“The rise and fall is endless…”
Although 1983 brought Diana Ross unprecedented publicity thanks to her appearance in the blockbuster television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever and her pair of Central Park concerts, the star’s singing career slipped a bit, something that must have worried both Diana and her record label, RCA. Ross, produced in part by Gary Katz and Ray Parker, Jr., was her strongest set yet for RCA, but it went virtually unnoticed by the general public, giving Ross only one Top 40 hit with the atmospheric dance cut “Pieces Of Ice.” When the album’s following two singles failed to click, Diana turned attention to her next album, clearly determined to assemble a collection that couldn’t miss. To do this, Executive Producer Ross enlisted a Who’s Who of popular music figures to write and produce for her, including former duet partner Lionel Richie (1981’s “Endless Love”), former producer Bernard Edwards (1980’s diana), and RCA golden boy Darryl Hall, who’d been scoring hit after hit with his musical partner John Oates for several years (including 1982’s “Maneater,” a love letter to the iconic Supremes sound).
The album’s first release, however, came attached to an unlikely name. “Iglesias Faces Hard Choice” read a headline in the June 10, 1982 issue of music industry trade magazine Billboard, with an accompanying article documenting the search for a perfect duet partner to help break Latin crooner Julio Iglesias in the United States. According to the article, the “hard choice” faced by the singer was whether to record with Barbra Streisand or Diana Ross, noting, “It’s felt that a collaboration with either artist would aid Iglesias’ penetration of the U.S. market, where he is still relatively unknown.” It would take a full two years after the appearance of this article, but a duet would indeed break Julio Iglesias in the states — and that duet partner was Willie Nelson. The male duo’s “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was featured on Julio’s first English-language LP, 1100 Bel Air Place; that album’s second single was another duet, this time with Miss Diana Ross. Produced by Richard Perry, “All Of You” gave Iglesias a second straight hit, and became Diana’s first Top 20 single since 1982’s “Muscles.”
Because “All Of You” was released by Columbia Records, the label to which Julio Iglesias was signed, RCA didn’t wait long to jump in with its own single; the month after “All Of You” peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100, Diana’s own “Swept Away” did the same thing. Written by Daryl Hall and Sara Allen, “Swept Away” was a dark, driving track that gave Miss Ross her first #1 dance hit in four years; the song was also a major R&B success, peaking at #3. With two Top 20 pop hits, Diana’s fourth RCA album, eventually titled Swept Away, was already a solid success and certified gold when something amazing happened; third single “Missing You,” written by Lionel Richie and dedicated to recently deceased Marvin Gaye, was released in late 1984 and slowly began to gain momentum. After the music video for the song was played during the American Music Awards on January 28, 1985, the song exploded at radio, becoming one of the singer’s biggest hits ever; it topped the R&B chart for three weeks, besting her previous single and becoming her first #1 on the chart since 1981’s “Endless Love,” coincidentally also written by (and performed with) Richie.
“Missing You” is the undoubted highlight of the set, and remains a career-best performance by Diana Ross; that said, Swept Away is an undeniably uneven album, especially when compared to the sonically cohesive Ross. The hits are all extremely strong, and there are some very solid album tracks that probably could have been hits, too; unfortunately, the misses here are big misses. Tracks like “We Are The Children Of The World” and “Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do” are two of the most unlistenable songs Diana would ever release; others, like “Rescue Me” and “Forever Young” are oddly disengaging. In this way, Swept Away is the 80s equivalent of 1976’s Diana Ross; that earlier album contained two of Diana’s biggest hits (the #1’s “Theme From Mahogany” and “Love Hangover”), but also featured “Smile” and “Kiss Me Now” among other very weak efforts. Though the really great material on both albums helps elevate the works as a whole, it doesn’t quite balance out the really poor songs, either, making both albums interesting but at times challenging listening experiences.
