Silk Electric (1982)

“I’m no carbon copy of no-one else…”

As early as January of 1982, media outlets were speculating about what Diana Ross would do to follow up her 1981 album Why Do Fools Fall In Love.  That album was her first under a blockbuster new contact for RCA Records and the first to be self-produced; it turned out to be a smash for the singer, producing a pair of Top 10 hits and becoming the singer’s second studio album to reach platinum status.  In the January 23, 1982 issue of Billboard, writer Jean Williams reported that Ross had met with Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald to write songs for Diana’s next album; according to Williams, “No word yet on who will produce the project, but speculation is that Ross may handle the task herself.”  Meanwhile, Diana told “Soul Train” that same month that the experience of producing “was really a good one for me, I learned an awful lot this time.  I’d like to do it again, but…I would like to continue to use my other producers, like Chic,” which perhaps led to some speculation that Ross would enlist Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, who’d produced her 1980 LP diana, to participate in her second RCA album.

On that same January episode of “Soul Train,” responding to a young woman’s question about possibly working with Michael Jackson, Diana remarked, “Right now he’s doing an album, or writing a song, with Paul McCartney, and he’s supposed to be coming in town soon and I would like that.  I’m gonna try to see if we can work something out.”  Perhaps that young woman was psychic, because Jackson would later tell Bob Colacello in Interview, “I was coming back from England working on Paul McCartney’s album, zooming along on the Concorde, and this song popped into my head. I said, “Hey, that’s perfect for Diana!” I didn’t have a tape recorder or anything so I had to suffer for like three hours. Soon as I got home I whipped that baby on tape” (October 1982).  That song, a sexy and slinky tune set to a finger-snapping beat and featuring lyrics devoted to the beauty of the male physique, would end up giving Diana Ross another major hit when released as the first single from her new album, eventually titled Silk Electric.

Aside from the Jackson-produced “Muscles,” Diana Ross did end up helming the entirety of her second RCA album; she rounded up the same group of studio musicians to play on the tracks, including musical arrangers Ray Chew and Rob Mounsey.  Although none of her reported collaborations with Michael McDonald made it on the album, Ross did co-write three of the album’s songs, including second single “So Close,” a doo-wop ballad that recalls the 1950s style of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.”  Influence from her then-boyfriend Gene Simmons is also quite clear, from the driving rock of “Fool For Your Love” (featuring KISS studio guitarist Bob Kulick) to the upbeat “Anywhere You Run To,” a song which was passed to Ross by Simmons.  In the end, the album’s nine songs are all over the musical map; Silk Electric is nothing if not a wacky collection showcasing the singer-producer’s imagination gone wild.  Likely emboldened by the success of Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Miss Ross seriously pushed the boundaries here; from hard rock to power ballad to reggae self-help and even a soapy Michael Masser love song, the album is easily Diana’s most experimental ever.

Critics seemed fairly perplexed when Silk Electric hit store shelves in October of 1982, with Billboard simply calling it “one of her most varied collections to date” and Rolling Stone‘s Don Shewey bluntly dubbing it “glossy and superficial” and full of “icky songs that invite namby-pamby cooing.”  Though the latter publication had been unjustly hard on Miss Ross in the past, in this case, the criticism feels justified; there are some serious issues with Silk Electric which hinder its chances at overall success.  First and foremost, much of the material here isn’t just produced, it’s overproduced; Diana’s voice often sounds so lost in echo that she seems to be singing from the far end of a deep, dark cave.  Since Diana was behind the wheel on this project, there’s obviously a reason she made herself sound this way.  The excess echo and almost blurred sound make sense on some songs, but completely ruin others (most notably her own “So Close,” which was actually re-mixed before being released as a single); in the end, the album is an extremely uneven listening experience much more from the marred production than the fact that it’s so stylistically varied.


Billboard: February 26, 1983

1.  Muscles:  When Diana Ross suggested Michael Jackson as the perfect person to play the Scarecrow in her 1978 film The Wiz, she unknowingly set Jackson on a collision course with music history.  Through his work on the film, Jackson met music producer Quincy Jones, who agreed to produce the singer’s next album.  The result was 1979’s Off The Wall, a multi-platinum smash that featured four Top 10 singles, including a pair of iconic #1 hits (“Rock With You” and “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough).  The album’s success catapulted Jackson to a new level of stardom, and in 1982, the artist stood at the precipice of true superstardom thanks to his work on an upcoming album called Thriller, which would be released at the end of the year.  Diana Ross had always kept a close eye on the younger singer’s career, considering him something of a protegé and family member; she told American magazine Ebony, “Well, you know I’m crazy about Michael Jackson.  I might team up with him one day.  I would certainly like it very much.  Actually, he inspired me to do [Why Do Fools Fall In Love] because he produced his own album” (November 1981).  Jackson obviously agreed, because during sessions with Paul McCartney in England, the young singer-songwriter says he got the idea for a song he thought perfect for Miss Ross; according to Jackson in 1988’s Moon Walk, his inspiration for the song came from an unlikely source:  “I was asked a lot of questions about ‘Muscles,’ the song I wrote and produced for Diana Ross.  That song fulfilled a lifelong dream of returning some of the many favors she’s done for me.  I have always loved Diana and looked up to her.  Muscles, by the way, is the name of my snake” (197).  One would imagine that a song reportedly inspired by a pet snake would be a bit offbeat, but few could have guessed just how strange and offbeat the resulting production would turn out.  “Muscles” is a slick, stark, and smoldering R&B tune with overt lyrics celebrating the male physique and forcing Diana to purr girlishly about needing a man “I can hold on to” — it’s a long, long way from Billie Holiday and the plush love songs of Michael Masser.  Jackson’s production is typical of his work during the period; so many of his songs boast a dark, sinewy feel punctuated by blasting sound effects, as though they’d been produced in an amusement park haunted house, and “Muscles” is no exception.  Jackson does add terrific background vocals, performed by Patti Austin, Maxine Willard Waters, and Julia Tillman Waters (and likely Jackson himself), but they end up outshining Diana Ross, who delivers the entire song in a high-pitched whisper that robs the singer of the best qualities of her voice.  There’s no denying that it’s a memorable and, frankly, somewhat charming song (something helped by Diana’s campy music video accompanying the song), but it’s so quirky that it never really rises above being a novelty tune.  Still, the song managed to take off at radio; Billboard reported strong airplay for the song as early as October 2, 1982, quoting a radio music director out of Winston-Salem with saying, “It’s strange enough to work” and noting a growing audience for the song in Orlando.  Critical reviews were mixed, but largely favorable; Billboard said it “doesn’t have the musical substance to back up the sexy imagery” (also October 2) but Don Shewey of Rolling Stone raved,  “If all of Silk Electric were as witty and outrageous as the hit single ‘Muscles,’ it would bode well for the new phase of Diana Ross’ career,” and went on to call the song “a modern pop masterpiece.”  It did become a solid hit for Miss Ross, peaking at #4 on the R&B charts against heavy competition from former duet partners Marvin Gaye (“Sexual Healing”) and Lionel Richie (“Truly”), then-current collaborator Luther Vandross (“Bad Boy/Having A Party”), and Michael Jackson himself, whose “The Girl Is Mine” with Paul McCartney had leapt up the charts.  Over on The Billboard Hot 100, “Muscles” gave Miss Ross another Top 10 hit, snatching the #10 spot for the week ending November 13, 1982 and holding onto it for an astounding six weeks.  Amazingly, given how limited the lead vocal is in terms of necessary range or power, Diana Ross even gained her 10th solo Grammy nomination (and 12th overall) for “Muscles” in the Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female category; interestingly, she lost the away to Jennifer Holliday and “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical inspired by Ross and The Supremes. 

