I Love You (2007)

“I love you, and that’s all that really matters…”

New Diana Ross Album To Get U.S. Release, blazed a Billboard headline on December 13, 2006, heralding this news: “Diana Ross’ first new studio album in more than seven years, ‘I Love You,’ will arrive Jan. 16 in the United States via Manhattan/EMI. The 15-track set is already available abroad; it will also be sold domestically in a CD/DVD edition featuring behind-the-scenes studio footage and a photo gallery.”  Although many fans had already purchased the album as an import in the wake of its international release in the fall of 2006, this was particularly exciting news considering the lengthy wait between studio albums; as noted in the article, Ross hadn’t released a new studio album since 1999’s Every Day Is A New Day on Motown; with the exception of a few collaborations with other artists (the Top 20 Adult Contemporary duet “I’ve Got A Crush On You” with Rod Stewart and “When You Tell Me That You Love Me,” a remake of her 1991 #2 UK hit, this time performed with the group Westlife), Diana’s recording career had pretty much ceased to exist in the new millennium.

According to Miss Ross, the idea of a new album came from a need to express herself through music.  She told television host Martha Stewart in 2007, “I was actually in one of those moods where I was going through baby pictures and remembering, and I was just saying, ‘I want to do a CD and just be reminded to tell the people while they’re here with us, to tell them that I love them.”  Her concept was to record an album of positive, uplifting love songs, and she ended up choosing more than a dozen to cover, ranging from big hits to more obscure tunes.  Two in particular bore personal connection to the singer; Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” had been co-written by Diana’s late brother Arthur “T-Boy” Ross, and “To Be Loved” was an early writing effort by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.  To help craft the collection, Miss Ross turned back to producer Peter Asher, who’d helmed several tracks on her 1991 effort The Force Behind The Power; Steve Tyrell (who’d produced the 2005 Rod Stewart duet) also came on board to produce several tracks.  Diana’s friend Marylata E. Jacob served as co-executive producer with Miss Ross, and her background singer Fred White wrote the album’s title track, it’s only original composition.

Billboard: February 3, 2007

Although she’d enjoyed unprecedented success since the 1960s, Diana Ross had struggled to find an audience in the United States following her return to Motown Records in 1988; although she’d had success on the R&B, dance, and Adult Contemporary charts, her standing as a viable pop star had slipped considerably.  But there were signs that the American public was ready to welcome back the legendary entertainer, particularly with the success of Blue, a long-shelved jazz album which was finally released in 2006 to universal acclaim and strong sales.  Ross was also back in the public consciousness thanks to the release of Dreamgirls, a big-budget release based on the 1981 Broadway music inspired by the story of The Supremes.  So even though Ross wasn’t currently signed to a record contract in her home country, Manhattan Records made a deal to distribute the record domestically following its release by EMI in Europe.  That deal paid off handsomely; following the January 2007 release of I Love You, a Manhattan/EMI Music Marketing press release 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.”

Seeing Diana’s name back in the upper reaches of both the Billboard 200 and the R&B Albums chart was immensely satisfying to fans; the showings were her best since 1984’s Swept Away in 1984.  Although reviews were mixed for Diana’s latest effort, critics were mainly enthusiastic about the quality of the singer’s voice; in a spotlight review, Billboard wrote, “The distinctive voice that fronted many of the Supremes’ memorable hits is still in force, more pleasingly nuanced and seasoned than in the group’s early days.”  Most of the criticism was aimed at the song choice and production; admittedly, most of the tunes have been covered dozens of times, and the production here certainly doesn’t break any new ground, with instrumental tracks that often sound generic.  But on the very best cuts, Diana Ross offers undeniable proof of her singular talent; there are moments here as good as anything she’d ever done in her nearly 50-year career as a professional singer.  When a vocalist as accomplished and sophisticated as Diana Ross lends her supple voice to a standout song like “Always And Forever,” the results are pure magic.

