Eaten Alive (1985)

 “…you got the best time, the last time, but this time you’re gonna get burned…”

The first half of the 1980s was extremely successful for Diana Ross from a sales and chart standpoint. 1980 had given her the platinum diana album and three top 10 hits, and early 1981 brought her biggest single ever, “Endless Love.” Between 1981 and 1984, she’d released four albums under her huge new RCA recording contract; one had gone platinum, two others were certified gold, and the singer had also achieved six more top 20 hit singles from them. At the same time, Barry Gibb was also riding high; as a member of the Bee Gees, he’d ruled the 1970s with the blockbuster Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, one of the best-selling albums of all time. As a producer and songwriter, he’d been delivering major hits for other artists in the 1980s; he’d given Barbra Streisand her Guilty album in 1980, and it was a smash (and, coincidentally, the #1 album when diana peaked at #2!). In 1982 Dionne Warwick scored a major success with the Heartbreaker album, written and produced by Gibb. And, of course, in 1983 Gibb wrote “Islands In The Stream,” the hit duet by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton which peaked at #1 on the pop, country, and AC charts.

Thus, the news that Diana Ross and Barry Gibb were teaming up for an album had to have been greeted with excitement by fans and those in the music industry. And on top of those two major music stars teaming up, no less a superstar than Michael Jackson was also involved, co-writing and co-producing the first single. Jackson, of course, had just joined Diana (and dozens of other music artists) at the top of the charts on “We Are The World,” the #1 hit charity single credited to USA For Africa. Earlier in the decade, he’d also provided her with the top 10 pop and R&B hit “Muscles.”  Thus, many factors seemed to be coming together to make Eaten Alive one of the best and most successful Diana Ross albums ever. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Eaten Alive is a really good album…but not necessarily a great Diana Ross album. Had Barry Gibb recorded all the songs and released it himself, it probably could’ve been a smash. Unfortunately, Diana Ross working hard to sound like Barry Gibb isn’t quite as successful. There are those who say this is Diana’s best RCA album, and they blame a lack of proper single choice, promotion, and negative publicity surrounding Ross are blamed for the album’s lackluster performance. Those factors are all probably true, but I’d also say another factor is that Diana Ross just doesn’t really sound like Diana Ross here. The issue, I think, is Diana’s incredible talent for mimicry. Listen to her discography and watch her TV specials; there are some striking examples of Miss Ross imitating another artists to startling effect. Here, she goes so far adapting her style to Gibb’s that her voice at times becomes high, thin, and raspy (not that Gibb has a weak voice; however, Diana Ross trying to match his high falsetto makes hers sound that way), and the rich, soulful tone of recent hits like “Missing You” and “Swept Away” is sadly absent. Gibb’s demos for the album have since been released, and it’s clear that Diana stayed very close to his guide vocals in some instances, rather than singing the cuts in her own unique style. Thus, although Eaten Alive is indeed a cohesive set with some strong tunes, it’s not the vocal showcase that it could have been.

***

1. Eaten Alive: There had to be a huge amount of optimism surrounding this song; Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Barry Gibb together on one song had to potential to be a hit on multiple formats. It was a decent success on the R&B and dance charts, hitting the top 10 on both, but it tanked on the pop charts. While there are cases in Diana’s discography of the general public totally missing the boat on a great song (“Take Me Higher,” “Sleepin’,” and even some songs on this album), this is not one of them…”Eaten Alive” is a mess. To call it a Diana Ross single is almost a stretch, given that her voice is far less memorable than either Gibb’s or Jackson’s; it’s hard to even hear Diana on the chorus at all. During the verses, when Diana is allowed to sing a few solo lines, it’s impossible to understand what she’s singing; I’ve owned the Eaten Alive album since it was first released (I made my parents buy it for me on cassette tape!) and I still have no idea what all the lyrics are. There’s no doubt that the beat is dance-worthy, and the chorus (“I don’t wanna get Eaten Alive, ’cause you’re so dangerous, no more hearts I can trust”) is catchy, but that’s about all the song has going for it. Gibb’s high-pitched ad-libs are unnecessary and distracting, and Jackson sounds a little too frantic on the cut. Miss Ross, aside from being hard to understand, offers up a weak performance displaying very little range, allowing herself to become the least important element of the song…which is probably the biggest crime of all.  In theory, the rock/R&B/pop feel of this cut isn’t that different from “Swept Away” from only a year earlier, but Diana sounded far better on that single; her voice was allowed to remain center stage, and she displayed real emotion and power in her voice.  Here, as with some songs on the album to follow, the production buries her and she doesn’t do much to fight it — for proof, watch her live performance of the song on the American Music Awards; it’s far better than the recording, thanks to the fact that she’s the only voice featured.

2.  Oh Teacher:  A simmering, sexy song that had the potential to be a hit, this is a great example of the damage done by a vocal pushed back into the production.  The synth-laden instrumental is strong; there’s a darkness and complexity to the composition which is nice.  In tone, it’s a song not unlike the #1 hit “Love Hangover” or “Sweet Surrender” (from the Why Do Fools Fall In Love LP)– all have a sizzling, sensual quality, and feature Diana using breathy, hushed vocals.  However, Diana’s performances on those songs featured a sly confidence that set them apart from the backing tracks.  Here, her voice is dominated by other elements; Barry Gibb’s voice is extremely prominent, to a fault, and the synthesizers here are turned way up.  The lead vocal is, therefore, hard to understand and really becomes part of the background instead of standing out or even blending seamlessly with the other elements.  Diana also — as is the case on Gibb’s demo — sounds not just breathy, but almost out-of-breath…as though she just finished running a long, hard race.  Had she sounded a little less rushed and a little more brash and boastful in her sexiness, this could have been an album standout.

3.  Experience:  This is an interesting track; as a ballad, it has a nice simplicity that sets it apart from some of the more complex arrangements on the album (and thus, it sounds a little less dated).  That said, the chorus bears a strong resemblance to Dionne Warwick’s “Heartbreaker,” also written and produced by Mr. Gibb.  In fact, I’d say it more than resembles that earlier hit; you can actually sing one song’s chorus over the other and they match extremely well.  This means it’s hard not to compare the two songs, and of the two, I think “Heartbreaker” is a stronger song.  For one, while the chorus of “Experience” is strong, the verses aren’t as much; the song doesn’t really hit its stride until the “Experience” refrain begins.  Diana’s vocal here is better than on the previous two tracks; she’s still a little hard to understand at times, but she at least shows some power in her voice, especially toward the end, as she sings “I love you…”  She does sound eerily like Gibb at times, especially with her clipped pronunciation on the second verse, while singing “And you can make the earth move…”  Warwick on “Heartbreaker” retains her signature sound, managing to fit her voice into the confines of the song’s style; unfortunately, Diana doesn’t quite do the same, and so the end result is that the song overpowers her to a degree again.

4.  Chain Reaction:  This is without question the best song on the album; it was a massive #1 hit in the UK, her first since “I’m Still Waiting” way back in the early 1970s.  I wonder if it’s a coincidence that years later, when Gibb released the demos from Eaten Alive, this song was not included — I’d guess there was no demo vocal for her to sing along to, which is why Diana Ross actually sounds so much more like herself on the cut.  This is her best vocal on the album; never once is she difficult to understand, and her voice is treated as the star, which means she’s not competing against the rollicking instrumental.  Along with a pitch-perfect, energetic performance on the verses and chorus, she also finally gets to display a little more power, like when she wails out “…a chain reaction!” at around 3:30 amidst the constantly changing key of the music.  The song itself is a catchy, well-written upbeat tune evocative of the charming work churned out by early Motown artists; listen at 37 seconds in, after she sings “…something that you do,” and Diana lets out a coy sigh straight out of her Supremes days.  If there’s a fault with the song, it lies with the prominent background vocals; that Gibb sound rings through loud and clear, and it doesn’t quite fit the vintage feel of the song.  This would have been a nice chance for Diana to provide her own backing vocals, as she had on RCA works like “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and “Mirror Mirror” — having female voices behind her would have continued the fun, retro feel of the song and also allowed it to sound like a much more signature “Diana Ross” song.  Still, the tune is a strong one, and should have been a hit in the US; sadly, it only charted in the lower reaches of the pop 100…even after its success overseas.  In retrospect, this probably should have been released as the album’s first single.