2.  So Close:  The album’s second single was also the second single ever to bear Diana’s name as a co-writer, following “Work That Body” from Why Do Fools Fall In Love.  The artist’s obvious affinity for the music of the 1950s shines through on “So Close,” with Billboard proclaiming that it “might not really be one of those 50s classics you used to slow dance to, but it’s about as close as you can get in 1983” (February 5, 1983).  Ross penned this shuffling ballad with Bill Wray and Rob Mounsey; Mounsey had previously arranged the singer’s 1981 Top 10 hit “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” and musician Wray would go on to co-write several songs with Diana over the next decade (incidentally, Wray’s own album Seize The Moment was released at the same time as “So Close,” advertised in the same issue of Billboard in which Diana’s single was reviewed).  In a 1983 interview with Gary James, Wray mentioned meeting Ross through their shared attorney John Frankenheimer; Ross apparently overheard Wray’s music and liked it, and asked Wray to come to New York to work on some songs.  The result of that collaboration, in terms of the composition, is a solid and memorable slice of nostalgia, set to a familiar shuffling beat but modernized with a bass-heavy track arranged by Mounsey.  Of particular note are the fabulous background vocals, performed by Tawatha Agee, Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney), Paulette McWilliams, and none other than Luther Vandross, who is credited with arranging the backing vocals; at the time, Vandross was experiencing his own success with “Bad Boy/Having A Party,” which competed with Diana’s “Muscles” on the R&B charts.  The background vocals are so good — so full-bodied and soulful — that they completely overshadow Diana’s lead vocal.  This isn’t because the singer doesn’t do good work; unfortunately, Diana the producer kills Diana the vocalist by absolutely drowning her vocal in echo.  Miss Ross seems to be singing “So Close” from the far end of a tin can, her voice so muddied that she’s totally disconnected from the rest of the recording, ruining that crisp, clean Diana Ross sound which had fronted so many previous ballads.  The power of Diana’s actual performance is much more discernible in the single edit of “So Close,” which was remixed by producer Richard Perry (of 1977’s Baby It’s Me) before its release in early 1983; Perry cleaned up the singer’s voice and brought it forward, revealing an accomplished and confident performance which is, frankly, unlistenable on the LP version.  Although this remixed version is far superior, it never quite clicked with audiences; the song peaked at a respectable #40 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Ross her 23rd solo Top 40 pop hit and first as a co-writer.  It performed best in the Adult Contemporary market, hitting #13 on that chart, but “So Close” barely scraped the R&B charts, stalling at #76.  Perhaps the song’s most lasting impression was made in the summer of 1983, when Diana performed it live on the second day of her historic pair of Central Park concerts; true to the song’s title, Ross nearly fell off the stage while singing it!

3.  Still In Love:  This is the album’s first big power ballad, written by Randy Handley and featuring an arrangement by Rob Mounsey and Diana Ross, her first time credited with a musical arrangement.  In terms of ballad recordings, “Still In Love” has perhaps the hardest-edge of any Diana Ross recording yet; Bob Kulick’s cutting electric guitar gets so much play here that the song could almost be considered a duet between Ross and the instrument.  Considering how adaptable Diana Ross had proven herself to be over the past two decades of her career, it should come as no surprise how adept she is at slipping into a rock song; solo female rock artists like Stevie Nicks and Pat Benatar were becoming increasing popular in the early 1980s, and clearly Miss Ross was finding some inspiration in their work.  Melodically, this is arguably the strongest song on the entire album; it’s a very well-written tune with a nice, simple lyric and a catchy chorus that’s hard not to sing along with (and can’t you just imagine a stadium full of people holding lighters in the air and chanting “Still In Love” during a concert?).  Though the production is again quite heavy on the echo, it works on this song, helping to set a haunting tone which matches the words; Ross is singing about a lost love, and the almost distant sound of her vocal manages to enhance the mood.  And listening beyond that echo, this really is a classic Diana Ross ballad performance; her work on the verses is delicate and deliberate, and she sounds passionate and emotional on the chorus, especially at the end, when her voice is double-tracked and she sings along with herself.  In retrospect, “Still In Love” would have been a much stronger single choice than “So Close” and could have gained strong pop and Adult Contemporary airplay; the song did end up as the b-side to “Pieces Of Ice,” the first single from Diana’s third RCA album, Ross.

Billboard: November 13, 1982

4.  Fool For Your Love:  If “Still In Love” was Diana Ross dipping her toe into the pool of real rock music, then “Fool For Your Love” is the singer jumping off the diving board, pulling her knees to her chest, and cannonballing straight into the deep end.  Ross had flirted with hard rock sounds before, notably with “I Heard A Love Song (But You Never Made A Sound)” from 1973’s Last Time I Saw Him and even “Mirror, Mirror” from the previous year’s Why Do Fools Fall In Lovebut nothing could have prepared fans for her guttural, growling performance here.  That said, considering Ross had been dating KISS frontman Gene Simmons during the early part of the 1980s and was exposed to his band’s “shock rock” style, it’s probably not a big surprise that Ross would experiment with the style for herself, especially given her creative freedom at RCA Records.  Ross actually co-wrote “Fool For Your Love,” penning the track with frequent collaborators Bill Wray and Ray Chew; once again, KISS studio musician Bob Kulick leads the way with his guitar work, burning up the track with impressive skill and energy.  Speaking of impressive energy, one has to give Diana Ross her due; she’s totally committed to her performance here, seemingly determined to out-Benatar Pat with a harsh vocal attack.  It’s not a pretty performance — not even close — but it’s not supposed to be; this isn’t “It’s My Turn,” after all.  That said, there’s no subtly or nuance here, which is a problem; Diana’s reading is fairly one-note, and thus comes off as an imitation of a rock singer rather than a genuine, inspired performance.  Still, it’s hard to imagine many of the singer’s pop-soul contemporaries attempting “Fool For Your Love,” let alone pulling it off even marginally as successfully.  In terms of production, this is another case of Diana Ross the vocalist sounding as though she’s shouting through an air-conditioning vent; in this case, at least, the poor sound quality of her lead vocal isn’t quite as jarring since it’s such a different vocal performance for her and the rest of the track is so arresting.  The song itself is memorable, if not terribly strong; the lyrics are quite clunky (there are some loooong stretches when it comes to creating rhymes), but in truth, the words are really an afterthought, merely a vehicle for Ross to snarl her way through the song.  Reviews of the song were quite mixed at the time of the album’s release; Blues & Soul called it “a rousing rock & roll tune that comes as a mammoth surprise to these ears and stresses Diana’s willingness to experiment,” while Don Shewey in Rolling Stone countered that songs like this “obliterate the best qualities of her singing.”  According to J. Randy Taraborrelli in Diana Ross: A Biography, there was actually talk of releasing “Fool For Your Love” as a single; instead, the song was placed on the b-side of “So Close.”

