Diana Extended: The Remixes (1994)

“There’s a new me coming out…”

Diana Extended: The Remixes is an interesting and unique addition to Diana Ross’s discography; though it’s technically a compilation album of some of her biggest hits, they’re completely re-imagined by some of the most successful remixers of the 90s (David Morales and Frankie Knuckles were inescapable in that decade).  Released in early 1994, it followed Diana’s 4-CD box set and the globally successful One Woman: The Ultimate Collection compilation, and thus seemed to be a way for Miss Ross to take all that attention on her past catalog and propel it to the present.  “House” music was also hugely successful in the mid-90s; Morales’s remix of Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover” had been a #1 dance hit the year before, and artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson were seeing massive success in clubs thanks to house mixes of their pop/R&B hits.

Still, remix albums can be tricky for artists; at worst, they are completely unnecessary and sound like time-fillers between new studio projects.  At best, however, they can draw attention to aspects of songs that had earlier gone unnoticed; they also, of course, are most successful when they accomplish what they set out to do, which is make the listener want to dance.  The latter is, thankfully, the case on much of this project; the beats here are, for the most part, terrific.  But even better, the songs really serve to shine a spotlight  Diana Ross’s vocal performances; hearing them in new surroundings allow them to stand out in a completely new way.  The attention given to Miss Ross’s voice and the creativity of those involved make this a successful listen; the All Music Guide dubbed the album “one of the strongest remix albums of the 1990s.”

Despite the strong review, the CD wasn’t a major popular success for Miss Ross; it charted in the US on the R&B listings, at #68.  A single release of “Someday We’ll Be Together,” remixed by Frankie Knuckles, did take Diana to the top 10 of the Dance/Club Play Charts (a place she’d return the next year with “Take Me Higher”).  For longtime fans, however, the joy in Diana Extended is hearing some classics all dressed up in a new way; tracks like “The Boss” allow us to hear Diana’s spectacular vocal power clearer than ever, and “Love Hangover” features a sparkling spoken first verse that comes as a total surprise to those familiar with only the original 1976 release.  Though this isn’t a “new” studio album, it is a full-length album of classics presented in a new way.

***

1.  The Boss (David Morales Club Mix):  It’s interesting to do a dance mix of a song that’s already a dance classic; the original 1979 release of “The Boss” was a major hit, Miss Ross’s first true dance smash since “Love Hangover” a few years earlier.  That said, “The Boss” has remained a signature Diana Ross song for her spectacular vocal work as much as the great beat; this is one of the great Diana performances ever, as she wails and belts and jumps all over the scale.  David Morales’s mix here smartly keeps those vocals up front, and for much of the song actually allows Miss Ross to sing with almost no musical accompaniment at all.  This nearly a capella arrangement gives the song a haunting, darker feel than the joyous and upbeat original; it also gives listeners a chance to listen to the subtleties of the vocal performance, and that’s the real treat for fans here.  Her work on the first verse is smooth and controlled, and becomes sexier and lively on the second verse (as Morales brings in more backgrounds), before erupting in the famous high-note vocal run.  Listen closely starting at around 3:20 and close yours eyes; it almost feels like being in the studio with Miss Ross, hearing her push and go for notes with every bit of vocal power she possesses.  This kind of new detail on an already-established hit is a highlight of this entire set.

