Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs (1993)

“When I play my memories again…I feel all the pleasure and the pain…”

1993 was supposed to be the year of Diana Ross.  Celebrating three decades as a music superstar (dating back to 1963’s “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” with the Supremes), the singer released a New York Times Bestselling autobiography and her first-ever career-spanning box set.  Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, Miss Ross had continued churning out global hits like the British #1 “Chain Reaction” and “If We Hold On Together,” which became a massive success in Japan.  At home, unfortunately, Miss Ross had suffered through several bouts of bad press, something that undoubtedly hurt her commercial appeal and led to slipping album sales.  Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs, the 4-CD box set, was meant to bring the focus back to Diana’s incredible musical output and her talent as a vocalist.

Each of the four CDs is generally devoted to a specific era (or decade) of Diana’s career.  The first spans her work with the Supremes, from 1963’s “Lovelight…” to 1969’s “Someday We’ll Be Together.”  Disc 2 takes listeners on a journey from Diana’s first solo single — “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” — to 1978’s “Home” from The Wiz soundtrack.  The third CD picks up the end of the 1970s, with hits from The Boss and diana, and continues through her period as an RCA recording artist, including eight songs from her six RCA studio albums.  Disc 4 includes songs from her two “return to Motown” albums, Workin’ Overtime and The Force Behind The Power, as well as some previously unreleased live recordings and five new studio recordings completed especially for this project.

While the prospect of a career retrospective was an exciting one, Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs was not the major success anyone was hoping for.  Fans and critics alike complained about the sound quality; according to writer J. Randy Taraborrelli, “The mastering was so poor on it that Motown had to recall the product and even supply new CDs to buyers who wrote and complained about it”  (Diana Ross: A Biography 519).  Track selection was also an issue for many; in its review of the set, the All Music Guide noted, “less dedicated fans — the kind who simply wants a comprehensive collection of hits — will have trouble making it through the last disc, which consists of nothing but recent, post-hitmaking years recordings. Also, hardcore fans will probably be upset by the lack of rarities on Forever Diana, since they will own most everything on the box.”

Still, with five new studio songs and several others unavailable anywhere else but here, the box set — especially disc 4 — does hold interest for fans; this is especially true as two of those new songs bear Diana’s name as co-writer.  Unfortunately, as is the case with the entire project, these new songs are extremely uneven.  There are some nice listens here…but nothing that really comes close to the classics featured on the first three CDs.  (Note:  Below is a track-by-track analysis of Disc 4; all material on the first three CDs is previously released.)

***

1.  Family (Live):  The fourth CD of Forever Diana opens with a live track taken from Diana’s historic 1983 free concerts in Central Park (this was performed at the beginning of the second day).  The entire Central Park event’s been written about many times over — and has also now been officially released on DVD — so I won’t say much about it here.  What’s interesting about the concerts is that while they got incredible press coverage, they was never released as a live album.  It’s been written that Diana toyed with the idea of releasing it all on LP, but obviously it never happened for one reason or another.  So, the inclusion of “Family” here is the sole official audio recording from Central Park available to fans.  What’s really interesting about this song in particular is that it comes from the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, which was loosely based on the story of Diana and the Supremes and against which Diana Ross spoke out vehemently.  She’s quoted in Taraborrelli’s biography as saying, “I don’t want people to walk away thinking it’s the truth…because I don’t think they know what the truth is” (347).  So it’s unclear why the singer chose to perform this song during such a huge moment in her career — and then include it on this box set ten years later.  Chances are she just really liked the song — and perhaps singing it gave her a chance to “reclaim” her own story, so to speak.  Whatever the case is, it’s nice to hear this live moment captured on CD; the audio quality is actually pretty good, and Diana’s vocals — while not the best of the shows — aren’t bad.  The first 1:45 of the recording don’t even feature her singing; her patter to the audience is included, a nice reminder of what a monumental task it must have been to keep the attention of an audience so massive.  When she begins singing, she sounds just a little shaky, understandable considering she’d been up late the night before shouting at thousands of people caught in a rain storm!  However, as she croons the line “This dream is for all of us…” at 2:00, her voice is quite honeyed and lovely.  During the song’s climax, her vocals are just a little raspy, but there’s still a large amount of power on display, especially her “…growin’ strong, growing wide!” at 3:23.  Again, it’s pretty incredible that Diana was able to belt like this given the events of the rained-out first night, and while this isn’t necessarily a great live recording, it’s one that merits inclusion given how important the Central Park concerts are to Diana Ross’s career.

