time demands of Perry’s involvement with Planet will preclude him from continuing his outside production associations with Leo Sayer, for whom he handled three Warner Bros. LPs, and Diana Ross, for whom he produced one album (‘Baby It’s Me’) in addition to cutting tracks for a second LP for which Ross never laid down her vocals” (March 3).  Motown singer Syreeta Wright put her vocals on a few of those unused tracks (included on her LP Syreeta) and Perry gave some of the others to The Pointer Sisters, the stars of his Planet label.  Miss Ross, meanwhile, maintained her always-packed schedule by filming her third starring role in a motion picture (1978’s The Wiz) before teaming up again with her old friends Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson for the 1979 LP The Boss.

Thankfully, fans have kept Baby It’s Me alive over the years, and the 2014 release of Baby It’s Me: Expanded Edition reenforced just how masterful the album really is.  Unlike Diana’s previous few studio albums, which featured both strong singles and weak filler, each track here blends perfectly into the next, creating a complete musical work that is full of energy and romance; in retrospect, this is perhaps why none of the singles, out of the context of the rest of the LP, did very well.  But perhaps the real strength in this album lies simply in the fact that there’s a clear vision here; as Miss Ross said while recording it, she and Richard Perry had set out from the start to create an album people “could make love to.”  By keeping that goal front and center, the duo were able to execute their version with exacting clarity.  As they hoped, the album is a compulsively listenable, timeless tribute to the joys of being in love; it has more than stood the test of time.  And in the Diana Ross discography, this album stands as perhaps the single most consistently enjoyable work she would ever record.

Final Analysis:  5/5 (Ross & Perry Deliver A “Top” Effort)

Choice Cuts:  “All Night Lover,” “Top Of The World,” “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh”

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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74 Responses to Baby It’s Me (1977)

  1. Tony says:

    Paul, OMG! For years I thought I was the only fan who appreciated this stunning ,sultry album. This is for sure one of her best. This album displays the “Ross” voice that captivates me. On the songs she is either like silk or crystal —- stunning performances. Thank you for this project. It’s going to be a Sunday morningof “Baby it’s Me”.

    • Paul says:

      Tony — yay — hope you enjoyed your Sunday morning with this stunning album! You’re not alone, for sure….I love it, too…what a brilliant piece of work!!

  2. wayne2710 says:

    There’s not a word I can add to your analysis Paul. THE perfect album. If I had to choose only one Diana Ross album above all the others then it would have to be this.

    • Paul says:

      Wayne — I agree — there are a few other DR albums that I love, but I think this may be the more perfect complete album she ever recorded.

  3. This album is exquisite. It’s Diana’s high couture, elegant super refined, extremely glamorous and superbly constructed and I love it BUT i have always felt it is an album that weaves genres but doesn’t really belong to any, it’s a very tasteful musical blend but lacks that kick that Ashford and Simpson would supply two years later. When “Baby it’s Me” came out I ran to the record store to buy it and searched the Soul and Disco new releases section and was not there. I finally found it in the Easy Listening and marched with my vinyl in hand and told the cashier ( and owner of the record store) to remove Miss Diana Ross from the elevator music section! Lol! Oh, so sweet to be young and naive. Of course I know better now.

    • Paul says:

      Carlos — ha ha ha — I love that you told the store to move Diana’s music! That’s the work of a true fan, for sure 🙂 I love how you descibe the album as high couture and elegant — what a perfect way to say it!

  4. Antje says:

    All said so well, Paul – brilliant!

    To an occasional listener (Carlos’ record store owner “Easy listening”?) the album might have sounded bland. But it is both smooth and funky, relaxed and energetic, seductive and self-assured. I cannot think of any other singer who could have accomplished this synthesis throughout a complete album.

    And since I commented on the annoying “string layers” in the Masser productions – just listen how the strings work, kind of part of the rhythm section in “Gettin’ ready”,”Top of the world”, “The same love…” – credit to Gene Page. To be continued on “What you gave me” (Ross 1978), which will be covered by your next review, I suppose. Both albums, respectively the not previously released songs on “Ross”, were recorded at the same time, according to the already quoted Rolling Stones’ article (which, I think, was not very nice about Miss Ross altogether).

    I wonder who the “prominent other voice” on “Baby it’s me” was, as there is no credit to a background vocal on the album’s sleeve. It doesn’t sound like Diana during the entire song, though.

    • Paul says:

      I wonder who that other voice is, too — would be nice to interview someone involved in the recording process of this album and learn more about who was involved and what the creative process was. I couldn’t agree more about the strings here — there’s a certain magic in how they enhance Diana’s voice instead of drowning it out.

  5. david hess says:

    this was my 3rd Diana album after DR76, and Greatest Hits 76 and i wore this lp out.LOVED IT. diana shines on this album thru and thru.
    this is the next diana deluxe album coming later this year,if all goes well.cant wait.david
    ps.Supremes at the Copa is actually next then BIM. just for fyi.thanks

  6. chris meklis says:

    Hopefully there will be a Baby It’s Me re release along the lines of Surrender and Last Time I Saw Him and Everything is Everything…This is my best Diana Ross Album alongside Surrender- they tie.
    Incredible that the commercial success was less than what it should have been- this should have been her ’70’s Diana album- with platinum or at least gold sales!!!

