I Love You (2007)

“And when at last I find you, your song will fill the air…”

In the wake of 1999’s Every Day Is A New Day, Diana Ross’s recording career pretty much ceased to exist.  The new millennium brought some exciting new re-issues — like 1970’s Diana Ross and 1981’s To Love Again — which contained previously unreleased tracks from the vaults and alternate vocal takes, and the world finally got to hear her shelved early 70s jazz album, Blue.  But fans craving new studio material from Miss Ross were left waiting…and waiting…and waiting.  2005 brought two notable new tracks; “I’ve Got A Crush On You” — a duet with Rod Stewart from his Thanks For The Memory…The Great American Songbook IV — which ended up in the top 20 of the Adult Contemporary chart, and “When You Tell Me That You Love Me,” a remake of her 1991 #2 UK hit, this time performed with the group Westlife and, amazingly, again hitting #2 in the UK.

The success of those songs — along with the strong sales and reviews of Blue — proved audiences could be receptive to a new album by Miss Ross, even though her studio albums of the 90s hadn’t been big hits in the states.  And the release of I Love You (in January of 2007, though it hit shelves months earlier overseas) proved that; it debuted on the Billboard 200 at #32 — far higher than anything since 1984’s Swept Away — and hit the top 20 of the R&B Albums chart.  A press release from Manhattan/EMI Music Marketing trumpeted:  “The #32 debut with first-week sales totaling 21,222 marks Ms. Ross’ highest chart debut and strongest sales week in the SoundScan era.”  The album’s release was promoted with several notable television appearances, including a well-received stint as a “mentor” to contestants on “American Idol” and a memorable night with host James Lipton on “Inside The Actors Studio,” on which she both talked extensively about her career and performed several songs.  Sales also weren’t hurt, of course, by the simultaneous release of the film Dreamgirls, a fictional account of the Supremes which revived interest in the group.

Despite the album’s chart success, reviews were mixed, with many writers less-than-thrilled about Diana’s choice to record an album of love song covers  (All Music Guide’s Jeff Tamarkin wrote that Miss Ross “sleepwalks through a mishmash of seemingly randomly chosen love songs”).  Indeed, of I Love You‘s 15 tracks (16 total recorded, as the US and international versions feature a slightly different lineup), only one song is an original, and many have been recorded dozens of times before.  But to say she’s “sleepwalking” here — or that the lineup is “random” — is to clearly miss the point of the entire project.  Certain songs, like “I Want You” and “To Be Loved,” have a deep connection to Diana’s history, and some of the vocal performances here are among her most heartfelt ever.  I Love You is not an innovative album, and doesn’t break any new ground in terms of Diana’s artistry or career.  But for a woman who hadn’t really released any new material for the better part of a decade, Miss Ross often sounds as assured and confident as ever.

***

1.  Remember:  It’s fitting that I Love You opens (and closes) with Harry Nilsson’s “Remember,” and very deliberate, too.  In interviews, Diana Ross stated it was while listening to this song and looking through family photos that she got the idea to record an album of classic love songs.  And the idea of Diana listening to Harry Nilsson makes sense, too, given that she devoted an entire segment of her one-woman Broadway show, An Evening With Diana Ross, to songs from his album The Point! in 1976.  Ross and producer Peter Asher create a lush, dreamy tone for this opening number, echoing the song’s lyrics (which often repeat the word “dream”).  Miss Ross begins the song with a hushed, sensitive delivery; the years that have passed between this and her previous studio album are evident in her deepened, huskier tone.  This is not a bad thing at all; the lower end of her range is beautifully smooth, as is evidenced when she sings the words “…is a place from long ago…” at 32 seconds in.  This is the voice of a wise, mature woman, which adds to the credibility of the song and makes it far more poignant for listeners, many of whom would have aged right along with Diana Ross.  At 1:26, as she begins the “Dream…love is only in a dream…” refrain, she gets to push up into the higher end of her range, and the good news is that it hasn’t been weakened by the passing of years; there is still that gorgeous purity of tone that has always marked the best of Diana Ross’s ballad performances, though there’s a subtle smokiness now that adds an interesting shading to her sound.  “Remember” is an interesting composition in that it’s not a traditionally structured song; therefore, it’s not as immediately memorable as something like “Lovely Day” or “More Today Than Yesterday.”  It is, however, a mood piece, and the bittersweet atmosphere that Miss Ross creates with her voice and Peter Asher creates with the instrumental track is very effective and successful.

2.  More Today Than Yesterday:  An absolutely fabulous recording —  as bouncy and joyful as anything Miss Ross had recorded in years — this one was produced by Steve Tyrell and is a remake of a 1960s hit by The Spiral Staircase.  Diana Ross used this song in several of her television appearances to promote the album, and turned in an especially energetic and successful performance of it on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”  The production here is extremely similar to that of the original 1960s recording, and thus it takes Miss Ross right back to her classic pop roots; she clearly has an affinity and a gift for such music, and thus this is a natural for her.  Her vocal performance is one of the best on the album, if not the very best — her work on the verses is cool and controlled, her voice sliding down to satisfying low notes (“…what day it was…”) before erupting into the powerful refrain, during which she literally shouts with joy (“…but darlin’…not as much as TOMORROW!”).  In fact, the catchy chorus here allows Miss Ross to display more power than she had on much of her work in the 1990s; she is really belting here and sounds phenomenal doing so, nailing each note with the precision of a surgeon.  “More Today Than Yesterday” is truly an incredible song in that it really brings Diana Ross “full circle,” taking her back to the finger-popping light soul that made her a star more than 40 years earlier; she handles the song with the same kind of attention to enunciation and vocal clarity that she would have in the 1960s, but also bring a sense of confidence and wisdom now that she couldn’t have delivered in her youth.  This is a standout track not only on this latest album, but also in the whole of the Diana Ross discography; it’s magic.

3.  I Want You:  This song was a hit for Marvin Gaye back in 1976, but the connection between it and Miss Ross runs deeper than the fact that it was a Motown release.  The co-writer on “I Want You” is Arthur “T-Boy” Ross, Diana’s younger brother, who wrote several songs at Motown and even recorded a solo album for the label in 1979.  T-Boy Ross passed away in 1996, making Diana’s choice to record the song a tribute to her late brother.  Produced again by Steve Tyrell, this is a sexy, adult presentation, smartly retaining the disco feel of Gaye’s original without sounding dated or campy.  Tyrell’s production is mainly driven by an electric guitar and soaring background vocals, which perfectly complement Diana’s passionate reading of the lyrics.  Here again, there’s a smokiness to Miss Ross’s voice that works well with the theme of composition, and she sounds self-assured and sexy without it ever becoming forced.  There’s a lot of “oooh-ing” and “aaaah-ing” by Miss Ross, too, something she really hadn’t done much of since her work with Holland-Dozier-Holland in the 1960s; thankfully, she’s lost none of her innate feel for when flourishes like these are appropriate.  Listen to her work beginning around 2:40, as she croons, “Oh…don’t you wanna care?  It’s lonely out there…” — there’s a power and an urgency to her vocal that adds some much-needed excitement to an album that’s overwhelmingly loaded with ballads.  Her high-note wail at 3:37 is beautifully done, as is the follow up around 4:02; this willingness to push her voice and go for the note is something she really hadn’t done much of since 1989’s Workin’ Overtime.  “I Want You” is superb latter-day Ross, a wonderful tribute not only to her brother, but the abundance of dance classics produced by Motown in the 1970s.