2.  Love Hangover (Frankie Knuckles Remix):  Speaking of Diana’s dance smashes, this is a fascinating re-work of her #1 classic from 1976.  The instrumental track sounds quite untouched at the beginning (other than a slightly extended, electronic intro), but as soon as Miss Ross begins the first verse, there’s a major difference.  Knuckles uses an alternate take of Miss Ross speaking the famous lines, “If there’s a cure for this…I don’t want it,” instead of singing them as she did on the release.  There’s no argument that if any artist in the history of popular music knows how to deliver spoken lines during a song, it’s Diana Ross (“And there ain’t nothin’ I can do about…” being my personal favorite, to say nothing of, “If you need me…call me…”).  Here, she is sexy and playful with the lines, and it’s fun to hear them in a totally different way.  At just over a minute in, Knuckles brings her singing in, though it’s again an alternate take; she sings the line “Try to chase you from my mind, tryin’ is a waste of time” instead of “Think about it all the time, never let it out of my mind.”  Despite the different vocals, the original sizzling instrumental is kept pretty much intact, but as soon as the song hits its famous tempo change, Morales brings in a modern, funky sound that lifts the familiar 5-note vamp while surrounding it with new electronic beats.  There’s a real coolness and eventually almost jazzy feel to the arrangement that works well with Diana’s original ad-libs; her vocal during this part still sounds fresh and exciting.  As on the previous track, the remix doesn’t at all detract from the original, but does serve as an interesting and enjoyable counterpart.

3.  Upside Down (Satoshi Tomie & David Morales Mix):  Another dance classic, this is a re-working of Miss Ross’s 1980 smash from her diana album.  The mix here is far more traditional House, or “90s club,” than either of the previous tunes.  The airy, popping keyboards here are reminiscent of those from other club hits of the day, and the extracted words/phrases on loop and electronic manipulation of the vocal key are certainly trademarks of mid-90s DJs.  Because much of the appeal of the original “Upside Down” was the complex, unusual instrumental — the work of producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic — that missing element leaves a big void here.  Diana Ross’s vocal on “Upside Down” is crisp and punchy, with none of the adornments of something like “The Boss,” and that clean vocal worked against the original’s challenging instrumental track, creating a hypnotic tension.  While her voice still sounds good here, and the track serves the purpose of being danceable, this isn’t a particularly interesting listen because it’s missing some of that tension.

4.  Someday We’ll Be Together (Frankie Knuckles Mix):  It’s interesting that this song became a top 10 dance hit for Diana, being that Janet Jackson had a #1 dance hit the year before with “If,” a song that sampled 1969’s original “Someday We’ll Be Together.”  Perhaps the success of that Jackson song (it was also a top 5 pop and R&B hit), which lifted “Someday”‘s opening string riff, led to Frankie Knuckles also opening this mix with that riff, and sustaining it through the first two minutes of the piece.  This is the only song from Diana’s Supremes days included on the set, and it’s interesting to hear how Knuckles manages to retain the vintage sound of the vocals while updating it in a modern dance surrounding.  He does it brilliantly; there’s a real sense of excitement created right from the beginning, with those memorable strings sounding almost locomotive in moving the song along.  Once the rest of the track kicks in, the vintage strings and background vocals are mixed with the dance beat and keyboards, and there’s a lovely, almost dreamy feel to the entire piece.  Diana’s vocal is left alone, and her performance remains as beautiful and accomplished as ever; she’s relaxed and laid-back, which works well with the shimmering keyboards backing her up.  The backgrounds by Maxine and Julia Waters are more noticeable in this new arrangement, and their full, gospel sound sounds like the inspiration for the hundreds of soulful, belting dancefloor divas in the years to come.  Though the Janet Jackson connection might have led to this being released as a single, it was a deserved success in clubs; this is a great example of a remix bringing new life to a song while still respecting its origins.

5.  Chain Reaction (Dewey B & Spike Remix):  The only RCA track included, this was Diana’s massive UK #1 from 1985’s Eaten Alive.  Of all the songs thus far, this one strays the furthest from the original, which had a Motown-esque feel in its swinging feel.  Here, the song is kind of smashed into a more conventional dance beat and setting, and it often feels like an uncomfortable fit.  Because the original so deftly changed keys, it really depended on its original arrangement and backing track; in this update, the key-jumping often clashes with the tones of the track, making the singers sound strangely out of tune.  Perhaps this was the whole point; after all, the remixers were probably purposely thinking outside the box and re-imaginging the song.  However, the end result is just oddly discordant and doesn’t feel as danceable as the other songs here.  That said, the lead vocal by Diana still sounds great — her performance on “Chain Reaction” was easily the highlight of Eaten Alive, and it’s nice to hear her vibrant work again.