5.  More And More:  A slinky, sexy nightclub number, this one should have been a home run for Miss Ross; this is the woman who mastered the classic torch song, “My Man,” more than a decade earlier on the Lady Sings The Blues soundtrack.  Here, she goes for vulnerability by practically whispering the vocals; once again, she’s so breathy and her voice is so weak that she almost sounds like she’s losing it completely.  Diana Ross is a singer who wrote the book on conveying vulnerability; the emotion comes naturally to her in songs like “Don’t Explain” and “To Love Again,” and she didn’t compromise her voice in either case.  Here, she’s “acting” the part of the woman laying all her cards on the table — and it sounds a bit too forced.  It’s a shame that she she’s audibly trying, rather than letting the lyrics speak for themselves; the piano-driven, jazzy number is really a perfect fit for her and should have been the centerpiece of the album.

6.  I’m Watching You:  One of the prettiest songs on the album, this is a cool, shimmering ballad on which Diana offers a refreshingly straightforward performance; it’s one of her best efforts on the album.  Though (like many of the other songs here) it’s cut in a very high key, Diana acquits herself nicely, especially when she’s required to put some power behind her voice at the end of each chorus.  The signature synthesizer line that opens and closes the song is lovely and memorable, and alone probably could have garnered the song some pop airplay.  While she still clips her words at times, in the manner of the Bee Gees, she at least injects some of her own personality into the piece, and in fact her performance here is similar to some of those on Swept Away.  It was a wise move to keep Diana’s as the only voice on the tune, allowing her to take more of the spotlight; that said, this is also a nice showcase for Gibb’s incredible songwriting talent.  Mr. Gibb certainly knew his way around a strong pop ballad, and this is a good example of his interesting melodies and ear for creating catchy instrumentals.

7.  Love On The Line:  A dated number featuring a track that sounds like the theme to an early Nintendo game, this is nonetheless not a bad song; Diana sounds great on the verses, belting out some of the lyrics with a passion that’s sorely missing on other cuts.  Listen to her starting at around 55 seconds in; there’s a power as she wails “But then love don’t mean surrender…” that makes you wonder where in the heck this woman’s been.  When the chorus hits, though, she fades into the wash of Gibb backgrounds.  This is the kind of song that deserves a swagger in the lead vocal, a kind of street confidence that Diana showed no problems with back in 1980 on the diana album; it’s there at times, but disappears completely at others, and the inconsistency hurts the overall product.  Still, I’d rank this one among the more easily accessible of songs on Eaten Alive; I’m not sure it could’ve been a big hit, but I bet it could have made for a killer video, and possibly would’ve gained some pop airplay.

8.  (I Love) Being In Love With You:  This is perhaps the best example, aside from “Oh Teacher,” of Diana Ross trying to sound like Barry Gibb; Diana’s pronunciation of certain words and singing style are completely removed from the body of work she’s known for.  A minute into the song, when the chorus begins, listen to Diana singing along with Mr. Gibb; they both deliver the words in an almost staccato manner, pronouncing the word “love” as “lav” — with all of Diana Ross’s love songs (and this is a woman who could probably claim a world record for singing the word “love”), she’s never sung it like that before.  The way she sharply punches the words robs them of any warmth; the song has an oddly sterile feel considering it’s one of the most romantic lyrics on the LP.

9.  Crime Of Passion:  This is the best upbeat song on the LP aside from “Chain Reaction” — it’s a fun, rocking piece that allows Diana to show some energy and vibrancy.  The song is pure pop/rock, with an electric guitar and keyboard dominating the track, and it certainly sounds a lot like the kind of upbeat pop that was topping the charts in the mid-1980s.  Had “Chain Reaction” been the first single and been a hit, this could have been a nice follow-up on radio.  This is a case where the prominent Gibb background vocals work; Diana matches them well on the chorus, and also manages to stand out on the verses.  I wish her voice sounded a little clearer; there’s a lot of echo here, and it does makes her tough to understand at times.  That said, her voice doesn’t sound nearly as weak or forced as on other tracks, and it’s nice to hear her “bite into” the material a little bit here.

10.  Don’t Give Up On Each Other:  Eaten Alive ends on a nice note, with what is one of the better ballads on the album (it’s tough to say if this one or “I’m Watching You” is superior).  This is a beautiful song featuring simple, repetitive keyboard chords that almost have the feel of an early Janet Jackson tune (in a way it’s similar to “Let’s Wait Awhile” from Janet’s Control album).  Diana’s voice shines here, as the song gives her the chance to coo softly and display a little power, too; she sounds nicely connected to the lyrics in a way she hasn’t always on this album.

***

Let’s face it — if you wanted to demonstrate to someone what a great singer Diana Ross is, someone who’d never heard her sing before, you’d probably never choose a song from Eaten Alive.  On every one of her solo albums before this one — Diana Ross in 1970 to Swept Away in 1984 — she’d included at least one song that exemplified her gifts as a vocalist.  From “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to “I Love You (Call Me)” to “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You” and beyond…there are numerous examples of the range and power Miss Ross was capable of delivering, as well as the tenderness and subtlety she could convey.  Unfortunately, only “Chain Reaction” really shows why Diana Ross became a superstar in the first place; the uniqueness of her voice is just too often lost on the album.  The material here is strong; there are several really good songs that are catchy and sound like hits, and the talent involved in this project is undeniable.  Had Diana Ross just sounded a little more like herself here, and claimed a little more authority vocally, this might have been her strongest RCA set from start to finish.  In the end, I’m just not sure it stands the test of time the way so much of Miss Ross’s other work does.

Final Analysis:  2.5/5 (Leaves Us Wanting “More”)

Choice Cuts:  “Chain Reaction,” “I’m Watching You,” “Crime Of Passion”

Trivia:
The American Music Award nominees for Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist that year (held in early 1986) were:
Aretha Franklin (Winner)
Whitney Houston
Diana Ross

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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91 Responses to Eaten Alive (1985)

  1. wayne2710 says:

    I’ve never heard Barry Gibb’s demos for this album so I can’t comment on them, but I’ll take your word for it Paul that they sound exactly as you describe.
    This was the first time ever that I didn’t rush out to buy a Ross album as soon as it was released. I’d been diasappointed by her three previous releases and to be honest I was losing interest, moving on. I’d bought the 7inch single of Eaten Alive from a dump bin, but wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t make out a word she was singing – not that it would have helped any if I could have understood the lyrics. I’ve long held the belief that the Gibbs wrote songs almost as if English was their second language, a load of meaningless lyrics thrown in just because they happened to fit the music.
    It wasn’t until I heard Chain Reaction on the radio that I took notice and thought to myself ‘AT LAST ‘ a Diana Ross record I could identify with. Bought the album, bought the 12inch single and was still confused. Chain Reaction was the only track I could immediately love. I couldn’t understand why the 12inch version wasn’t on the album. Don’t get me wrong, I love the 7inch version, but back in the day singles would usually be shortened versions of album tracks, and now it seemed it was the other way round !
    Persevered with the album but to be honest I only ever really took to liking More and More, and to a lesser extent the title track. The rest just didn’t sound like Diana to me. As with Ross, it has taken me many years for this album to grow on me. But unlike Ross, what has never grown on me is her voice on this album. She sounds out of breath on too many of the tracks, and what are actually quite pleasant songs like I’m Watching You and Being in Love With You are thrown away by asthmatic vocals.
    The 12inch mix of Experience, like Chain Reaction, is way better than the album track. It’s such a pity that EMI chose to issue it as the follow up single. If they had re-released Eaten Alive it just may have taken off, as the video was one of her best. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if Diana and Michael were still on the same label would Berry have had them record an album together. Overall this was a wasted opportunity, when the Gibbs had recorded with Streisand she still sounded like Streisand, same with Dionne and Dolly. Here Diana just doen’t sound like Diana. Maybe if they’d got to her earlier and had her record Islands in the Stream as they intended things may have been different, but then again probably not.

    • Antje says:

      Wayne, I got the 12inch mix of “Chain Reaction” too, and I loved it. This one and “Missing You” were the only records I bought during my almost 30 years-period as a dropped out fan.
      “Eaten Alive” is meaningless to me.I agree, it sounds like a Bee Gees album.

    • Paul says:

      Wayne — just do a quick YouTune or iTunes search for the demos and you can listen to them — Diana really sounds like she was trying to stay as closely to Barry’s vocal as possible. In a way, it’s impressive how closey she matched his sound…like I say, she’s a good mimic…but I’m not sure why she chose to do it that way.

    • Darrell says:

      you’ll find the Eaten Alive sessions on Itunes.