    • Paul says:

      Chris — I believe Diana’s top 3 albums are “Baby It’s Me,” “Surrender,” and “Take Me Higher” — so I am with you on the first two at least!

      • spookyelectric says:

        ‘Baby’s It’s Me’ is without doubt the most underrated of her career. Motown really mispromoted it at the time – allowing the album to be released before a single had even gone to radio, and eventually settling on ‘Gettin’ Ready For Love’ fews later by which time radio had put up on other tracks so the whole campaign was unfocused and sales suffered as a result. A shame because it’s one of her most consistent, well-rounded sets as you say.

        Apparently there were several other tracks recorded by Richard Perry with Diana at the time – only one of which ‘Baby I Love Your Way’ (on 1983’s Anthology) ever surfaced. Some cuts were rerecorded on Syreeta’s self-titled 1980 album (does anyone know which though?)

  7. Paul Hampson says:

    On the back of the booklet for the expanded edition of The Copa , Baby It’s Me is listed as the next release in a 2 disc edition……..Yippeeee

    • I just found The Diana Ross Project and I think it’s spectacular! So I apologize if this has been answered elsewhere, but does anyone know the date for the Baby It’s Me reissue CD yet? I can’t wait!

      • Paul says:

        Welcome aboard — glad you found this little corner of the Internet 🙂 Not sure that a date has been released yet — but it should be coming soon!

  8. michael says:

    i just read that there were completed but shelved diana ross albums in the seventies, including ones produced by smokey robinson and stevie wonder. apparently stevie worked very hard on his respective album and was very upset over its cancellation. i was wondering…could “too shy to say” have been actually recorded for that lp, instead of ‘baby it’s me’?

    • Paul says:

      If indeed these albums are in the vaults somewhere…what can I say…they would have been AMAZING! Diana is always successful when recording Stevie Wonder songs, and her work with Smokey on the unreleased “Kewpie Doll” is sublime.

  9. spookyelectric says:

    Was just searching for news on the forthcoming ‘Baby It’s Me’ deluxe reissue – nothing specific confirmed yet it seems. BUT I did come across this… looks like Raquel Welch must have been a big fan of the album. She performed two songs from the album – the title track and ‘Confide In Me’ (sung to Fozzie Bear no less!) when she appeared on The Muppet Show the year the record came out. A strange but true Ross fact.

    Skip to around 2.30 on this clip for her red hot take on ‘Baby It’s Me’…

  10. Mike says:

    The Same Love That Made Me Laugh is sublime. Who else recalls Queen Latifa doing it on Sat Night Live? Same arrangement, lower key. Did QL record it?

    • Paul says:

      Wow — Queen Latifah sang this song on SNL?? Had no idea! I believe it did feature on her “The Dana Owens Album” — an album of jazz and soul covers from the early 2000s.

  11. Ashino W. Sushanti says:

    I love that iconic cover, anybody knows who was the photographer? Yeah, it wasn’t that big in the USA but throughout Europe and Asia, especially in Japan, it was a hit record and received very good reviews and praise from the critics. Also in Latin America successful. I remember I was in Buenos Aires when it came out and in downtown BA you saw some giant billboards of that cover. Gosh, what a stunning look. She really was at the most awesome height of her beauty & charisma. I’ll never ever forget such image and there & in Europe & Japan it’s far from forgotten. I fell in love with someone quite special just as I heard ‘Getting Ready For Love’ by chance at that time, ha! And ‘Baby It’s Me’ (the song) is one of my all time favorites of DR.

  12. spookyelectric says:

    He’s amazing isn’t he? The Warhol and Bette Davis portraits are beyond incredible too. Think his photos of Diana are the best shoots she’s ever done. Only other that comes near is Francesco Scavullo I think.

  13. Luke says:

    Her best 70s album. Mature music and lyrics, strong songs, clear sound and Diana’s vocal at it’s best ever! This album is much better than the following Boss and Diana disco infuenced projects, because it has a classy atmosphere and it was not made just to sell.

  14. Konsumers says:

    I just stumbled onto the “project” and it’s great to see great love for La Ross! As a die hard I concur with all here, this is one of her best albums! vocally,song selection, etc. I think it shows off her vocal ability at that time in her career. I too also love the album cover..