2.  Ninety-Nine And A Half:  This is an amazing, amazing inclusion — a real highlight of Diana Ross’s entire career and an absolute gem.  Taken from Diana’s 1987 ABC television special Red Hot Rhythm & Blues, this is a true gospel workout that reveals a side to Diana Ross largely unheard by the listening public.  The TV special traces the evolution of R&B music through the eyes of a fictional singer (played by Diana), and this particular song is used in a church sequence featuring Little Richard and highlighting the importance of gospel music to African-American singers.  Therefore, it’s not a full-length recording, it only runs two minutes long and sort of fades in and fades out, without a real beginning and end.  Here’s the thing — that doesn’t matter.  The two minutes included here are a glorious two minutes in which Diana Ross proves once and for all what a powerful, soulful singer she is.  Not normally known for real belting, she sure does it here, pushing her voice harder than perhaps she had since 1978’s The Wiz soundtrack.  The gospel choir behind her is boisterous and joyful, but they never once overshadow Diana, who effortlessly leads them with her own infectious joy.  It’s almost impossible to even spotlight any particular moments as the entire recording features Diana whooping and shouting full-speed ahead; however, listen to her guttural singing beginning at 1:11, as she wails, “Won’t make the grade!” for an example of the kind of workout she’s giving herself.  The next time someone says Diana Ross has a “limited range” or a “thin” voice — play this recording for them.  A YouTube upload of this song led to dozens of comments like this one:  “And this is Diana?! What year was this? This shocks me lol!”  Yes, this is Diana Ross — Diana at her best.

3.  What A Wonderful World (Live):  Another live recording, this one comes from a June 1989 show at Wembley Arena in London (the same series of shows that led to her EMI release Greatest Hits Live, although this song did not appear on that set — probably because it’s not one of her hits!).  It’s actually a shame this wasn’t added to Greatest Hits Live, as that particular CD is a low point in the Diana Ross discography, and her performance on this song is much, much better than most of the ones that were included.  The major problem with GHL is that Diana’s voice just didn’t sound good; she was obviously having some vocal issues and sounded quite raspy and labored on much of it.  However, on this brief recording, she sounds absolutely gorgeous; her voice is smooth and controlled.  The band behind her provides a sublime musical track; a long harmonica solo is perfectly done.  The only issue here is that Diana really doesn’t sing that much — she does the first verse (beautifully), and then comes back in with the final line, but everything in between is the band.  Still, that first verse is a prime example of Diana’s ability to sound just as good live as she does on record.  Her phrasing and delivery of the classic opening line, “I see trees of green…red roses, too…” echoes her work on the Lady Sings The Blues soundtrack.  Though it’s a little too short, this is a nice addition to this set.