  2. Tony Agro says:

    “leaving us wanting ‘More'” –actually not at all. I did not want any more of ”this” Diana Ross!!!!! I was completely done with her by this time. I recall being furious with her and the direction she was going. I was so let down that she didn’t have confidence in her own voice and felt she kept needing to “experiment ” and mess around with it. Especially since she could see that songs like “Missing You” were what the public and fans wanted. These songs – and how she sang them could not evoke any emotion from me at all. It almost seemed she was singing in a different language. I remember my sister running into he room as i played the album on the living room stereo – and yelling out “what the hell is she saying?” Is that English?”

    Her voice is completely fake, I could tell Diana did NOT even get the lyrics herself – she sang them like she was acting like someone else. Her voice is shrill and breathy weak through out. If you have ever seen an actress “over act” , well, this is how i hear this album — as if she is over acting!!!!

    Also, I was shocked that Diana would ‘follow” Dionne ,and Strisand since that Bee Gee sound was already done. This was now Diana chasing a fad rather then being a maverick to a new trend or style. I was sick of the Bee Gee sound by the time this album came out.

    (I love) being in Love with You perhaps has a moving quality to it and Don’t Give Up on Each Other along with I’mWatching You tonight have some nice qualities BUT her voice has such a high, almost desperate sound to it that makes it hard to listen to her . She almost sounds like she is begging in song!!!

    I recall – putting this album way — along with my love for Diana. It was like a break up for me — letting her go. she was the woman – who through her song and voice carried me through some joyful times and some of my saddest , darkest days. Her music saw me through and I loved her for that !
    After this album — I knew she could not move me any more!
    farewell Diana!!!!……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. at least till the NEXT ALBUM!!!!!!! (LOL)

    • Paul says:

      lol…Tony…I didn’t mean “more” of this album…I mean “more” of something else!! As you see, I agree with you about Diana’s apparent lack of confidence — I’m not sure why she felt she needed to mimic the Gibb sound rather than just put her own stamp on the material….

      • Tony Agro says:

        I realize what you meant ( I was trying to be funny)— But i meant I was so fed up with her — I did NOT WANT ANY MORE DIANA ROSS ( Me…. just being a Divo)!!! Didn’t really mean it!

        Yes the Demos are far better than her versions.

        Also – i neglected to mention that you did another bang on job with the review. Excellent again.

        I wonder how these songs would be if re done in a lower register – and with simple instruments. They are pretty songs ….and I can hear her singing them … but differently.

      • Paul says:

        I’ve often thought that results could have been much different had another producer taken over some of the songs here — I think a third party might have more easily combined the Ross and Gibb sounds.

  3. ejluther says:

    Great review as always – she certainly did give herself over to Mr. Gibb for better or worse. I wonder how they got on in the studio? I’m glad to see a little love thrown toward “Crime of Passion” – it’s always been my favorite track on the record. Also, how did Gibb release the demos? On a CD of his own or something? Thanks…

    • Paul says:

      I wonder, too — I’ve never heard of any disagreements between them, so I imagine pretty good — though I haven’t really hard either one of them talk about working with the other! Gibb’s demos were released on iTunes awhile back, and can still be downloaded there.

    • ejluther says:

      Found this link that has a sample of lot of the demos:

      And how about that video for “Eaten Alive”?

      • Paul says:

        Ha — yes, that video certainly “goes for it” — I like the way she’s referencing “The Island of Dr. Moreau” — though, again, it’s a little too Thriller-lite for me!

  4. markus says:

    Another great review, Paul (and you gave this album a higher rating than Silk Electric!) I got a bit sad reading thru the comments…I guess I’m really in the minority on this album. 😦
    The funny thing is, when I heard the demos for the first time, I confirmed long held suspicions I’ve had about the vocals. Streisand and Dionne both sound like themselves singing along to Gibb songs. I wonder what Diana was thinking. At times you can liken it to a Billie Holiday thing, adopting the phrasing and all that but in her own style. Unfortunately she’s only able to strike that balance on occasion here. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just sounds wrong (although “fake” is a strong word! lol)
    However she sang it, I always get the idea this album was doomed no matter what. Does anyone remember the Rolling Stone article around this time that said the reason EA wasn’t selling was because the whole idea of Ross and the Gibb Bros teaming at this time just seemed corny.
    It’s making my eyes hurt typing on this phone so I’ll be back. 😉

    • Paul says:

      Markus — ha ha — I feel the same way typing on my phone 🙂
      I think there are a lot of factors that added to this album’s lack of success in the states. Of course, I think the album’s sound is one of them. But you’re right…there’s a good chance it was “dead in the water” for other reasons, too.

  5. chris meklis says:

    Well, well well, we have finally arrived at the album which marks a significant turn around in both Diana’s US and UK chart careers!
    For the US- it marked a polarization- clearly shown in the comments thus far- of fans’ reaction to the GIBB sound…plain and simple-again as is demonstrated in the comments thus far-they didn’t like it, or indeed hated it, and no, the indistinguishable lyrics of the title track did not help either, nailing the coffin shut for her US buying market (of course books like Call Her Miss Ross and Dreamgirl did not help either- especially in a society where building people up to tear them down is the norm- or was the norm at least)…
    The turn around in the UK was not so much a turn around as a further ‘upturn’ of her popularity and chart standing, for from now onward, her UK and International audience would be the sole bearers of her hit making torch, while the US vitriolic gossip mongers, and later the marketing mess that was Motown all but ruined whatever hopes any improved recording projects had on decent chat showings there, even though her popularity was steadfast most of the time.

    I suppose Paul that you never really had to be afraid of this review (as you mentioned you had been last week lol) because all so far agree with you.
    I am not going to even try try to defend Diana and her choices by this stage in the ‘RCA game’ but will say that Eaten Alive marked the FIRST- in fact VERY FIRST time an RCA album sounded like one complete cohesive product listenable immediately from start to finish (for me anyway).
    It was the second album I bought, and being young and not really immersed yet in Diana’s original sound, I was fine with it, besides of course not keeping up with understanding the title track.
    It still sounds like that 80’s Diana from Silk Electric, some of Ross and certainly some of Swept Away, and I think the productions are interesting to listen to. One song may come across as very, or over produced with a lot taking place- Diana, GIBB, Synths, Electric Guitars, Drum machine et al (Eaten Alive, Chain Reaction- which funny enough at the time was my LEAST favorite track, Love on The Line and Crime of Passion), while another balances it in a way with a more shimmery ‘open and airy’ production (Experience, More and More, I Love Being In Love With You, Don’t Give Up on Each other, and most notable I’m Watching You)….Oh Teacher is this collection’s hidden gem in my opinion- it is stunningly different in rhythm and vocal reading and interesting to listen to with varying bridges and cascading tempos.

    I find her performance on point with the lyric of the song- it’s an urging of sexual experience with a partner, and so in my opinion NEEDS to sound breathy, if my partner were telling me they were gonna ‘teach me more in the sack’ then sound as if they were carefully reciting the telephone directory, I would be left feeling very uninspired and not very sexual lol.

    More and More is gorgeous and not dissimilar to Friend to Friend from the 1980 Diana album (which is one of my WORST Diana Ross albums lol).
    It’s gorgeous, and reminiscent of a singer staying a little longer after her night club act, her voice slightly spent from performing, but allowing one more number to be sung whilst lying across the piano singing intimately to a few gentleman fans who have stayed back for a more up close an personal performance.

    Anyway, I am in the minority, I’ve listened to the Gibb demos and conclude by saying, you can still here it is Diana- albeit the ‘tweaked and tinkered 80’s Diana’ and to be honest Gibb sounds like Prince-in falsetto- AND on helium!
    Diana may imitate the various staccato phrasing, but is superior by far to Gibb’s singing.

    I like Eaten alive. Sorry guys 🙂
    but the US ‘ate her alive from this point onward, at least where the mainstream pop chart was concerned, which she ironically served on so many times as the first true black crossover.

    Peace, over and out

    • Antje says:

      Chris, I love the way you express your liking of this album, it made me smile.:)

    • Paul says:

      Chris — no need to say “sorry” for liking this LP — just wait until I’m defending why I enjoy “Workin’ Overtime!” 🙂

      It is sad that Miss Ross really never recovered from this album in the US. “Swept Away” had given her some nice traction on the charts, and it just totally fell apart. I wonder if the US audience could have denied “Chain Reaction” if it had been the first single — it’s such a strong, radio-friendly tune. Had it come out first, and then failed, it would have been obvious that other factors (like the books and negative press) were at play. However, it’s hard to fault radio and buyers for rejecting “Eaten Alive” since it’s really not a great single.