1. Missing You: Swept Away opens with what would become one of Diana’s biggest hits of the decade; released as the album’s third single in November, “Missing You” made a slow climb to the top of the R&B charts, finally reaching #1 for a three-week stay on February 23, 1985 and remaining on the chart for an astounding 24 weeks total. On the pop side, “Missing You” was already fading on the Billboard Hot 100 (after peaking at just #46) when it was featured on the American Music Awards in late January; it regained momentum and eventually peaked at #10 in April, giving the singer her 12th solo Top 10 pop hit. The genesis of “Missing You” came soon after the death of Marvin Gaye in April of 1984; Diana is quoted in The Billboard Book Of Number One R&B Hits as saying, “It actually came out of a conversation that Smokey Robinson and I had one evening about how we were missing Marvin…and what he meant to us, as well as to music. Then Lionel and I got to talking about how we need to tell people that we love them while they’re still alive. Lionel used all this to write that beautiful and special song” (340-341). Certainly Lionel Richie knew a thing or two about Diana’s gifts in singing ballads, given that he’d teamed up with her on the massive hit “Endless Love” in 1981; this song takes the best aspects of that previous hit, a touching simplicity and relatable, meaningful lyric, and adds to it an emotional depth and power that highlight the best qualities of Diana’s voice. Richie’s career, it should be noted, had exploded at the time he wrote and produced “Missing You,” thanks to his monster LP Can’t Slow Down and its series of hit singles; that album would eventually be awarded a diamond certification for selling ten million copies. Thus, Richie’s confidence was likely high in the studio, and he pulls a performance out of Diana Ross that is arguably her strongest ever on a ballad. Simply put, Diana’s vocal is masterful; there’s a sorrow and somber quality to her voice that never becomes overdramatic or schmaltzy, and the yearning in her voice as she sings questions like “Where did you run to?” and “What were you going through?” is completely authentic. The real thrill of the song comes during the bridge, as Diana unleashes a rare power in her voice; starting around 2:30 into the song, as she wails “I cried so many tears,” she’s pushing her voice in a way she really hadn’t since 1979 and her The Boss album. The production is beautifully done; never once do producers Richie and James Carmichael allow the instrumental to compete with Ross or become too overbearing. This is one of the great R&B ballads of the decade, and it should have won Diana a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female; that it garnered no nominations at all seems baffling now, especially given that the song which followed it at #1 on the charts, “Nightshift” by the Commodores (coincidentally also dedicated to the late Marvin Gaye), won one for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Still, the song is one of her enduring hits; it also managed a peak of #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and has been sampled several times in the years since by Hip hop artists including The Notorious B.I.G. on 1997’s “Miss U.” Ross also filmed a popular promotional video for the song, which became the very first video ever played on music video channel VH1; it would also be featured on the singer’s video collection The Visions Of Diana Ross, released in early 1985.
2. Touch By Touch: Although Lionel Richie didn’t write “Touch By Touch,” his influence can certainly be felt in its grooves; this Caribbean-tinged number seems to be directly related to Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night),” which had topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks beginning in November of 1983. “Touch By Touch” was co-written by Arthur Barrow, Joe Esposito, and Richie Zito, three prolific musicians notable for popular soundtrack work including Flashdance and Top Gun; Ross herself produced the recording, creating a vibrantly colorful atmosphere that, while certainly of its time, still sounds fresh today. The song itself is extremely catchy; the “Touch…By…Touch…” refrain is a great hook, and the lyrics are succinct and memorable. Miss Ross is the perfect person to deliver the song’s punchy melody; her bell-like soprano hits each and every note with a crisp confidence that’s incredibly engaging. There’s a brightness and liveliness to her voice on this track that had been missing from some of her earlier work with RCA; it brings to mind her work on Supremes cuts like “You Can’t Hurry Love,” although the urgency of those earlier performances is replaced here with a mature sensuality. Though it wasn’t released as a single in the United States, “Touch By Touch” was released internationally and performed well in several overseas markets; according to writer J. Randy Taraborrelli, RCA wanted a follow-up single to “Missing You” in the U.S. and Diana gave them a choice of this song or “Telephone.” The label went with “Telephone,” but it’s interesting to ponder what might have happened had “Touch By Touch” gotten the opportunity instead. When Diana Ross hosted the American Music Awards on January 26, 1987, she chose to open the show with this song; it’s a terrific, dynamic performance featuring dancers, jugglers, aerialists, and Miss Ross standing on a platform with wind whipping her dress a la Marilyn Monroe on the subway grate.