4.  Amazing Grace:  From Christmas In Vienna (1993)  Read My Album Review Here

5.  If We Hold On Together:  From The Force Behind The Power (1991)  Read My Album Review Here

6.  Workin’ Overtime:  From Workin’ Overtime (1989)  Read My Album Review Here

7.  This House:  From Workin’ Overtime (1989)  Read My Album Review Here

8.  The Force Behind The Power:  From The Force Behind The Power (1991)  Read My Album Review Here

9.  When You Tell Me That You Love Me:  From The Force Behind The Power (1991)  Read My Album Review Here

10.  One Shining Moment:  From The Force Behind The Power (1991)  Read My Album Review Here

11.  Waiting In The Wings:  From The Force Behind The Power (1991)  Read My Album Review Here

12.  Where Did We Go Wrong:  From Stolen Moments:  The Lady Sings…Jazz And Blues (1993) Read My Album Review Here

13.  Back To The Future:  The first of the five new studio tracks is one co-written and co-produced by Diana Ross.  This is a harder-edged, New Jack Swing-style tune similar in sound to “You’re Gonna Love It” from The Force Behind The Power — there’s a heavy, angular beat here and some nice guitar work along with prominent keyboards and a robust chorus of background singers.  Diana sounds great on the tune; she’s youthful and energetic, but never appears to be straining or forcing the way she did on so many of the songs on Workin’ Overtime, which were also arranged in the New Jack style.  While the song is modern and “hip,” it’s also age-appropriate for Miss Ross, which is why it works.  As she begins singing the opening line, her voice is smooth and controlled, and her delivery remains relaxed and confident as the song progresses and she uses more of her upper register.  She sounds particularly nice in the sections leading up the chorus, during which she croons, “Which way forever…which way will I go?”  The only issue with the song is that the melody is a little dense; it takes a few listens to really get into the tune, and while it eventually becomes memorable, it’s not immediately grabbing.  This is likely why the song wasn’t tested out as a single — that said, had it been given a chance and some promotion, it might have made at least some impact at R&B radio.  On the list of songs co-written by Diana Ross herself, this one is certainly toward the top.

14.  Let’s Make Every Moment Count:  A ballad written by Gerry Goffin and Tom Snow, two men who’d given Diana Ross some great songs in the past (and would continue to do so, providing her with the sublime “I Never Loved A Man Before” on 1995’s Take Me Higher), this is a classy, accomplished adult contemporary addition to this batch of new recordings.  Driven by a melody vaguely reminiscent of the hit ballad  “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the song is the kind at which Diana Ross excels; she’s got plenty of room here to really let her high, crisp voice glide over the melody and keep the focus squarely on the uplifting lyrics.  Diana’s vocal work here is impressive; her voice is smooth and full-bodied; though parts of the ballad push her to some higher notes, she nails them effortlessly, never sounded strained.  This is especially true during the climactic final chorus, on which she belts out the “Let’s Make Every Moment Count!” refrain with some nice power and soul.  She also embraces the lower parts of her register at various points in her performance here, and by this time her lower notes were sounding really, really good — they’d be much further explored on her next two studio albums for Motown (Take Me Higher and Every Day Is A New Day).  The production here is good, but perhaps a little too adult contemporary — the prominent sax is too obvious and expected, as is the generic wash of background voices.  It would have been nice had the musical track behind Diana been slightly grittier and more soulful; it would have played as a nice contrast to the sweetness of the lyrics and Diana’s vocals.

15.  Your Love:  This song was pulled for single release in the UK, where it topped out at #14 — produced by Nick Martinelli (who would go on to handle Diana’s entire Christmas album A Very Special Season), it also features a strange credit in the box set booklet: backgrounds by Luther Vandross.  Not strange in terms of the two teaming up; Vandross had provided backgrounds for Diana’s 1982 single “So Close” and wrote and produced 1987’s “It’s Hard For Me To Say,” and was vocal through his entire career about his admiration for Miss Ross.  It’s strange because the backgrounds vocals are so subdued that they’re almost imperceptible.  Vandross’s powerful instrument was extremely audible in the other two aforementioned songs; here, you’d never know his is one of the voices in the quiet, ethereal choir behind Diana.  “Ethereal” is a good way to describe the song; Martinelli is good at giving his orchestrations an albums classical-edge, and the arrangement here almost straddles a line between classical and New Age, with Diana offering up an angelic vocal that shows off a good portion of her range.  Her work on the verses is probably best here; listen to her sing the line “…that means more than others I have known…” at 30 seconds in, as her voice settles down deep into the lower notes with a likeable, soulful wisdom.  The chorus pushes her much higher in her range, and this is where listeners will either be won over…or turned off.  To be honest, the repetition of “Your…LOVE” — as her voice reaches to the top end of her range — is just a little bit shrill; this isn’t entirely the fault of Miss Ross, as the song forces her to repeat the two words again and again, and it does end up becoming just slightly grating.  However, in direct contrast with the lower notes during the verses, her work on the verses does sound a little thin and not quite as appealing.  Still this is a well-produced ballad, and one that Diana Ross actually sounded quite good on while performing live; there are several video clips of the singer doing the song at concerts internationally, and she always nailed the notes to the delight of the appreciative audiences.  (Note:  The song was originally recorded by Laura Branigan and featured in the 1988 film Salsa.)