4.  I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters):  The set’s title song is also its only original tune, penned by Miss Ross’s background singer Fred White.  Because White had been backing up Diana for years, he clearly had a keen understanding of her voice, and this song certainly suits her range and abilities perfectly.  Perhaps it makes sense that this song strongly resembles in both structure and sound “It’s Hard For Me To Say” from 1987’s Red Hot Rhythm & Blues — that song was written by Luther Vandross, another man who’d studied Ross’s voice for years and certainly knew how to make it sound its best.  This is a lovely R&B ballad, simple and straightforward in its lyric and message (“I love you for who you are…and that’s all that really matters”), and because Diana’s gift as a vocalist is selling lyrics with honesty, the song comes off as an extremely sincere message to her listeners.  The melody allows her to sing comfortably in the “middle range” of her soprano, while also stretching higher during the “…that’s all that really matters” refrain.  The purity of her tone here really is astounding; she’s as pitch-perfect and crystal-clear as she’d been on the songs of Blue, released the year before but recorded in the early 70s.  At more than five minutes in length, the song takes its time and shuffles along slowly but deliberately, which gives Miss Ross a nice opportunity to do some ad-libbing toward the end; her “I love you…I do, I do…” starting around 4:20 is beautifully relaxed and intimate, as though the listener is standing in the recording booth with Miss Ross.  This is a worthy title track, and could have been serviced to Adult R&B radio and probably gotten some spins.

5.  What About Love:  One of the most beautiful, haunting performances of Diana Ross’s career, this is a song that she probably could have only recorded at this point in her life.  The astonishing authenticity with which she interprets the lyrics are doubtless the result of more than sixty years of life experience; every bit of joy and pain she’s been dealt in her life seem to come through in her deeply-felt performance.  The song itself is a beautifully written essay on love, penned in part by the brilliant Brenda Russell (who’d delivered some stunners for Miss Ross on 1995’s Take Me Higher) for the Broadway musical The Color Purple (which was produced by Diana’s friend Oprah Winfrey).  The entire production here is handled so delicately that it’s almost impossible to breathe while listening, for fear of missing the abundance of subtle nuances in both the instrumental and in the vocal performance.  The musical track produced by Peter Asher is sensitive and classy, with an almost rustic sound in the piano and cello that give the song an intimate, timeless feel; that said, the star here is the woman delivering the lead vocal.  Listen to Diana begin the song, her voice deep and controlled, singing the lyrics, “Is that me…who’s floating away?” — there seems to be a well of emotion that the singer is just holding a bay.  Later, at 2:19, she sings the line, “Will I see a new world in your eyes?” with such a heartbreaking wistfulness that she almost seems to be defying her listeners not to be swept away by the moment.  Never in her storied career has Miss Ross sounded more invested in a set of lyrics; for a singer who is known as a gifted interpreter of other people’s compositions, she certainly takes that gift to a whole new level here.  This is a moving masterpiece that should have won Diana that competitive Grammy award that she’d been denied for so long; I would wager that there was not a more honest vocal performance released that year.

6.  The Look Of Love:  During the promotion of I Love You, Diana mentioned several times her respect for the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David; she’d recorded many over the years, starting with several during her stint with the Supremes (including “The Look Of Love,” which went unreleased for decades) all the way through 1994, with “What The World Needs Now Is Love” on A Very Special Season.  “The Look Of Love” is one of the duo’s most famous compositions, having first appeared in 1967 in the film Casino Royale (with a soundtrack vocal by Dusty Springfield), and subsequently being covered by dozens of popular artists.  Miss Ross’s version opens with a lovely Spanish guitar intro — one of the best instrumental moments on the album, credited to Heitor Pereira — before giving way to a shuffling, Latin-inspired track with lovely orchestral strings which ebb and flow in the background.  Diana’s vocal is breathy and relaxed; though she sounds slightly less engaged here than she has on the previous five tracks, the coolness works well for the song, giving it a remoteness that plays well into the lyrics (which are, after all, about non-verbal love).  Though this is one of the most oft-recorded songs Miss Ross chose to include on I Love You, this is a slickly produced work that doesn’t feel tired or unnecessary, which is in itself an accomplishment.

7.  Take My Breath Away:  Sadly, after six very good tracks, I Love You reaches its first dud with “Take My Breath Away,” Diana’s version of the 1980s hit by Berlin.  This wasn’t included on the international release of the album (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was featured in its place), which indicates perhaps executives even knew this wasn’t the strongest work.  In any case, this is an example of extremely lackluster production really sinking a track; the backing here sounds like it was created on an outdated computer by someone playing around with a music program — it is almost totally devoid of life or inspiration.  Unfortunately, Diana Ross doesn’t do a whole lot to liven up the proceedings; her performance is fine, but she doesn’t sound particularly invested and really seems to be just singing to get through the song.  She’s more emotive during the final minute of the tune, but by this time it’s a little too late; the song sort of crashes to a finish with a shaky final few notes from Diana and a distinctly discordant musical track behind her.  To cut Peter Asher and Diana Ross a little slack, the song itself isn’t a particularly conducive one to covers; “Take My Breath Away” stands as a song very much of its era (it was originally part of the Top Gun soundtrack in 1986) and was so ubiquitous that it’s very difficult to erase the memory of the original’s sound.  Whatever the ultimate reason, this just doesn’t even come close to the quality of the songs that precede it.

8.  Lovely Day:  Thank goodness Miss Ross and producers bounce right back after the misstep of “Take My Breath Away” with a cool, modern version of Bill Withers’s “Lovely Day.”  This song was first a hit in 1977, and Diana’s reason for wanting to record it is quoted in the Manhattan/EMI press release: “This song makes me dance.  Everyone wants a lovely day.”  The song is given a smooth jazz/easy listening arrangement, more polished but less soulful than that of the original; the easy listening vibe veers a little close to a Muzak sound at times, but thankfully sidesteps that trap with some great instrumental touches and a nice, low-key performance by Miss Ross.  The track opens with an interesting stuttering electronic intro before Brandon Fields’s accomplished saxophone work takes over; Diana’s vocal, meanwhile, opens with a trademark sigh (imagine a “Love Hangover 2007” moment) and continues with a cool efficiency that nicely matches the staccato feel of the track.  Diana’s voice is also very prominent on the background vocal arrangement (the repetition of “lovely day”), which is a great touch and reminiscent of her early RCA work, when she often provided her own backgrounds.  This song probably could have been sent to smooth jazz/adult R&B radio and gotten some play; it’s certainly hard not to sing-along with the song when it comes on.

9.  Only You:  A slowed-down, simmering version of the 1950s hit song, which was originally made famous by The Platters.  Steve Tyrell’s production here has a nice, warm sound; the ghostly background vocals (woven expertly into the track) and some jazzy keyboard work help keep it from becoming laborious, despite the song being so slow it basically lacks a beat.  Diana’s vocal is interesting; at times she comes off as a little too affected, such as her “o-O-nly you…” at 1:13, and her final, big “You!” at 3:39 feels a little wobbly, but there’s also some expert work here.  Diana’s delivery of “You’re my dream come true…” at 3:26 is reminiscent of her work from the early 70s; there’s something about the vitality in her voice as she belts the word “you’re” that calls to mind her passionate work on 1970’s Diana Ross and 1971’s Surrender.  There’s also a beautiful smoothness to her low notes that really shows off a new, sultry layer to Diana’s voice; her “You are my destiny…” at 1:35 is a perfect example of that.  In the liner notes to this CD, Miss Ross writes, “…’Only You’ reminded me of a time when we’d listen to records, slow dancing with one light glowing from above.”  The intent here was clearly to create a song that brings that image to life, and in that case, it is successful.  It lacks some fire and doesn’t match the depth of “What About Love” nor the crispness of “I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters),” but there are some nice moments of soulfulness to Diana’s work that makes this a worthwhile effort and a nice listen.

