diana (1980)

“I think this time around I am gonna do it, like you never knew it…”

“In the spring of 1980, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, a very talented songwriting team, sat down with me to talk about my career and what was happening in my life.  ‘I’m Coming Out’ was the result of that meeting” (Diana Ross, Secrets Of A Sparrow, 201).

In fact, the entire diana album – released in May of 1980 – was the result of the creative talks between Ross and the writing/producing team.  Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were the force behind Chic, an R&B/dance group that was on a major hot streak thanks to hits like “Le Freak.”  They’d also taken Sister Sledge to the top of the charts with the hits “He’s The Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family.”  Diana Ross, however, was the first major star Rodgers and Edwards worked on an album for, and she was apparently ready for something radically different.  According to Rodgers in The Billboard Book Of Number One R&B Hits, “She said, ‘I don’t want this to sound like L.A. at all.  I left California, I’m in New York.  I’ve got a whole new life here’” (275).

A new sound is definitely what she got and, it turns out, what the public wanted.  diana shot to #1 on the R&B album chart and #2 on the pop album chart (her best showing since Lady Sings The Blues hit #1 in the early 70s).  The first single, “Upside Down,” was a monster smash, topping the pop and R&B charts for a month (!) and garnering Diana another Grammy nomination.  The second single, “I’m Coming Out,” hit the top 5.  Both songs have become classics, with “I’m Coming Out” still showing up in movies and commercials and being sampled by other artists, more than thirty years after it was first released.  The fact that diana was such a smash success isn’t necessarily a surprise – it’s a very cool album – but it’s pretty amazing when you consider that it came nearly 20 years into Diana Ross’s career.  Ross had signed with Motown Records in 1961, and had been a full-fledged star since 1964 (when the Supremes first hit #1 with “Where Did Our Love Go”).  Many artists are lucky to have a good ten years of making hits, if that.  This LP, however, delivered Diana Ross to an entire new generation of fans – some of whom probably weren’t even born yet when she first hit the top with the Supremes.

All of the success aside, diana is a stunning album.  Rodgers and Edwards managed to come up with a tracklist of strikingly original tunes, and Diana’s directive to not “sound like L.A. at all” resulted in an album far less glossy than previous LPs like Baby It’s Me, Ross, and even The Boss.  Though the songs here don’t challenge her vocally in quite the same way her previous outing did, she turns in tough, forceful performances here, with an appealing sort of swagger that’s different than anything Diana Ross had ever released before.  The  lady singing “Upside Down” and “Give Up” here sounds like she could (and would) beat up the one who sang “To Love Again” just a few years earlier; after some soul-searching on The Wiz soundtrack and The Boss, she certainly sounds like she knows who she is this time around.

 ***

1.  Upside Down:  Diana’s 5th solo #1 hit (and 17th when you count her work with the Supremes) features a track built on major to minor chord changes that — according to Nile Rodgers — weren’t that complicated.  However, when you’ve got the striking strings, Rodgers’s dynamic guitar, and Bernard Edwards blasting out his bass, it all adds up to a dizzying, hypnotic R&B dance track that sounds as complex as anything Diana Ross had ever recorded.  Atop the head-spinning instrumental is a lyric that’s vague and repetitive — qualities that wouldn’t likely be a good thing on another song —  but that are perfect (and necessary) here; with such a strong, percussive background, a simple lyric is exactly what’s needed to ground the song and keep it accessible.  Diana’s performance here is crisp, clean, and down-to-earth; the vocal runs and powerful belting of “The Boss” are completely gone, replaced by a punchy, staccato performance.  Again, she sounds tougher here — even though she’s singing about being cheated on by her man, she’d not weepy or over-emotive, and actually sounds kind of irritated.  Diana Ross has never been a singer who gives more or less than what a song requires; when necessary, she can wail and her vocals can soar, and when it’s called for, she can dim her voice to barely more than a whisper.  On “Upside Down,” she keeps it simple, and it works — after all, had she been over-singing and added gratuitous melisma, wouldn’t she have sounded totally ridiculous saying things like “Respectfully, I say to thee…”?