16.  It’s A Wonderful Life:  The undisputed low point of this disc — and the entire box set — is this shuffling pop song, unfortunately co-written and co-produced by Diana Ross.  There is no doubt that the song was inspired by Diana’s 1986 hit “Chain Reaction” — both productions have an early-60s Motown vibe and “Baby Love”-esque beat.  Unlike “Chain Reaction,” however, this song has absolutely no charm; the melody is all over the place and the musical track sounds so cheap and rushed that it’s almost tough to sit through.  Diana Ross offers up very little in terms of a vocal performance; she is oddly disconnected from the whole thing, which is especially strange considering she co-wrote it.  The less said about this song, the better — it’s definitely not worthy of Diana, and no at all worthy of a place on a set that’s supposed to celebrate her artistry.

17.  The Best Years Of My Life:  The most well-known of the 1993 recordings on Forever Diana, this song was released as a single both domestically and internationally; it topped out at #28 on the UK charts but failed to chart at home.  Miss Ross, however, performed the song extensively, using it as a love letter to the fans who’ve followed her career — she sang it during her Return To Love tour (with the Supremes) and performed it on the highly-rated VH1 “Divas” tribute to her, and thus far more people heard it than likely heard many of her other singles in the 90s.  This, as it turns out, is a good thing — the song is a beautifully produced and performed tune, a passionate ballad that stands with the best of her work from the decade, and is certainly the standout among the new recording on this set.  Written by Will Jennings and Stephen Allen Davis (Jennings, by the way, is the prolific songwriter who wrote the lyrics to the monster hit “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic), the piece was produced again by Nick Martinelli, who crafts a lush, atmospheric musical track that perfectly complements Diana’s vocals.  She is at her very best here, really digging into the material and feeling every single word; this is a total 180 from the previous track, on which she sounded almost asleep.  It’s impossible to listen to her sing lines like “When I play…my memories again…” at 1:35 and not envision Diana, in the studio, closing her eyes and really envisioning those early days in her career at  Motown.  The emotional bridge at 3:06 is a real highpoint here; Diana opens up her voice and really pushes herself here, and she sounds fantastic doing so, and her vocal power is extremely impressive during the final two refrains of the song, as she really lets loose with some nice ad-libs.  This is a song that obviously means a lot to Miss Ross, and it’s a perfect way to end this imperfect chronicle of her career.

***

Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs emerged as a flawed roadmap of Diana’s impeccable recording career; overall fans weren’t particularly thrilled with the set and it didn’t do much to enhance Diana’s place as a music legend.  The Motown Anthology, released in 2001, would be a far more successful collection of Diana’s solo hits, and those wanting more of her RCA work on CD would get Greatest Hits: The RCA Years, which included a more comprehensive collection of her work from the 1980s.  Still, the fourth disc of this set does provide a few nice treasures for fans, especially the giddy and surprising “Ninety-Nine And A Half” and the new songs “Back To The Future” and “The Best Years Of My Life.”  Whether those highlights are worth the price of the entire 4-CD set…well…that’s up to buyers to decide.

Best Of The Bunch:  “Ninety-Nine And A Half,” “The Best Years Of My Life”

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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36 Responses to Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs (1993)

  1. Jaap says:

    Good review of a very disappointing box set (even the cover picture was recycled, as the photo was originally used in the 25th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone magazine, 12 November 1992, which I remember vividly, as it was my 25th b-day). The version of “Waiting in the WIngs” included on this set could be considered a “new” song as it is the remix version that is quite different than the version on the album (if I remember correctly, it is more than a remix, as the vocals have been re-recorded as well, but I may be mistaken). A longer version of the remix first appeared on the UK “Battlefield” single.

    • Paul says:

      You’re right — Diana quickly re-recorded “Waiting…” for single release in the US and this set. I can’t really say I like one version or the other better. The song isn’t a bad one, but was never a standout to me on the FORCE CD.

  2. dianafan says:

    It wasn’t a recycled picture. It was used as a tie in for promotion of her box set.

    • Paul says:

      Personally, I’m not a fan of the photo sessions that made up this campaign. There are some lovely shots, to be sure, but the interesting, rustic pictures used for “Take Me Higher” are, to me, far better in capturing Diana’s mix of sophistication and soul.

    • Tony says:

      The entire project seemed cheap from the cover shot to the production and sound quality. I really wanted to see an elegant classic cover , something that would be timeless (like her voice).

  3. Algabal says:

    Another great review. It’s a real shame about the sound. What a disappoint for fans.