10.  To Be Loved:  Another one of the most meaningful selections on I Love You is “To Be Loved,” a song co-written by Berry Gordy, Jr. for Jackie Wilson back in 1957.  Not that is probably needs to be said, but Gordy is the founder of Motown Records, the man who nurtured her career from the 1960s until she left the label in 1980, and the father of her oldest daughter, Rhonda.  Being that Gordy is such an important part of Diana’s life and career, it makes total sense that she’d include a song with a connection to him on this album (and it should be noted that the song is also clearly meaningful to Gordy, as he titled his memoirs after it).  The song is arranged pretty faithfully to Wilson’s original version, with a shuffling “sock-hop” beat; unfortunately, the production by Steve Tyrell also leans too far toward the “easy listening” spectrum, killing any opportunity for the song to have an authentic, soulful feel.  The All Music Guide review unfairly points the finger toward Diana in its review, stating, “Ross takes Jackie Wilson’s “To Be Loved” and bleeds the soul from it” — in truth, Miss Ross’s vocal is full of soul and feeling, but the blaring sax is just plain overpowering and makes it difficult for the lead vocal to dominate the song, as it should.  Taken on its own, this really is one of the more impressive vocals on the entire album; she is clear and deliberate in her delivery, with some nice vocal runs (especially at :58) adding a little color and variation.  The final verse beginning at around 3:00 into the running time is perhaps the best example of Diana’s power here; she builds and builds until her jubilant “Oh…OH!  What a feeling…” at 3:30 brings the song to its musical climax.  Though she would have been served much, much better by a less polished, rougher musical track (a live band accompanying her would have been a nice change), it’s hard to fault Miss Ross here, as she really does serve up a fine performance.

11.  I Will:  An absolute gem of a song, this is one of the clear standouts of I Love You, a shimmering, acoustic ballad that is perfect in its simplicity.  “I Will” is a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and included on the 1968 album The Beatles.  It’s appearance here may have something to do with the fact that producer Peter Asher was once in charge of A&R at Apple Records, the label founded by the Beatles in ’68.  Whatever the case, it’s a brilliant addition; it’s not as immediately recognizable as many of the other songs, and thus doesn’t conjure up comparisons to other recordings of it (in the way “Take My Breath Away” does, for example).  The arrangement here is just lovely; there’s a refreshing sweetness to the sound of recording that is a pleasure to listen to, and Diana respects that feeling with the simplicity of her vocal.  The soulful flourishes and “deep digging” of the previous track are completely gone; here, Miss Ross sings with a purposeful crispness, plucking each word softly just as the strings of the guitar are being gently plucked.  Though she sounds mature and wise in her tone, there’s a subtle playfulness to her performance that gives it a child-like edge; in that way, it’s vaguely reminiscent of something like “When We Grow Up,” her recording from the 1972 album Free To Be…You And Me.  The song itself is very brief — running just under three minutes — but there’s not a wasted moment here; this is just perfection from start to finish, a real treat.

12.  This Magic Moment:  The second of two real low points on I Love You, this one rivals “Take Me Breath Away” in its lack of inspiration and weak production.  While some of the tracks thus far have dipped their toes into the Muzak pool, this one dives in headfirst; Diana Ross sounds as though she’s singing in an elevator, with the generic, glossy backing track just completely murdering the song.  There is a mind-boggling abundance of strange sounds included here, from the reedy wind-instrument opening to the odd robotic voice that underscores Diana on the “…sweeter than wine…” sections.  The instrumental break, meanwhile, sounds like the cheap computer recreation of an actual recording; it is just completely unsophisticated.  The best that can be said for Miss Ross here is that she sounds relaxed; unfortunately, that relaxation doesn’t come across as effortlessness so much as boredom.  Being that I Love You has a relatively high track count, it’s a shame someone didn’t decide to leave this one off; its absence would have strengthened the overall project.

13.  You Are So Beautiful:  Your tolerance for this song will probably depend on your tolerance for other versions of it; “You Are So Beautiful” tends to be a song that people either love or hate, and it’s certainly has never lacked in airplay.  Written and recorded by Billy Preston, singer Joe Cocker covered the song in 1974 and made it a huge hit; it’s since been referenced countless times in movies and television programs, and played at proms and weddings ad nauseam.  The good news here is that Miss Ross’s version is actually very restrained and listenable; the production is mercifully not overdone, and features a well-balanced mix of low-key piano and strings.  Diana’s performance, meanwhile, is deep and soulful; she doesn’t do any adorning, and lets the lyrics “breathe” and speak for themselves.  Her one embellishment is pushing the last two words an octave higher, and her “to me” is a beautifully done finale.  In a way, the feel of “You Are So Beautiful” is analogous to her performance of “Forever Young” on 1984’s Swept Away; on both songs, Miss Ross takes an optimistic lyric and tinges it with sadness in her delivery, lending the song a bittersweet feeling that it otherwise probably wouldn’t have.  For my money, this version of “You Are So Beautiful” is the most successful of any recording of it; it’s easy for the lyrics to sound syrupy and almost disingenuous, but there’s an emotional honesty in this rendition that really elevates it.

14.  Always And Forever:  The final full song on I Love You is a lush, stunning version of the 1977 hit “Always And Forever” by Heatwave, a song that was also famously covered by Luther Vandross and gained him a Grammy nomination in 1994.  Miss Ross’s vocal here was more than worthy of a Grammy nomination, too; this is as good as her voice sounds on the entire album and, really, as good as she’d sounded in years (in his book Diana Ross: A Biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli writes that it “probably rates with the best of her ballad performances” [522]).  The arrangement here is highlighted by gorgeous violin and piano work, creating an atmospheric and luxuriant background for Miss Ross.  After the hushed, restrained delivery on “You Are So Beautiful,” Diana opens up her voice here, powerfully pushing her upper register at the end of each refrain; listen to her work beginning at 2:36, as she passionately sings the lyrics, “Take time to tell me, you really care…and we’ll share tomorrow together…” — this is singing at its highest caliber, a stunning mix of technique and feeling.  But beyond the showier moments, Miss Ross’s work on the verses is smooth and controlled, her deeper notes as clean and precise as glass.  Mr. Taraborrelli seems to be on mark with his assessment; this really is the quintessential Diana Ross ballad, as perfectly suited to her voice as well-known hits like “Theme From Mahogany” and “Endless Love.”  Of any song on I Love You, this one really should have been pushed as a single; had it been serviced to Adult R&B and Adult Contemporary radio and given the right kind of attention, it surely could have equalled the success her duet with Rod Stewart had in 2005, if not bettered it.  For anyone whose appreciation of Diana Ross has dimmed over the years, this is required listening; this song proves Miss Ross is still one of the most gifted vocalists of all time.

