To Love Again Vault Ballads (Released 2003)

“Fate knows the answer that you’d like to know…might as well face him in style…”

1981’s To Love Again was an interesting half-new, half-compilation album that traced the musical partnership between Diana Ross and writer-produced Michael Masser.  Masser is the man, of course, responsible for blockbuster Ross hits “Touch Me In The Morning, ” Theme From Mahogany,” and “It’s My Turn,” and To Love Again featured four new tracks on Side A and four previously released tracks on Side B, all produced and co-written by Masser.  Of the four “new” songs, “It’s My Turn” (from the film of the same name) was a top 10 hit, while “One More Chance” stalled out at #79 on the Billboard Hot 100.  In the UK, the superior “Cryin’ My Heart Out For You” was also pushed as a single, and managed a modest #49.  Apparently the working relationship between Ross and Masser wasn’t exactly smooth; in her memoir Secrets Of A Sparrow, Diana wrote, “Michael…was a very difficult man to work with, maybe because he knew how fabulous he was, but he could surely write songs that were relevant” (202), which is probably why To Love Again had to be padded out with the previously released material.

In 2003, Motown reissued the LP on CD, expanding the number of tracks from nine to a whopping twenty.  The original idea of a Ross-Masser collection is pretty much thrown out the window, and is replaced instead with the broader theme of love songs.  Hits like 1981’s “Endless Love” with Lionel Richie and the Marvin Gaye duet “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)” are added, along with tracks from Baby It’s Me and Ross.  Along with rare tracks and some alternate mixes (for example the Lionel Richie duet “Dreaming Of You,” previously only available on the Endless Love soundtrack) , Motown pulled two never-before-released songs from the vault.  These songs, “Share Some Love” and “We’re Always Saying Goodbye” had both apparently been considered for inclusion on 1978’s Ross, but left off that album in favor of other material.

The two standout tracks on Ross were the funky disco number “You Were The One” and the lovely ballad “Never Say I Don’t Love You,” either of which could have been hit singles had Motown chosen to release them.  Both were produced and co-written by Greg Wright, who also handled one of the previously unreleased ballads here, “Share Some Love,” recorded in 1976.  The other, “We’re Always Saying Goodbye,” was produced and co-penned by Diana’s old cohort Ron Miller, writer of her second solo #1, “Touch Me In The Morning.”  Miller and Ross had apparently worked up this track in 1974, likely around the time she was recording other Miller compositions for Last Time I Saw Him, but it had been mixed for – and then left off – Ross.  Whatever the reasoning behind leaving this tracks in the vaults for so long, they do both feature stellar vocal work from Miss Ross.  Because of this, they work well with the 18 others on the To Love Again reissue, reaffirming Diana’s position as one the greatest ballad singers in pop music history.

***

Share Some Love:  A smooth, polished adult ballad that is a perfect fit for Diana Ross, this song works well as a companion piece to “Never Say I Don’t Love,” which makes sense since both songs were written by Greg Wright and Karin Patterson and produced by Wright (incidentally, Wright and Patterson also worked up 1975’s “He’s My Man” for the Supremes, featuring Scherrie Payne on lead vocals).  Little has ever been written about Greg Wright and his work with Diana Ross, but their partnership turned up some stellar tracks, and this one is no different.  The song itself is an interestingly arranged piece, kicking off with a metallic string opening that’s striking in its uniqueness; a choir led by Miss Ross accompanies the strings with a wordless, haunting “ooooooh”-ing that eventually leads into the first verse.  Diana’s vocal is gorgeous; she is relaxed and controlled in her lower register, her voice smooth and tinged with a late-night-jazz-inflection that nods to her earlier work in that genre and is also reminiscent of her work with Richard Perry.  The song’s initial refrain doesn’t hit until nearly two minutes in, as Diana reaches into her upper register with the lyrics, “If it’s love, take it…if it’s sorrow, don’t fake it…”  This chorus is achingly lovely; it’s crisp and memorable and married to lovely, jazzy piano work.  The classy instrumental is so tastefully done that it doesn’t sound at all dated (aside from perhaps that steely opening), the song really sounds like it could have been recorded in the 80s or even 90s — it is, for example, not unlike the work being turned out by Anita Baker during those decades, or Toni Braxton on her debut album.  It’s also a pleasure to hear Diana really reach for some higher notes and nail them late in the recording; listen beginning at 3:27, as she soars while ad-libbing, “Oh, if it’s love, you better take it!”  This sort of wailing is what really made “You Were The One” such a standout; it’s obvious that Miss Ross was inspired to push herself under the direction of Mr. Wright.  “Share Some Love” is not the most immediately “hook-y” song, but it’s a rewarding listen that certainly deserved a place on a Ross album long before 2003.