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1.  Remember:  “I was at home listening to a song, ‘Remember’ by Harry Nilsson, while looking through a family photo album.  I became inspired to record a new record of love songs with a positive message,” says Diana in a promotional video clip for I Love You; thus, the singer’s album opens with that song.  “Remember” was actually titled “Remember (Christmas)” on Nilsson’s 1972 album Son Of Schmilsson, produced by Diana’s friend and future collaborator, Richard Perry; released as a single by Nilsson, the song peaked at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of 1973.  This isn’t the first time Ross had covered Nilsson; she memorably devoted an entire segment of her one-woman Broadway show, An Evening With Diana Ross, to songs from his album The Point! back in 1976.  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 “Remember/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 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 producer Peter Asher creates with the instrumental track is very effective and successful.

2.  More Today Than Yesterday:  “I had remembered ‘More Today Than Yesterday’ from the 60s.  It had a great, upbeat vibe and it always made me smile,” says Diana in the album’s promotional video about this song, a #12 hit for Spiral Staircase in 1969.  It was recorded and released by a few other artists that year, too, including Barbara McNair and Andy Williams with The Osmond Brothers, and has been covered by dozens of artists since.  Produced by Steve Tyrell as a brassy, big-band celebration, Diana’s version stands among the very best renditions of the tune; it’s a fabulous recording, as bouncy and joyful as anything Miss Ross had recorded in years.  Tyrell’s production is actually quite similar to that of the Spiral Staircase original, taking 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 fit 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 before erupting into the powerful refrain, during which she literally shouts with joy.  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.  The song quickly became one of the singer’s favorites to perform live, and she promoted I Love You by singing “More Today Than Yesterday” on television programs including “American Idol,” “Inside The Actors Studio,” and “The Late Show With David Letterman” (the latter a particularly strong and energetic performance); it has also remained in her live act since the release of the album, and it’s always a treat to hear her sing it to appreciative audiences.  “More Today Than Yesterday” is so special because 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.

3.  I Want You:  In the promotional video for I Love You, Miss Ross explains the choice to include this #1 R&B hit from 1976: “Originally sung by Marvin Gaye, it was actually written by brother, T-Boy Ross.  Not many people know that.  It’s a very special song, so it had to be on this CD.”  Not only did Arthur “T-Boy” Ross co-write the song, he also recorded it for his only Motown album, 1979’s Changes, an album that also includes his song “To The Baby,” the title track for his sister’s long unreleased album from the early 1970s.  Sadly, 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 sensual, adult presentation, smartly retaining the disco feel of Marvin 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, harkening back to 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?” — 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.  As White explains on his website, “As I was singing this particular melody, I thought, ‘Boy does this sound like Ms. Ross…’ After listening to her over the years – as a fan as well as night after night touring with her since 2000 – the creation of this song was definitely a spiritual thing. The flow of the melody and the dictation of the lyric was a marriage…a love song sent from Heaven. The musicians on the demo session commented, ‘That is a great song. Who do you have in mind to sing it?’ Curious, I asked them who they could hear singing it and they named several artists. When I told them it was for Diana Ross, they said, ‘That’s it!’”  Because White had been backing up Diana for several years, he clearly had a keen understanding of her voice, and this song 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, a song 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 longtime fans.  The melody allows her to sing comfortably in the “middle range” of her soprano, while also stretching higher during the 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 a year earlier but recorded in the early 1970s!  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 work toward the song’s close is beautifully relaxed and intimate, as though the listener is standing in the recording booth with Miss Ross.  “I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters)” is a worthy title track, and Ross performed some lovely renditions of it on television and on tour; critics almost universally listed it as the standout track, with Billboard writing that “Ross’ vocal evolution is showcased to full effect” on the song.  It’s a shame that Manhattan Records didn’t choose to service it to Adult R&B radio stations; it certainly would have gained some spins.