2.  Tenderness:  Much more than “Upside Down,” this song really sounds like a Chic tune — the recognizable backgrounds by Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin are loud and robust here, and the voices are identical to what you hear on songs like “Good Times” and “I Want Your Love.”  That said, “Tenderness” is a strong track, and probably could have been pulled as a single and gained some good airplay.  The track here isn’t quite as unusual as that on “Upside Down,” but spotlights the “Chic strings” on a clipped, stabbing instrumental line (in a way, almost reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s famous Psycho score) which is memorable.  Diana’s performance is a little more vulnerable than on the previous track — but not much.  She’s singing in a higher key, so she sounds a little more energetic and younger, but she’s still pretty no-nonsense; she sticks to the melody here, singing each note clearly and with strength, but with no embellishments whatsoever.  In a strange way, songs like “Tenderness” and “Upside Down” take Diana’s vocals back closer to what they were in the 1960s, on songs like “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”  Diana Ross had taken to letting her vocals lag behind the melody ever since her relaxed work on Lady Sings The Blues — but here, she’s anticipating the beat much more again, vigorously hitting her notes as she did on many of her urgent Holland-Dozier-Holland hits at the beginning of her career.

3.  Friend To Friend:  The album’s one true ballad, this is a strange, sparse song that comes almost as an antithesis Diana Ross’s work with Michael Masser.  Unlike the string-laden ballads of her past — “I Thought It Took A Little Time,” for example — the instrumental track here is almost non-existent.  Diana basically sings over a series of chords, her voice settling deep into the lower end of its range, nicely filling up the empty spaces.  This is, again, an unadorned vocal performance, but it’s far more relaxed than on the previous two tracks — here, Diana sounds appealingly dreamy, as though she’s singing to a sleeping child.  On an album that’s so heavy on percussion and bass, it’s important to give listeners a little bit of a break, and this song accomplishes that perfectly…especially in light of the explosion of energy that will follow with the next track…

4.  I’m Coming Out:  From the opening vocal announcement (“I’m…Coming…Out!”) atop an absolutely smoking guitar line and vibrant horn section, this song has “hit” written all over it.  This is, easily, one of the greatest dance songs of the modern recording era, and is certainly one of the best singles Diana Ross ever recorded and released.  As upbeat and joyous as “The Boss” and as anthemic as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” this is Diana at her best; the memorable lyrics (“There’s a new me coming out, and I just have to live, and I wanna give, I’m completely positive…”) are delivered with fiery certainty by Miss Ross, who clearly felt a close connection with the lyrics.  The melody line here is much more complex than on any of the previous songs on the LP, so it’s nice to hear Diana use a little more of her range — in particular her shout during the word “out” at 5:10.  The song structure here is brilliant — almost the entire first minute of running time serves as an intro, with Diana’s signature “I’m Coming Out!” repeated as the instrumental line builds, until the track finally bursts alive with Bernard Edwards’s booming bassline.  Though the song is considered a gay anthem today for obvious reasons (I can only imagine the response this got in gay clubs when it first played during the summer of 1980 — it must have been wild), the lyrics truly are universal; Diana Ross has said that the song had a deep, personal meaning for her in terms of taking creative control of her career.  “I’m Coming Out” was a huge hit, of course, and remains one of Diana’s most popular songs, but it’s hard to believe that she didn’t get a Grammy nomination for this song — I’d make the case that she should’ve won Best R&B Female Vocal Performance that year for this performance.  It also deserved to at least be nominated as Record and Song of the Year — it’s rare that a recording captures the excitement of an entire movement in its words and music, but this one does.