      PS — “Prince-in-falsetto and on helium” is cracking me up! 🙂

      • Lawrence says:

        Yes – if Chain Reaction had the been the first single, I think everything would have played out very differently indeed. I’m not sure “Red Hot” would have contained hit singles (maybe “Tell me Again”, “Dirty Looks”, or “Summertime”) but “Eaten Alive”, as a lead single, was a bad choice.

        Can’t wait to see you defend Workin Overtime! Best, L

      • Paul says:

        Lawrence — it’s too bad we can’t “rewind” to see what would have happened. “Chain Reaction” is certainly more radio-friendly than any of the songs on RHR&B — even though I think in terms of quality some of those songs were better. But you’re right — a lot of the best songs on RHR&B didn’t lend themselves to being great singles in the pop market.

  6. Billy says:

    As far as I’m concerned, “Eaten Alive” is the RCA album I feel most indifferent about. I like it, I play it every now and then, but I don’t feel passionate about it, positively or negatively. Truth be told, the title track is a hot mess…but ironically I love it! (I have the same feeling for Mariah’s “Loverboy” by the way!) The album cover, on the other hand, I don’t like at all. I think it’s very kitsch, in a bad way.

    The thing that turns me off when it comes to this album is that the Bee Gees sound is very dominant. Similarly, while I think that Barbra’s “Guilty” is an excellently balanced album and enjoy it very much (I would easily grant it 4 stars!), I don’t “love” it. And that is because of the Barry Gibb vocal effects. They just don’t work for me. True, he has written and produced some timeless music, but I love his music when I don’t hear…him (f.i. “Woman in Love,” “More and More”)!

    “Oh teacher,” on the other hand, is a sexy little gem!

  7. spookyelectric says:

    For me, ‘Eaten Alive’ is pretty much the best album of the RCA era. It manages to be consistently exciting, contemporary and engaging through every track – something no other album of the era managed.

    I get want people are saying – that it sounds like Diana guesting on a Bee Gees record. That doesn’t bother me when all the tunes are so great. To me tunes like ‘Don’t Give Up On Each Other’ and ‘More & More’ are amongst the best ballads she recorded in the 80s. I’ve never had an issue with Diana’s vocals on this album at all – I think she sounds great. Yes it’s often a breathy softer approach but it’s always emotive and telling the story. I agree Barbra’s collaboration with the Gibbs was far more ‘an even match’ it’s true, but I’ve no doubt Diana was in agreement with the sound they ended up with. After all, everyone knows what happened after the Chic sessions!

    The title track sticks out as quite different from the rest of the album – I actually love the wildness and excess of it (especially Michael’s ‘drag you through the dirt’ vamp) but agree it doesn’t add up to the sum of the talent involved. It’s very similar to ‘Swept Away’ in its intention but that’s much more focused and successful. ‘Eaten Alive’ can end up sounding a bit of a racket at times! Still it’s surprising that ‘Eaten Alive’ wasn’t a huge pop hit given Michael was the biggest superstar in the world at the time and it seemed any song he appeared on (remember the Rockwell track?) was huge.

    Also just to put some perspective on how big a hit ‘Chain Reaction’ was in the UK – it was pretty much the biggest hit of her entire solo career (in fact it was a hit twice, hitting top 20 in the UK again 8 years later). Pretty safe to say it was the biggest hit she produced in the RCA era full stop on an international level too. It still crops up all the time and is pretty much the ubiquitous Ross hit. I’m sure the video helped a lot too – it’s completely over the top but definitely delivers maximum Ross-ness!

    • Paul says:

      Spooky — on the “Chain Reaction” thing — funny story — my college roommate had studied abroad in the UK and was a HUGE fans of all British pop music. One day he ran in to me room, all excited, to play me a “new” song he’d found that he thought I’d like by a group called Steps. That song was…”Chain Reaction”!! I was horrified that he thought it was a “new” song and that he didn’t know that it was originally done by our Miss Ross!

      • ejluther says:

        Did he like Diana’s version once he’d heard it?

      • Paul says:

        Yes, he did! Being a fan of British pop, he appreciated a lot of the Diana Ross songs that had been hits in the UK but not in the US — especially some of those from “The Force Behind The Power.”

      • spookyelectric says:

        Oh yes – Steps. Consider yourself lucky US readers for avoiding that particular pop monstrosity. I purposely didn’t mention their huge hit cover version because I’d rather forget it ever happened! The song had already been rinsed by UK radio and then that dreadful version came along. I can barely listen to the song now in any shape or form!

      • Paul says:

        lol…I don’t know anything else about Steps…I guess I’ll avoid them!!!

    • markus says:

      I was in London last year and then again last month. Diana is still viewed as a huge star over there, so you don’t get a weird look when she is mentioned…but yeah, Chain Reaction is a “club classic” in the UK. It’s really taken on a life far beyond the album it came from.

      It was also pointed out to me that the lyrics are really kinda graphic!

  8. John says:

    Hey Paul – Thanks for the great website concept and reviews. You do an amazing job!
    About “Eaten Alive”: I actually like all of the songs (except Eaten Alive) and easily find them to be the most catchy and commercial tunes of the RCA years. But I think this is more a testament to Barry Gibb than to Diana Ross. I almost think of this album as a Bee Gees album that Diana happens to sing on. I had always heard that Diana was very envious of Barbra Streisand. Not sure I believe that, however, I do believe that she thought she would have the same kind of success with this album that Barbra had with “Guilty”. I LOVED the video for Chain Reaction. I think it is easily the best music video she’s ever made. I only purchased any of the RCA albums out of loyalty, being a huge fan since I was 10 years old. I know that it’s important for an artist to grow and change direction but I think it is clear that Berry Gordy and Motown really did know what was best for Diana’s career. Everything was so inconsistent after she left Motown. It wasn’t until Take Me Higher was released that I once again thoroughly enjoyed an entire album of hers. I also enjoyed Everyday Is A New Day…but I’m putting the horse way ahead of your cart. Thanks again for all the time and effort you’re putting into this project. You should be very proud of it.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks John! Appreciate you taking the time to comment!
      I agree — Diana sounds almost like a “guest vocalist” on the album — I think much more than she did on her “diana” album from 1980, even that one also bore the distinct mark of the producer. In this case, she really changes her vocal style so much that I’m just not sure it sounds like one of her albums anymore.
      I’m with you on the video — it’s GREAT — and is another reason the song should have been a hit in the US. There was a real excitement in the music video, something her videos didn’t always capture.
      I think most of us are pretty excited to get to “Take Me Higher” — won’t be too long now!

    • spookyelectric says:

      There’s been a lot of comments left here during these RCA album reviews about Diana ‘losing her way’ during the 80s and ‘experimenting’ too much. While I think it’s true Berry Gordy kept a tighter ‘quality control’ over the Motown product, who’s to say what recordings she would have ended up making if she’d stayed at the label? Certainly if she’d carried on in the direction of her final Motown recordings of the period (the Masser ballads on 1981’s ‘To Love Again’) she would have been in the ‘oldies’ bin by the time the decade was out.

      Diana was always positioned as a pop-soul crossover singer so I think it makes sense she attempted to adapt to the (pop) sounds of the day rather than stand still. Ok it didn’t always work (‘Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do’ springs to mind!) but tracks like ‘Swept Away’ and ‘Muscles’ kept her relevant to new audiences and in the charts. Sometimes the singles were great (say ‘Pieces of Ice’) but maybe too far removed from what radio or listeners wanted/expected of her to be hits I think.

      It’s interesting to compare her albums of the period to the what her contemporaries were doing – other big female stars who had started in the 60s like Dionne, Aretha or Gladys. Sure they’re all very different singers, but unlike Diana they stayed pretty much within the genres they were successful in. They wouldn’t have gone anywhere near some of the material Diana chose (then again they wouldn’t have posed with a stuffed tiger chewing a string of pearls either).

      My point is Diana was keeping things fresh and fun. Actually these 80s records probably had more in common musically with the kind of records Olivia Newton-John or Donna Summer were making at the time. She obviously didn’t want to keep making the same records in the same way she had in the decade before, or the one before that. To me that make her output in this decade far more interesting than the 90s when things started to drift far more middle of the road.

      • markus says:

        I posted something mentioning many of those artists previously, Spooky. Just about the changing of the times- between 1984-1986, most of Diana’s contemporaries had their final fling with Top 10 pop success during this time- Dionne, Olivia Newton John, The Pointer Sisters…even Aretha had her final Top 10 pop hit at this point.

        And you also mentioned the album cover…I love this album…and HATE the album cover. I’ve heard people complain about Ross, Swept Away, Workin Overtime…and to me this is the worst out of all of those.