Billboard: January 20, 2007

5.  What About Love:  Along with the previous track, “What About Love” was named as the album’s standout track by Billboard, which said the singer’s performance is “reminiscent of Ross’ singular turns on early solo his ‘Reach Out And Touch’ and ‘Touch Me In the Morning'” (January 20, 2017).  Indeed, this is one of the most beautiful, haunting performances of Diana’s career, and though it contains hints of those previous recordings, it’s a tune that she 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 the stunning “Let Somebody Know” to 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 vocal performances.  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; it’s hard to imagine a more honest vocal performance being released that year.

6.  The Look Of Love:  During promotional interviews for I Love You, Diana repeatedly mentioned her respect for the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David; she’d recorded many over the years, starting 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 the 1967 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 less engaged here than she has on the previous five tracks, the coolness works well for the song, giving it a remoteness that actually 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, it’s a slickly produced work that doesn’t feel tired or unnecessary, which is in itself an accomplishment.  It’s also become another favorite for the singer to perform, and remains part of her concert act as sensuous near-duet with her saxophone player.

7.  Take My Breath Away:  Diana has said that she listened to hundreds of songs before narrowing down the eventual tracklist for I Love You; one has to wonder what exactly made her choose “Take My Breath Away” amongst the many other candidates.  The song was initially recorded by the band Berlin in 1986; released as part of the Top Gun soundtrack, it ended up topping the Billboard Hot 100 and winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song.  It’s one of those recordings that is so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to listen to any other version without hearing the echoes of Berlin’s original; the recording is also so of its time, led by those big heavy synthesizers, that any other version of the song ends up sounding dated.  Thus, Miss Ross was already at a disadvantage when taking on the Giorgio Moroder-Tom Whitlock composition, and she’s not helped by Peter Asher’s rather lackluster production.  The instrumental here is a generic wash of programming, devoid of character or much life; the pace is also so plodding that the recording feels much longer than it actually is.  Unfortunately, Diana Ross doesn’t do a whole lot to liven up the proceedings; her performance is fine, but she doesn’t sound particularly inspired and her voice sounds really heavy, similar to some of her morose work on 1999’s Every Day Is A New Day.  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.  The fact that “Take My Breath Away” wasn’t included on the international EMI release of the album suggests perhaps record executives realized how weak the finished production was; overseas, this song was replaced by an energetic version of Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”  It was a wise decision; that song adds some much-needed pep to the album, while “Take My Breath Away” quite literally sucks the air out of the album.

8.  Lovely Day:  This terrific cut brings some life and lightness back to I Love You, and Diana’s reason for wanting to record it is quoted in a Manhattan/EMI press release: “This song makes me dance.  Everyone wants a lovely day.”   The song was written by the great Bill Withers and Skip Scarborough, and released as a single by Withers in late 1977 (the same year that Diana covered another Withers tune, “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” from her LP Baby It’s Me); “Lovely Day” ended up peaking at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #6 on the R&B Singles chart.  The version presented here by producer Peter Asher is cool and modern, a breath of fresh air coming on the heels of the plodding “Take Me Breath Away.”  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 the accomplished saxophone work of Brandon Fields 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 (with the repetition of the song’s title), which is a great touch and reminiscent of her early RCA work, during which she often provided her own backgrounds.  This song probably could have been serviced to smooth jazz/Adult Contemporary radio and gotten a few spins; it’s certainly hard not to sing-along with the song when it comes on.  And Diana’s ease with this song, along with her superlative version of “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh” from 1977, certainly makes a case that the singer could delve even deeper into the Withers catalog for a future project.