5.  Have Fun (Again):  Nile Rodgers, in the liner notes to the CD re-issue of diana, has this to say about “Have Fun (Again)”:  “I think the track that someone’s gonna have a No. 1 sampled record with is ‘Have Fun (Again).’  That is one of the coolest grooves we have ever thought of.  It kills me when the track fades back in.”  Listening to the song, it’s easy to understand why Rodgers is so fond of it; instrumentally, this is one of the heaviest-hitting songs on the album, with an aggressive guitar accompanying Diana on the verses, and one of the strongest bass lines on the entire LP.  The song is also probably the strangest one here from a sonic standpoint; the backing vocals (the most prominent since “Tenderness”) are sung in a clipped, staccato manner and feature a slight echo which makes them sound almost like voices from outer space.  In a way, that memorable track and the odd, generic voices foreshadow “Genius Of Love,” a hit for Tom Tom Club the next year (and, coincidentally, one that already does have a #1 sampled record – “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey – like Nile Rodgers hopes for this one).  Diana works to show a little personality here, setting herself apart from the weirdly robotic voices behind her with some growls and some, truthfully, uninspired ad-libbing for the final half of the running time.  Though it is indeed a “cool groove,” it’s not Diana’s finest hour on diana; she’s singing the words “have fun” over and over, but doesn’t really sound completely convincing.  She sounded inspired and invested on “I’m Coming Out,” but that energy just isn’t quite matched here.

6.  My Old Piano:  This was the third single release from diana; it was a decent hit in the UK but didn’t really go anywhere in the United States (probably thanks to the fact that another Diana Ross single, “It’s My Turn,” had been released off the film soundtrack of the same name was doing well for her).  Aside from “I’m Coming Out” and the LP’s final track, “Give Up,” this is the most energetic track, an upbeat ode to a baby grand piano with an “international style” and “eighty-eight key smile.”  Though it’s really a pretty silly song, it’s extremely catchy and Miss Ross sounds great here – rather than using the Chic voices for background, Diana’s voice is layered on the choruses, which makes this more of a showcase for her.  Though the song doesn’t require a lot of range, the vocal here is a powerful one, especially during the verse about 2:00 in, during which Diana puts a lot of force into her readings of lyrics like “…he demands the middle of the room…”  Being that the song is about a piano, it makes sense that some prominent piano ad-libbing comes in toward the end, and it’s a nice change of pace from the album heavy leaning toward strings and percussion.

7.  Now That You’re Gone:  Overall, this is probably the least memorable song on the LP; it’s not a bad tune, but it’s much lower-key and more repetitive than most of the others, and thus gets a little lost, especially coming between the stronger tracks “My Old Piano” and “Give Up.”  More than anything, “Now That You’re Gone” is a showcase for Bernard Edwards and his bass; the bass line here is the most important aspect of the instrumental track, and almost serves as a duet partner for Diana on the choruses.  This gives the song a nice, urban edge – it’s certainly the most traditionally R&B/soul-sounding song on the LP.  This is the second song in a row on which Diana is singing with herself – her own voice is layered on the chorus, and she sings in harmony with herself, which adds a little variety to the album.  In a few years, Diana would team up again with Bernard Edwards for the song “Telephone” from her Swept Away album, and the two songs actually sound quite similar, with “Now That You’re Gone” coming off as a kind of rough draft for the later recording, which is a bit more complex (and was a Top 20 R&B hit).

8.  Give Up:  Though “I’m Coming Out” is the masterpiece of this LP, and “Upside Down” is a ridiculously strong track, the album’s closer features the strongest Diana Ross vocal performance, and is probably the best non-single on the entire work; this is a fun, high-energy dance track with equally fun, high-energy singing.  Opening with a trademark Miss Ross “OW!” – Diana sounds completely alive on this song, which offers a more complex melody line than any other song here (aside from “I’m Coming Out”), and thus gives her a lot to work with.  The lyrics are sexy and playful (“I have not met a man yet, to escape from my dragnet…”), and Diana’s voice is full and forceful as she attacks the words; she also hits what might be one of the highest notes of her career during her ad-lib at 2:55.  This is a great Diana Ross hidden gem, and a dynamite way to end one of her biggest-selling albums ever.

Note: For information on bonus tracks from this album, click HERE.

***

Although diana features two of Miss Ross’s biggest and most-loved hits and became her first platinum album, not everyone agrees that it’s one of her best.  In his book Diana Ross: A Biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli writes, “The album’s success seems ironic in that it’s actually one of her least exciting or even interesting records.  Most of her vocal performances are a bit mechanical” (330).  I’d argue that the LP really is one of her most exciting; there’s an energy captured in several of the cuts that’s akin to the proverbial lightning in a bottle.  “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” are enduring hits for a reason – there’s a freshness to these cuts that still translates today, hence both records being used as samples by other artists.