3. Rescue Me: For an album that seems crafted specifically to present Diana Ross as a modern, relevant artist, the decision to include an R&B hit from 1965 certainly seems like an odd one. Originally recorded by Fontella Bass, “Rescue Me” topped the R&B chart for a full month in late 1965, just as Diana and The Supremes were topping the Billboard Hot 100 with their sixth #1 pop hit, “I Hear A Symphony.” “Rescue Me” was covered many times in the years following its original run; it was released as a single by both Cher and Melissa Manchester during the 1970s. It’s interesting to ponder why Diana Ross, the producer, chose to record it for Swept Away; perhaps she wanted something to recall her first big hit for RCA, the bouncy remake of 1950s classic “Why Do Fools Fall In Love.” Unfortunately, this version of “Rescue Me” falls far short of that earlier cover; there’s a distinct lack of energy here, which is fatal to a song that cries out for gut-wrenching passion. Arguably, the biggest issue is Diana’s vocal; she’s singing in a very high key (as she had on “Touch By Touch”) and sounds to be straining at times. Rather than really pushing her vocal to the higher register and giving it some power, she simply seems to push through it with a weak, breathy vocal, resulting in a sound which, at times, borders on shrill. The instrumental track isn’t particularly strong, either; though there’s some nice guitar work (sounding very Chic-like on the solo), the track overall seems to be a little too sterile for a song that features such passionate lyrics. In just a few years, Diana Ross would record an album in tribute of classic soul and rhythm & blues music (1987’s Red Hot Rhythm & Blues); it’s too bad she didn’t just wait to record “Rescue Me” for that project, where it would have been a better fit and likely gotten a better treatment by producer Tom Dowd.
4. It’s Your Move: One of the strongest album tracks of Diana’s RCA output, “It’s Your Move” comes from a pair of songwriters who certainly knew how to craft a catchy pop song; just a few year earlier, Steve Kipner and Terry Shaddick had scored one of the biggest hits in music history by writing Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for ten solid weeks. “It’s Your Move” was first recorded by Australian singer Doug Parkinson for his 1983 LP Heartbeat To Heartbeat; rock group America then recorded it as “Your Move” and named their own 1983 album after the song. The America recording has a predictably harder-edged arrangement with a faster tempo; here, Diana the producer slows it down, lending the song a moody feel and giving the melody more room to breathe. Interestingly, doing so draws out the song’s similarities to the classic Motown sound; though this version is heavy on the electronic instruments, the actual melody line is written very much in the vein of the hits Diana was singing in the 1960s. Listen, for example, as she delivers the opening lyrics, “I don’t understand it ’cause you won’t say yes/But you don’t say no” — it could be lifted straight from a Supremes single. The background vocals are also arranged with a Four Tops vibe that nods toward Diana’s musical past while still sounding contemporary and youthful. Ross herself offers up a relaxed, breathy vocal performance; the key is just right for her voice, emphasizing the emotive qualities that made her a star while never sacrificing that precise, retro-tinged melody. “It’s Your Move” is a case of Diana Ross trusting herself to deliver a solid recording without straining to sound more youthful or needing to adapt to someone else’s style (as in the case of the following year’s Eaten Alive album); here, the artist relies simply on her own instincts to create a superb track that deserves rediscovery by both casual and die-hard fans.
5. Swept Away: To create the album’s title track and (until the release of “Missing You”) marquee single, Diana Ross turned to labelmate Daryl Hall. Known for his work with musical partner John Oates, Hall had scored a slew of major hits in the late 1970s and especially the early 1980s, often incorporating the sounds of classic R&B to create catchy, modern tracks that bridged the pop, soul, dance, and adult contemporary genres. In addition to working with Miss Ross in 1984, Hall was also at work on Big Bam Boom, a new Hall and Oates album released right around the same time as Swept Away; his “Out Of Touch” climbed the charts simultaneously with Diana’s single. Hall penned “Swept Away” with longtime partner Sara Allen, who’d previously co-written hits including “You Make My Dreams” and “Maneater,” while Diana Ross also received credit for writing a spoken introduction to the song. Since signing with RCA earlier in the decade, Diana Ross had shown a real fondness for rock music; the harder sound hinted at in her 1981 hit “Mirror, Mirror” led to the full-on