5.  Turn Me Over:  This isn’t actually a song; it’s a short, strange musical interlude with Diana’s robotic command to “Turn Me Over,” a cue to listeners to flip the LP to Side 2.  Ross wrote and arranged the interlude with Steve Goldstein, who plays synthesizer on several of the album’s tracks.

6.  Who:  Blues & Soul magazine proclaimed that this song “sounds like a hit,” praising it as “melodic, danceable and highly infectious.”  Indeed, after a musically varied first side, Silk Electric opens its second side (or “face,” as they’re called on the actual LP) with Miss Ross in much more familiar territory.  Written by successful artist and producer Barry Blue (producer of Heatwave’s “Always And Forever,” which Diana would beautifully cover decades later on I Love You) and Rod Bowkett, “Who” is arranged as a bass-heavy disco tune that would have fit in just as well on Diana’s previous album, Why Do Fools Fall In Love, and even has a bit of a Chic edge to it.  The instrumental track is fairly typical of late 70s/early 80s dance; there are prominent, swirling strings, a regular pop of the bass, and a robotic drum-beat pulsing from start to finish.  Diana turns in a cool, icy performance; there’s an almost startling pack of passion from her here, and the layering of her voice on the entire song only further makes her sound detached.  In this case, Ross the producer seems to have had a reason for making Ross the singer sound like this; the lyric is about being left alone, and she repeatedly asks the question, “Who washed away the colors in my life?”  So, to be fair, it makes sense that she sounds devoid of any emotional “color” herself.  Still, at this point in the album, there’s been a distinct lack of personality for too long (other than perhaps on “Still In Love”), and “Who” does end up sound a bit generic; it’s not hard to imagine another female singer of the era recording this tune and doing just as well with it.  “Who” probably could have gained some spins in clubs at the time, and perhaps it did, although RCA would have been smart to release a 12″ extended remix; the song was released as a single in the Netherlands, though it wasn’t a huge hit there.

7.  Love Lies:  This is the album’s second big power ballad, following “Still In Love,” and it features an extremely similar arrangement to that earlier song.  This was one was written by Allan Chapman and Michael Hanna and given the arena-rock treatment by musical arranger Rob Mounsey (who also arranged “Still In Love”), who fills the track with a wailing guitar which ends up being the real star of the entire production.  Unfortunately, this is also one of those songs that Rolling Stone called “icky…[they] invite namby-pamby cooing,” and sadly, writer Don Shewey is mainly right, if a bit harsh; Miss Ross produces the song at such a slow, drippy pace that it feels about double its three-and-a-half-minute running time.  The beat here is so slow and shuffling that is extinguishes any possible fire generated by the instrumental track; Ross tries her best as vocalist, but she ends up drowning a bit in the mix, overpowered by the guitar and percussion.  Really focus on the singer’s performance, and you’ll hear how accomplished it is; Diana gets to display some nice range and power during the refrain, and she sounds suitably invested in the sad, bitter lyrics.  But “Love Lies” emerges as another perfect example of why Diana Ross just wasn’t always the right person to produce herself; she recedes way too far into the background for the song to ever standout in the way that “Still In Love” does.

8.  In My Arms:  This is a fascinating addition to Silk Electric, more for the story surrounding its inclusion rather than its actual musical merit.  “In Your Arms” was written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed; with Thom Bell, Creed had written the soul classic “You Are Everything,”  a hit Top 5 hit in the United Kingdom for Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye in 1974, and Masser, of course, is the composer behind some of Diana’s best-known love songs, including “Touch Me In The Morning,” “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To),” and “It’s My Turn.”  Ross and Masser hadn’t worked together since just before the singer left Motown, when she recorded a batch of his songs included on 1981’s To Love Again; while there’s no doubt Ross and Masser were a musical match made in heaven, there was apparently no lack of turmoil in the studio, with Ross later writing in her memoir Secrets Of A Sparrow that Masser “was a very difficult man to work with” (202).  Thus, when Masser and Creed submitted “In Your Arms” to Ross for consideration, she decided to record it without their help, producing the ballad herself.  This move turned out to be really unfortunate; even on their less-than-stellar tracks (such as the 1981 single “One More Chance”), Masser always pulled Diana’s voice to the front, eliciting a crystal-clear tone which commanded the center of attention.  A better example, and a far better song, is “To Love Again” (originally from 1978’s Ross), on which Miss Ross handles a challenging melody line with a delicate skill that becomes more and more apparent with repeated listens; though she never oversings the song, and while there’s a complex instrumental line behind her, she’s still the star of the piece.  On “In Your Arms,” Diana Ross completely overdoes the lead vocal; she lays it on thick here, again layering her voice (practically duetting with herself) and blurring it with echo and making herself sound so syrupy and saccharine that she’s honestly difficult to listen to.  In this way, “In Your Arms” is similar to her solo rendition of “Endless Love” from Why Do Fools Fall In Love, on which her normally effortless way with a ballad becomes laborious to listen to.  Same goes for the instrumental track, which lacks a clarity and focus, and sounds as overproduced as the lead vocal.  It’s impossible to fault the song itself, since two years later it would be re-recorded and released as “Hold Me” by Teddy Pendergrass and Whitney Houston, this time produced by Masser himself.  This version is cleaner, crisper, and less dramatic, and thus doesn’t sound nearly as dated as Diana’s, even though only a few years separated the two.  “Hold Me” climbed to #5 on the R&B Singles chart in 1984, becoming Houston’s first single and her first hit; the song would later be included on her blockbuster debut album, Whitney Houston.  Had Mr. Masser been given the chance to cut this song on Diana, perhaps the results would have been much different; as it is, “In Your Arms” only sounds like a missed opportunity.

9.  Anywhere You Run To:  After the morose double-punch of “Love Lies” and “In Your Arms,” it’s a relief to hear Diana return to the kind of energetic, inspirational cut that she’d done so well since “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” in 1970; interestingly, although this certainly isn’t produced as a rock song, fans can thank none other than Gene Simmons for bringing it to the attention of his then-girlfriend Miss Ross.  “Anywhere You Run To” was written by Canadian singer-songwriter David Roberts; according to a July 10, 1982 article in Billboard, Roberts was working on songs for his debut LP when a producer played some of them for Simmons, who then passed the songs on to Ross.  Diana chose to record “Anywhere You Run To,” which was also recorded by Roberts for his eventual LP, All Dressed Up, and released by him as a single.  If any song on Silk Electric sounds like a hit, this one is it; there’s a brassy joy that recalls both “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and even “I’m Coming Out,” and Diana finally brings her own voice to the front, producing the lead vocal with clarity and control.  The instrumental track here is arguably the album’s best, with a deep, popping bassline and blasting horns (superbly arranged again by Randy Brecker), not to mention some surprising flourishes of jazz guitar.  There’s real spunk in the work of the musicians here, especially during the glitzy instrumental break, and it clearly inspires Ross to deliver a vocal with energy and personality.  David Roberts himself deserves much of the credit, as the song is very strong; there’s an inherent excitement in the driving choruses, and the bouncy refrain is irresistible.  The writer’s own version, by the way, is very close in style to Diana’s and equally as good; the musicians on his album are none other than the band Toto, many of whom had also played with Miss Ross in the past.  It’s hard to understand why RCA didn’t push “Anywhere You Run To” as a single; Rolling Stone named it one of the album’s best cuts, and Billboard called it a “plush pop cut” in its October 1982 review.  Listened to today, it seems clear that “Anywhere You Run To” had real potential to give Diana Ross a solid pop hit, certainly moreso than second single “So Close.”  It’s tempting to wonder how this song might have performed had it been released as the album’s first single; although “Muscles” was guaranteed attention due to its Michael Jackson connection and sheer weirdness, this is a song that should have given Diana Ross a hit based purely on its own artistic merit.  (NOTE: “Anywhere You Run To” was eventually placed on the b-side of the “Who” single in The Netherlands.)