  15. paulh1960@yahoo.com says:

    I’m giving up on the Hip O Select reissue. No one will answer any queries on the website. 😦

  16. Eric says:

    This is definitely an album that Diana should be proud of it has so many good disco songs so many amazing ballads! one of the best of her career– top of the world should of been the number one 5 million+ selling single coming yet was just amazing I don’t understand how it did not sell 15 million copies in the United States alone

  17. Konsumers says:

    The lack of major success of this album is something that has needled me for years, actually some of her best work artistically just happens to be her least successful. This entire album, and there are several songs over the years that should’ve been monster hits but weren’t. One day I would love to discuss what Berry Gordy did for Diana’s career, I have a much different view on things.. In the seventies I think BG made some decisions in Diana’s behalf that were not in her best interest career wise…

  18. davidh says:

    this is still one of my top 5 favorite DR albums along with Diana, Take Me Higher, Diana Ross 76

  19. Mark Aherne says:

    MARK, Ireland

    There is little else that I can say about Miss Ross’s album, or the insightful review, and intelligent responses. As stated repeatedly, it is one of her finest albums, explained by Ross’s diverse talent and Richard Perry’s production. My favourite tracks are – “Getting Ready For Love”, “Too Shy To Say” & “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh”. The photography for the LP was stunning & other shots taken at the same session are equally tasteful!

  20. Mark says:

    MARK
    Ireland

    There is not much more that I can add. This is 1 of Miss Ross’s finest creations, and both the intelligent review and many responses mirror this truth. It is seductive and silkily beautiful like the vocalist herself – possibly explainable by her diverse talent (expressing all the emotions) to Richard Perry’s sophisticated production. My favourite tracks are – “Getting Ready For Love”, “Too Shy To Stay” & “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh”. Skrebneski’s stunning photos for the LP can be seen in other shots from the same session.

    • Konsumers says:

      This LP really captures what Diana Ross was about, her voice was at it’s peak form here. She lost some of that in the 80’s… Her voice lost it’s lushness and sexiness. But when I need to be reminded what is Great about the Ross voice “Baby it’s Me” is one of the first albums I reach for.

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  25. topher says:

    This LP is timeless because it shows what a vocalist Diana Ross is and because it’s produced with great taste and it’s well balanced.
    The LP was a success since it’s a top 20 on Billboard charts. As we know, Diana ‘s lp are not certified but we can assume it went gold .

    What we can see as a problem is the lack of hit singles. I think at the time Diana was largely overshadowed by Disco Queen Donna Summer and her lavish pop/broadway style was out of fashion.
    She came back in 79 with The Boss and 1980 with Diana and the reign of Donna was over.
    I also think that when she does this kind of sophisticated music and high fashion pictures , the super fans are happy but not the general public.

    In many way this lp reminds me of Ross 83 because it’s classy and sexual. Take me higher is in the same field.
    Baby it’s me is a success for the reasons Eaten alive is a flop. It’s pop but Diana soulful voice is preserved.

    I put this one as a favorite along with Diana Ross 70, Surrender, Ross 76, The Boss, diana, Ross 83, Take me higher and EDIAND.

  26. looking forward to hearing this album for this first time tomorrow morning

  27. willdavis says:

    love the site paull! As a lifelong ross fan glad i found it was on amazon and found as of oct 14 2014 theyre selling expanded editons of the entire rca catalog!

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  29. davidh says:

    this was my second DR album I bought and it’s still one of my favorites of hers. this could be her best album. think she sounds amazing here. love the new mixs as well.
    1976- 81 is my fav DR era

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  33. David Wilson says:

    YES! At last! Others in agreement with me about the quality of this album. For me this is one the the best if not THE best album Diana recorded. Perry gets the best out of Diana on every track. Controlled confident mature vocals, great set of songs, the project feels “complete”. It’s a serious mature adult piece of work. She never sounds strained as on some other recordings (I still wince every time I listen to the final 3rd of Touch Me In the Morning when she struggles to hit anything on key). Why this project failed to connect with the public has always puzzled me. I would’ve loved for Diana to have had the opportunity to work with Diana on another album. Instead he moved onto the Pointer Sisters and produced several smash hit albums with them. Another “what might have been…” Diana singing Slowhand, He’s So Shy, Jump for My Love, Fire, I’m So Excited, Automatic! Now that would’ve been something. Add those to It’s Raining Men, Don’t Leave Me this Way, Islands in the Stream and you have a whole new greatest hits that never were package!

    • Paul says:

      Richard Perry and Diana definitely connected and created magic in the studio — I totally agree that the two should have teamed up again for a full album. Strange that Motown followed the amazing BABY IT’S ME with the very uneven and odd ROSS ’78 — when Mr. Perry has already said he’d recorded some tracks for a follow-up with Diana. Perhaps the fact that BIM underperformed is the reason he never cut another album on her.

  34. David Wilson says:

    oops! Should read love Diana to work with Richard Perry on another album!

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  38. Ken says:

    This is my favorite album of Diana Ross. To me it is one of the best of what I call her peak years between 75 to 80. This album defined Diana’s style. When this was released I was doing basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. I remember listening to the deejays on WDAS-FM from Philly play many cuts from this album. It made basic training a little easier to handle.

    • Paul says:

      Hey Ken! That’s so cool! I love that you were listening to BABY IT’S ME while doing basic training. I agree — it’s easily the best of her late-70s albums, and for me, one of her 3 best LPs of all time. My top 3 are: SURRENDER, BABY IT’S ME, and TAKE ME HIGHER. As for which of those three is the very best, my opinion changes all the time!

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