“All I ever will recall of my life…is all of my life…with you.”
The 2008 Hip-O Select reissue of Everything Is Everything gave fans a new opportunity to discover Diana Ross’s second solo LP. The 1970 album was something of a “lost” work, considering it didn’t produce any major US hits and came out mere months after her solo debut, which had featured the #1 “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and thus stole most of the attention. While there’s no doubt Everything Is Everything is an uneven album, it does feature some stellar collaborations between Miss Ross and producer Deke Richards, including the UK #1 “I’m Still Waiting” and the sublime, Grammy-nominated “I Love You (Call Me).”
Though Richards comments in the re-release liner notes that he was scrambling to get the LP together (“…all I remember is Berry [Gordy] said he wanted something different. Problem was he wanted it yesterday”), he did end up leaving at least three tracks off of the final lineup. One is a song he’d written himself, “Wish I Knew,” a tune he’d previously cut on Diana in the late 1960s as a possible Supremes release. The other two were popular tunes at the time; “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” is the Oscar-nominated theme to the 1969 film The Happy Ending, and “Something” is a George Harrison-penned Beatles song that topped the charts in 1969, as well. All three sat in the vaults for years, until the Hip-O reissue of Everything Is Everything finally brought them to the public.
It’s not clear why the three were left in the vaults; incredibly, all three would have been good additions to the original 1970 album lineup — in some cases, even stronger than the songs that ended up being included on the LP. “Wish I Knew” is a totally bizarre song, but it’s at least more memorable than the Richards composition “How About You” (track 10 on Everything…) and both the covers are far superior to “The Long And Winding Road,” the Beatles cover that did make the cut. Of the three, “What Are You Doing…” stands as the best; it really is an unearthed treasure that’s an exhilarating listen and a classic Ross ballad performance. But all three songs are worthy listens and display two talented artists working to make some classics.
1. Wish I Knew: In the liner notes to the Everything Is Everything CD, Deke Richards notes that his recording of “Wish I Knew” (again, the second time he’d cut it on Diana) was in “humble tribute” to songwriter Burt Bacharach, who he’d wanted to write a song for Diana. The odd song structure is certainly reminiscent of some of Bacharach’s work, and there’s a definite “late 60s/early 70s pop” sound here. That said, the instrumental is almost more like something you’d hear in a Spaghetti Western film; it’s easy to imagine Ennio Morricone coming up with the dramatic “duh-duh-duh” breaks and the bizarre background rattle noises. Even the quick guitar work on the instrumental breaks sounds like a meshing of European and American Old West musical styles, as does the eerie organ which ends up accompanying Diana toward the middle of the track. As crazily grandiose as the track is, Miss Ross herself is amazing retrained; this is a simple and straightforward as she’s ever sounded on her work from the dawn of the 70s, a time when she was often given to soaring ad-libs, yelps, and even some screeches. She sounds almost childlike during the first minute of the song (before the sudden instrumental break), forcing a “smallness” in her voice that works well, especially as she opens up a bit around :38, singing the song’s title with a bit of breathy sexiness. However, the instrumental break prepares the listener for something more vocally than Diana ever delivers; she comes back about 20 seconds later with the same childlike performance, and doesn’t really vary her tone much despite the stuttering musical track behind her (the sudden stops between each refrain do get to be a little much). Though this is not really a great performance by Diana (though, to be fair, this may have been only a “scratch” vocal for her — who knows how it might have changed that Richards decided to include it on the LP) and the song isn’t really great, either, it does have a very memorable hook, something that some of the songs on Everything Is Everything don’t have at all.
2. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?: This is one of those great cases of a singer being paired with a song perfect for him/her; this romantic ballad could have been written for Diana Ross, such is the hand-in-glove fit of the melody and lyrics to her dreamy, sensitive performance. Interestingly, the music was written by Michel Legrand, who also composed the love theme to Diana’s 1972 film debut Lady Sings The Blues, so perhaps it makes sense that this song seems tailor-made for her. The melody is a challenging one, with a unique run of notes on the opening words, “What are you doing the rest of your life?” — Diana nails them, her voice almost haunting in its breathiness, and her delivery continues pitch-perfectly through the opening verse, which ends with some lovely (and rare for the time) low notes on “…all with me.” There is a beautiful, genuine wistfulness to her work here; listen her starting at 50 seconds in, as she sings the lyrics, “…times of your days, all the nickels and the dimes of your days…let the reasons and rhymes of your days…” — there seems to be an entire story playing on top of the words here, a passion laid out through Miss Ross’s phrasing the way she lingers on certain words and brushes by other. This is her interpretive gift at its best, and played to a different effect than on many of her later ballads like “Touch Me In The Morning” and “Theme From Mahogany,” on which her voice sounds much more polished and her emotions far more restrained. There is no denying that Miss Ross’s approach to singing changed after 1972’s Lady Sings The Blues, and became less dramatic and showy (something that really wouldn’t return to her performances until 1978’s The Wiz soundtrack); therefore, this is really one of the few ballads from 1970-1971 that display her really “going for it” (something also audible on early ballads like “I Wouldn’t Change The Man He Is” and “All The Befores”). Diana is helped immensely by the sexy, torchy production of Deke Richards; the instrumental is sublime, with swirling strings and a slinky piano kept at bay just enough that they never distract from the vocal performance. It’s really unfortunate that it took so many years for Diana Ross’s version of this song to come to light, as it would have been standout on the Everything Is Everything album had it been included; though it’s not really in the style of anything else on the album, it probably wouldn’t have mattered given that the album’s sound is varied anyway.
3. Something: The two Beatles covers on Everything Is Everything ranged from good to…well…terrible; her “Come Together” is still an interesting, compelling listen, and her “The Long And Winding Road” remains one of the worst of her early 70s recordings and a rare case of her completely overdoing a performance. Deke Richards also cut “Something” on Diana, which had been a 1969 #1 hit (a double A-side with “Come Together”) written by George Harrison. Why he chose “The Long And Winding Road” in place of this one for eventual release is a mystery, as “Something” is a far superior song for Miss Ross and much better recording; it blends quite well with “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” — the two feature similar musical arrangements — which may be why they both ended up left in the vaults. Miss Ross’s performance here is strong and assured; she is sexy and sensitive on the song’s opening two verses, and gets to demonstrate some power on the song’s bridge at 1:30, during which she channels some of her latter-day Supremes brashness to nice effect. Deke Richards offers up a nice musical arrangement, with different instruments taking the forefront at different points in the song, from the opening sax to strings to more modern, muted electric guitars. While this recording isn’t perhaps the “lost classic” that the previous one is, this is a really nice recording that would have fit well within the context of Diana’s second LP.
Everything Is Everything remains a fascinating listen more than forty years after its release precisely because it is such an interesting mix of styles; it is sandwiched between the remarkably strong and consistent Diana Ross (1970) and Surrender (1971), two of the best complete works in the Diana Ross discography. Therefore, in comparison, her 2nd solo LP has always seemed like a collection of tracks rather than a deliberate, thought-out project. The addition of these three tracks only adds to the existing questions of the intentions of Motown, producer Richards, and Diana Ross herself; they certainly had their reasons for choosing which recordings ended up on the album, but a listen to these three songs seems to rule out quality as being one of those reasons. Certainly in the case of the two covers here, Miss Ross and Mr. Richards turn in splendid versions that stand up among other popular renditions of the tunes.
Whatever the case was back in 1970, Everything Is Everything gave Diana Ross a massive international hit and her second solo Grammy nomination. And it’s hard to complain now that listeners get to hear these three recordings remastered, something that Hip-O Select deserves massive praise for; longtime fans of Diana Ross are certainly being treated to some wonderful surprises as the Motown vaults are raided for unreleased recordings.
Best Of The Bunch: “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”