    You’re an excellent writer. I wish I owned this blog in book form!

  4. dishy says:

    The box set WAS a disappointment! As was the barely readable autobiography “Secrets of a Sparrow” (Barf, Miss Ross as a sparrow? More like a dragonfly!) I think she was trying so hard to change the public perception brought on my Mary Wilson’s first book and CALL HER MISS ROSS – which really did a lot of damage. I must confess that for years I really became a hater, but then someday I just forgave! She’s an immense talent, so who cares!

    • Paul says:

      Lol — tell us how you REALLY feel 😉 I agree — the book was a big disappointment, too. There are moments when I enjoy it — but overall it comes off as a very empty piece of work, without much heart or soul, which is so sad for longtime fans. I don’t think Diana is the kind of person who could ever pen a Mary Wilson-type “tell all” — but I think there’s a better book in her that has a strong, positive message while still including some specific details about her life and career!

      • Tony says:

        The book was a disgrace. I was so disappointed in her and her managers. What Diana needed to do was take one aspect of her like and nail it , share every dark moment , express every emotion and dark spot in her character …. She needed to share with us a vulnerable side ….an honest , deep expression of what she has gone through and sacrificed to be “our” Diana Ross. Just a slice of who she is needed to be explored and revealed. This would have wet our appetite and exposed her for more than who she has been presented as.

        There is too much to cover in a “tell all” style book’,rather she needed to stretch it out in small vignettes …..allowing us to begin a journey with her about who she is and her past experiences.

        Someone once told her …”to be a star ..you need to act like a star”. The same is true of legends. To be a legend …one needs to act like a legend. A 300 page book about a few life aspects and poems makes NOT a legend.

    • Tony says:

      I do agree. Those books did a lot of damage. I have said that repeatedly in past posts. She took the high road ….time will be the test as to whether she did the right thing letting the crap swirl about her. Personally, I think she could have a achieved even greater accomplishments if this horrible press didn’t seem to be allowed to take over. Have you read Diana’s Dogs? Great little book about our Diana!

      • Antje says:

        Oh no, Tony! This book is so bitter – putting sketches together without any clue to know where or when. Though the idea of having a theme oriented “biography” seemed to be promising at first glance, the book is so manipulative and leaves the reader behind in bad feelings. Of course, having had a career like hers not everything she did or said is supposed to be good (according to a fan’s standard). I thought about the book a lot and came to the conclusion, it is more about the author’s struggle with himself getting older, and the disappointment on a teenager’s glorious image of DR in her early Supremes’ years that was shattered – and had to be. Maybe we should open a blog on DR literature!

    • Tony says:

      Forgave? That would assume that was reported about her was true and she needed forgiving. I think there is much we need to forgive form the entire Motown family. Perhaps you just began to see that there are several sides to a story and that sometimes what is easy to believe is not always the truth.

      • dishy says:

        Tony – well put. Berry Gordy created the very sad mess that followed magnificent artists like Ross, Jackson, Gay etc. He played terrible games with their lives and pitted artists against each other all in his love of dictatorship. I think the artists ended up sufferring the most….

  5. Ross says:

    the picture wasnt recycled that was for a foto shoot meant for the box set. and it was used on the cover of billboard not rolling stones. Yes waiting was a total redo. I dont know if it was so disappointing howeevr. For the time when Box Sets were new and fressh really and of what you can do with one..i think Ross put together a nice collection. It wasnt a flop though it is one of the top box sets ever…

    • Paul says:

      Is that true??? One of the top ever? I’m assuming that’s globally-speaking, as it really seemed to disappear quickly in the states. Motown really got the box set right a few years later with the fantastic 4-disc Supremes set!

      • Tony says:

        I so agree …..the supreme box set was soooo classy and elegant, exactly what I wanted from Diana. Your review is excellent. I do recall thinking this box set would put her back on the map…especially when she appeared on Oprah Yet even Oprah couldn’t seem to save this …or make it a massive MASSIVE success.

    • Jaap says:

      Actually, the picture was recycled. It was commissioned by Rolling Stone magazine for its 25th anniversary issue (12 November 1992)… not on the cover but inside of the magazine. I still have the magazine. And yes, it was also used on the cover of Billboard, but that was in 1993.