It may be true that diana doesn’t vocally sound like other Diana Ross records, but Miss Ross has always been an artist who adapted her style to fit the material – not the other way around.  Lady Sings The Blues sure didn’t sound like a “Diana Ross album” in 1972, but it went to #1.  “Love Hangover” didn’t sound like a typical Diana Ross single, either, and it also hit the top of the charts.  Her ability to fit her voice into the confines of the Rodgers and Edwards compositions so successfully is what makes her work here so impressive.

Final Analysis:  4.5/5 (Diana “Comes Out”)

Choice Cuts:  “I’m Coming Out,” “Give Up,” “Upside Down”

Trivia:
The Grammy nominees for Best Female R&B Vocal Female Performance that year were:
Stephanie Mills, “Never Knew Love Like This Before” (Winner)
Roberta Flack, Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway
Aretha Franklin, “I Can’t Turn You Loose”
Minnie Riperton, Love Lives Forever
Diana Ross, “Upside Down”

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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42 Responses to diana (1980)

  1. Tony Agro says:

    A REALLY stunning album. I recall its release. It was a different Diana for sure. from the cover I knew this was going to be a less complicated – under sung, and seemingly simple sounding Diana. To be honest – at the first look at the cover , i was not impressed. At the first listen to this album — I was not impressed. I felt confused by it. It was NOT the disco I was used to, it wasn’t the pop I was used to. It wasn’t the Diana I was used to !

    Shortly after I bought the album, my parents got a new stereo system, with all the bells and whistles. My father thinking I liked the new Diana album – put it on to be the first played album on the new stereo… with the volume turned up — and the bass thundering — i heard the opening of “Upside Down.” Let me just say at that point I was no longer confused !!! I finally “got” this album and figured out the new sound!!! I fell in love with “I’m coming out and adored “Give – up.” I love the sound and message of “Friend to Friend” – this is where I missed the melodic tone of her voice – needing to hear a stronger instrument backing her.

    Just like in life, its those times we don’t try “too hard” that give us our greatest success. We seem almost shocked that since we did’t stretch ourselves – we still managed to achieve great success. I believe that is the effect of this album for Diana.

    • tonybabylove says:

      Question – Any thought on the original Chic mixes – over the Diana ross remixed versions? This was a hot topic at the time!!!

      • Paul says:

        I honestly don’t think the new mixes changed the album as much as Rodgers & Edwards clearly did (sounds like there was some major drama behind the scenes)! In some cases, I like the vocals on the original mixes better — for example, I love Diana’s vocal on R&E’s mix of “I’m Coming Out” — she really attacks it and sounds amazing — I played it for my partner some time ago and he was struck at how engaged and vibrant she sounded.

        On other songs, though, I like the Diana/Terrana re-mixed versions better — “Upside Down” and “Give Up,” for example, I think offer more refined vocal performances than on the original mixes and sounds better to my ears.

        Something like “Friend To Friend,” which offers a radically different instrumental, is hard for me to say which it stronger — they’re two different interpretations of one song, and I like both. What do you think?

    • Paul says:

      Tony — that’s so cute that your dad put on Diana as the first to be played on the new stereo — I bet that bass almost blew out the speakers 🙂

      I love what you say about “not trying too hard” — I think that says it better than I could have ever said it — this is an album where Diana tones everything down, and the result is a finely-focused piece of work that still sounds fresh today.

  2. spookyelectric says:

    You’re absolutely spot on about the freshness and energy of this reckon – it still sounds timeless today. I even heard some kids in my street blasting out ‘Upside Down’ the other week which brought a smile to my face. A big part of that is down to Chic of course, but Diana certainly brought it with attitude and style – right down to that now iconic album photo shoot. Wow. And there certainly isn’t any other Chic-produced album that comes close to it as one complete album.

    Not many singers have so successfully reinvented themselves to a new generation (Tina’s Private Dancer a few years later springs to mind) – it’s quite an achievement. (Unless you’re Madonna of course and do it on almost every album!) It has to be a career landmark for Diana because of that.

    Agree with you about the alternative Chic productions – not as radical as I expected given the dramas subsequently reported. But Diana certainly sounds looser and rawer on them – which is a lot of fun to hear as the originally released versions have become so familiar.