15.  Remember Reprise:  A brief reprise of the album’s first track closes things out; this is a nice way to bring the project full circle and finish it off gracefully.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love:  This track appeared on international versions of I Love You in place of “Take My Breath Away” — being that it’s really the only true uptempo song other than “More Today Than Yesterday,” it’s strange that executives in the states decided to do without it.  Having another energetic song definitely helps break up the album a little bit and give it some variety, even if this one isn’t nearly as succesful as “More Today…”  The issue here is not at all with Miss Ross — her performance is vibrant and fun, and she sounds a lot like she did on several songs from 1987’s Red Hot Rhythm & Blues.  The production, unfortunately, is a mess; it opens with a garish marching band sound that never lets up, and the instruments all sound insanely discordant.  The one other bright spot here is the quick guitar solo by Queen’s Brian May — Queen, of course, took the song to #1 back in 1980.  His involvement is a nice touch, and it’s fun to hear Diana having a good time in the studio, but this really isn’t a standout track.

***

Seeing Diana Ross back in the top 40 of the Billboard Album charts was a huge thrill for fans in 2007; after the commercial disappointments of such stellar albums as Take Me Higher and Every Day Is A New Day, the success of this project seemed not only deserved, but sorely overdue.  I Love You is not as consistent as either of those albums, but it is a nice, cohesive work that features some fine vocal performances, and a couple of absolutely stellar ones.  In some cases, the production lets her down — a few of the songs just don’t have the kind of lush, high-end feel that a legend like Diana Ross deserves — and while most of the song choices are solid, a few (“Take My Breath Away” and “This Magic Moment,” I’m looking at you…) just seem like total throw-aways.  But the great news is that these faults don’t sink the album — the bright spots here are so bright that they elevate this album to being an essential part of her discography.

Final Analysis:  4/5 (A “Lovely” Album)

Choice Cuts:  “Always And Forever,” “More Today Than Yesterday,” “What About Love”

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Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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55 Responses to I Love You (2007)

  1. Lawrence says:

    I remember seeing this tour in LA, and Diana added some extra songs to the set! Unlike other spots not the tour, she performed “What About Love”, in addition to “The Look of Love”, “I Love You”, “More Today than Yesterday”, and even “If we hold on Together” (an earlier single). At the end of the concert, she revealed her father had died that morning, so she changed the show a bit and was very emotional that night.

    I agree, “What about Love” is one of the best songs she has ever recorded. I don’t know why there wasn’t a push for a Grammy. (Just like “Missing You” , which somehow also failed to get a nomination) I also adore “Always and Forever”, and “More Today” could have been a big AC hit with more push to radio.

    I called Manhattan Records at the time, and I asked why there wasn’t an official single. But they seemed proud of the fact that there was no single. I guess they were pushing the album as a whole, but in today’s iTunes market, a single would have been a wise choice.

    Anyway, I agree there are a couple of clunkers here (although I enjoy listening to Diana sing back-up for herself on “Take my Breath Away!), but for the most part, this is a beautiful addition to her catalogue. “To Be Loved” and “I Will” are quite powerful too, and I felt that if Clive Davis had signed her at the time, this would have been as big (or bigger) as the Rod Stewart albums of standards.

    Let’s hope this success of “I Love You” means we finally get a CD of new material soon!

    • Joe Quintana says:

      I think what upset me about this album was the production. I prefer live orchestration, and a lush one too, where Ms. Ross’ voice soars above it. While the song choices could have been beautiful interpretations, I found them to be of low quality elevator music. I agree that “Always and Forever” is a high point, and I’d love to see more work, naturally, but with better production.

      • Paul says:

        Joe — I agree on certain songs, absolutely — there is a cheapness about some of the productions here that sink them. But for me, overall, Diana’s performances carry the album above any other faults — she is engaged and in full-voice, sounding SO MUCH BETTER than many of her contemporaries do at this point in their lives!

      • Tony says:

        Bang on Joe! Her voice is lovely. She can sing. It is all very nice. But the production is cheap and kareoki sounding. I do love her rendition of “what about Love”. I think it really is the only song that can be considered a piece of art on this album.

    • Paul says:

      I believe when I saw her (twice on this tour), she only performed “I Love You” from this album. I wish she’d included the songs you mentioned! She did sound wonderful on the title track, though, and I loved the way she and her background singers did kind of an “a capella breakdown” of it at the end of the show.

      So weird about Mahattan and its response. I truly believe “Always And Forever” needed to have been serviced to Adult R&B Radio — and “More Today…” or “I Love You” also could have gotten some play, too. I think “Always And Forever” could have found a strong audience on Classic Soul and Adult R&B stations — the kind that feature new work by Charlie WIlson and Lalah Hathaway among others.

      • Lawrence says:

        You should have seen the concert with me. My friend Bill was shocked she added those extras, but then remembered every time I’ve seen her in concert, she somehow adds others. Even this last tour, she did the full MJ tribute too, but then she cut that later in the tour. It’s probably because it’s LA – but I am happy to take full credit for the bonus songs! 🙂

      • Paul says:

        Lol…Lawrence — you take all the credit you want to 🙂 She did a fabulous a capella “Amazing Grace” in the Melbourne, FL show I saw…but I believe that was the only “extra” — the lineup in Orlando on that tour was also pretty standard. BUT…they were both great shows!

  2. markus says:

    I honestly think this was one of your best reviews, Paul. A balanced and thoughtful approach to each song, and I think you nailed them all.
    I had mixed feelings when this album came out (the biggest negative was the artwork- WHY would Diana use photos that were two decades old for both the front AND the back of the CD? I can think of several other photo sessions- even dating back to the 90’s- that many people didnt not see, and they would’ve been less jarring, but c’est la vie). Fortunately the album itself had much to recommend.

    “Remember” is gorgeous and wistful- I recall my first hearing the moment early on when she says “close your eyes…” I had heard Diana’s voice so fleetingly in the last 8 years that the deepened, mature tones took me by surprise. But in the grand scheme of things I guess this is where Diana Ross’ voice WOULD be at this stage in the game, wiser and seasoned by the years. I was immediately taken with it.
    “More Today Than Yesterday” was a slight disappointment on first listen- not because of Diana, whose vocal is as joyous and rousing as ever- it was the strangely unimaginative production. The horn section sounds like it was programmed and then layered- indeed, there’s no credit for them in the liner notes. But with repeated listens you’re able to get past that and appreciate the sheer exuberance of the vocal. My mother- who is not a big fan of Ross- heard it and went nuts for it! (the original was one of her favorite songs as a teenager) “Wow, she did a good job on that”, I recall her saying.

    For me “I Want You” was one of the real standouts. Steve Tyrell- not exactly the most revolutionary of producers- manages to craft an agreeably funky, sensuous arrangement, and Diana is more than up to the task. Interestingly many of her adlibs- especially later in the song- directly reference Marvin’s on the original recording, but do not sound derivative at all. She’s totally invested here, and when she starts those wailing notes that Paul mentioned late in the song, LOOK OUT! Love it.
    I must confess that I usually skip over “I Love You”. Again, Diana’s not the issue- her voice is probably more clear and precise on this song than anywhere else on the album- but the song is so banal it just doesnt capture my interest.