10.  I Am Me:  Diana Ross takes another hard left turn musically to bring Silk Electric to a close, trying her hand at reggae music with a song credited to some names from her Motown past.  Songwriters Freddie Gorman and Janie Bradford were both big players in Diana’s early days at Motown; Bradford was a Motown staffer and songwriter and the woman credited with coming up with the list of names from which “Supremes” was chosen, and Gorman co-wrote the Supremes first single, “I Want A Guy,” and was part of the label’s group The Originals.  The duo submitted “I Am Me” to Diana Ross as a ballad, but the singer rearranged the entire thing as a reggae song; Ross was likely inspired by her friend Stevie Wonder, who’d scored a huge hit in 1980 with “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” written in tribute to Bob Marley.  The end result is really unlike anything else in Diana’s vast catalog, with a rhythmic Jamaican beat and lyrics that seem to serve as an unapologetic mission statement for the entire album:  “Should I fail and come to my ruin/Or if I succeed, it will be, be my doin’.”  Diana Ross doubles her voice again here, and the song (as on “In My Arms”) almost becomes a duet with herself; the effect works well, although her vocal performance overall is lacking in fire, especially given the nature of the lyrics.   Still, “I Am Me” is a good way to close the album, as the song is striking enough to be a cut above most of the others here; it also serves as a testament to Diana’s generosity as an artist.  According to co-writer Bradford, quoted in Mark Ribowsky’s The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal, “I had this song, and one day I left a message for Diana, not expecting her to return it; I hadn’t spoken with Diana in years.  But then my daughter picked up and squealed, ‘Mom, it’s Diana Ross!’  I said to myself, look, I’m going through hell, I’m gonna tell her the truth.  And I did.  I said, ‘Diana, if there’s any way you can record this song of mine, please do it because I need the money.’  And she cut it and put it on the back of ‘Muscles!’  That was a huge hit.  So you can imagine the royalties that came in, and still do.  That’s Diana Ross.”


Jet: December 6, 1982

With lead single “Muscles” generating strong publicity and enjoying a healthy run on the charts, Silk Electric sold well; it went gold, peaking at a so-so #27 on the Billboard 200, but making it all the way to #5 on the R&B Albums chart.  While the singer had made several high-profile television appearances to promote her previous album, this really wasn’t the case with Silk Electric; perhaps the most notable televised performance of “Muscles” came on the popular show “Solid Gold” — and it was performed by Marilyn McCoo, not Diana Ross!  In fact, Diana was already planning for a major upcoming event; American magazine Jet announced in September of 1982, just before the release of Silk Electric, that Ross had approached officials in New York about doing a free concert in Central Park.  Though the magazine predicted the singer would stage the concert that fall, it wouldn’t happen until the following summer; when it did, Diana would be promoting her third album for RCA, Ross.

Because Diana Ross had been on such an unprecedented hot streak in 1980 and 1981, it makes sense that she could finally really experiment and unleash her creativity on this album; she was selling millions of records, and there wasn’t as much pressure to play it safe and come up with a sure-fire hit.  Therefore, it’s tough to be overly harsh when judging Silk Electric.  Although the material is fairly weak overall, the major issue remains the dated, muddled sound quality, which becomes difficult to listen to after a while.  Though this was an issue on her previous album and is a big one here, it thankfully would end with the following year’s Ross, on which outside producers would return her to a crystal clear sound.  Today, Silk Electric remains a challenging and at times not very pleasant listen, but it does offer a glimpse into the creative mind of Miss Diana Ross, and shows some new sides of her, whether that’s (as she sings in “I Am Me”) good or bad.

Final Analysis: 2.5/5 (Ross Unevenly Flexes Her Creative “Muscles”)

Paul’s Picks: “Anywhere You Run To,” “Still In Love,” “Muscles”


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Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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56 Responses to Silk Electric (1982)

  1. spookyelectric says:

    Another great summary, Paul – I think you’re totally on the money here. The decisions Diana made musically in this period make much more sense when put into proper context. I think you’re probably right about Diana being buoyed by her new ‘freedom’ and the successful streak she was on to let her creativity run wild – so what if it’s pretty much the worst album of her career, it’s definitely fun and no one could say it was dull.

    Personally I think ‘Muscles’ is a stroke of genius – absolutely one of her best of the 80s. I agree it has a certainly ‘novelty’ factor to it because of the lyric, but sonically Michael Jackson’s production is so ahead of his time – all those crashing drums and funky fingersnaps – it has so much space it in and a real R&B sensibility absent from much of her post-70s recordings. Diana’s vocal on the verse is warm and nuanced. And those backgrounds from Michael and Patti Austin have real soul to them. Shame Jackson didn’t produce the whole album really.

    The rest of the album really suffers from bad production you’re right. I’d never made the connection between her solo ‘Endless Love’ and ‘In Your Arms’ before but you’re spot on – it’s so telling about how Diana must have heard herself at the time. Relistening to the record now I’d forgotten how good ‘Still In Love’ and ‘Anywhere You Run To’ were – and how much better they would have been with better production. I always found her vocal on ‘So Close’ a little too shrill and thin – although I love the actual song and the cuteness of the doo-wop direction (and of course Luther’s backgrounds). Again this track could have been so much better. Ironic that RCA went with a Richard Perry remix for single release – a weird reversal of the behind-the-scenes dramas on the Chic album a few years earlier.

    I’m glad there’s a moment in Diana’s career where she had the boldness and power to make a record as ridiculously misconceived as ‘Fool For Your Love’ (apparently originally considered for lead single!) but relieved it didn’t happen again too often. Someone in a previous post alluded to the early 80s as her ‘arrogant’ period and listening to ‘Silk Electric’ certainly backs that up. Still as you say you take the good with the bad – it may have resulted in her worst album, but that Warhol sleeve is inspired (Aretha even copied the idea a couple of years later). It just screams ‘I’m a icon!’ Fabulous.

    • Paul says:

      I can’t believe ANYONE ever thought “Fool For Your Love” could have been a lead single!!!!!! Wow. Wouldn’t that have been nuts??

      Going through these albums chronologically has really helped me understand Diana Ross’s discography better — like you said, this album makes more sense when viewed in the context of where she was in her career — and because of that, it’s hard to really hate it during its worst moments, although it’s not always an easy listen!