9.  Only You:  This is a song that, frankly, probably didn’t need another cover version; since being made famous by The Platters in the mid-1950s, it’s been recorded dozens of times, by everyone from Ringo Starr to Brenda Lee.  That said, Diana has always shown a great affinity for song of the 1950s, starting with her choice to produce and record “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” as her debut single with RCA Records in 1981 through her covers of songs like “There Goes My Baby” and “Mr. Lee” on her 1987 effort Red Hot Rhythm & Blues.  In that respect, “Only You” makes perfect sense as part of this project; this is an album of sweet nostalgia, and in the liner notes, Miss Ross writes, “‘Only You’ reminded me of a time when we’d listen to records, slow dancing with one light glowing from above.”  Clearly the intention here is to re-create that feeling, and to that end, it works; Steve Tyrell’s production is warm and cozy, with haunting background vocals and some jazzy keyboard work that keep it from becoming overly laborious, despite a tempo so slow it basically lacks a beat.  This isn’t Diana’s most successful vocal on the album, although there are some fine moments; she’s a bit too affected at times, and her final, big “You!” at 3:39 admittedly feels wobbly, but she also demonstrates a lovely smoothness in her low notes and an occasional sultriness the recalls her work from the 1970s.  Although “Only You” isn’t likely to many people’s favorite track from I Love You, it does feel like an authentic statement from the singer, a sentimental glimpse back at her exciting pre-stardom days in Detroit.

Billboard: November 5, 1994 (A full-page ad placed by Diana Ross to Berry Gordy, Jr. upon the publication of his autobiography)

10.  To Be Loved:  “‘To Be Loved’ was born on one of the worst nights of my life,” Berry Gordy, Jr. remembered in a November 5, 1994 interview with Billboard.  “I had been served that morning with divorce papers, and I went to my sister’s house in tears.  The words [to the song] came easy.”  Gordy wrote “To Be Loved” before he ever created Motown Records; at the time, he was writing songs for singer Jackie Wilson, who originally  recorded and released “To Be Loved” in 1958.  The following year, Gordy founded Tamla Records, which then became incorporated as Motown, and within a few years, Gordy’s empire would become the driving force behind popular music, launching the careers of superstars including Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and — of course — Diana Ross.  Because Ross and Gordy were linked by both a professional and intensely personal relationship, the singer’s choice to include “To Be Loved” here is especially meaningful; in 1994, Gordy had named his autobiography To Be Loved, in which he’d written candidly about his deep love for Ross, something which surprised even her (Diana, for example, never knew Gordy had written the song “Try It Baby” for her until reading his book decades later).  Producer Steve Tyrell handles “To Be Loved” here, and the arrangement is faithful to Wilson’s original version, with a shuffling “sock-hop” beat; unfortunately, Tyrell also leans a bit too far on the Easy Listening spectrum, killing any opportunity for the song to have an authentic, soulful feel.  The album’s AllMusic review unfairly points the finger toward Diana, 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 piece, as it should.  Taken on its own, this really is one of the more impressive vocals on the entire album; Miss Ross 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 shout 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:  This is one of the real gems of I Love You, a shimmering acoustic ballad that is perfect in its simplicity.  The big surprise is that it was written by Paul McCartney and recorded by The Beatles; let’s face it, Diana’s track record with Beatles material is spotty at best.  Ross recorded several McCartney-Lennon tunes while a member of The Supremes, and the results were generally pretty weak; take, for instance, the group’s work on 1964’s A Bit Over Liverpool, a rush job of an album which remains perhaps the worst of the entire Supremes discography.  Ross hadn’t fared much better with Beatles material during her solo career, but “I Will” is a sparkling exception; produced by Peter Asher, it brings a sense of gentle calm to the album.  “I Will” first appeared on the 1968 double-LP The Beatles (known by many as The White Album); its appearance here may have something to do with the fact that 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 earlier versions (in the way “Take My Breath Away” does, for example).  The arrangement here is lovely; there’s a refreshing sweetness to the sound of the 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 gone; instead, 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:  Diana Ross has often mentioned listening to The Drifters in her pre-stardom days; The Primettes (who would become The Supremes) actually sang the male group’s “There Goes My Baby” in its audition for Motown.  “This Magic Moment” was released by The Drifters in 1960, and became a significant pop and R&B hit for the group; the song was a hit again later in the decade for Jay and the Americans.  Although Ross clearly loves the nostalgia of a song like “This Magic Moment,” her recording here is one of the weakest on the album, rivaling “Take Me Breath Away” in its lack of inspiration and generic 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 vanilla, glossy backing track 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 Miss Ross on the “Sweeter than wine” sections.  The instrumental break, meanwhile, sounds like a cheap computer recreation of an actual recording, and is startling in its lack of sophistication.  Producer Peter Asher has shown great taste in many of the album’s previous sections, including “What About Love” and “Lovely Day,” but his attempt to add some personality here falls painfully flat.  The best that can be said for Miss Ross, meanwhile, is that she sounds relaxed; unfortunately, that relaxation doesn’t come across as effortless 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, but it’s certainly has never lacked in airplay.  Written and first 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 is that this 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 song’s final 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:  “‘Always And Forever’ is a classic love song for all generations.  I included it because it reaches out and speaks to not only lovers, but also to relationships of all kind,” says Miss Ross in the promotional video clip for I Love You, and the album’s final full song is a lush, stunning version of the 1977 by Heatwave.  Diana’s late friend Luther Vandross also famously recorded the song, which 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 Diana Ross: A Biography, Ross biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli writes that it “probably rates with the best of her ballad performances,” an assessment that feels entirely justified.  The arrangement here is highlighted by gorgeous violin and piano work, creating an atmospheric and luxuriant background for Miss Ross.  After her 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.  Again, Mr. Taraborrelli is on mark with his assessment; this really is a quintessential Diana Ross ballad, as perfectly suited to her voice as well-known hits like “Theme From Mahogany” and “Endless Love.”  Had it been serviced to Adult R&B and Adult Contemporary radio and given the right kind of attention, “Always And Forever” surely could have equalled the success of Diana’s duet with Rod Stewart 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.  “We did this because the album, like love, is a journey,” Diana explains in the album’s promotional video clip.