    That wistful, mature tone reappears on “What About Love”, another standout. I remember people saying she MUST have recorded this as a nod to her friend Oprah, who was prodcuing the musical version of The Color Purple. Apparently they weren’t aware (or had forgotten) that Diana had worked with Brenda Russell multiple times in the past, and it’s likely a case that she heard what she accurately recognized was a great song. The part that grabbed me was in the 1st verse, when Diana sings “love’s the one thing I know all about…”, simply amazing. Here you have a legendary vocalist giving a master class. And I know some of the reviews noted the slow tempo of much of the album, but here the tender lyric totally warrants its’ slow burn.
    Despite the many covers of “The Look of Love” the song here doesnt seem nearly as saturated as, say, “You Are So Beautiful”. Dusty Springfield’s original is still the definitive, but Diana’s cover is a welcome, comfortable take on one Bacharach/David’s most carnal compositions. The sexy latin guitar intro lends a bit of originality to it, as well.
    I think we can say exactly the same for “Lovely Day”- it’s been oft-covered and this version doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s as warm and soothing as a delicious cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. And bravo, Paul, for recognizing one of its virtues being the gorgeous backup vocals Diana herself provides.
    While I’m not a big fan of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” in this hyped-up, manic version…I can’t imagine who thought it would be a better idea to include “Take My Breath Away” on the US release. “Take My Breath Away” is a great song, but I would think doing an engaging remake would be a challenge. The Casio keyboard production sinks this (did Peter Asher do this? I don’t have the US credits handy), and Diana seems defeated. She sounds like she’s battling uphill through the intricately worded verses. Because of this song, I usually pop in my import version instead of the US release; for all its flaws, “Crazy Little Thing” at least has a fun vocal from Diana.

    A lot of people were put off by “Only You”, and I don’t understand why. The original wasn’t exactly a club stomper (even for the 50’s); when you think about it, they didn’t slow it down THAT much, and I think Tyrell actually pulls together a very appealing Quiet Storm production, not unlike the stuff Nick Martinelli or Angela Winbush would craft for R&B artists in the late 80’s. I actually don’t think the final note is really “wobbly”- it does take Diana a millisecond to find the note and nail it, but I really love it. This is one of my favorites.
    “To Be Loved” for me is the most enjoyable misfire. Diana delivers one of the best vocals on the whole album, probably the most full-throated belting she’s done in a long time. What a shame Steve Tyrell goes for the most generic, ho-hum retro doo-wop sound imaginable, right down to the noisy sax. Oh well. At least the players sound real, not programmed.
    Speaking of not sounding real, as Paul mentioned, “This Magic Moment” is another Casio keyboard nightmare. At least this time (unlike “Take My Breath Away”) Diana delivers a good performance, but it’s totally marred by the cheap production. I would think Peter Asher to be an experienced and accomplished enough producer to not allow this. It’s really, really disappointing, and a disservice to Diana.

    Asher does better on “I Will”, but that song’s strength is really in Diana’s vocal. Paul McCartney’s somewhat haunting ode to devotion from the Beatles White Album is one of the most left-field selections on the album. Here it gets a standard by-the-numbers AC production, but Diana injects such a honest yearning that it’s hard to resist. When you hear Diana say “and when, at last I find you, your song will fill the air…” the mature 62 year old Diana bumps into the Diana of yore. It’s such a sweet moment, and her emotion-fueled reading makes this another highlight (although I could’ve done without that shrill final note- give me the big final note of “Only You” any day over this! 😉 ).
    Paul, your take on “You Are So Beautiful” is perfect: for a song such as this, it’s really going to boil down to whether the listener can stomach the song itself. For her part, Diana turns in a stellar performance.
    The same can be said for “Always and Forever”, although I think that Diana’s rendering of that one merits special consideration regardless of how familiar the song is. Here the production is worlds away from the seminal R&B slow jam of Heatwave’s original, but the polite orchestration is a loving complement to Diana’s precise, masterful vocal. Once one can get past the familiarity, the song (and the album itself) reaps much greater rewards.

    Sorry for another rambling reply…Diana makes me do it. 😉

    • Paul says:

      Ha ha…ramble on, Markus 🙂 Great analysis — your description of “Take My Breath Away” is perfect — she’s definitely fighting an uphill battle on that one 🙂 I also agree that hearing Diana on “Remember” was an eye-opening experience at first; because she’d been “silent” for nearly 7 years, her voice seems more aged than it would have had we heard the transition happen over those years. But the deeper, seasoned tones really are beautiful and, as you say, where she should be — and she sounds so much better than so many of her contemporaries, who truly sound “worn out” these days.

    • Tony says:

      I love your ramble ! When all is said and done, this production is cheap and the album fades away over time for me. There are some good moments. These moments serve to remind us that there is an amazing voice in Diana Ross. This album is lovely, but Diana is expected to be supreme, sensational, mesmerizing and breathtaking in her delivery / interpretation of a song. Here she is just …. Lovely. NOT ENOUGH to be just lovely.

  3. ejluther says:

    Another wonderful review, Paul – I LOVE YOU is a wonderful statement from an artist who’s both honestly and romantically looking backward at a life more than worthy of reflection and introspection. Speaking of reflection, I can honestly say that your reviews have made this hardcore Diana Ross fan appreciate and love her work even more than I did before…thank you for that. And since I LOVE YOU is Diana’s last studio recording (at least for now) thanks again for all the wonderful hard work and I hope this doesn’t mean it’s all over…

    • Paul says:

      Thanks! Doing this “project” has been such a pleasure. And there will be more next week…we still have another full album released after this one — “To The Baby”!!!

  4. Antje says:

    I really don’t know what to think about this album. What comes into my mind first is the “cheap” production. As I commented earlier, the moment you get hooked e.g. on the electronic bongos on “I want you”, this outstanding recording loses a lot of it’s appeal. How proudly did she emphasize before going on tour with “MTTY” that the band would include “real strings and real horns” – let’s hope for the better with her album to come. Yes, there are marvelous renditions on this album, but for me, altogether, it is hit or miss – more misses, though.
    And didn’t DR always claim to be in charge? She is the executive producer for this album as well. So the blame of including the mediocre songs you pointed to, Paul, goes to her. And we havn’t discussed the dvd so far. Next to the cover (by the way, the booklet for the “MTTY” tour included old footage as well), this is another strange inclusion. What was the intention??? It’s like a project not taken to the end.

    As we have come to a point of closure now, Paul, let me thank you so much for reminding all of us what an exceptional singer Diana Ross is. You tirelessly worked your way thru her musical oeuvre with a loving yet critical approach. Furthermore, you gave us a stage enabling us to share our thougths on her music, of which I really feel privileged being a part of. And I very much appreciate that everyone of us got an individual reply from you. Keep on keeping on with the hidden gems and supreme stuff, please!

    More than a hundred of Diana’s songs I could play to death without ever getting tired of listening to. Because of her versatility, she has a song for every occasion, as someone once put it, and for every mood. And as I took from our discussion, her music did not help only me thru difficult times in our lives. It was far beyond my imagination, how much somebody’s music would mean to me. Her voice is truly unique; I bless the day Berry Gordy realized it. There had to be set-backs, considering her enormous output. Sometimes her recordings sounded like a waste of talent, sometimes less would have been more … But bottomline: We have been enjoying her magic for almost 50 years. How many contemporary artists could claim her achievements for themselves and impact on people over such a long time, spanning from generation to generation? Not to mention her “paving the way” as a black woman in the U.S.,starting with the Supremes’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 -something we in Europe too often are not even aware of.

  5. Antje says:

    I forgot to make a remark on her matured voice – BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING, especially live.

    • Tony says:

      I have to say I agree. Her voice at this stage of her life is rich and emotive. I think there is room for exploring new tones and styles. The deep raspy tone is delicious. I want to hear Diana with Kieth Jarrett.

      • Paul says:

        What an AMAZING idea — Diana and Keith!

      • Tony says:

        A little off topic ….but I also want to hear her with George Michael. STOP LAUGHING. I CAN HEAR YOU. But listen to his version of You’ve Changed and hers together. I’m telling you….it’s Haunting.

  6. I’m still slightly at a loss with this album. I really love some tracks ‘More Today Than Yesterday’, ‘I Want You’, ‘I Remember’ & ‘I Love You (That’s All That Really Maters)’. The actual vocals through most of the record are great & very much in keeping with what I love in Miss Ross as a performer.