  2. ejluther says:

    Another great review! Even when I don’t agree with you 100%, I enjoy reading your thoughts and always take any excuse to listen to the songs in questions again..

    “(most notably “So Close,” which was actually re-mixed before being released as a single),”

    Any one know where I can hear/get the “So Close” single remix?

  3. Tony says:

    WELL, where do I begin. It is true that tastes evolve as we mature. Certain artistic expressions are an “acquired taste.” I recall being very disappointed with he cover when it came out. Today, I appreciate it and think it is stunning in so many ways. Its also true that crass and poor taste delivered from even the most regal is still crass and poor taste. I think this album is crass.

    Paul again, because your writing is so excellent and bang on – its almost difficult to reply (thats a compliment). A lot of stuff is going here, going on in Diana’s head , the market, the music industry and even with her reputation as a person. Her success comes from listening to those greats who managed her. Her ability to push back at times and concede at other times created great work. In diana’s head this time — she called all the shots and you can tell. Her choices when unchecked and un challenged. Having said that – I feel she needed to to this. She needed to get lost — in order to know what the right directions would be moving forward. She was brave. I admire her risk taking.

    This album – completely lost me as a fan at the time. I recall feeling crushed when I listened to it. Today, I enjoy very much -Still in Love. This is lovely and classic Diana for me. I also really like “Who.” Perhaps with a little remixing – I think this one could have hit. i hated her “In You Arms.” “Muscles,” while I did think it was cool and new- I have trouble embracing it. I just can’t like the sound. All I really do like is the thunder claps and the finger snapping!!! I also really enjoy “Anywhere You Run To” although the lyric makes me think of a stocker singing it.

    I mentioned early – the industry was listening to other types of voices. Richer , thicker voices were in vogue. Diana almost seemed to move completely into the opposite direction. She sounded thin and breathy weak in her delivery. Maybe she could not compete with the thicker rich voices and thought she would go this direction as a contrast – or foil for what she did not believe she could deliver.

    Her reputation. This had a huge impact on her music. People were not willing to invest in her emotionally. They didn’t want to embrace the new sound because of her appearing arrogant. Her own fans began to turn on her. Rumours were flying around the books that would be written. Her P.R was a disaster. She was being vilified in the media right when she was trying to experiment with knew styles, writers , producers. There was a wave coming, the “I hate Diana Ross” wave. It seemed like the perfect storm, changes in the industry, a new style of voice and singing, total un checked control , poor P.R.

    Having said all this…. There is some beautiful music awaiting us- just around the corner!!!!

    • Paul says:

      Tony — thank you — and thanks for always adding so much that I can’t quite put into words!

      It does seem, in retrospect, that there was a wave of negativity beginning to form around the time of “Silk Electric” — Dreamgirls had opened on Broadway…soon after would come Central Park and Motown 25 (which I’ll mention in my next review)…and the albums were just not slick or strong enough to keep people in Diana’s corner, I guess. It seems this was the time when people started focusing much more on Diana Ross as a personality and not a singer.

  4. “The track, meanwhile, is also unusual for Ross; it’s got that slick, dark feel that a lot of Michael Jackson songs of the era have, as though it were being produced in an old haunted house (complete with pops that sound like claps of thunder).” Lol! I love that Paul!

    I agree, “Muscles” is a tune that Lily would have sung to Herman Monster! It might have been campy but it was a new sound for Diana. But this is the song that sold the album, without it I think it could have been a very different story. It’s Michael Jackson’s fantasy song (just like “Eating Alive”) and I think he later confessed that the song was about his pet snake called Muscles! Michael had a lot of fun writing these ridiculous songs but they sounded great. Does anyone remember “Centipede”?

    When I first saw the album cover it left me cold. It was pretentious, slick, cold and plastic. There is nothing warm and inviting, its almost extraterrestial. I feel she wanted to release the album with only Andy Warhol’s art but RCA convinced her to put a sticker with her name and title on it, and what a title! I really wished she would have used the Polaroid Andy took of her instead of the silk screen version. But the worse cover album would come the following year where Diana looks like she was channeling Sigourney Weaver being possessed by Zul in “Ghostbusters”.

    But everything changed, cover and music wise with “Swept Away”.

    • Paul says:

      Oh, I remember “Centipede” — another totally weird song — similar to “Muscles” in many ways, I think — especially with the low-key, hushed vocal.

      I LOVE your comparison of Diana-Sigourney on the “Ross” cover — you are DEAD ON!!!

  5. chris meklis says:

    Okay Okay…this is indeed the hard one…the turning point, clearly, for some, including myself when I first got it on LP in the early ’90’s…
    Bearing in mind we all have fallen into the world of Diana Ross at various times, mine was Central Park and Swept Away and then Eaten Alive all of which found Diana in strong voice and absolute command of her product- the music.
    I then bought the 1983 double LP Anthology, and found it interesting to listen to the 70’s Ross- sometimes actually finding that emotive, yearning vocal like on Do You Know, or Touch Me hard to reconcile with the Ross in the Swept Away video or the Missing You or Chain Reaction videos, even though that voice was incredibly beautiful.

    Like many artists, and a lot of music- many products offered out become ‘mellower’ with time and this is definitely the case of Silk Electric (and Ross there after), which I really got into once I got it on a remastered CD.
    I really do not think it was this album that turned fans, but rather the fact that it was not succeeded by a stronger effort, even though both Pieces of Ice and Lets Go Up are stand outs from Ross…

    We forget just how popular the hit Muscles actually was and that Rolling Stone hailed it as a Pop Masterpiece at that time!
    The song was a huge crowd- pleaser in Miss Ross’s concerts which by that stage had taken on a modern twist also, with her performing ‘in the round’ and really moving with the times.

    Silk Electric is indeed an experiment of experiments for Diana, that for some seem a mess, but for others, like me at this point in my life, is intriguing…
    It is hurled on the player when I’m in the mood for the ‘artsy’ Diana of the 80’s- one has to be in the mood for this album- it is not the kind of album of Diana’s that can simply be heard at leisure, but for the purpose of listening to that sound again, and appreciating it for what it is, an odd affair, but a curious one at the same time.

    I found it harder to get into Ross than I did Silk Electric…but this was my fault as based on the two songs featured at Central Park, I assumed it to be a strong project from beginning to end.

    I think Muscles as a whole with all the gadgetry and sound elements had to be that way, and whether or not the Diana Ross sound was being lost in these productions, remember, this seems to be on point with what Diana had in mind for herself at this point, and for the most part- especially Muscles- it worked temporarily.
    I love the sound of her on that bridge with the clever lyrics- as she coos “Muscleman, I want to love you…etc etc…Come to me and get my loving!”
    No it is not distinct Diana, but good or bad it rouses the senses and is timeous for those years.

    I also love So Close for its ridiculousness- all of it- especially the silly “aaaw” and hiccup “Supremes’esque” embellishments…it’s like some naive lovelorn teenage girl coming of age and really, not knowing how jaded one can become from being in love…there is a girly- whirly innocence, albeit melodramatic and desperate- maybe that’s why Diana left the production so scrappy…it’s NOT meant to be taken seriously.