6.  You’re Gonna Love It (E-Smoove & Steve Silk Mix):  This is a reworking of a more recent song, which first appeared on 1991’s The Force Behind The Power.  The original version was much more “New Jack” in style, almost a softer continuation of her work on Workin’ Overtime.  It was, however, one of the weaker tracks on The Force…, despite Diana’s spirited vocal performance.  Thus, the song getting a new arrangement seems like a chance to make it a little more interesting than it had been initially.  Ultimately, it doesn’t emerge that much more exciting; this is one of the more layered dance tracks on this remix project, and the song ends up feeling a little cluttered.  And though the original song wasn’t a bad one, there isn’t a particularly memorable melody here, so it’s hard to even focus that much on Miss Ross.  Not a bad dance song, but surrounded by such stronger material, it doesn’t stand out.

7.  I’m Coming Out (Maurice Joshua 4 Vibe Mix):  Diana Extended closes out with a Diana Ross masterpiece, her top 5 smash from 1980.  Like “The Boss” and “Love Hangover,” this one was a true dance classic to begin with, and so it’s fascinating to hear how it’s updated.  In this case, Maurice Joshua retains the original’s sense of sheer joy and freedom, which was a very wise move; rather than give it a darker feel (as was the case on Morales’s “The Boss” mix), this one still feels like an anthem of love and self-expression.  Joshua places a lot of emphasis on Diana’s shouts of “I’m Comin’!” and “Yes!” — and hearing them repeated so often during this eight-minute piece puts a magnifying glass on the strength in her voice, which is impressive.  Her vocal work on the verses also sounds better than ever; taken out of the context of the original’s ridiculously funky track, Diana really sounds strong and self-assured; listen to her at around 2:00, during the lyrics, “I’ve got to show the world all that I wanna be…” — the vocal attack here is so much more apparent than it had been on the more familiar original version.  Again, this is a mix that adds new life and dimension to an already-masterful song, but does it in an affectionate, reverent way.

***

Diana Extended: The Remixes, if nothing else, definitely primed Diana for a major return to the dance clubs, which would happen with 1995’s #1 “Take Me Higher” and her remake of “I Will Survive.”  But beyond that, it’s a great chance for fans to revisit some of her singles in a new way.  There are more than enough “Greatest Hits” compilations out there for both Diana Ross solo and with the Supremes, so this is at least something that offers a unique listening experience on older favorites.  Because most of the songs chosen for inclusion are so strong, and because the remixers have done an outstanding job refreshing them, this emerges as an energetic and exciting tribute to Miss Ross and her 30-year (at the time of release) career.  Some of the tracks are better than others, but there are enough high points here to make it a welcome addition to the Diana discography.

Choice Cuts:  “Someday We’ll Be Together (Frankie Knuckles Mix),” “Love Hangover (Frankie Knuckles Remix),” “I’m Coming Out (Maurice Joshua 4 Vibe Mix)”

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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26 Responses to Diana Extended: The Remixes (1994)

  1. nate milliken says:

    As you know, I am nowhere near the Diana Ross fan that you are. However, the “Upside Down” remix is one of my favorite DR songs. I put that on many mix CDs while I was a high schooler.

  2. markus says:

    Okay, in my reply to the Vienna album I had alluded to TMH facetiously, because i figured you were doing the Making Spirits Bright album this week…i totally was NOT expecting the remix CD! LOL

    Great review once again, Paul. Totally agree with your assessments of The Boss, Love Hangover and Someday We’ll Be Together (on that one, I particularly like the way Knuckles turns the “all I wanna do!” moment in the original into an extended call and response break between Diana and the background vocals later in the song).

    RE: Chain Reaction-
    I actually love the re-imagining of Chain Reaction (especially that killer intro where the title of the song title slowly fades in as it gets repeated over and over, and then the beat falls in). I just listened to it again and i don’t think the problem is so much the key changes of the vocal clashing with the new arrangement- I think the fault actually lies with the remix engineer not reigning in the vocals on the mix.