    I think my main challenge is the song selection with tracks like ‘Take My Breath Away’, ‘The Look of Love’ (Anita Baker does an amazing re-interpretation of this song on her ‘Rhythm of Love LP, actually a really similar (perhaps more cohesive & successful) concept as an album as this release by Diana) & ‘You Are So Beautiful’ that have been covered by any number of MOR artists over the decades that I’m unsure what Diana could possibly add to them. I simply find so many of the ‘classic’ love song choices here are less than stellar.

    There are any number of artists who reach the latter part of their career and release this kind of covers project and, I’m unsure I required one from Miss Ross. As one critic I have since read wrote that it is on ‘I Love You (That’s All That Really Maters)’ where Diana really shines as the only original composition and he wished that the album had been more original music. I kind of agree. For me for example ‘This Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ is the poster child for the most unnecessary cover of all time (my release has two versions of this track one with & one without Brian May plus Take My Breath Away…oh joy!). In all the songbooks in all the world there must have been better song choices to be made?

    I agree, many of the productions are simply appalling & in stark contrast to the spirited performances given by Miss Ross which for me create a really difficult listening experience. They are often “Chocolate Box” in style reminding me of English productions made through the Eighties for the likes of Shirley Bassey or Elaine Paige. Lazy & electronic.

    It’s a shame as I loved the appearances made to promote the album with Diana clearly loving having the opportunity to perform in prime time and having a ball while doing it.

    As stated there are some lovely performances, that said it is not a favorite.

    • Paul says:

      Julius — I think you’re right in saying that song selection really is one of the big issues with this project. I’d love to hear Diana say why she chose some of the songs here, like “Take My Breath Away” and “You Are So Beautiful.” Had she narrowed the focus even more — Motown love songs, 70s soul love songs, or something — it probably would have made more sense overall. Personally, being that Smokey Robinson is still recording and releasing albums, I’d love for them to team up on an entire project!

      • I think that is exactly it, if perhaps there had been a focus it would have been a more cohesive project. It wold be interesting to have Smokey & Lady Supreme finally work together on an entire project (so much history ;-)). Miss Ross always plays well with others.

      • spookyelectric says:

        Personally I don’t have an issue with the song selection – though there are certainly a few that would strengthen the album is they were left off (‘This Magic Moment’ for sure) but I do know what you mean about focus. The title track always seemed out of place to me – it occurs to that her take on Carole King’s ‘Goin’ Back’ (which she recorded as a one-off UK single in 2001) would have worked much better. Bit she’d already been there, done that. The lyric’s really in keeping with the wistful tone of much of the album – even if the big gospel choir and orchestra Guy Chambers’ production is at odds with the direction she ended up going.

        I remember my heart sinking a little when I first read the track list and saw she’d done ‘Always And Forever’ and ‘Lovely Day’ though – both of those had been done to death (interestingly both of them by Luther in the decade before this release). I guess the money men wanted some more obvious tunes included. But having said that, I really enjoy her versions – especially love her work on the outro of ‘Always’ – she’s at her most soulful and enjoying it, you can tell.

        Really love the almost left-field choice of a little-known Nilsson tune to open and close the album too. Maybe a couple more curveballs like that would have been nice.

        Oh, and another favourite moment I don’t think anyone’s mentioned yet: the stunning monologue section in the middle of ‘Only You’. A classic Diana move beautifully executed (those great coo-ing and sighing backgrounds!) – her best one since ‘Missing You’ dare I say!

  7. wayne2710 says:

    No big surprise reading some of the comments here, and I agree with nearly all that’s been said. Too many tracks, bewildering packaging. The high points are stellar – What About Love, Remember, MTTY, and then the low points so low as to tarnish the project completely.Take My Breath Away, thanks Diana that one did just that, but not in a good way, and Crazy Little Thing, so awful as to be almost laughable. On the other hand, What About Love is so incredible it deserves to be included in a project all on it’s own.
    Not sure if I’m looking forward to more new stuff from her, not if it’s like this anyway. I’m really enjoying the remastering of her glory days by Hip-O to really need anything new from her.

    • Paul says:

      I don’t agree that the low points are low enough to ruin this project — the bad ones are bad…but I think the good outweighs it here, still making the album a worthy addition to her catalog. I do agree, though, that the Hip-O releases are as exciting as any other “new” material from Miss Ross, and I’m so thankful we’re getting so much of that! Whenever Miss Ross decides to release a new CD, I’ll be excited to hear it — but until then, hearing some “hidden gems” from her earlier days is satisfying enough.

    • Tony says:

      I am so enjoying the remastering as well. It’s like rediscovering her voice all over again. The next review in a way is going address that remastering. For the Baby will be interesting to hear about and review.

  8. spookyelectric says:

    I remember being very sceptical of this album when it was first released – the recycled artwork (that’s the same session as the ‘Chain Reaction’ sleeve right?), the hackneyed ‘covers’ route, that ever-so-slightly batty DVD, the cheesy Hallmark greeting card title. All the superficial reasons.

    But I must say it only took a few listens not just to appreciate it, but truly love it. For me, it’s one of her few albums since the 80s that I return to again and again. People commented about hearing a new, deepening emotional connection in her approach on the ‘New Day’ album. On this, that connection that’s more evident that ever. In its best moments there’s a starkness and honesty in her vocals that I’ve rarely hear before – and that’s quite something when you’ve been listening to someone all your life!

    Paul and Markus, you pretty much nail the detail with your well-informed commentaries. I agree there are more than a few limitations when it comes to the production, of course. I imagine there were budget restraints – proper orchestration and ‘real’ instruments would improve the sound vastly. And yes, there are 3 or 4 weak spots that would have been best left on the shelf. (Having the UK version I didn’t even know about the Berlin tune till last year). But none of that diminishes Diana’s work here. She really is on top of her game.

    Billie Holiday’s ‘Lady In Satin’ album is often cited as a prime example of a maturing vocalist losing her range in her later years but gaining a new depth informed by years of experience. It might sound over the top – but on the key moments on this album, certainly ‘What About Love’ – I really think the same applies here. What’s so impressive about ‘mature’ Ross additionally, is that alongside that deepening, she’s retained the youthful bell-like quality (like on ‘I Will’) she’s always possessed. I know a few people have singled out ‘Crazy Little Thing’ as a big mistake – personally I love it. I know the arrangement is bonkers, but more than it being a great little rock and roll pastiche it always bowls me over that she sounds as abandoned and joyous on this as she did on ‘Why Do Fools’ the best part of three decades earlier.

    One last thought for now. I’m thinking about all the great vocalists we’ve listened to all our lives. It occurs to me that some truly great virtuoso singers – say Aretha and Streisand – face a great challenge as they grow older as they’re often judged by their ability, or lack of, to recreate the jaw-dropping performances they were celebrated for in their youth. Funnily enough as Diana’s approach has always been about lyric, tone, feeling, it seems inevitable I suppose, that in her later years these skills would only intensify. So when we hear her we’re aware not so much what she has lost, but what she has gained.

    • Paul says:

      Spooky — I totally agree that there’s something about this album that “sneaks up” on you — I wasn’t prepared to love it, either, but I eventually fell under its spell, and it’s completely due to the heartfelt performances offered up by Miss Ross.