    Still in Love should be dusted off and brought out as a stunning surprise for her audience in these current concerts she is doing (as should Surrender, Remember Me, Never Say I Don’t Love You, You Got It, and many more)!!!
    She emotes just enough to not over do it, but I disagree a little with your summing up of Love Lies- I think she is believable and the echo sound complicated with the electric guitar and her harmonising with herself here is necessary- she is being “Rock Chic” here…this seems to somehow be the concept at times of this album, and indeed, the tilte…SILK ELECTRIC “Silk”- her silky voice…and ‘Electric” layered upon the electric rock guitar…obviously the concept is not constant as the genre varies all the time.

    I always have to remember to quickly turn the volume down just as Still In Love comes to an end and the drum and guitar of Fool For Your Love starts- it is too loud- and yes jarring.
    This is my ‘lets joke about Miss Ross’ song with my friends who never can believe their ears when they hear this….
    It is too much in every way- very much a wall of sound (or cacophony)- those repeating screams of Leave Me Alone, Leave Me Alone, Leave Me Alone! Well, I never! 🙂
    But she SHOULD do a gimmick or parody now years later of this song in her concert- it would be so well received and hilarious, though when she wrote and recorded this song- I think she was dead bloody serious! lol

    The song Who is excellent and also, for me, somehow a stand out, and I can’t figure why. Perhaps the disco feel- maybe the feel of the almost mechanical sounding songs of most of the “diana” album make it so attractive and give us familiar territory to tread along again.
    Again, In Your Arms, could be used as an over the top, parody in a drag show today.
    If there were to be a music video for this piece, I envision a haunted castle, lots of tall buttressed hallways and Baroque furniture, and an ethereal Diana- half human- half ghost levitating in white robes that blow on behind her forever (kind of a Stevie Nicks Gold Dust Woman thing), and the subject/ lover (as in Eaten Alive) being scared to death, while intrigued and compelled to stay and accept his fate by loving the apparition before him!

    I am going on and on…sorry!

    Anywhere You Run To is good enough, save the corny intro which sounds like a TV show theme (much like you described the beginning of No One’s Gonna Be A Fool Forever), and I am Me, continues the sound of “aaws” and Oh’s from track two’s So Close….bringing home, if you will, the sound some hated on this album!

    Thanks for your work….I LOVE the RCA years for they bring so many varied opinions and really are the most fascinating of her career.

    Keep a writing,

    Chris xxx

  6. markus says:

    Another awesome review, Paul! Bravo…and i gotta say reading the followup comments are a big part of the fun.

    I was still a kid and hadn’t started buying records yet when Silk Electric came out (my first record purchase was two years later, and it was Diana…lol). But I do remember “Muscles” being worn out on radio. It was sort of the end to a heady time in Diana’s career- between the summer of 1980 and the end of 1982, she was almost CONSTANTLY on the radio and on the charts.

    Fast-forward to the early 90’s- i was a teenager and finally bought this album (on vinyl, i found it along with almost all of her RCA albums, exception being RHR&B). It was my least favorite of all of them. I spun it once and was completely disappointed. I enjoyed the Eaten Alive album MUCH more. I recall playing “Fool For Your Love” for friends, but mainly for the shock value. That was about it. I do remember there being two songs that I actually had to skip completely, “So Close” and “In Your Arms”.

    Fast -forward AGAIN to the 21st century.
    It’s amazing what a drought of new Diana releases can do. At the end of 2004 I caught Diana in Atlantic City, and she put on what is, to this day, the best concert I’ve ever been to. AMAZING. I was so amped up, but there was no new album. So I started re-listening to the older stuff. And to be honest, Silk Electric ended up being the most pleasant of surprises. How much different your appreciation of something can be at 28 years old, versus being 15. My opinion completely changed on three songs in particular (“Still in Love”, “Who” and “I Am Me”).

    -“Muscles”: let’s be honest, in late 1982/early 1983 MJ could’ve produced Diana reading from an issue of National Geographic and it would’ve reached the Top 10. It’s a bit of a bizarre listen but it’s never mundane, and it certainly stands out in her catalogue. This is one I’m surprised she hasnt dusted off for a recent tour, justfor fun.
    -“So Close”: I couldn’t stand this song in 1991 and, unfortunately, it doesnt do much for me now. The production is in that “mock-50’s doo wop meets synth-80’s” style that doesnt do much, and agreeing with another commenter Diana’s voice always struck me as shrill on it (although the Perry single mix does improve that a bit). Still a miss for me (sad considering the powerhouse voices in the background).
    -“Still in Love”: someone told me they loved this song back in the 90’s, and I was dismissive of it. Beautiful melody, nice lyrics, nice vocal and a performance that captures the sound of that time quite nicely, without overdoing it. Overall, gorgeous. What a fool I was…lol
    -“Fool For Your Love”: okay, it would have been madness to release this as a single; it comes off as little more than straight experiment, but what an experiment! It’s lively and Diana never sounded like that before or after. Not exactly a contender for best Diana song of any category, but it pumps some energy into a sometimes sedate album.
    -“Who”: I was really put-off by this when I first heard it.The exciting intro with the strings and the bass and all that…leading into what i thought was a dull paint by numbers disco song. Reassessing it, it’s one of the more mature songs on the album; Diana’s vocal is very measured but tense at the same time, almost as if she’s trying to maintain calm. The echo effect and lack of background vocals work to the son’g benefit. A favorite of mine.
    -“Love Lies”: Harmless but still kind of flat. I do like Diana on the verses but the hook just sits there.
    -“In Your Arms”: DREADFUL. I still cannot listen to it today.
    -“Anywhere You Run To”: it’s sweet and buoyant, but I totally agree if Diana pushed herself a bit more it would be a much greater pleasure to listen.
    -“I Am Me”: a song i initially didnt care for, it’s probably my favorite on the entire album now. Yes, it’s pseudo-reggae-lite. The lyrics are wacky at points. The message of self empowerment and individuality can easily be viewed as narcissistic. But somehow it all comes together. I thought the vocal arrangement on this (echo notwishstanding) was fabulous, almost hypnotic. Great way to close an admittedly uneven album.

    (Rolling Stone’s humorous closing line to their review of Silk Electric- in reference to “I Am Me”- is: “Diana, darling, we love you, but save it for your shrink.”)

    Looking forward to the next review (an album more consistent than this, but somehow I like it less).

    Keep up the great work, Paul!

    • Paul says:

      I agree — I LOVE the comments!! Thanks to everyone for chiming in! I was just a kid when “Muscles” hit, too, but I don’t remember it at all. I didn’t discover it until years later and it’s just never been a song I was able to appreciate fully — it’s just too gimmicky, though I certainly don’t hate it and am glad it was a hit for her. But I’m totally with you on “I Am Me” — what a great song that manages, against all odds, to work!!

    • Tony says:

      Hi Markus,
      I can really appreciate how you listen to a song years later and suddenly appreciate in a different way, much like you did with “Who.” Your analysis is very good – and actually I agree with much of it. I too have come to like many of the songs you did. The banter is excellent from everyone- so enjoyable. I so enjoy hearing how fans were relating to her as they came to discover her in the 80’s and how that compares to those of us who were feeling let down by her at the time. I have come to enjoy, understand the 80;s Diana, but it was a journey. Something tells me that I we journey through the 80’s – i will be saying “what a fool I was ” a lot !!!!