    When a club mix of a song where the original vocal has a different tempo (i.e. slower) is done, there’s actually a machine that my brother (a DJ who’s been doing remixing of songs for the cub since the 90’s) showed me a while back that takes the original vocal and speeds up the tempo WITHOUT changing the key or making them sound like chipmunks; it also eliminates space between words caused by breathing and drawn-out notes held by the singer. This is the way many ballads have been effectively remixed for the club since the 90’s.

    It was obviously not used here, so Diana’s breathy, often languid vocal- which fit the original like a glove- constantly sounds like it’s in danger of falling behind the beat. It never happens, of course, but as you mentioned, it also makes it clearly obvious that this vocal was not done with this production in mind, which can be jarring at times.

    Sorry for the tangent on that. 😉

    PS- you mentioned the vocal on Love Hangover was an alternate take. There are two other songs on this collection that also feature alternate vocals:

    I’m Coming Out-
    My first time hearing this i said “wow, this is NOT the original vocal!”
    There were so many differences between this and the 1980 version (the growl on the verses where she says “I am GONNA do it” and “All that I WANNA be”, not to mention at the end of the 1st verse when she says “I have to shout, that I am coming out…YEEEESSS!!!!”) that it jumped out at me immediately. In my 18 year old ignorance (and this being pre-internet) I didnt think about alternate takes, I just assumed Diana re-recorded the vocal on this, Love Hangover and the song I mention below specifically for this project.

    It wasn’t until 2002 that the mystery was solved for me- the vocal on this remix of I’m Coming Out is, in fact, from the original CHIC mix. If you have the deluxe copy of diana listen to the vocal on that, and then the vocal on this remix. It’s the same one.

    Upside Down-
    I actually didnt notice this until I’d heard the remix a few times, but this is not the vocal from the original version. But it’s not the vocal on the original CHIC mix either, which makes this all the more intriguing. It’s not a big deviation from either version vocally, but there’s a tell-tale moment: on the 2nd verse of both 1980 mixes Diana says “I’m crazy to think you’re all mine”. In the remix she says “IT’S crazy to think you’re all mine”.

    PS- the remix of “You’re Gonna Love It” was actually a leftover done in 1991 added here. What’s weird is that, in 3 short years, it sounds curiously dated alongside the other remixes. I guess musical production trends shifted faster back then. 😉

    Sorry for rambling, but as many Diana albums coincided with moments in my life, this CD happened to drop as my 18 year old butt first started going to the club…so it’s VERY dear to my heart!

    • markus says:

      sorry, i meant A Very Special Season, not Making Spirits Bright (which was the Hallmark Xmas album Diana released).

    • Paul says:

      It’s really tough to tell “Upside Down” uses the original Chic-mix vocals — I’d suspected it, but couldn’t tell for sure! In such a different dressing, I totally missed the “it’s crazy…” — so glad you pointed it out!!

      I absolutely love Diana’s vocal from the Chic-mix of “I’m Coming Out” — and again, wasn’t completely convinced that the remix here was made up of that — it seems to me like maybe it’s a mix of both the Chic and Terrana/Ross vocals? In any case — it’s such a good listen!

      And I think that when this album came out and I first got it (as a high-schooler, and by the way, I got it through the mail-order BMG Music Club…who else remembers that?!?) I also thought Diana must have recorded the new spoken verse on “Love Hangover!” 🙂

  3. Paul says:

    By the way — please all, forgive me that there seem to be a lot of spelling/grammar errors in this post — I was without a computer for much of the last week due to an unfortunate incident involving a coffee spill (don’t ask…) — and thus rushed a bit to get this one posted! 🙂

  4. spookyelectric says:

    To me, the Knuckles mixes are the clear stand outs here. ‘Someday We’ll Be Together’ is unexpectedly good. Probably the track you would least expect to work reformed into something totally fresh and new. And ‘Love Hangover’ is lovely, yes mainly because of those unearthed vocal sections (though to be honest it would be hard pushed to improve on the perfection of the original).