      I’m also glad to see someone else acknowledge what I’ve said a couple of times during this project — Diana Ross is a singer who always gives a song what she thinks it needs — no more, no less. She is concerned about the lyric and tone of the song, not about showing of her range or power. This is why her music remains timeless and why she still sounds as good today as she ever did.

    • I am in love with that final paragraph Spooky, it had me thinking overnight! Being a fan of all three artists you mentioned & really appreciating ‘Jazz Diana’ most recently, you hit the nail on the head with maturing of the Ross voice that unlike Streisand & Aretha you aren’t looking for vocal gymnastics (as glorious as these are).

      The comparison to Holiday (Lady in Satin remains one of my ‘Desert Island Discs’) is spot on, and despite my own disatisfaction with this particular record I finally have clarity on why I can listen to Miss Ross at all points of her career (in the same way I can listen to Billie Holiday’s entire catalogue). And though I can still listen to both Aretha & Barbra’s most recent recordings you can’t help but compare & contrast the maturing voice to what has gone before. 🙂

      • Tony says:

        I think this is beautifully said. You are very insightful on this. I will say Diana’s voice has matured in a more honest and authtic way than Bab,s and Aretha. I think those ladies long to sound like they once did and they reach for it. Yet Diana has simply allowed her voice to unfold In a humble way. This allows her to sound fresh yet develop a complexity and richness the others have not acquired. I hear real emotion in the mature Diana. I have not heard real emotion in Bab’s since Yentle and Aretha well…emotion is lacking at the best of times(great voice – But lacks deep emotion for me).

  9. spookyelectric says:

    Glad what I wrote struck a chord! Got to say, I wasn’t so much trying to diss Babs and Ree though – just trying to pinpoint what is so impressive about Diana on this record. I think ‘humble’ is a great word for it, Tony. I don’t think she ever exuded that particular quality before… but on tracks like ‘What About Love’ and ‘Remember’ it’s tangible enough to give you shivers, especially I think if you’ve really listened to her voice over the years. Lump in the throat time!

    Interesting fact about ‘What About Love’ – it was recorded as a duet by Patti LaBelle & Jill Scott intended for release to promote the Broadway debut of The Color Purple musical… but just kind of disappeared. I wasn’t sure if it actually ever happened – and then it appeared on the internet a few months back – the joys of youtube!!

    • Oh. My. Lord. That is great. I love both Miss Patti & Jill Scott. Such a beautiful version of the track. Their voices blend perfectly. Why is that not on a record somewhere…? Cheers for the post Spooky. 🙂

      I do hope disrespect wasn’t read to either Aretha or Barbra simply more a deep acknowledgement of Miss Ross’ enduring talent as a performer (exept my last statement does come off as kind of flippant :-(). I do find that I don’t look to the most recent recordings with either Barbra or Aretha (although I have pretty much everything either artist has done catalogue wise) when running through my iPod, the way that I can get pleasure jumping from decade to decade with Diana.

      I do wish Aretha would trust her lower register more when recording (especially her most recent outing on record Woman In Love) because when she does she sounds amazing, there isn’t the need to impress with the falsetto of yore.

      With Barbra I remain forever impressed by THAT voice (and along with Diana remains my heart singer through all of my life) but have found the studio recordings of the last few records formulaic (perhaps as Barbra executive produces them herself) whatever the theme. Making them a little same/same but different.

      This can never take away the respect I have for any of the ladies we discuss, 😀

      • spookyelectric says:

        Hi Julius. I totally get where you’re coming from about Aretha and Barbra’s recent recordings. But thinking about the current state of the music industry, it’s actually a minor miracle when any vocalist over the age of 60 gets to release new music these days!

        Streisand is one of the rare exceptions as she’s been with the same label she signed with as a teenager and consistently released top-sellers over the decades. But it’s actually quite depressing if you consider the number of legendary names that are currently without a recording contract, and/or have to go down the christmas or cover versions route to even get a one-off album deal. I’m thinking about lots of Diana’s peers – Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Roberta Flack… Even huge arena-filling stars like Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow have pretty much been consigned to the ‘covers-only’ cul-de-sac over the last decade or so.

        We’ll never know for sure what degree ‘I Love You’ fits into that scenario – but I think it’s pretty likely that mighty 8 year gap between new studio albums wouldn’t have been totally by choice. I imagine the production limitations people picked up earlier will have been due to budget restraints on the project too (orchestras don’t come cheap!). I’m not even sure if Diana has a deal now.

        Be that as it may, I’m happy ‘I Love You’ came out and ended up being such a great piece of work from Diana – there’s some really definitive vocal performances here. Fingers crossed it’s not another 8 year gap till the next one – 2015 seems a long way off! Given how great she sounded on this it would be a crime if this is her last.

    • Tonyy says:

      This is lovely. After reading my post I do sound like I was dising. I really didn’t mean it sound that harsh. I guess I just get into aggressive mod when it comes to Diana! I do agree the other 2 ladies are to completely respected They living legends as well.

  10. Spooky, thanks for the gracious response 😉

    One of the heartbreaking moments of watching Diana accept her Grammy (off camera, man was I annoyed, I know Glen Campbell isn’t well…but we couldn’t get a proper nod to Lady Supreme. Ol’ White Men that run the Grammy’s… I can’t even) was that as Miss Ross left the podium she said something like “I’m available to record new music”. Which would lead us to the conclusion that Miss Ross doesn’t have a record deal. Which is a real shame.

    I think its absolutely appalling that any number of our Diva-Statesmen are without a contract, and it is those ladies that have organized their own deals or record production companies that have the ability to record new work at their own pace (Barbra, Aretha & Dolly Parton for example). I think Barbra is the exception to most rules & the fact that all of her LP releases have at least hit Gold/Platinum status means she remains a pretty safe bet on recording whatever it is she feels like (if this wasn’t the case I would think Streisand would be in the same place as the artists we have mentioned).

    It is the always & forever focus on youth & the Billboard (and now iTunes) 100 chart, that means no matter the success of individual releases are it will be an uphill battle to gain a long term contract from any of the big houses. (Look at how Island/DefJam has almost become an oasis for any number of RnB divas Mariah Carey (before returning to Sony at the end of 2012), Kelly Rowland & JLo have all found a home there post cancelled contracts, and career right off). Even Ashanti has had to go off & form her own production house to be able to release her next record, Toni Braxton also remains without a deal.

    It shows how short sighted most record execs are that there isn’t a place for our Diva-Host to play & record despite individual successes of their “most recent” works.

    Even Mariah is finding this time round at the charts ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ is receiving a mixed response from critics as to it’s success (and she is only in her 40s). There is simply too much glee at what is being percieved as a misstep by the music press (despite the consistency of Mariah’s product, releasing on multiple platforms & fan response).

    It seems legacy & overall sales mean little to main line record companies meaning so many of our ladies currently don’t have a musical home which is shameful for both their careers & legion of fans.

    Anyone want to launch a record company with me?

  11. Michael Coleman says:

    Another great review….although it prompted me to pull the CD back out and listen to “This Magic Moment”…and I’ve bopped around the house for the last half-hour to it! This is one of her best albums, and how fitting that she may be (VERY sadly) closing her recording career with it. I got to meet her in April of 2007 after one of her performances during this tour, and I’ll never, ever forget it. THANK YOU Miss Ross for over 30 years of great memories for me — I found you in 1978 in The Wiz, and have been with you ever since!

    • I do absolutely respect your thoughts. But that there isn’t the same opportunities for Miss Ross to record as frequently doesn’t necessarily mean that her recording career is finished. The very fact that the ‘I Love You’ record was made outside of the usual channels & was a strong seller, means there are ways to get our Divas in the recording studio. Diana has voiced her desire to keep recording, and though this is a challenge faced by so many music legends, can we not count our Miss Ross out quite yet?