rocker “Fool For Your Love” on Silk Electric and the electric guitar-driven “Up Front” on Ross. That penchant for edgier music continues with this track, a great rock/pop/dance track that features a powerhouse vocal from the singer. The rock tone is set immediately with the urgent drum beat; from there, instruments begin to layer in, creating a swirling musical environment that becomes an almost literal translation of the title. Most notable are the electric guitar (the solo is played by Hall) and shimmering, bell-like synthesizers, not to mention the icy background vocals. Diana’s lead vocal, meanwhile, is her most urgent, frenetic performance in years; she’s completely committed to the lyrics, and really lets loose with her ad-libs, soaring to the top of her range and even growling out some lines here and there. This is a perfect example of Diana’s talent in crossing genre lines; her performance could be categorized as pop, soul, dance, or rock, which is probably why the song charted all over the place. “Swept Away” found its biggest success in the clubs, as the song nabbed Miss Ross another #1 hit on the Hot Dance/Disco Songs chart, her first since 1980’s co-listing of “Upside Down/I’m Coming Out.” The song was also hugely successful in the R&B market, garnering strong airplay and sales and eventually peaking at #3 on that chart; it would have hit #1 had it not been competing with blockbuster singles”I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder and “I Feel For You” by Chaka Khan. On the Billboard Hot 100, the song peaked at #19 for two weeks, equalling the success of previous single “All Of You” and giving Miss Ross her 19th solo Top 20 pop hit. Thirty years after its release, Rolling Stone would call 1984 “Pop’s Greatest Year,” and in a list of the year’s best 100 songs, ranked “Swept Away” at #83; writer Chuck Eddy described Diana’s performance as “cooing, flirting, growling, admonishing.” It is, indeed, all of those things, and although “Swept Away” isn’t the singer’s most timeless recording, it certainly remains a compelling piece of work.
6. Telephone: “Hard, percussive rhythms joined with diaphanous vocals for an unusual effect; highest new entry on this week’s Black chart,” wrote Billboard in its June 1, 1985 issue, predicting solid success for Diana’s fourth and final single from Swept Away, “Telephone.” Indeed, the song performed very well in the R&B market, enjoying a 12-week run and peaking at #13 on the R&B Singles chart in July; in American magazine Jet, the song made it as high as #6 on the Top 20 Singles listing. Because RCA only really pushed “Telephone” to soul stations, however, the single missed the pop chart completely; this would be the first Diana Ross release to do very well on the R&B chart while being virtually ignored in the pop market, a trend that would unfortunately continue straight through to the next decade. Aside from its chart fortunes, what’s really interesting about “Telephone” is that the song reunites Diana with one of the men responsible for her biggest album ever, 1980’s diana; that blockbuster album had been written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of the group Chic. Although there’d been some turmoil involved in the release of diana, hatchets were obviously buried, as Edwards returns here as writer (with keyboardist Denzil A. Miller, Jr.) and producer of a song that’s arguably Diana’s first real foray into the burgeoning Hip hop genre. Led-off by the sound of a dialing rotary telephone (which obviously dates the song in today’s cell phone culture, but is nonetheless a very cool effect), the instrumental track here is incredibly sparse, consisting of slamming drums, a nervy bassline, and shimmering keyboards; in a way, the song is reminiscent of “Now That You’re Gone” from diana in the way that it plays as much with the space between the instruments as with the instruments themselves. Diana’s vocal performance is striking to say the least; rarely since her early days with the Supremes had she sung in such a high register, and some of the notes she hits are pretty amazing, especially her run on the word “need” at around 3:30. There’s a startling clarity and pitch to Diana’s work here that’s only heightened by the stark instrumental track and chilly background vocals, which are used very conservatively. It’s to Diana’s credit that her performance comes across as quite emotive; her vocal is so stylized that it would be easy to lose the substance completely (think “Fool For Your Love” from Silk Electric). To be fair, “Telephone” is fairly repetitive, something that likely turned off some listeners at the time, and it’s not necessarily a song that reveals new layers with repeated listens. That said, it’s not supposed to be another “Missing You” — this is Diana’s first real “slow jam,” and it succeeds very well on its own terms.
7. Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do: In his 2012 memoir I’m Not Dead…Yet! (available on Amazon here), songwriter Robby Benson remembers being in the shower when his wife, co-writer Karla DeVito, came running in with the news that Diana Ross was about to call to discuss a song the couple had written. Miss Ross was busy laying down vocals for “Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do,” the demo for which had been sung by the talented DeVito, and apparently she was having trouble hitting a high note on the chorus; Benson remembers Ross asking for changes, which he refused. However, in the end, he writes, “Diana Ross sang the song the way she wanted to sing the song; changed the note — and it sounded great, just like Diana Ross!” Ms. DeVito would end up including “Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do” on her own 1986 LP Wake ‘Em Up In Tokyo, and the truth is that her recording of the song is far superior to Diana’s; consisting of strange, electronic sound effects, a frantic Euro-pop beat (seemingly inspired by Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”), and a helium-influenced vocal performance, Diana’s “Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do” is a bit of a campy mess. At the dawn of 1984, pop female vocalists Madonna and Cyndi Lauper ruled both the radio and television airwaves with danceable, beat-driven recordings and their unique, over-the-top fashion sensibilities; it’s pretty clear that Miss Ross was attempting to chase them down with this recording. However, listen to Karla DeVito’s version of the song, and it’s obvious what a bad fit it is for Diana Ross; DeVito’s recording it similarly quirky, but the production isn’t nearly as cartoonish, and neither is DeVito’s full-bodied and effortless vocal performance (and she certainly does hit some impressive high notes on the chorus!). Coming after mature, accomplished vocals on “Missing You” and “It’s Your Move,” Diana sounds rather unhinged here, singing in an extraordinarily high key that really thins out her voice and robs it of any subtlety or nuance; it’s no wonder the singer was having trouble going any higher on the refrain, considering she’s at the top end of her range for the entire thing. It’s impossible to take her seriously in light of the tremendously grown-up tone set by the LP’s opening tracks; the whole thing sounds like a gimmick, at best. Go with the songwriter’s recording, instead, if you’re seeking this one out.
8. All Of You: The idea of pairing Diana Ross with Julio Iglesias stretched way back to 1982, when reports first surfaced that the Latin superstar was looking for a duet partner to help break him in the United States. Certainly Ross was a perfect choice, considering she’d just scored the biggest duet hit of all-time with Lionel Richie and “Endless Love” in 1981; reports at the time intimated that Iglesias would soon be entering the studios to record his first English-language LP, and was wrestling with a choice between Miss Ross and Barbra Streisand. When Julio Iglesias finally did score a hit duet in the United States, it was with country star Willie Nelson; together, the pair took “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May of 1984. The song was included on Julio’s album 1100 Bel Air Place, produced by Richard Perry (who’d produced Diana’s superb 1977 album Baby It’s Me). Recalled Perry to Christian John Wikane in 2012, “I was doing an album with Julio and thought that [“All Of You”] would make a great duet with Diana. I called her and she loved it except for the lyric. I said, ‘I completely agree, so I’m having Cynthia Weil write a new lyric tonight.’ When Diana heard it she loved it, so I flew into New York and we did her vocal that night. All the Columbia label heads came down to the studio to watch Diana record her part.” The Diana duet was released as the follow-up to “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before,” and it immediately began climbing the charts; in September of 1984, the song peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100, #38 on the R&B side, and #2 on the Adult Contemporary listing, one of her biggest hits on that chart ever. As produced by Mr. Perry, “All Of You” is pure high-gloss romanticism, produced with such a heavy echo that the entire recording seems to be coming from a metal chamber; it’s certainly dated, but also undeniably effective. Same goes for the vocals; the echo is awfully heavy on both Iglesias and Ross, but both offer up strong enough work that they manage to stay afloat rather than drown in it. Aside from a few dreadful tracks on 1973’s Diana & Marvin, Diana always acquits herself well during duets, knowing just how to showcase herself while allowing her partner to shine as well. Her performance is an ideal match for Julio’s rather straight-forward reading; she is really emoting here, and her sensitive performance allows her to display breathy tenderness as well as satisfying strength. Listen, for example, to her sing “As long as you live!” at around 3:30, her voice soaring above the track and background singers; it’s a great moment of belting that sounds worlds away from her high-pitched performance on the previous track. It’s unfortunate that “All Of You” didn’t do a little better on the Billboard Hot 100; because “Swept Away” was released right on its heels, competition between the two Diana Ross singles might have hurt each other a bit. That said, “All Of You” still gets airplay, and its fabulously sexy music video is always worth checking out.