    The rest for me range from just average to aberration (sorry but ‘Upside Down’ is a mess). I got the commercial point of this project, but it seemed rushed and cheaply packaged. Those Morales/Mariah mixes of the day were amazing – because they took time to completely revocal and restructure them for the club floor – I don’t think his work here is anywhere on that level. Kind of wish they’d just pulled together all the original 12-inch mixes – none of which were available on cd at this time and most of which still aren’t – and be done with it. That would be an essential addition to her catalogue.

    Hate to say it, but that nasty dX logo and tacky sleeve shot just seemed a bit desperate. And wasn’t this released hot on the heels of the ‘Forever Diana’ box set? Just seemed a bit grabby of EMI, I think. (By the way, Paul – are you not going to cover the box set? There must be an whole album’s worth of new/unreleased tracks on there).

    Still – props to Diana – I can’t think of anyone else who was duetting with classical music legends, crooning MOR pop ballads, channelling Billie Holliday and getting down as hot club diva all the space of couple of years – can you?

    • Paul says:

      Spooky — I have to say I’m with you — I don’t love the logo or cover shot here. I’m not a big fan of the photo session that resulted in the photos she used here, on the “Forever” set, and on her book cover — I agree that she seems to be going for an image of youth and sexiness that just doesn’t work, especially in light of her classier image on “Force Behind The Power” and “Stolen Moments.”

      I’d mentioned in a comment on an earlier post — once I’m finished going through studio or single albums, I’ll go back and cover tracks from compilations that I’ve skipped over — things like the box set, “Voice Of Love,” and maybe even some minor, narrow-market releases like the “Making Spirits Bright” Hallmark CD and her Japanese children-themed release. What do you think — worth doing?

      • markus says:

        I’d take the boxed set/book/remix photos (by Albert Watson, I think) anyday over the Workin Overtime photos. But I agree the Force Behind the Power sessions were gorgeous. And we could probably have done without that odd shot of Diana lying nude from this shoot 😦 BUT…in her book, there is a photo of her with eyes closed as the wind catches her hair and the white blous she’s wearing. That’s really beautiful. 🙂

        And yes, Paul…I do hope you followup to review the new tracks from compilations and other releases. Perhaps you could devote one review to one-off songs Diana did over the years (“Big Bad Love” with Ray Charles, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” from the Berry Gordy tribute album, stuff like that).

  5. chris meklis says:

    Are we not being a little harsh here as far as cover pics are concerned…gee Diana at this age was particularly youthful, without the need of major airbrushing etc. In comparison to her contemporaries she was a world away in what she could do as far as looks and pics were concerned. The cover pic so worked as far as being a representation of what was inside… gritty hard core remixes and the d x logo was a throw back to the evergreen (it seems) ‘diana’ album. Each time she has used her name after that 1980 album in the lower case, it has been to mark the fact that the music inside is modern and supposedly hip. Props to this lady- as for that half naked shot of her lying down in a sheet- believe me that half sold the Ultimate Collection Cd…well at least here in SA….it was all over the news.

    • spookyelectric says:

      Nice theory about the lower case d for diana dance! When they resurrected the ‘diana’ logo for ‘Workin Overtime’ I thought it was a clever nod to the previous Nile Rodgers collab (shame about the actual music though!) I’m intrigued if that could have informed the typography this remix album. I tend to think not. The ‘diana’ type was recycled for ‘I Love You’ as well, not her most upbeat collection!

      Glad to hear you’ll get round to ‘Forever Diana’ new tracks and other odds and ends eventually Paul. Anything that keeps the blog going longer if ok by me. One request: please do include all the ‘Higher’ tracks like you did ‘Force’ – some of the best tracks swapped out in different versions!