  6. I’ve got to agree the box set was a missed opportunity. There were things I like about it – generally I think the packaging and booklet were nicely assembled, and I think the division of the 4cds worked pretty well. But… there was a sense it was a little thrown together. There’s even a sticker on the back saying they one of the tracks is listed incorrectly!

    A few more alternate versions, more unreleased tracks etc peppered throughout would have helped a lot (how many times had Motown released the Supremes hits and Diana’s big solo hits after all) especially as we later found out the Motown vaults were full of them.

    Still although I don’t particularly care for any of the new recordings, I absolutely love the first three tracks on the final cd you’ve reviewed here. I remember audio recording the Diana Central Park tv special on a cassette and playing it over and over and falling in love with ‘Family’. I didn’t even know it was from ‘Dreamgirls’ then. I love her vocal here – even though it’s nit as perfect or polished as many of her studio recordings – she sounds totally committed to the song and the audience.

    And ’99 and a Half’ is as you say quite stunning. A real rarity in her catalogue. It’s a shame she didn’t ‘let rip’ more I think – there are some moments (maybe ‘Brand New Day’, the outro of ‘Swept Away’ etc) but not many.

  7. Jaap says:

    Here is a link to the original photograph as it appears in Rolling Stone (12 November 1992), a year before the box set, the autobiography, and the Billboard cover.

    • Jaap says:

      Also check out the the Diana Ross: Going Back book, which features almost all Albert Watson photos that were used for Forever Diana, One Woman, and Secrets of a Sparrow. The cover photo reads at the bottom: “photo session for Rolling Stone magazine 1992,” while the others read “Photo session for the album Forever 1993” and “Photo session for the album One Woman 1993.” Clearly Miss Ross liked working with Albert Watson so much that she came back for more. I personally think the picture for Rolling Stone is the best of the bunch, fittingly for the 25th anniversary issue of Rolling Stone, but less fitting for her autobiography and the box set (but that is of course a matter of personal taste).

    • Tony says:

      Stunning and beautiful But just not appropriate for an anniversary cover. It’s a cover album shot for a dance themed CD not a classic box set cover. Oh Diana !

  8. For me this was my first ‘comprehensive’ CD collection of Miss Ross’ career and as a neophyte fan was pretty happy with the way it covered Diana’s musical journey. However about a year before Barbra Streisand had also released a career spanning 4 cd box set and even back in the day owning both you could sense the difference between the two sets.

    Barbra’s packaging, book & the comprehensive musical coverage (inclusive of hits, album cuts, rare live recordings & unreleased tracks) of three decades of work was breathtaking. The quality of all parts of the product was truly impressive.

    When comparing the same concept as executed by Miss Ross’ team it just felt thrown together and not well executed. A real opportunity was lost, and though I loved the music & booklet it just didn’t compare in my mind.

    For the longest time ‘Forever Diana’ was my only touchstone to Miss Ross’ full career (outside of the most recent ‘Force Behind the Power’ and a couple of RCA releases) so I will always have soft spot for this collection. That said over time I have lost all parts of it and now my mom has the CDs. Barbra on other hand is still complete in her box…

    • That’s a really good comparison. Both box set retrospectives covered similar periods of time and took a similar decade-by-decade approach over 4 cds. You’re right – the Barbra one had so much more thought put into it. Rare live recordings, demos, Tv special duets, unreleased tracks etc mixed with hit singles and key album tracks. Barbra was very involved in the whole project. Not sure how majorly involved Diana was at all in hers.

      There was a nice Nancy Wilson 4cd box a while back that divided into hits, key album tracks, unreleased/live and personal picks from the artist – a simple but effective approach. Shame Motown didn’t give Diana’s a little more attention. Seems unlikely there will ever be another one now.

  9. Paul says:

    Okay guys — so it’s generally agreed that this set was (for the most part, anyway) a dud. So here’s a question — what would the perfect Diana box-set consist of?? Curious to see your personal tracklists.