9. We Are The Children Of The World: It’s hard not to associate this song with “We Are The World,” the all-star single recorded by Diana Ross and a host of other famous singers and released collectively by USA For Africa; it’s important to note, however, that Swept Away had already been released for a few months before “We Are The World” was recorded in January of 1985. In a 2014 interview with The Diana Ross Project, musician Peppy Castro remembered getting this song to Diana Ross: “I was introduced to Diana through [KISS vocalist] Gene Simmons. He called me up and asked me, did I have any material for Diana? I went over to Gene, who at the time had a penthouse overlooking the Central Park Zoo on 5th Ave. in New York….He took the songs I had and gave them to Diana for me and she had interest in ‘We Are The Children.'” It’s no surprise that Miss Ross would be attracted to a song like “We Are The Children Of The World,” given its uplifting message and lyrical link to children; these are the kinds of songs the singer had gravitated toward since the beginning of her solo career. Although Castro says his initial concept for the song (written with Mary Kelly) involved a heavier rock sound, Ross produced it with an ultra-slick instrumental including electric guitars, power drums, and a popping bass; unfortunately, her take lacks any kind of excitement or edge, and the chorus of children that sings along with Miss Ross drags the song down to the level of a Saturday morning kids’ TV show theme. Diana sounds strong during much of the song, offering up a spirited vocal performance, but her work during the bridge borders on painful; she seems to lose any sense of control during this section, her voice wobbling and barely hitting the right notes. In the end, “We Are The Children Of The World” is easily one of the weakest moments on Swept Away, and should have been replaced by a superb song co-written by Peppy Castro and Diana Ross, “Fight For It,” the non-LP track release as the b-side to “Swept Away.” (NOTE: Castro remembers that “PM Magazine” a television show out of Philadelphia, filmed a segment with Miss Ross based around this song, featuring the singer with a group of children. That clip is often available on YouTube.)
10. Forever Young: Diana Ross ends the album with this famous Bob Dylan tune, which has been covered many times by many different artists. After some very questionable choices over the second half of Swept Away, this song at least takes Miss Ross back to basics; she keeps her performance mature and simple, and at times almost sounds choked with emotion. That said, the song has such a sad, somber quality that it’s almost tough to listen to. While the lyrics of “Missing You” are far more morose, there’s a crispness to that production that allowed it (and the listener) to breathe. This song is almost oppressively heavy; Diana really sounds like she’s singing it to someone who’s in the process of dying, and thus the song becomes almost too depressing to really enjoy, although the quality of her performance certainly can be appreciated. Miss Ross apparently liked the song quite a bite; she performed a lovely rendition of it in 1986 on the “The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon,” and a year after that, she included it in her television special Diana Ross: Red Hot Rhythm & Blues.
Swept Away certainly did what it needed to do, which was to give Diana Ross some new hits and keep her on the charts; it peaked at #26 on the Billboard 200 and #7 on the R&B Albums chart, and was certified gold by the end of 1984. Beyond those achievements, it gave her a bona fide classic, “Missing You,” on which she offered one of the great performances of her career; as noted before, that she didn’t win that elusive competitive Grammy for this song (that she wasn’t even nominated for it!) is a travesty. Interestingly, for the first time, a Diana Ross album was far more enthusiastically embraced by R&B radio; while Swept Away and its singles performed respectably in the pop market, they were significantly larger successes on the R&B charts, where the album remained within the Top 75 for nearly a full year (48 weeks!) and three of the four singles peaked within the Top 15. This would remain the case for the next several Diana Ross album releases, which would produce singles that reached the R&B Top 20 while being completely ignored by pop radio and consumers.
Although Swept Away kept Diana Ross squarely in the pack of music’s most popular artists, the album itself is bogged down by some very poor choices, especially during the underwhelming (and, at times, just plain bad) second side. Had a few of those songs been replaced and the entire album resequenced, Swept Away could have easily been Diana’s best at RCA; instead, it lacks the consistent quality and cohesiveness of its predecessor, Ross. In this way, the album can be viewed as a perfect representation of Diana’s tenure at RCA Records; her output over six studio albums with the label remains a wildly mixed bag, ranging from a handful of career-best moments to downright bizarre experimentation. Acting as Executive Producer, Miss Ross was likely able to create albums without anyone to disagree with her decisions; as Swept Away demonstrates, the results were fascinating, if not always satisfying.
Final Analysis: 3.5/5 (Some Great Tracks, But “Missing” More)
Paul’s Picks: “Missing You,” “It’s Your Move,” “Touch By Touch”