      • Paul says:

        Hey — don’t worry — I’ve included the “extra” TMH tracks — I love that album so much and I like “Swing It,” so I couldn’t leave that off 🙂

        That said — does anyone have “Free (I’m Gone)” — the Japanese bonus track from “Every Day…” to share with me? I’ve finished my album review of that album, but while I had “Free” at one point on CD, but can’t find it anymore!!! I’ve got “Drop The Mask” — but the other has disappeared from my collection somewhere along the line!

      • markus says:

        @Paul- I have “Free (I’m Gone)”. What’s your email?

    • Paul says:

      Chris — you’re right — there’s no denying she looked GREAT in the shots — I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste. I like Diana Ross album covers in which she looks a little more sophisticated and elegant. However, here is no doubt that NONE of her contemporaries could have pulled these shots off — no offense to the lovely Aretha, Patti, Gladys, etc., but they definitely didn’t look as youthful and sexy as MIss Ross at this stage in the game!

  6. spookyelectric says:

    There were also some tracks from the ‘Higher’ sessions that were b-sides in UK that I think were included on some versions of the album – one called ‘Too Many Nights’ and a couple of great Brenda Russell tunes ‘Let Somebody Know’ and ‘I’m So Happy (To See You Again)’ that are worth considering including I think.

    • markus says:

      Spooky- Let Somebody Know is actually on the US version of the album (thank goodness, as it’s one of my favorites). In addition to Too Many Nights and I’m So Happy (To See You Again) (which, if memory serves, were produced by Nick Martinelli) I think there was another track from the sessions called Soul Kiss that only saw international release (I believe in Japan).

      • Paul says:

        Glad to hear you say that “Let Somebody Know” is one of your favorites — it’s one of my top 3 tracks on Take Me Higher — but it’s often overlooked by fans.

    • Paul says:

      I’ll be including all songs on international versions of Take Me Higher — but will probably leave all single b-sides that were never a part of any lineup of the album for later posts. Since I didn’t write about “Fight For It” or the bonus tracks from albums re-issues like 1970’s Diana Ross and 1981’s To Love Again, I want to be as consistent as possible — I’m trying to consider each album as it was originally released. Plus — this gives us more to talk about in the future when all album’s have been written about 🙂

  7. Luke says:

    This album was my first Diana Ross cd, back in 1995. Some of the songs were unknown for me and I am one of the few cases of young Diana Ross fans who loved her 90s matterial but knew little about her major recording career from the past. Thanks to my big love for her (I bought almost all her cds and old albums during my teens) and thanks to internet, I now can say that i know almost everything! This cd was so fresh back in its days, had strong sound and showed unknown recorded version of the original songs , elements which make it one of her wise releases from the 90s. Not a commercial success, but surely an all time classic favourite!

  8. Eric says:

    Ok I gotta say this review I don’t agree with much ! I loved the mix of chain reaction and you’re gonna love it but wasn’t a fan of the 69-81 material!

    The CR sounds like a deep house dream, ya the key changes are there but the chorus sounds perfection with those pianos!!

    You’re gonna love it is awesome!

    Frankie knuckles went a bit lazy, how long can u listen to the opening strings of “someday…”??!? The boss should’ve been deep house mixed and not industrial!
    Upside down was done well but it still falls flat . The melody is too simple and the production matters more than anything !
    I’m coming out is,,, good but turns the song from gay-friendly to drag queen on a rainbow cake float at San Fran pride! Nothing wrong with any of that, but the soul is missing and it becomes a generic camp house tune. And I love Maurice!!

  9. Michael says:

    I absolutely loved the pics of Diana from this photo session. However, when this CD first came out, it was, for me, a big disappointment. Especially, this remix of The Boss. The Ultimix of The Boss is my favorite Diana remix, but, after reading your clever insight on this whole project, I am going to re-assess the project. I believe I must have missed something years ago, and never really gave this CD much listening time since. I did like Someday We’ll Be Together, but I thought it could have been “slowed” down just a bit.

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