    Only thing I’m going to disagree with you on is ‘Now That You’re Gone’ – for me that was always THE key album cut on the record. Right from Diana’s sexy syncopated ‘uhh’s at the beginning of the track – she’s so in the pocket on the groove. It’s not as up and immediate as the rest of the album, but it’s totally hypnotic and more ‘classic Diana’ in the smoothness of Diana’s vocal I think – give it another go!

    • Paul says:

      It’s funny…since writing this review (a few weeks ago, I usually try to stay ahead in writing the reviews!), I’ve thought about “Now That You’re Gone” some more — while it’s still not my favorite, I think I appreciate it a little more…and I really do sense a lot of parallels between it and 1984’s “Telephone” which is also a low-key groove. There’s really not a weak song on this album — some are better suited to Miss Ross than others, but they’re all pretty good compositions.

  3. tony says:

    “Friend to Friend” I agree , I do like both versions. I am looking forward to the next chapter, I assume we move into the RCA years next. This will be interesting…..

    • Paul says:

      Yes…we’re about to enter into some interesting years! I’m doing “To Love Again” next week…then will be “Why Do Fools…” The RCA albums feature such a wide variety of material and such experimentation from Diana that I can’t wait to hear everyone’s opinions…I’m sure lots of people will disagree with what I have to say on certain songs/albums!

      • Tony says:

        Oh – right ! How could I have forgotten “To Love Again” Perhaps one of my favourite songs is on that album. I will have much to say about the RCA years !!!

  4. Antje says:

    “Friend to friend” is one of my top-loved songs of Diana’s, and I definitely prefer the more laid back “re-mixed” version. And, Paul, sorry, I disagree with you on “I’m coming out”. I think, the familiar version is as exciting as the Chic-mix, different though.

    By the way, spookyelectric, Miss Ross repudiated that she ever “reinvented” herself. lol

    • Paul says:

      I love both versions of “I’m Coming Out” for sure…there’s just something about her vocal on the Chic-mix that I find really appealing! It’s such a great song — it should have won some big awards that year!

  5. Lawrence says:

    I think this is the first album of hers that I remember actually hearing on the radio, as a kid. The songs “Upside Down”, “I’m Coming Out”, “It’s My Turn”, and “Endless Love” were my first, real introductions to her 🙂 As such, this album will always have a fond place in my heart. It was after this collection (and “Why do Fools fall in Love”) that I actively sought to learn the rest of her hits – with some help from my older, Motown cousin 🙂 Within a few years, I had acquired her entire catalogue!

    As an album, I am not sure “Diana” stands the test of time as much as some of her collaborations with Ashford and Simpson – or even her later Motown CDs, in terms of song quality. But there is no denying the amazing energy and spirit in these songs. I agree that “Give up” and “Tenderness” could easily have been hit singles too….but “Upside Down” is one of those rare songs (like “Call Me” by Blondie) that instantly represents an entire era.

    • Paul says:

      Hey Lawrence! I think the album stands up well — maybe not as well as “Surrender,” but I personally think it sounds fresher today than “The Boss.” I totally agree with you “Upside Down” — from the first few seconds, there’s an energy and vibrany that screams “HIT!”

  6. Tony says:

    Bang on Lawrence! I agree. I love the Diana who sings the melody out of a song! Paul – you I agree with – -there is something about the Chic – Mix of “I’m Coming out” that really is special – It sounds more like how she sings it live! She almost sounds excited to be singing it ! Almost like she sang it for the first time and is thrilled with herself for singing it !!! The final mix almost sounds reserved by comparison. Also — must say — just listened to Now that You’re Gone, and wow – nice groove. It almost needs to be longer – to give the listener a chance to get into the groove. By the time I got into it – the song was over!

    • Paul says:

      YES — you’re right — it sounds live! It’s kind of like she had no idea what she was singing while she was singing it — and I love that!

      • ejluther says:

        “it sounds live! It’s kind of like she had no idea what she was singing while she was singing it — and I love that!”