        It looks like her hand is caught in her weave!!!! 😦

      • Paul says:

        Let’s also not forget that the 1980s were a very big turning point in the music industry. Youth and image became more important than ever in this decade — thanks in large part to music videos. Suddenly artists who would have NEVER made it in the 60s and 70 were gaining popularity because they had a strong, unique image that translater well to music videos. Certainly Diana and others from her era had to work to keep up with the sudden importance on youth and look.

      • Antje says:

        Aretha and other singers sticked to their stuff, nobody blamed them. They played it safe. Diana took risks, often not that successfull – the public, and we too, blame her or rather discuss her albums. No risk, no fun!
        By the way – this cover is weird!

      • Tony Agro says:

        Hey Spooky! You are so right on , If she had not tried to keep things fresh – the entire 80’s fan bas would not be talking about her, supporting her or LOVING HER!!! The RCA years did prevent her from being a lounge singer- has been sort of diva. I just think she could have gone fresh and new by listening to better managers. I think she was over confident – which lead to poor choices. You know the expression – “it takes years to build a reputation and minutes to destroy it.” But you are bang on– RCA gave Diana legs and longevity she would not have most likely had with out stepping out in to new directions! Point well taken !!

      • Paul says:

        I agree, too — I don’t think Diana should ever regret her RCA years, and fans shouldn’t either. Who knows what would’ve happened if she had stayed with Motown — the 80s really weren’t great years for Motown, either, which led Berry Gordy to selling it. He talks a lot in his book about how the company was doing poorly toward the end of his time there.

  9. chris meklis says:

    I just do not think her US fans liked the link- Ross and Gibb….plain and simple.

    • markus says:

      It’s really strange, Chris…because “Heartbreaker” and “Islands in the Stream” both came out after the disco burnout a the beginning of the decade, yet the stigma of the Gibb brothers didnt seem to have an adverse effect on either of those songs becoming hits. Of course by the end of the decade the Bee Gees had returned to the charts in the UK and the US (with “You Win Again” and “One”), so i really think it was a composite of things that caused this album to falter in the US. And yes, I do think that Rolling Stone article which said the collaboration just seemed “corny” (wish i could find the article on the web…it also included a review for Olivia Newton John’s “Soul Kiss”, and discussed the stalling sales of both albums).

      • Paul says:

        Markus — I agree with you, I think it was a combo of factors, but I still contend one of them is that the album just doesn’t sound like a “Diana Ross” album. Had a more accessible, exciting first single been released with a really strong music video (“Chain Reaction”), I think it would have done better. It is interesting to me that while the UK embraced “Chain Reaction,” “Experience” stalled outside the top 40 there. It seems that song should have been a natural hit in that market.

  10. chris meklis says:

    Maybe the UK audience felt Experience a bit to ‘gushy’ or ‘smaltzy’…I mean they totally ignored Missing You- a far superior production all round, but warmly embraced When You tell Me That You Love Me, taking that powerhouse ballad to nr. two TWICE, and then disappointingly failed to give 1995’s stunning Gone a spot in the UK Top Ten…Fascinating stuff.

    • spookyelectric says:

      I’m not sure about that – there’s loads of factors that go into anything being a hit. The singles you mentioned that bombed in the UK weren’t heavily promoted. I don’t remember ever hearing them on the radio or Diana doing at TV appearances around them for example. Whereas say ‘Touch By Touch’ got loads of radio and bombed. So it isn’t so much that the UK audience rejected those records I think as they just got limited exposure.

      Certainly I don’t remember any anti-Gibb sentiments about records produced by them. Yes the Bee Gees had fallen out of favour as recording artists after they reached saturation point, but Streisand and Warwick both had 2 top 10s from their Gibb collabs, and then there was the Kenny & Dolly duet and of course Diana’s biggest hit of her career with ‘Chain Reaction’. I think ‘Chain Reaction’ was so big it kind of killed ‘Experience’ as it was getting so much radio and video play (that video was absolutely key as Markus said) when the follow-up came out.

      • Paul says:

        I guess that makes sense — that “Chain Reaction” was so huge that “Experience” got a little lost in the process — but for some reason (to my American ears, lol), I always felt “Experience” had the feel of a song that would’ve been a big hit overseas.

  11. markus says:

    Finally, i have a free moment to give a full comment on EA! 😉
    I had to drive to Boston and back today, so i had time to play EA once again from beginning to end. And…I’m more convinced than ever this is one of Diana’s greatest ‘flawed’ albums.

    Based on the comments it seems some of the problem with this album is that, if you’re not a fan of the Bee Gees, EA automatically stands at a disadvantage. This has never been a problem for me. I happen to think the Brothers Gibb collectively had an impeccable ear for melody and a superior talent for writing thoughtful, evocative lyrics with clever phrase turns.

    What makes this album- which admittedly misses the mark- a stronger album for me than, say, Ross? It’s the songs, period. In the case of Ross (and later Workin’ Overtime), the problem is the songs are either dull or just plain not very good. Almost nothing on Ross lingers in my head afterward, regardless of the crisp and clear quality of Diana’s voice. And Workin’ Overtime is proof positive that no matter how fantastic Diana sounds on a record, if the song is garbage then the song is garbage, period (but we’re still a couple of weeks from that one…LOL). The songs on EA are (title track being the exception) not garbage. They’re the same carefully constructed, sophisticated pop that is the hallmark of the Gibb’s classic work.

    I have mixed feelings about Diana emulating much of Barry Gibb’s guide vocals on the demos. As I had mentioned before, sometimes it works to great advantage- sometimes these unusual performances fit the song! Like Chris had said, I think her breathless delivery on “Oh Teacher” suits the tone of the song well. Ditto for “I’m Watching You” and “Love on the Line”. I do think it works against a song like “I Love Being in Love With You”, where it feels like Diana fails to connect with what is really a very personal lyric. I’ve been on the fence about “More and More”, but I really liked the perspective Chris provided on that song above.

    I should also say I don’t think Barry Gibb’s background vocals are nearly as intrusive as many folks have suggested. It goes back to the bottom line, if you’re not a fan of the Bee Gees sound- which includes the trademark vocals- you’re not gonna care for this. It is interesting to wonder what a song like “Chain Reaction” would sound like without Barry Gibb singing background, but since he didnt often use other background singers on his productions, it probably wasnt even a thought. Besides, if they had used some female backgrounds perhaps it would’ve been too blatant a suggestion of the 60’s for me- I like the fact that the final result is, while nodding and winking at classic Motown, still very much its’ own entity, pulling from multiple eras. Back in the day I bemoaned the fact his vocals are so prominent- NOT because I didnt like them, but because I knew the public would have an adverse reaction to it.

    As for the title track, i saw it was compared to Mariah Carey’s “Loverboy”…and no offense to Mariah, but I don’t think even EA sounded THAT bad. LOL For all it’s contrivances and shortcomings, EA has something of a melody and a clear structure of verses, bridge and chorus. “Loverboy” doesn’t have much of any type of structure to it! (I do like Mariah, though)

    I think Madonna’s “4 Minutes” is actually a more proper parallel to “Eaten Alive”; Both have a star producer who appears on the track. Both have a pop superstar providing background and counter vocals to a veteran diva. And both sound like the unfortunate concoction of some very talented people desperately trying to put something together that would be a smash hit. I’ve always wondered if EA would’ve been a bigger hit if had just been a full-on duet with MJ, and had he appeared in the video (two things JT did which helped “4 Minutes” immensely).

    I must say, Paul- I was really surprised you didnt discuss the sound quality on EA’s tracks at more length, considering your feelings about the sound of Diana’s voice on Silk Electric. I think the mix issue is actually much more pronounced here. This is my biggest problem with EA, actually. Because of the way the album is mixed Diana sounds like she’s lost in a fog half the time, distant and blurred. I don’t mind it on occasion, but it doesn’t help a song like “Experience” or “I’m Watching You” and it actually hurts one like “Don’t Give Up on Each Other” where at times I can’t even make out what she’s saying. When it’s not an issue (“Chain Reaction” and “Crime of Passion”), Diana really shines.

    DESPITE THIS, however, I still find EA to be highly enjoyable because, again, the songs themselves are very well written. I absolutely love the lyrics throughout, and overall I don’t mind the Diana vocal experiment, even if it yielded decidedly mixed results. And I just plain love them Gibb guys… 😉

    PS- Paul, did you lower the rating for this album?? I thought it was a 3 yesterday! Haven’t the Gibbs suffered enough indignity!?!? 😉

    • markus says:

      PS- can’t wait for the RHR&B review Paul! That will be interesting because I really don’t think I have much idea of how the fans feel about that one! 🙂

      • Paul says:

        I’m excited about RHR&B, too — there are a few songs on that album that I really believe are among her best work every — though I wouldn’t rank the entire LP that high!