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 Than Yesterday.”  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 otherwise a standout track.

***

Billboard: February 3, 2007

Not only did I Love You debut at #32 on the Billboard 200 in the wake of its January 2007 release, it was also the “Hot Shot Debut” on the R&B Albums chart, bowing in at #16; these were easily the highest chart positions for a Ross studio album since 1984’s Swept Away, besting everything she’d released during the 1990s.  After the commercial disappointments of such stellar albums as The Force Behind The Power and Take Me Higher, the success of this project seemed not only deserved, but sorely overdue.  After so many years of battling negative publicity and unfair criticism of her talents, it seemed the public was finally giving Diana Ross her due; in the wake of the album’s release, Diana was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual BET Music Awards, and she was chosen as one of the honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007.  A few years later, in 2012, she finally got a Grammy Award, this one for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2016 she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Certainly I Love You isn’t the crowning achievement of the Ross canon; the singer is frequently let down by the production, and some of the song choices feel too obvious.  But it’s hard to complain about an album that clearly means so much to the artist behind it; her intention in creating the project was obviously an authentic need to spread some love and inspiration to her fans.  Speaking to Susan Whitall of The Detroit News in 2007, Ross said of the album, “I wanted to do songs of celebration of love, weddings, holidays, things that could be played during that time…A lot of this message of love is to the fan base that has stayed with me over the years.”  The good news is that even when the songs aren’t terribly inspiring, the singer’s vocal performances are; Miss Ross has clearly taken care of her voice, and if some of its strength is understandably diminished, it’s been replaced by a warmth and wisdom as comforting as a fuzzy blanket on a cold day.  That’s the power of Diana Ross; when she says “I love you,” she means it…and we can’t help but feel it.

Final Analysis: 3.5/5  (A Welcome “Love” Letter)

Paul’s Picks:  “Always And Forever,” “More Today Than Yesterday,” “I Love You (That’s All That Really Matters)”

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Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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62 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 🙂

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  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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  31. David Wilson says:

    This album is not her best but it certainly far from her worst! There some nice readings of well very well known songs and a couple of clunkers- but hey EVERY Diana album had at least one clunker (with maybe 3 or 4 exceptions). I’m still waiting (pun intended) for a new 2018/9 “BLUE TWO” Taking another clutch of torch/standard jazz songs in a sophisticated stripped back setting- Ms Ross with piano bass & drums or with a big band. This would be perfect for this period in her career.

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