    It would take me forever to finalize the perfect 4-disc set — especially if including a disc devoted to the Supremes. I do have, however, a 2-CD set I made up that I arranged as if Diana were doing a one-woman, 2 act show (similar to “An Evening With…”) — and I’ve had it on my iPod for years. I toy with the lineup from time to time, but overall it’s remained pretty much the same. It may seem like a random mix, but it makes sense in my head!! 🙂 Anyway, it’s a quick career overview and hits some of the (in my opinion) vocal highlights…

    ACT I:
    Overture (from LIVE AT CAESAR’S PALACE LP)
    I’m Coming Out (Original Chic Mix)
    Gettin’ Ready For Love
    If A Girl Isn’t Pretty (Supremes)
    The Music That Makes Me Dance (Supremes)
    Heaven Must Have Sent You (Supremes)
    My World Is Empty… (Motown Remixed CD version)
    I Loves You Porgy (from LIVE AT CAESAR’S PALACE LP)
    Little Girl Blue (from TOUCH ME LP)
    Touch Me In The Morning (Alternate Version #2)
    Let Me Be The One
    You Are Everything (with Marvin Gaye)
    Missing You
    You Were The One
    Is This What Feeling Gets? (From THE WIZ)
    Home (Motown Version)
    Always And Forever

    ACT II:
    Take Me Higher
    Change Of Heart
    More Today Than Yesterday
    You Keep Me Hangin’ On (Supremes – Alternate Mix)
    Mother Dear (Supremes)
    Some Things You Never Get Used To (Supremes)
    MacArthur Park (Supremes)
    All Night Lover
    Dance: Ten, Looks: Three (From AN EVENING WITH…)
    To Love Again
    Dreaming Of You (with Lionel Richie)
    Upside Down (Original Chic Mix)
    Mirror Mirror
    Let’s Go Up
    Free (I’m Gone)
    In The Ones You Love
    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (from SURRENDER Expanded Edition)

    • Tony says:

      This is excellent your choices are so close to mine ….I am going to add a few now and get back to you.

      I would add : Didn’t We ( supremes farewell live)
      Strange fruit – live.

  10. Okay so let’s take it for granted that the first disc would be a Supremes retrospective, and let’s also work with the idea that it’s a 3 disc release. I am SOOOooo up for this!

    Give me a minute. 😀

  11. I like this game! Surprised there’s not much Ashford & Simpson in your list Paul – and a lot of Supremes!

    Had a think about an Ultimate Diana Box Set and I reckon as there’s already been this one doing the chronological thing, there’s no point doing it again that way, so I would go down a themed-cd route and concentrate completely on the solo years (the Supremes catalogue has been done to death after all) so how about….

    CD 1 In The Charts (The Hits)
    Yes also done to death, but maybe you could mix it up a bit with some 7″ and 12″ mixes, the odd alternative vocal, as usually it’s the same old album mixes that get rolled out again and again. Would be nice to have one cd spanning the two Motown eras plus RCA years.

    CD 2 With Her Friends (The Duets)
    Some of this was covered in the ‘Diana’s Duets’ compilation way back in the early 80s, but she did loads after that, so you could get together the Julio Iglesias, Al B Sure, Rod Stewart, Ray Charles and even that dreadful Westlife duet. Plus would be good to get some obscurities on there – maybe the Billy Dee Williams duet of ‘Baby You Got What It Takes’ from the Red Hot Rhythm and Blues tv special or a nice cleaned-up recordings of her live duets with Smokey on ‘Missing You’ and Luther on ‘Best Years of my Life’.

    CD 3 In The Movies (The Soundtrack Recordings)
    This one would be fun. You could have a pick of tunes from ‘Lady Sings The Blues’ plus stuff like the original soundtrack version of ‘Do You Know..’ from Mahogany which has never been released and all those shelved tracks from ‘Diana Sings Songs From The Wiz’. Then there’s things like ‘It’s My Turn’ and ‘Endless Love’ of course. Great to get ‘Love Is All That Matters’ with Brandy on there too.

    CD 4 From The Vaults (The Rare And Unreleased Recordings)
    If there’s enough knocking around that hasn’t all been released on the deluxe sets… otherwise you could do…

    ‘On The Dancefloor’ (The Extended Mixes)
    Might end up being a bit too close to the ‘Diana’ deluxe bonus disc though, still you collect things like the ‘I Ain’t Been Licked’ 12-inch and maybe some of the 80s + 90s stuff like the rare long version of ‘Work That Body’ and ‘Bottom Line’ Ext Mix and great ones like the ‘Swept Away’ and ‘Take Me Higher’ 12″s.