  12. Lawrence says:

    I also think the singles should have been 1) Chain Reaction 2) Crime of Passion and 3) Experience.
    Paul – what will I do when you run out of these albums to critique? I look forward to your writing so much! Maybe we can switch to another artist next…one of my other favorites? Carly Simon? Madonna? The Carpenters? 🙂

  13. spookyelectric says:

    Thinking about it one of the interesting things about this album is that it seemed to signal a shift in Diana’s market strongholds away from America and into Europe. Through the 70s it always seemed to me it was pretty even – some records (say ‘The Boss’ album) would perform much better in the US, others (most famously her UK no 1 ‘I’m Still Waiting’) in Europe. By the early 80s of course she was a huge star everywhere, but the new releases tended to sell better in the US. Then something changes.

    ‘Chain Reaction’ becoming the biggest seller of her RCA output and a mega hit everywhere in the world (especially UK and Australia) except the US seems to be a turning point. Her next album was released in a oddly shortened version in US (please review the full length album this weekend Paul!) and then some albums weren’t even released in the US (‘A Very Special Season’, ‘Voice of Love’ etc) and she’d have international hits like ‘If We Hold On Together’ that would barely register in the US.

    But that’s kind of getting ahead of where we are now. Back to ‘Eaten Alive’ – I know some people have a problem with Diana’s vocal sound on this album – but listen again to a track like ‘Oh Teacher.’ She’s actually doing something quite new here. Yes of course it’s very Gibbesque (does that word exist?) but she’s really driving the track forward with lots of very fast, syncopated phrases. There’s a number of tracks where she displays a rhythmic vocal phrasing that distinctly different from anything else she’s recorded I think. Maybe that’s why she never performed most of these songs live to my knowledge (someone correct me if I’m wrong).

    One more things – those lyrics! Wayne made me laugh when he said the Bee Gees wrote like English was their second language. It doesn’t bother me at all when their melodies are so gorgeous, but it’s true they seemed to often put mood before meaning. And on these songs they must have been in a pretty dirty mood. Have you ever heard the lyrics to ‘Oh Teacher’? (Me neither, you can’t understand a word she’s singing – just kidding). “My lips are wetter, I do it better and if you let me I will help you grow’. And then that line in ‘Chain Reaction’ which always made me do a double take on such a cute little retro number: ‘You make me tremble when your hand moves lower, you taste a little then you swallow slower’. And let’s not even go there with ‘Eaten Alive’, which as far as Michael’s repressed sexual fantasies go trumps even ‘Muscles’ or ‘Centipede’. I’d love to know if Diana or Barry ever commented on the lyrics for these songs. Maybe it’s just my dirty mind, but I can’t help thinking ‘Eaten Alive’ is an album obsessed with oral sex!

    • Paul says:

      Spooky — I think it’s just your dirty mind!!! 😉

    • markus says:

      Spooky!!! awesome comments.Glad other people have noticed EA has a strange carnal nature to it. I love this album but while it can be fun, it’s not exactly a frivolous piece of work. Even the more tender songs have either a pronounced sexual undertone (“Experience”) or an underlying darkness to them (“I’m Watching You”, “Don’t Give Up On Each Other”). For all the bounciness of “Chain Reaction” it’s got those lyrics you mentioned! How about “you let me hold you for the first explosion, we get a picture of our love in motion, my arms will cover, my lips will smother you…”!? A friend from Wales said to me recently (you know I had to play it while in London…lol), “well, it’s about an orgasm, isn’t it??” LOL

      I love Gibb lyrics (here and in general) because they create a very fluid imagery without becoming too abstract or obvious. The lyrics in “Crime of Passion” are fairly straightforward yet imaginative, they roll along with complete sense (even if the title seems a bit over the top). “Love on the Line” and “Don’t Give Up” are two others. There’s much more going on than meets the eye to me, and I just appreciate the imagination that goes into it.

      You mentioned “Oh Teacher” and Diana’s phrasing- this past weekend I kept listening to EA this past weekend in the car. My cousin was wuth me and “Oh Teacher” came on…it wasn’t until near the end of the first verse he said “is this Diana Ross???” LOL He liked it though! I keep coming back to this and thinking, I know it’s atypical of her stuff and certainly not what she normally did…but that doesn’t make it bad. I feel like Diana stretched in a way we’d never see again…again it’s with mixed results, but in retrospect, I’m glad she did it.

      PS- I actually thought about “Oh Teacher” many years later when I heard Diana doing some very modern R&B phrasing on “So They Say”, but thats still several weeks away… ‘)

  14. chris meklis says:

    I wrote the exact same thing re Oh Teacher Spooky! I am so with you…And it’s hilarious what you say…indeed, very ‘Oral Sex’ lol!

    • spookyelectric says:

      Glad I’m not the only that thinks that then! It’s the raunchiest record of her career for sure. On tracks like ‘Love Hangover’ and ‘Sweet Surrender’ she was just seducing us, but on this album she means business!

      • Paul says:

        Maybe that’s the underlying problem — when Diana “means business” it scares me away!!

      • markus says:

        @Paul- even divas need to exert some crazy sexuality…LOL It was a long road for Mariah from “Vision of Love” to “Touch My Body”. Olivia went from “I Honestly Love You” to “Physical” and “Soul Kiss”. Janet went from “Let’s Wait Awhile” to “If” and “Anytime, Anyplace”. 😉

  15. John says:

    WOW!!! I can’t believe how many comments this album review has produced. After reading them I must admit I’ve re-listened to the album and discovered qualities that I had previously not noticed before. In fact, I now look at ALL of the RCA albums in a different light. I believe that it was during the 80’s radio DJ’s and the public in general started to feel differently, even hostile, towards “Miss Ross”. In the 80’s albums were still driven by “singles” and let’s face it, EVERY RCA ALBUM had at least 1 or 2 really strong songs that could/should have made each album much more successful than they were. For whatever reasons – this was when the “Diana backlash” began to take hold and only her truly devoted fans stood by her.

  16. Ross says:

    I will return with a comment. All the Eaten Alive haters take note….

  17. Darrell says:

    I just Re-visited This Cd Today And “More And More” Has To be My favorite track On this Album. Diana Kills This Song! That Airishness(If That’s A word) To her Voice, Makes The Song Stand Out! Its One Of The many Facets Of Her Vocal Abilities That Luther Vandross admitted to admiring and Often Tried to imitate, “His” Words Not Mine! I’ve Never Really Dung Deep into Diana’s Work, Just listened For The sheer enjoyment of hearing her do new and different things! And Most of her 80’s Work are Like Time pieces for me; to look back On And Reflect; and just to have her back then making good music is enough for me.

  18. Kirk Bonin says:

    Save for the title track, this album flows most consistently throughout being the only 80s/RCA album that was produced by one team, Barry & Robin Gibb. I also own the “Eaten Alive” demos an wonder why this #1 Dance track and Top 10 Europen track, was not included on Barry’s demo album.
    Another huge international hit spawned by the biggest hit Diana had in the 80s. It stayed ontop of the European Singles chart, no less than 7 weeks.
    But this album shines as an elegant, MOR opus that was once classy and dreamlike. I would’ve used the photos from the Town & Country rather than a fake tiger.
    The standouts include “I’m Watching You”, “Crime of Passion”, “More and More” and “Don’t Give Up on Each Other”.
    The project also produced her 3 best videos to date with the “island of Dr. Moreau” brilliant first single/title song, “Eaten Alive”. And then the American Bandstand inspired #1 smash, “Chain Reaction” and concluding with a sequel to the first single where her love interest, Joey Gian.
    The album became Top 10 international hit! And h biggest album since her 80s/RCA debut, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” which sold 6 million copies worldwide.
    Second to Striesand’s “Guilty” in Gibbs triumvirate Diva projects that also included pseudo-Diva, Dionne Warwick’s “Heartbreaker”, “Eaten Alive” is a fine addition to the Diva’s catalog.

