“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.
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.
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 Love, but 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.”
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”