    Would also be great to hear a ‘From The Heart’ (The Singer’s Choice) CD with Diana picking personal favourites – no doubt things like ‘Voice of the Heart’ would be in there, but hopefully there would some not-so-obvious choices maybe ‘Sleepin’ or ‘What About Love’… who knows?

  12. pnyc1969 says:

    This review and the posts that followed were more interesting that the actual box set! Here are a few thoughts from me. No one mentioned that “Surrender” is listed but “Can’t Give Back the Love” is on the CD. Or maybe not all printings had that error. “Best Years” is a nice late career addition. I saw her perform it a lot, least successfully at Divas Live, where she went massively off key on the last word. It might be her worst sung note ever, but that was a weird night and she was gracious and generous. The photos and ones that followed on “One Woman” and “The Remixes” are all, I think, Albert Watson, who has taken some really unflattering photos of Diana. These look like rip-offs of the photos from “diana” and “Eaten Alive” and “Workin’ Overtime”. Her also shot the cover for “Very Special Season” with a phony-looking smile. (When does she ever smile on an album cover? Just “Everything Is Everything” and “Marvin and Diana”.)

    Paul, I must give thought to my box set. Rather than comment on my favorite hits, here are a few of my quirky picks, which reflect both my tastes and an attempt to show the breadth of Diana’s work: Supremes–Discover Me, Some Things You Never Get Used To, Cornet Man, Somewhere; DR Solo–Don’t Explain, Corner of the Sky, Little Girl Blue, One Live in my Lifetime, You’re Good My Child, Home, The Boss, I Ain’t Been Licked (maybe from Ceasar’s Palace), Fool For Your Love, Let’s Go Up (maybe from Carson), Ribbon in the Sky, Say We Can, I Thought We were Still in Love, We Shall Overcome (Budapest), So They Say.

    I am really impressed that we both insist on Let’s Go Up, a totally overlooked gem. I am fascinated with this song!

    • Paul says:

      Hey there! I believe the “Surrender” tracklisting issue was only on the first printing of the box set — the error was later corrected by Motown (mine, for example, has the correct track). What a mistake to make, though, on the first batch of printing!

  13. LaMusicLovr (last.fm) says:

    I love this blog and all of the comments…I have been a fan forever, but this is one of the best Diana forums I have ever come across!!!!

  14. Loukas says:

    Finding and holding in my hands this 4cd set was a dream that finally came true in 2001 (I was 18 then), when I finally found it and payed about 45 euros to get it. I must say that what I appreciated from this set was not the music but the inside booklet, it was a good chance to see some rare pics from Diana’s old days – for a young fan like me then it was difficult to find that material. The music was not a big surprise. It is a “best of” collection, and as far as Diana’s collections are concerned, what else can someone expect than onother mainstream Diana’s hit parade? The last cd is the most interesting of course, as it contains all the singles that flopped in the US (after 1985) but worked very well everywhere else.. The quality of the sound was poor and the cover was impressive at first sight, but not the perfect choice for Diana. This style of this artwork (cover pic) would be more appropriate for a has been disco diva of the 70s, not for a A class soul and pop diva. I read somewhere that in many edittions of the set, there were many mistakes in the song lists and other details. I think that Diana’s second tenure in Motown suffered from lack of passion on her work. She and the Motown people seemed that they didn’t tried much and there was no imagination in her releases.

  15. Michael says:

    Sadly, aside from all the bad critiques on this box set, for me, Best Years Of My Life and although not perfect, Your Love, are worth their weight in gold. Both of the songs hold a special place in my heart for something I was dealing with at the time.. Almost 20 years later, they are still 2 of my favorite Diana tracks of all time.

  16. Pingback: Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs (1993) | Pauliebronx's Blog

  17. Wayne Hill says:

    Apologies if this has already been posted as this is the first time I’ve read this blog. It’s amazing, thank you for all the information. I have really enjoyed reading all the album reviews

    Diana Ross had a number one album in the U.K in 1993 called ‘One Woman, the ultimate collection’ that I can’t see listed as this may just be U.S releases but I thought it was worth a mention as It was a major release and not just another greatest hits to mark her 30th anniversary in the music industry. It was her first and only solo number one album in the U.K and was released as an alternative to forever box set.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Woman:_The_Ultimate_Collection

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