We’re Always Saying Goodbye:  An extremely brief (less than three minutes) ballad recorded by Diana in 1974, this is a Ron Miller production, and sounds similar to the work Ross was turning out on the albums Touch Me In The Morning and Last Time I Saw Him.  In reality, “We’re Always Saying Goodbye” isn’t a love song; it’s an “Imagine”-type of song with lyrical generalities including, “Life must go on…children must cry…we’re always saying goodbye.”  For this reason, it doesn’t fit on the To Love Again collection as well as “Share Some Love,” but is saved by the fact that Diana’s vocal is so well-done.  Though she tended, at times, to overdo her pop performances in the mid-70s (as on Last Time‘s “Turn Around,” which is saccharine and doesn’t quite ring true), she is restrained here, offering up a wise reading of Miller’s words.  She spends the majority of the song in her lower register, a smart move as it forces her to remain more controlled, but when she does open up and reach for higher notes, as on “Life, love and dreams…” at 2:07, she sounds powerful and confident.  The production is, again, similar to something like John Lennon’s “Imagine,” with a prominent and repetitive piano line eventually giving way to soaring strings.  In retrospect, the song could have worked well on Ross’s planned album To The Baby, as it certainly seems to be written from the perspective of a mother (or a grandmother) speaking to a younger generation.  It likely would’ve sounded a bit dated for inclusion on 1978’s Ross in the company of disco tunes like “What You Gave Me,” which may be why it was left off of that album.

***

Though Diana Ross has found success with nearly every genre imaginable — or at least tried to — her work as a singer of love ballads remains one of the most identifiable aspects of her career.  From “Touch Me In The Morning” to “Missing You” to “When You Tell Me That You Love Me,” Diana Ross crooning songs of joy and heartbreak just seem to touch a nerve with the record-buying public.  The 2003 expansion of To Love Again is a perfect place to start for those wanting to understand why Miss Ross had so much success with this kind of music; further exploration leads to later work like 90s albums The Force Behind The Power, Take Me Higher, and Every Day Is A New Day, each of which features some spectacular vocal work on love ballads.  Even Diana Ross seems to understand how gifted she is in this respect; she devoted an entire album to love songs in 2006-2007, with I Love You — which, by the way, took her back into to top 40 of the Billboard 200 for the first time in more than twenty years.  Until Miss Ross decides to record more of them, fans can only hope the Motown vaults hold more treasures like “Share Some Love” and “We’re Always Saying Goodbye” — songs that further demonstrate what an incredible vocalist Diana Ross has always been.

Best Of The Bunch:  “Share Some Love”

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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4 Responses to To Love Again Vault Ballads (Released 2003)

  1. I have to admit I came this release very late, and wasn’t even aware that ‘To Love Again’ had been expanded from its original Michael Masser theme. It has to be one of my very favorite compilations for exactly the reason you stated Paul. It is the last word in the Genius that is Miss Ross balladeer. All those fabulous Motown moments on one CD. The two vaulted tracks are lovely. Just a great expanded project from beginning to end.

    • spookyelectric says:

      This was definitely an odd to choose to expand – not that it isn’t a very satisfying collection of material, just strange to prioritise a compilation of mainly previously released tracks over albums like ‘Baby It’s Me’ that a decade later is still waiting for the deluxe treatment.

      Having said that I’m glad they did – and it’s really well done job. Including tracks like ‘Never Say I Don’t Love You’ and ‘Dreaming Of You’ shows a pretty deep knowledge of Diana’s catalogue. Come to think of it this would have been the perfect place for the ‘Ross’ version of ‘Where Did We Go Wrong’ too.

      Must say if I were Michael Masser I would have been pretty pissed Motown didn’t make anything of the fact this was essentially a MM songbook – I suppose he didn’t really have enough profile for that to boost sales but still. Would have been tough for the reissue producers to go down the route of sticking to the theme though – apart from the absent ‘Sorry Doesn’t Always Make It Right’ I can’t think of any other Motown Masser/Ross collabs – unless there’s some unreleased stuff in the vaults?

      The couple of shelved tracks unearthed here are the real treats for fans. I agree Paul ‘Share Some Love’ would have sat perfectly on ‘Ross’. Maybe too elusive a melody to ever have been a radio hit, but deeply lovely – great vocal from Diana. I love those cooing wordless vocals in the intro. Again you’re spot on with ‘We’re Always Saying Goodbye’ – there’s actually quite a profound lyric in there that I’d not appreciated before. Makes you realise how much craft would often go in songwriting of this era – this could have been from a stage musical of the day like ‘Pippin’ or something. Something of a lost art I think!

    • Paul says:

      Indeed — NOBODY sings a love song like Diana Ross. It is obvious that there’s something deep within her that allows her to understand and interpret ballads as she does.

  2. Pingback: To Love Again (1981) | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT

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