        That’s exactly what was happening – R&E had Diana come in and sing the songs “cold” without rehearsal or even knowing the words and wanted to use those first takes. Nile Rodgers is quoted in the “diana” remaster booklet: “We had our singers record in the dark with just a light to see the words, and we didn’t let the artists learn the songs before the session, because we wanted “live” performances. Diana had never worked that way before. You hear how reckless her performances are, and that’s we love about the record.” But that kind of recording approach made the professional and rehearsed side of Diana nervous and, perhaps quite understandably, she wanted another chance at them resulting in the re-recorded lead vocals and the remixing…cue the drama. Whichever versions you like, diana is still a great record and one that stands the test of time in my book…

      • Paul says:

        Personally, I think either version would’ve been a hit — I love the album that ended up being released, but I think the original mixes would’ve been hits, too — the songs are so strong and Diana sounds great on both!

  7. Lawrence says:

    Hi Paul and Tony,
    Great reading your replies 🙂 Now, when will we ever get a new CD from Miss Ross?? Best, Lawrence

    • Paul says:

      NO KIDDING!!! I’m hoping that once I get through to “I Love You” on this site…there will be something new for us to listen to!!!

  8. markus says:

    Hello Paul-
    compliments on this endeavor- I’ve been reading since you started and absoutely loving every bit of it. Nice to see someone in my age group celebrating and discussing Diana’s work on this level. I actually meant to comment after your review of Baby It’s Me (I first bought that album on cassette when I was in my teens, and pre-internet I kept telling myself, “there MUST be other people out there who think this is some of the best stuff Diana ever did”- now I know…lol). You’ve been fair and objective and I’ve agreed with 98-99% of it!

    Onto diana: I like the R&E mixes, but overall I think the Diana/Terrana alterations were for the best. The original mix and vocals on “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” are fun, but a bit too lose. Especially “Upside Down”- the original mix doesn’t have the same punch. The most striking improvement (for me, at least) is on “My Old Piano”- Diana’s vocal is SOOO much better on the final album version (listen to the way she sings “your heart dissolves…” during the final verse, repeated- her tone at that moment sums up a lot of what I love about Diana’s voice).

    I gotta say I prefer R&E’s mix of “Friend to Friend” (I’m recalling from memory, but i think that’s one of the vocals Diana left intact on the released album). I thought the hazy guitar effect gave the song some gravity, some meat. When I downloaded the album for my phone I actually stuck that mix in place of the Diana/Terrana one.

    I never understood why Tarraborelli was dismissive of the album- sure, it’s far from the most vocally challenging of Diana Ross’ career, but there are other factors that determine a great album. The production- ambitious, adventurous (even in its’ rigidity) and clever- calls for vocal understatement, and Diana delivers it with personality and conviction- assertive or playful, tender or sexy, she is everything the material requires and quite a bit more. She takes what could essentially be a Chic album and manages to put a definitive Diana Ross stamp on it.

    Thanks again and looking forward to the 80’s!
    markus

    PS and what about in the 2nd verse of “Give Up”, when she says “I’ll keep your night surrrrounded, with chains of love so strong, that you can’t break through them”? YES!

    • Paul says:

      Hey Markus! Thanks for the comments! You are right on about this album — it’s not one that calls for explosive vocals, but it does require skill to sing each song and Diana proves she has it in spades. And yes…I love that part of “Give Up” too! 🙂 It’s a great song and a great performance by her!

      I love that you had “Baby It’s Me” on casette tape — I also “discovered” that album in my late teens, and dubbed it from LP to tape and listened to it repeatedly in my car! I vividely remember hearing “Top Of The World” and “All Night Lover” for the first times and thinking they were the greatest Diana songs I’d ever heard!

  9. BabyLuv says:

    J. Randy is foolish to describe this album as her least exciting and interesting. Did he hear the same record? I think this album is one of the most flawless recordings in her discography.

    • Paul says:

      BabyLuv — I definitely don’t get it, either. The music is nothing if not exciting and interesting! I agree that it’s one of her best!

  10. chris meklis says:

    I am sorry for upsetting the lovers of this admittedly ‘tight’ album, but for me, it’s not an album I play often (although, your writing here has made me take it out and listen and appreciate it more)…
    I found this a boring album with the obvious exception of I’m Coming Out (which funnily enough I can’t listen to anymore- but still enjoy her singing it live), and Give Up which really does pack a punch, but far too late for me.