  7. chris meklis says:

    I loved that review Markus! On the button 🙂

    • markus says:

      thanks Chris, yours as well! Although i just looked through mine and found a bunch of grammatical errors. Ugh…lol
      interestingly, this project has almost turned into a bit of a book club, all of us considering a different album each week, and Paul’s observations spurring others on. I’m loving it. My only regret is not commenting sooner!

  8. chris meklis says:

    Yes, you will see I am going backwards trying to catch up with my comments on each each album. LOL on the grammar etc, I always make mistakes- just see my comments, as I don’t have the time to always read through it all due to time constraints- and I am a writer! Blush 🙂

    • Paul says:

      I keep going back and catching spelling/grammar error in my posts, too 🙂 I think we all just need to ignore each other’s mistakes!!!! 🙂

  9. Tony says:

    Mistakes? What mistakes???? Are people making mistakes??

  10. Antje says:

    It is so interesting to read your comments, guys – the 80s had lost me as a fan. I had to work my way through all her albums post “Why do fools …” and now the generation gap between us clearly shows. There are songs I like, but not too many of the RCA stuff (most of them on RHRB), plus no memories connected. And on this album? I was hesitant to admit, but I decided to give you a good laugh – “In your arms” :))

    • Tony says:

      I so relate to you on this. Well said ! I like her 8o,s music much today than I did when she put it out in the 8o’s. I recall being so embarrassed as people who knew I was her fan, laughed at her releases and compared her to Whitney. My sister would say “what the hell is your Diana” doing?

      • Paul says:

        Tony — I hope you told your sister “My Diana is just experimenting — leave her alone!!” 🙂

      • Lawrence says:

        I really enjoyed this review – especially since the 1980s RCA work is quite polarizing. I, like you Paul, really discovered her music in the 1980s — and then went back later, to learn her classic catalogue.

        I have to say that although “Silk Electric” is a bit dated and uneven, there are some gems. “Muscles”, MJ’s fantasy record, is such fun. “Still in Love” might have been a better second single, and been a hit. Plus, I really like “Who” and “Anywhere you Run to”.

        “So Close” and “In Your Arms” make me wonder. If Diana had continued to work with top producers (such as Michael Masser and Luther Vandross), would her 1980s recordings have been more successful on the radio? In any event, I do appreciate her willingness to take risks. and the 1980s was a strange time for music! Best, Lawrence

    • Paul says:

      Ha ha…I knew someone must like that song!

  11. chris meklis says:

    A bit late in the game- but she did eventually give props to the rightful one who paved the way…Miss Ross

  12. Billy says:

    Hi guys! Paul, I’ve been following your great “project” since the beginning but this is the first time I’m leaving a post, which is strange since I don’t even own a physical copy (cd) of “Silk Electric,” although I do have a used vinyl but have no record player to play it.

    Still, I have all the songs and have listened to the album as a whole several times, and I always thought it was judged rather harshly. I actually love the experimenation aspect of this phase of Diana’s career, especially the fact that she was in charge and was epxressing herself without hesitation or orders by record industry people (at least in a Motown way). That alone makes me approach “Silk Electric” differently and view it as a sound statement.

    “Who” has to be my favorite song. It’s highly sophosticated and moody, while “I Am Me” is absolutely addictive and captures Diana’s then state of being: being emancipated and in control

    Given my age (26), I first became acquainted with Diana rather late, in 1999 to be exact and the “Everyday…” album, so my take on her catalogue is “retrospective,” hence maybe more “unbiased.” Still, it’s really exciting and informative to read about the vibes that were going on around the release of each of the RCA albums, as those years really cemented a legend around Ross-the personality. Something similar I find happenned with Mariah Carey – another favorite diva of mine – during her Island/Def Jam years. It’s a point in their careers when rumors started to overtake the music and their artistic statements, althogh I found them equally of not more exciting than their “formative”/classic divas.

    Although I think we have different tastes and approaches in how we like and evaluate music, I find it intriguing to read your take on Diana’s records, something that has already been stated after all.

    Keep ’em coming!

    • Paul says:

      Billy — thanks for the comments! I love hearing the opinions of people who became Diana fans at different times — some readers were in the 60s and 70s…for me, it was the 80s…and we have you in the 90s. Can’t wait to hear your takes on her later CDs from the second-Motown era.

      Interesting what you said about Mariah Carey — I am a big Mariah fan, too, and I’m a much bigger fan of her Island/Def Jam work than her earlier stuff with Sony. I think “Emancipation Of Mimi” and “Memoirs…” are her two best complete works by far, although many prefer her mid-90s stuff. I think the more her celebrity became cemented, the better her music got — her early stuff, to me, often sounds artificial, like she was trying too hard.

  13. Billy says:

    Hi again! Very excited to see that you are also a Mariah fan! I was initially a bit apprehensive about mentioning her in a Diana Ross forum, but I always thought that Mariah and Diana fit perfectly together, something that was evident also back in Divas 2000. They had great chemistry together. Not to mention that I find quite a few similarities in their careers, while Mariah has often cited Diana as one of her favorites.

    Although I dearly love both “Emancipation” (for its full vocal showcase and live instruments) as well as “Memoirs” (for its ‘classic’/stripped R&B approach and multi-vocal layering), I have to say that nothing comes close to “Butterfly” as far as I’m concerned. I believe it’s her true masterpiece, yet at the same time I agree about your comment regarding her music improving as years pass by. For instance, the somewhat overlooked “E=MC2” is a stroke of genius in terms of the styles, melodies and hooks it displays. I guess whetner I prefer Sony Mariah or Island Mariah depends on the mood each time, something that is similar to whether I want to listen to Motown Diana or RCA Diana, and vice versa. I see these phases in their careers not as mutually exclusive but as completing each other. But I should probably stop talking about Mariah because I could go on forever!

    By the way, I just finished listening to “Swept Away”!

    • Paul says:

      I totally agree — there are similarities between Diana and Mariah and their careers, and Mariah Carey has always shows great respect for Miss Ross. Both women are also very divisive with audiences…people either love ’em or hate ’em!
      I’m like you — Sony vs. IDJ depends on the day, but overall I’m a much bigger fan of Mariah’s work post-2000. As a complete album, I don’t think she’ll ever top “Emancipation…” which is one of my favorite albums of all time! I do love much of “Butterfly” — but for me the songs tend to blend together a bit too much toward the end. I can’t wait to hear what Mariah turns out next!!

  14. I am shocked and appalled (not really but I like being dramatic on the internet) at all the hate for “In Your Arms”, yeah it was probably better off as a duet (“Hold Me” is pretty great) but I guess when I shut my eyes and picture 90 Diana’s singing this song in some sort of Sears-photography-studio-produced video I fall in love. I see where you guys are coming from with the production but I like the vocals way more than “Muscles”!