  19. bokiluis says:

    It is interesting to read the track by track analysis of this album. Because the marketing was as essential as the record production, “Eaten Alive” and “Ross ’83” are tied for second as my favorite RCA album. Of course, that comes with a lot of “were it not for”. One Saturday evening after completing the week’s housecleaning chores, I listened to “Eaten Alive” sans the title track and really enjoyed how it flows romantically and elegantly. The Gibb Brothers are no stranger to romance so it should be of little surprise that element plays significantly well for “Eaten Alive”. Diana was the last female artist the Gibbs took on with Streisand and almost ran-diva Dionne Warwick. Diana was the 2nd most successful effort they had with female artist. “Eaten Alive”, the title track, was a Top 10 hit in several European countries coupled with the massive success of my least favorite song, “Chain Reaction”.
    It is the elegant, “Town and Country” feel of songs like “I’m Watching You”, “More and More” and “Don’t Give Up on Each Other” that makes the album work for me.

  20. Luke says:

    Eaten Alive was one of her best RCA album. But, with a different album title and a different 1st single choice it would have done much much better. For me the contribution of MJ on the title track was just a promotional trick which finally didn’t work because the song was too weak. Too weak production, silly lyrics, Diana’s voice was barely found in the song, and the result was a minor hit which quickly ate the whole album alive! Chain Reaction never became a hit in the Us, as a result of the bad puplicity that followed the name Diana Ross in the mid/late 80s – this is the other major reason why the whole album failed in the charts. Experience and I’m watcing you, are the best tracks of the project in my opinion. Diana’s vocals are truly weak and breathless in almost every song, the exceptions are Chain Reaction, I’m watcing you and Crime of passion. She could have done much better!

  21. Dim says:

    I tried to read most of the comments above, the majority is against the album I guess and this doesn’t suprise me at all! However, I like the album, but it’s not her best. Indeed, in a couple of songs (Eaten Alive, Oh teacher) you can’t find where Diana Ross is, or what the lyrics are. Diana’s voice in many songs is really weak and sounds like a teen girl begging for some love, this is the worst part of the album. Except for the title track – – -they should not release such a silly song as a single or name the whole album of it- – – the rest of the songs are good. The major problem is the production, Diana’s blurry and weak voice and of course the bad publicity about her during that period in the US. However, the album sold well in Europe, Japan and Australia – the US is not the center of the world – and if we see the sales of her following albums in her homeland, it’s easy to understand that publicity was Diana’s real nightmare, not her material.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I agree that production is a problem far worse than the songs here — some of the songs are strong and would have sounded FAR better with better vocals/production!

  22. topher says:

    I heard Barry Gibb produced an album for Diana Ross in early 85. he said “we’r gonna create a new sound for Diana Ross” . I wasn’t thrilled cause i was waiting for someone hot, like Prince .To me the result is a fiasco and i fear Diana Ross is responsable for that.
    In one of their bio, Barry said she wasn’t commited to her work. She recorded at night, after a show, took a plane to do the AMA and all …
    Were is Diana Ross in eaten alive ? What have they done to her voice ?
    I absolutly adore the Bee Gees , no problem with them . When they produce , Barbra or Olivia , they bring something new . They bring pop romantism to the broadway diva or a feminine Bee gees with Olivia .
    With Kenny Rogers it was no convincing , and with Dionne is was close to disaster ! at least they produced two hits.
    I think their inspiration was gone , the songs are not bad but not great anyway.
    I try to like ” i love being in love with you” and “love one the line”.
    Surprisingly, “eaten alive” is easier to enjoy now than in 85 ! I don’t really know why. I have a 85 concert in Netherland and she is doing well with the song.
    Once again, what was she doing in those days ? she was in Europe to promote the LP but appart “eaten” she is only doing “sweept away” songs. She did the same while promoting “dirty looks” . No “dirty looks” songs in her act … Funny Diana

  23. Eric says:

    Everyone hating on the title track ! I love it so much but I have a big place in my heart for Diana-goes-camp songs! The album overall is a bore.. Besides the three singles I can’t remember any songs really!
    And the cover! I love it!
    I don’t get how this album wasn’t a hit …

  24. bokiluis says:

    As I am sure it is for other members of Diana’s tribe, my favorite album sometimes changes. Case in point, “Swept Away” has become my favorite 80s/RCA era album followed loosely by “Eaten Alive”. “Swept Away” wins because of her excellent instincts to employ top notch producers for the targeted singers while Diana does a great job on the album tracks. She far surpasses her self-production work on “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “Silk Electric”. It should be noted that both “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “Swept Away” went platinum and became her two strongest sellers in the states. Internationally, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” was a multi-platinum seller with nearly 1 million units sold in the U.K. and garnered gold/platinum sales across continental Europe, the anglosphere, Pan Asian territories and South America.

  25. davidh says:

    I have been playing this album for two days and I still think it’s her best 80’s(RCA) album .i like this album for the same reason I like her BABY IT’S ME album, it is produced by one producer and you can hear Diana really push herself vocally. but I do see why some may not, especially if you are not a Bee Gees fan. this album had a lot going for it, Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees and Diana Ross but then again, it also had a lot going against it, the Bee gees backlash and the Diana ross backlash. at least here in the US, CALL HER MISS ROSS ,and DREAMGIRL did a lot of damage to Diana’s career and instead of fighting back ,she took 2 years off to start a new family and the lp got lost in the PR mess. also, many artists who signed with RCA such as the Pointer Sisters and Barry Manilow both would find themselves jumping ship as Diana would eventually do. they all complained about the same thing, the people they signed on with at RCA were all gone and all the new peeps didn’t care about DR,PS or BM. they were all sunk.i think had this album been released 5 years earlier it would have been a big hit. maybe even if Diana HAD recorded ISLANDS IN THE STREAM. never thought much about the song but recently I saw an interview with the Bee Gees and they stated they wrote the song for Diana but she turned it down.
    I wonder if the track selection was different??? suppose the album was kicked off with CHAIN REACTION , and EATIN ALIVE was moved to track 9 and CRIMES OF PASSION was moved to track 4? sounds strange I know but I think EATIN ALIVE was kind of a merky song(although I like it) but I don’t think it should have been a lead single .i actually like the video better.
    overall Diana does some great vocals here although I do agree in a few tracks the Bee Gees vocals should be lower in the mix but this was a problem with her Diana LP in 1980, although that one has held up better. I am not to crazy about OH TEACHER ,mostly because of the backing vocals. this is the one song I think that it shows mostly but I do like the music and Diana vocal. LOVE ON THE LINE is my other least fav track because, it does sound dated, like a track off of one of the bee Gees albums. but again, this is the other song where I think the backing vocals were to much in the mix,.i would love a remix or expanded version of this album. I think Diana shines on this album.thanks for your review.
    love it here!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. davidh says:

    ps, I always thought that CRIMES OF PASSION should have been a single

  27. davidh says:

    pss. I just realized none of Dianas RCA albums are on ITunes except her RCA hits album. strange?

  28. davidh says:

    I also just read that this album sold only 300,00 copies in the US but over 3 million copies thru out UK.
    I also agree with you on the best cuts

    • topher says:

      is it possible the album sold as much as 3 millions since it flopped in the USA (biggest marquet in the world) and was moderatly succesfull in Europe. In Japan it’s not even 40 000 !

      • Luis Boki says:

        The album sold 3 million worldwide. Not just in the U.K. For nearly 2 decades now, Diana’s international sales count for anywhere from 60%-75% of her total sales. Markets from Germany to Brazil were once very potent before the era of downloads. “Eaten Alive”, the single did well in several European markets and then “Chain Reaction” spent 3-4 wks @ #1 on the Euro chart, while the album was Top 20 in many of the same markets. An album doesn’t have to be Top 10 everywhere to eventually post impressive sales.

  29. davidh says:

    just found my extended versions of Chain Reaction and Experience. had to add them to my ipod. forgot how good the extended mix of CR was

  30. davidh says:

    thanks for the tip,will have to check it out on the Sydney cd. don’t know if its available on iTunes or not. the remix on Dianas EXTENDED cd is the worst.imo.

  31. TouchMe says:

    This album came out the year I was born! I never heard ANY of the songs from this era before I was like, 21, except “Muscles” (which I loved)- having said that- I was ROBBED of this music as a child!

    The title track is beyond catchy. Me loves! It’s very Michael Jackson, but still has Diana Ross deep inside of it. The video has that hot SEXY guy and it’s among her best videos (she did have some goodies in the 80’s!)

    Yes, the album is bland overall and suffers, and I don’t belive Ross truly loved all of these songs the way she usually does. I think “Love on the Line,” “More and More,” and to some extendt, “Chain Reaction” are the few songs (along with the title track) that she LOVED. As you can see in the “Eaten Alive” video, she has a LOT of fun with the song!