    I do agree to an extent with Tarraborrelli…it’s like the least amount of work garnered the most sales, reminding me a bit of our confection of pop cinderella’s today (Spears tops the list) where sales do not necessarily reflect true artistic input with regard to material or vocals.

    Rogers and Edwards stuck to their brief from Diana and the material which far more simple, with good hooks and tight instrumentals, I suppose therefore accessible to many who perhaps deemed Diana’s recordings to slick or over the top/ dramatic at times…

    I mean this pales in comparison in energy and high octane of to Baby It’s Me and The Boss, and Surrender, but if one considers what youngsters were listening to in the late 70’s early 80’s, the simpler unobtrusive diana album was an easier option for buyers, than Baby It’s Me or The Boss?
    I cannot understand that Baby it’s Me or The Boss did not become for the 70’s what Diana became sales wise for the 80’s…but that’s how it works, one just never knows.

    This certainly was a different sound, and it was embraced madly, but I do not think this is a great Diana Ross album, an uncomplicated and listenable one from start to finish, yes, but not her best album for me, it did it’s job perhaps in that it brough new younger fans to Diana Ross.. 😉

    • Paul says:

      Chris — I totally understand everything you’re saying — obviously I think the album is satisfying and challenging, but it’s a VERY different work from something like “Baby It’s Me,” which is my favorite of her albums. But for what it is, I think “diana” is really a great album and deserved its success!

  11. chris meklis says:

    Just to add to my comment…Besides the two big hits, I do love the intimate rendering of Friend To Friend…it sounds like she could be whisper singing it right into a lover’s ear in bed…and gives a taste of things to come in the stunning More and More from 1985.
    Tenderness and Give Up are enjoyable for me and Now That You’re Gone is hauntingly alluring…nice sound on that one.

  12. Rick says:

    There is also the same distincion between friend to friend and more to more on the eaten alive cd..i love both songs but they do have some similarities………anyone notice that?

  13. Listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 as a kid I remember the excitement caused by a song debuting in the top ten. And then I heard UPSIDE DOWN. WOW. That song got me into Diana Ross, Motown and 60s/70s R&B in a big way, but that’s another story. Back to UPSIDE DOWN. For me the song is ridiculously full of hooks: Nile Rodgers’ itchy guitar licks, Bernard Edwards’ rolling bass and Ross’ cool, relaxed vocal set against the “chic” strings and the wall of backing vocals of Alfa Anderson, Fonzi Thornton, Luci Martin & Michelle Cobbs. I agree Paul, totally hypnotic. I was hooked. And in a big way. Getting the LP was another thing. I had no real idea who Ross was so I came to it unencumbered. 32 years after I got my paws on “diana” it still holds up as one of her best, along with Diana Ross (70) , Diana Ross (76), Baby it’s Me (77) & The Boss (79). What “diana” had was cohesion. And Tony, on the question of Ross’ remixing the album – I reckon she was on the money. The remixes totally punched up the album overall especially on a couple of tracks – UPSIDE DOWN and MY OLD PIANO being great examples – making it more immediate and exciting. But I’m with Paul, the remixes toned some of her vocals down. On the original I’M COMING OUT she’s exuberant and unbridled. Also check out her jazzy adlibbing half way through the original mix of GIVE UP. Totally cool. That said, I get her wisdom on remixing, and I guess the albums’ commercial success vindicated that decision.
    At the time I didn’t respond much to HAVE FUN (AGAIN) – there was a certain coldness to it and like you, I was unconvinced. It’s interesting listening to the original mixes again on the “diana” reissue: unfortunately HAVE FUN AGAIN still didn’t work for me. There’s just no grunt in the engine in either version.
    TENDERNESS, MY OLD PIANO and GIVE UP easily could have been big hits in the US as well. I recall the video of MY OLD PIANO, but imagine what a commercial powerhouse this could have been had it coincided with the MTV era……

    • Paul says:

      I’m totally with you — Diana was on the money with her remixed — though I enjoy hearing the original Chic mixes, I think the remixes were more urgent and immediate and thus sounded better on radio. And by the way, “itchy guitar licks” is maybe the BEST way I’ve ever heard someone descibe the sound of “Upside Down” — I wish I’d thought of that!! 🙂

  14. Cool Nile Rodgers interview about working with Diana – especially about ‘I’m Coming Out’…

  15. Paul says:

    This is great! There’s another great clip of him floating around where he’s really jamming “I’m Coming Out” on his acoustic guitar — he is an AMAZING musician. His music has been so popular and is so closely identified with a certain era in music that I think he’s often overlooked as one of the great songwriters and producers. I rank “I’m Coming Out” as one of Diana’s top 3 songs ever (along with “Ain’t No Mountain…” and “Missing You”) — there is an energy captured in this record that is rare and electric!

  16. spookyelectric says:

    Totally agree Paul. You can’t go wrong with Nile’s golden period from late 70s to mid 80s in my opinion. The Chic and Sister Sledge classics everyone knows of course, but also the stuff with Carly Simon, Odyssey, Debbie Harry and loads more. There’s a whole album he did with Johnny Mathis after ‘diana’ that was never released as (similar I suppose to how Motown were nervous about the Chic/Ross collab) Columbia were worried it would alienate his more conservative fans… and it’s all brilliant!

    • Paul says:

      I had never hard about the unreleased Johnny Mathis sessions, and thanks to you I’ve been listening to the few available songs online. The song “I Love My Lady” is amazing. Wow. Too bad Columbia backed out — this could have been HUGE for Johnny.

  17. spookyelectric says:

    Really shows how mistaken record boardroom decisions can be! You would think Chic at their commercial peak and Mathis together was a no-brainer, especially as Mathis had dipped his toe into more ‘disco-fied’ waters with ‘Gone Gone Gone’ to great results, but I suppose they got cold feet. Fans have been petitioning online for years to get the album finally released (‘I Love My Lady’ is actually the title track) and over the last couple of years a handful of tracks have finally seen the light of day (mainly on a great Chic multi-disc box set).

    You can find the whole thing online if you hunt long enough!

  18. Luke says:

    I wouldn’t put “Diana” among her masterpiece albums. In my personal opinion it was just a good and catchy project, nothing more than that. Diana’s vocals were too plain, most of the songs didn’t demand strong vocal abillities. “Upside down”…ok, it was a commercial track, but it;s not the song of the century. “Baby love” for example was a similarly catchy track, but it can’t be called a music masterpiece, just because it was a succees. From the “Diana” album, “Now that you ‘re gone” is the best song, maybe because it didn’t sound like the rest of the chic material. Some years ago i bought the deluxe collection which contained the unreleased version of the album. I can say that it was a slightly better than the released version, it was more energetic and “rich”. But for me, either way, it remains a good commercial entertaining album, with no great artistic importance.

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  20. I put the record back on after reading an interview with Nile Rodgers in one of the weekend papers. I started with the CHIC mixes just give me a “new” listening experience. It reminded me how much of an acolyte I am of the official release. I find the CHIC mix too raw & very much demo like with all the ad-libs and without Miss Ross highly polished & front & center. I really feel Diana had the right idea when getting involved with final result. I have had the record on loop over the last couple of days…it was the first LP I ever owned. And it really is that good.

  21. dalastyme says:

    I was jus 13 when “Upside Down” was released and I HATED it!!! Couldn’t get with the beat and silly lyrics. Thank God for maturity and musical growth because I love “Upside Down” and the whole album! I play it like it was jus released this past Tues. lol. Believe it or not but I’m hearing instruments I’ve never heard before that are wearing me OUT! Heard the strings on “Upside Down” doing something so fresh the other day during the chorus that blowing my mind!!! LOVEEEEEEE the Chic mix of “Friend To Friend”. Sounds way more intimate and they turned up Diana’s haughting background vocals that you can barely hear on the Russ/Ross remix. I envy anyone who had the pleasure of seeing Diana Ross Live with The Supremes thru to the late 80’s. Would’ve love to have heard Its My Turn, The Boss, Muscles, So Close, Swept Away, Telephone, Eaten Alive, Dirty Looks etc.

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