    Anyway, just got a copy of “Silk Electric” in the mail yesterday so I’m catching up and the songs I haven’t heard before are still setting in, I’ll be back 🙂

    • Paul says:

      Ha ha ha…love this!! I guess I can kind of see it in a Sears-light, too — but I just can’t stomach the song…maybe I’m too cynical and grumpy these days 🙂 Let me know more when you’ve listened to SILK ELECTRIC a few times!

  15. davidh says:

    Paul,hello.i must be the odd one out, as usually i agree with the posts. but it seems most fans prefer the WDFFIL album over this .but for me this is a better album than FOOLS .i did agree on some marks such as IN YOUR ARMS.over all,i like this album.thanks for your review,really enjoy your thoughts. now i have to go put this cd in and have a listen.

    • Paul says:

      Hey David! Interesting to hear you prefer this album. I think there are some strong moments here, but I just don’t think it’s as solid a complete album as WDFFIL. However, I really can understand how some people would like this one better — it’s certainly more varied and seems to show many more sides of Diana as an artist and a person.

  16. Mike says:

    Anywhere You Run To is jubilation. That horn bridge! I’ve always liked this album, especially for the variety of genres. There is not a thing wrong with Fool For Your Love.

  17. Luke says:

    I bought this album (cd format) in 1996 – I was 15 then – and as being obsessed with Diana, I loved it , partly because of the cover. Well, 15 years later, relistening to the project I still like it, despite its bizarre songs or blurish sound. It was an experiment for Diana who, after 20 years in the industry, wanted to be let alone to make art, her own artistic choices, and take risks too. The early-mid 80s era was crazy, as far as music, film, fashion are concerned and Diana should make her own choices during that frantic era. Should she get stuck to the old Motown-ish sound and pace, or should make new music? She did it the hard way, she took risks, some of which failed, some others not. Most of the songs of the album were good, better than those of the previous 1981 album. The only I still hate, is Muscles. Never understood why she did it or why MJ gave it to her. I think that during the Rca years, Diana’s major problem was choosing the best songs as lead/promote singles. She ruinned her 1985 album by giving the name “eaten alive” to it, and then releasing the track of the same name as a lead single. She did it again with her “Red hot” 1987 album. She also did it with the Silk Electric project. “Still in love” is for sure the finest song and should be released as a single, replacing the awful “muscles”. “Fool for your love” was Diana’s proof that she can sing anything, even hard rock. She overdid it, but it was ok!

  18. topher says:

    People talk about experimenting new fields ? Is it true ? the music she choosed to sing since WDFFIL was very MOR. The kind of songs that Ann Margret or Linda Carter performed on their TV specials.
    This is the first lp i brought, because of Muscles, because of the dramatic cover . I was so disapointed . I didn’t know her at the time , didn’t connect her with “upside down” but to me she was beautifull above all, dangerous, and sexy. So at first play , she was not that at all.
    Time has past and now i see it in a different way. She will never be a good producer, and i wonder what her real taste is, but song to song, it’s ok and fun, sometime very good.
    “Still in love”, “love lies”, “i am me” and “who” are my favorite , “muscle” being an ovni on this LP.
    “fool for your love” is fun but not serious .
    My main concern will always be that the tone of her voice is exceptional but it’s nowhere to be found in those LP.

  19. Eric says:

    This album does sound quite muddled!! Who approved the final release?? I love muscles and fool for your love and that’s it! Boring syrupy ballads and doo wop and a cheap disco song ! I am me is fun ill leave alone but this album def had her worst ballads ever. All of them!

    I like the cover ! I give it as gifts to ppl bc its candy Warhol -I claim it’s art!

  20. davidh says:

    hello, I am going thru a Diana faze again, geez, was i out of it ever? but I was listening to this album again ,and after reading your review I hear things differently or,is it my age now? I was never a big fan of Muscles… it was good but I suppose I thought of it as a womans song. but that’s me brain working or not working depending on yr point of view.i think had this album had anoterh big hit ,would people think differently? I also read somewhere there is a different mix, more rock version of FOOL FOR YOUR LOVE. I think Gene Simmons had something to do with it. not sure. but maybe the original mix was considered as a single? just thinking out loud. I hope one day these albums will get the deluxe treatment like the other albums.

  21. Pingback: “Ribbon In The Sky” (Live In Central Park, 1983) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

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  23. says:

    I love Silk Electric. It was one of my most favorite Diana Ross albums and I have them all. Different strokes for different folks.

  24. Matt says:

    Just some gossip 🙂

    When ‘Muscles’ was produced/released, Michael Jackson and Diana were rumored to be… um… how do I say this nicely… fuck buddies at the time. True story. Total cougar/boytoy relationship, complete with a down low secret affair that was kept away from the public. While Diana Ross was dating Gene Simmons and Michael was with Brooke Shields, they were sleeping with each other on the side (there was a source from Gene Simmons’ camp that said that Diana once called out Michael’s name during sex and Gene never got over it, hence why he’s still bitter with Michael to this day).

    And Michael was probably giving off major intentional innuendos when he said that Muscles was the name of his pet ‘snake’ if you know what I mean, lol.

    “I don’t care if he’s young or old, just make him beautiful…” and then writes a whole song about Diana wanting Michael’s ‘snake’ all over her body… suure Michael 😉

  25. I know this is super late in the game but I’ll add my 2 cents. This was the second record of Diana Ross’ I owned and I’m pretty sure my mum bought it for me along with Eaten Alive (my dad bought my first “diana”). I’m actually currently listening and it is remains an excersize in nostalgia and for all its crazy categories of music still remains a favorite, and weirdly pretty consistent (except for the hard rock track, which over time I can hear the musicality if still not a favorite). Still makes me sing along and I probably just listen and enjoy each track individually if not holistically.

    • Paul says:

      Julius — as Diana would say, “It’s Never Too Late” 😉 Yes — this is a crazy, crazy album — certainly not her worst, and an interesting glimpse into the creative mind of Diana Ross — but ultimately pretty wacky. I appreciate it for the wild experimentation, and Diana’s willingness to tackle songs that most of her peers wouldn’t have dared. I just wish the sound quality weren’t so fuzzy — I’m not sure why Diana seemed to insist on this mushy sound in the early 80s.

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  31. david wilson says:

    Just read your revised review. Gotta say this has to be your harshest critique yet! I had to go back and listen in full for the first time in 35 years. This is another of those albums that lack cohesiveness. It really is all over the place musically. The one constant is Diana’s insistence on double tracking and adding that echo to her vocal performance from start to finish. On initial release this was a big disappointment for me. Looking back from 2018 I’m surprised to say the album is much better than I’d remembered! (apart from the drowned vocal) I did laugh at the thought of Diana hiding in the air conditioning unit! At the time myself and friends who were also fans had hoped for an album written and produced by Michael Jackson. How I wish that HAD happened! Muscles was great at the time AND here in the UK we got to SEE Diana on Top of the Pops as she had produced that camp video! It was VERY rare to SEE Diana Ross on TV in the UK. Today Muscles sounds awful. I do think your overall review is just a bit harsh and the final score of 2.5? OUCH! Although far from her best or most innovate work it is also not quite at the foot of the pile. I’m glad your post made me take the time to revisit the album as I’ve added several tracks to my current playlist. Amazing how time and distance can change your opinion- in this case, maturity- like a fine wine rather than decay and rot!

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