    I have the vinyl sleeve pasted on my wall as decor-it’s just too cool!

    • Paul says:

      I was young when this came out, too — only about six — but I vividly remember it. I was already a Diana fanatic thanks to my parents’ record collection and I remember a big EATEN ALIVE display at the local music store. My parents bought me the cassette, and for a long time I had a giant promotional poster of the album cover on my wall. That said, it’s not an easy listen for me these days, for the reasons I wrote about in the review. Diana just doesn’t sound like herself singing most of the songs — she sounds like the lost Gibb brother! While I personally find the title track a total mess, I do quite like Diana’s performance if it on the AMA Awards…have you seen it?

  32. Oliver says:

    I was 18 years old, a young German boy and a huge Diana Ross-fan. Naturally, English is not my mother-tongue but I speak and understand it quite well. Miss Ross – to my ears- was always a singer that I could listen to AND understand what she singing about because her pronounciation was (and is) very clear. But when I bought the first single “Eaten Alive” I was completely lost. I did not understand a word. Way back in 1985 there was no internet where you could look up the words immediately. So listening to that song I imagined what she might be singing. So here is my interpretation of her words that I still remember:

    I was stalking you at night
    I’m a sucker for someone
    You got the brain inside
    Lying on your bed of leaves
    In a modern time
    People gettin’ your choke
    Spirit free
    Caption and my blood is red
    Another victim of your ritiual
    Volume, a skinny shape
    Ecstasy ain’t what you find
    In a modern world
    With a lick all my time changes
    And the midnight changes
    And you say
    .
    That’s impossible
    It’s not impossible to do, ah
    And you can be just what I can see
    No taste of human meat

    -the chorus was understandable

    Now I’ve got you on the run
    The quicker my senses
    The chance is of the first you wouldn’t
    I know the universal law
    In an evil mind
    With a little stimulation
    And a conversation
    And you say…

    Well, that’s how the lyrics sounded to me:-)

    • Paul says:

      Oliver — this is so great! You’re definitely not the only one who made up his own lyrics to EATEN ALIVE — I still get them wrong when I try to sing along today!

  33. Pingback: The Supremes Sing Country, Western & Pop (1965) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

  34. David Wilson says:

    A huge Diana fan I was waiting for this album with great expectations. By 85 the Bee Gees were past their peak and Diana’s career was also cooling at this time having recorded some third rate stuff since leaving Motown. This belated pairing with the Gibbs sees her handling some poor fare- Streisand and Dionne had gotten all the good tracks! Chain Reaction was a camp motown pastiche that became one of her biggest UK hits thanks in part to a retro style video that paid homage to the 60s. I agree that the album was/is a mess. Filled with poor songs and poor vocals too it was a major disappointment and another missed opportunity. I remember reading somewhere that Barry Gibb did not enjoy the experience and found Diana difficult to deal with as she resisted any kind of direction from the Gibbs- sound familiar? (Nile Rogers said the same). I find the vast majority of Diana’s 80s recordings post motown unlistenable. She made a lot of bad career moves and lost her crown. It was a lost decade- she should’ve been churning out classy productions and blockbuster hits. Maybe it would’ve been better had she joined the cast of Dallas as was mooted at one point. That might have seen her career as an actress explode into mega stardom saving her from near oblivion in the US.

    • Paul says:

      David — it definitely seem that in the 80s, Diana got a reputation for being a little harder to deal with in the studio — I think this has to deal with her deep need for independence after the experience of being under Berry Gordy’s thumb for so long. She got the total creative freedom, but paid the price of not having any people around to tell her “no” when she probably needed to hear it. I like the fact that you can really hear Diana’s creativity at play in the 80s, but in terms of quality and commercially it was certainly a rocky decade.

      • Isn’t it exaggerated to speak about creativity instead of looking for number one desperately ? I’m asking because being 48, i remember widely the RCA years and how disappointed I was with every LP. Recording MOR songs like Streisand recorded in the late seventies is not top creativity , at least as far as i’m concerned. The only one I think was creative is Ross and it failed. “Pieces of ice” was a modern song at that time. “swept away” was ok but mostly because of Hall, Edwards and Ritchie produced material. “Eaten alive” was out of date. While on tour in Paris, October 85, she only performed “eaten alive” and all she said about the new LP was “Michael is the best seller of the 80’s and Bee Gees of the 70’s, and I have both of them” … I absolutely love all my RCA LP, but I have to go to market and pick a song or three in each of them.

  35. T-ROX says:

    Funny thing that you mentioned Janet Jackson in “Don’t Give Up On Each Other”. Her new album “Unbreakable” has a track, “After You Fall”, that strongly resembles a large part of this forgotten Diana’s gem. I wonder if they (Janet, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis) didn’t stole part of the melody, is that identical. I’m always amazed how much Diana was a trailblazer for Pop music. Her controversial RCA years were infinitely copied, consciously or unconsciously, by the next generation of female pop stars. As I’ve said before, her “Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do” (Swept Away album) has the exact sound that Madonna emulated in the mid-00’s, especially with her “Confessions on a Dance Floor” album (Future Lovers/Sorry/I Love New York, among others).

    • Paul says:

      This is cool — I have the new Janet album, so I need to listen to “After You Fall” today side-by-side with “Don’t Give Up” and hear the similarities! Totally agree that Diana is much more of a trailblazer than people even realize, or care to admit. Writing about The Supremes has especially proven that to me — Diana’s delivery on many of these older songs is so totally unique — she was really creating a whole style of pop/soul singing that would be borrowed forever after.

  36. James says:

    Paul, I meant to comment a while ago about “Chain Reaction”… I remember reading somewhere (don’t ask me where!) that the song was not written before the album recording sessions, apparently Diana was unhappy, feeling that the album lacked that one “big song”, so she asked Barry to come up with something else and the song was born as a result very quickly. Could explain why no demo…

  37. Joey says:

    Wow, lots of great comments and insights here. I like the title cut as a sort of a guilty pleasure. It’s fun to hear Michael and Diana really kind of tear it up on the outro. Overall though, it feels like a huge campfest that’s so cheesy you can’t possibly take it seriously. Even down to the silly fake tiger Diana poses with on the cover.

    Between the wildly over the top cover to “Swept Away” (also a pretty campy title cut by the way, though yes, catchy), you have to kind of wonder what Diana was thinking in these years. She makes a pretty good case that full creative control isn’t always necessarily a good thing for artists who don’t always display the best taste. I can’t quite put a finger on why I think this vampy excess is fine for certain artists (like Patti LaBelle, David Bowie or even Janet Jackson perhaps) but not others. Maybe because it didn’t really “ring true” because Diane seems at a very elemental level a pretty classy act overall? So all of a sudden here she is vamping it up with fake tigers, crazy hair and almost as much eye makeup as Tammy Faye so it just rang false? Maybe that’s it. To me it was just trying on a persona that just didn’t really fit or work so it was no surprise the public didn’t connect with it.

    That said, I think this is a pretty damn good album whose title cut, cover and first single aren’t really indicative of the rest of the album. With “Workin’ Overtime,” the opposite was true — that song WAS pretty indicative of the rest of the record. Here, not really at all. With a little more judiciousness in overall presentation, this could have had a much different reception. There’s so much here to love — lots of really catchy songs. It’s an easy album to listen to straight through, whereas I could never really get into “Ross” (’83) or “Workin’ Overtime” much at all. Nothing wrong conceptually — I just felt cut for cut, the songwriting quality just wasn’t there on those albums the way it is on “Eaten Alive.” And while “Red Hot R&B” may look like a more classy effort overall (and perhaps it is, esp. with its much more reserved cover image), to me aside from “Summertime,” it’s just bland to a fault. To me it’s the opposite of “Eaten Alive” — an album that appears to be much classier and reserved, yet not terribly memorable because the songs are pretty bland, IMO. To really work fully, an album has to jell — great songs and conceptually presented in an honest, believable way. To me, that’s why “Diana,” (even though it’s pretty uneven) “Take Me Higher” and even something you’d think would have been a big mishmash like “To Love Again” work quite well.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for writing down your thoughts here — really like hearing what you have to say, Joey! I understand why you like EATEN ALIVE — there are some strong songs and it’s definitely a cohesive album (aside from the title track). For me, it’s the production that sinks it. The overpowering background vocals and synth-laden tracks really kill the album’s appeal for me, and as I mention in my review, I think Diana is trying way too hard to sound like Barry Gibb. Had these songs been given different mixes, I think this could have been one of her strongest albums from start to finish.

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