    • Paul says:

      Michael — wow — what was meeting Miss Ross like??? Not sure I’d be able to speak 🙂

  12. Piotrek says:

    With this album Diana Ross joined the club of former superstars that record cover albums. Rod Stewart’s success must have inspired Diana and legions of other artists to follow this route. I remember waiting impatiently for the release of this album but when it hit the stores I found it to be the weakest album of her entire career. I own many “cover projects” by different artists but “I Love You” is simply soulless and dull. With a little bit of imagination and creativity artist can make great cover album (see Cyndi Lauper’s “At last”, Linda Ronstadt’s “Hummin’ To Myself”, Bryan Ferry’s “As Time Goes By”) but sadly this is not the case with “I Love You”. I would love to hear Diana going beyond the Adult Contemporary schmaltz and doing something more sophisticated. What about Miss Ross being accompanied only by piano and guitar? The results would have been great. But we got what we got…”This Magic Moment” is probably the worst piece of music she has ever recorded. Truly awful, throw-away version. The same can be said about “Only You”, “This Thing Called Love” and “Remember”. The only song that recoups the purchase of the album is “What About Love”-really outstanding track with top notch performance from Diana Ross. The rest is silence…

  13. Eric says:

    I’m not a huge fan of cover songs but this album is decent! Not gonna hate too much!
    I just remember her performance on American idol (I hate that show – only watched it for her!) and I love how much Paula Abdul got into the performance!!

    I want a new album from ms ross! A neo-soul record? No boring ballads!

  14. Eric says:

    Does anybody hear lots of Xmas -music elements in this album? “Always and forever” could be player at Macy’s dec-21 and fit in perfectly

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  17. davidh says:

    just wanted to drop u a line and tell you that I am rediscovering this album because of you. I like it better now and I seem to like most of the songs you mentioned and dislike the same songs for the same reason.my only request would have been to add RIBBON IN THE SKY in place of one of the duds. hated the cover art.

    • Paul says:

      Glad you’re rediscovering this great work! I agree — “Ribbon…” would have been a GREAT addition. And that cover! Yes, it was a very weird choice, and just seemed kinda lazy!

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  22. TouchMe says:

    This album is a bit like meeting a very sexy man, then being let down by the fact that he’s a dud in bed. It’s his move! Honestly, we waited several YEARS for any new material by the queen–and we get covers? I get they meant something to her, that’s wonderful, but she has ALWAYS excelled at original material.

    I can think of 100 nice things to say about this album: good song selection, some beautiful instrumentation, etc..but do I ever listen to any of the album? No. And i listen to Ross a LOT.

    I was most let down by “I Want You”-it’s awesome and a let down at the same time. I like the overall “FEEL” to the song, but it’s just not quite there. A bit safe? A bit cheaply done? Wrong producer? I feel Diana, who oozes sensuality, soul, and depth, could’ve done so much more with this song! It’s such a catchy tune, and here it just seems…phoned in!

    • Paul says:

      You are cracking me up with this! I don’t quite agree on “I Want You” — I like Diana’s take — it’s definitely a less-sexy verson, but it’s a tribute to her late brother, which I think influences her reading. Were it as sensual as, say, “Love Hangover” it might have felt a little odd, given the familial context. It would still be nice to hear new material from Diana, and who knows…maybe we will 🙂

  23. Pingback: A Bit Of Liverpool (1964) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

  24. benjaminblue says:

    Your assessment of this album is well-balanced and fair. Like many others, initially I found it to be a huge disappointment, although perhaps our expectations (shaped by her unmistakable progress in the 1960s and 1970s) were impossible to meet, and like many others, I dismissed it almost immediately, as the sound seemed unlistenable to those of us who were fascinated by the freshness of her earlier work, whether it was classic Motown, a foray into the standards or an unexpected experiment in the evolving sound of the day.

    Truthfully, in her final few Motown albums, Diana had already succumbed to the numbing dullness of the pointless “music” of the 1990s, with preprogrammed backing that seemed interchangeable from song to song and from artist to artist; the material was unimaginative and had no particular form or purpose; there was nothing memorable about the tunes or most of the lyrics, and the cuts often lasted for five minutes when the message, such as it was, could have been told in two or three minutes. For the most part, a singer’s voice was secondary, buried in the mix; the producers often cared only about getting something catchy in the mechanical, repetitive, noise that purported to be the work of “musicians” rather than computers.

    However, when I returned to the album years later, I found it to be not so bad and, in fact, impressive.

    The first realization came when I turned the volume down. For the most part, the background din was diminished, while Diana’s distinctive voice and her interpretive skills remained on full display. Yes, her voice had changed, but its maturity heightened the impact of the better songs. It’s good that she does occasional backgrounds, also, to reinforce the meaning of certain feelings she expresses. And thankfully, she had stopped using both the frail whisperings and, alternately, the whooping shouts and screams that had been painful to hear, flawing some of her work in the 1980s and 1990s.

    The second bit of understanding and appreciation for this album came when I analyzed the sequencing, which was off-putting. It was wrong to start the album with “Remember,” as that contributed a distancing effect and failed to involve the listener. She was simply remembering, in a rather random, unengaging, fashion, various moments in her life. The material was a meaningless pile of photos, rather than the story of a life well-lived presented in a cohesive, curated photo album. (Diana wrote in the liner notes that her family photo albums were the inspiration for this collection; presumably, those albums are more structured than this set.)

    To be sure, this album, as well, would have benefitted from careful editing. Several songs, in particular, “This Thing Called Love,” which was too jarring for inclusion here and would have fit better in the Take Me Higher album or some other project, could or should have been eliminated.

    That said, when I reimagined the sequencing, I came up with a plotline that has more flow, one I think people would find more compelling and vibrant. Here it is:

    First, there is flirtation and desire (“Take My Breath Away,” “I Want You) and she sketches out her idea of what the relationship could entail (“What About Love,” “To Be Loved”). Next, when her intended beau or paramour seems disinterested, she pragmatically concludes that maybe it is enough that she feels something, even if he doesn’t (“I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters)”). Seeing a flicker of possibility (“The Look Of Love”) she happily enters into an affair (“Lovely Day,” “You Are So Beautiful,” “Only You,” “I Will,” “More Today Than Yesterday”) and is ecstatic when her love seems to be reciprocated (“When You Tell Me That You Love Me” with Westlife, “This Magic Moment,” “Always And Forever”). Then comes the inevitable moment when she perceives that she has misinterpreted his ardor (“I Thought That We Were Still In Love” or a similar transitional ballad should have been included to make this bridge work) and finally, older but wiser, she gets beyond disillusion and becomes determined to live on, her lessons learned (“Remember,” “Going Back”).

    Try listening to the material in this sequence and see if it doesn’t seem to be a powerful memoir-in-progress of a woman moving toward the autumn of her life.

    • Paul says:

      Hey! Great analysis and I love your new sequence. For me, the biggest issue with I LOVE YOU is the production. As you say, there’s a dullness and a generic quality to many of the tracks. But Diana’s vocal work is stellar — she’s fully engaged here, and her voice, for me, retains all the qualities that made it world-famous in the first place. I don’t love “Remember” as the album’s opener — I agree that there’s a distancing effect from it. I also with there would have been one more uptempo, something on-par with “More Today Than Yesterday” — to help add a bit more variety. I’ll make a playlist with your sequence and see how it flows!

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