Love & Life: The Very Best Of Diana Ross (2001)

“Let everyone debate the true reality…I’d rather see the world the way it used to be…”

After the summer of 2000, when Diana Ross teamed up with 70s Supremes Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne in the fantastic (but short-lived) Return To Love tour, the singer entered into what amounted to a musical drought for fans.  Until she began touring again in 2004 and made some duet appearances in 2005, the public heard almost nothing from Miss Ross.  Her contract with Motown Records in the United States ended, leaving Diana (incredibly) without a recording contract in her home country; this essentially meant there was no pressure on the singer to head into the studio, and no immediate demand for new material.  After 1999’s Every Day Is A New Day, Diana would not release another full-length studio album until 2006-2007, with her I Love You project.

A single new song did surface during this lengthy dry spell, thanks to a compilation released by EMI internationally.  Different versions of Love & Life: The Very Best Of Diana Ross ended up hitting shelves in different countries; a two-disc edition was separated into a “Love” disc and a “Life” disc, which basically meant love ballads vs. uptempo tracks.  Work from all eras of Diana’s career — Supremes, early solo, and 80s — was included, as was one new track, “Goin’ Back.”  The song is a cover of the 1960s Gerry Goffin/Carole King track; the song has been recorded many times over the years, most famously by Dusty Springfield in 1966 and The Byrds in 1967.  Springfield’s single was a #10 UK hit, while The Byrds recording managed to hit the lower reaches of the US Hot 100.

Diana’s version of “Goin’ Back” is arranged, for the most part, identically to Dusty’s; both are simple, piano-driven “mood” pieces with a real emphasis on the lyrics.  Diana begins singing almost immediately, and as she sings the openings words (“I think I’m Goin’ Back…”), there’s an obvious heaviness to her voice that seems to weigh down the lyrics.  This is the same kind of heaviness that was audible on recordings like “Until We Meet Again” and “Someone That You Loved Before” from 1999’s Every Day Is A New Day — something many fans have attributed to the fact that the singer was dealing with the end of her marriage.  Whatever the reason, it’s there, along with a deeper tone due to age.  Diana sings the words very deliberately; her trademark crystal-clear enunciation is in full effect here, and is really the only thing that distinguishes this performance.  As the tune progresses, the weighty feel of the vocal becomes, unfortunately, something that stands in the way of the song’s success.  The lyrics here become more and more wistful; lines like “…but thinking young and growing older is no sin…” could have registered nicely if they’d been sung with a little bit of lightness and playful defiance instead of a resigned sadness.  There is a nice rawness to her delivery of the line “And every day can be a magic carpet ride…” at 1:49 — her voice actually cracks on the word “can” which, oddly, ends up making her sound almost child-like for a moment, something that is extremely effective give the lyrics.  The bridge also injects a little bit of energy into the song, nicely bringing the background singers onto equal ground with Diana, as they all shout the famous “Let everyone debate…” line.  Other than this section, however, the production is rather subdued; though a slight beat kicks in, it’s masked by a glossy string arrangement that really obscures everything other than the prominent piano.

Diana’s reading of “Goin’ Back” was apparently released as a single in some markets; a Wikipedia entry lists the song as hitting #82 in the Netherlands.  The compilation also apparently did well enough in the UK, going gold there.  That said, the entire collection wasn’t the most imaginatively produced project (its cover used a photo from The Force Behind The Power — released ten years earlier!) and the song isn’t a particularly notable addition to Diana’s discography.  It’s been well-established that at heart, Diana Ross is a truly gifted melody singer; she has a real talent for allowing her voice to lightly ride the notes of a song in the way a skilled pianist’s move over a keyboard, never allowing her vocals to push too hard and murder a melody (like banging loudly and heavily on the keys of a piano would, to continue the analogy).  However, “Goin’ Back” is not a very melodic song; it doesn’t require Diana to do very much, and coupled with a lack of that “lightness” that she does so well, ends up robbing the recording of personality.


About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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16 Responses to Love & Life: The Very Best Of Diana Ross (2001)

  1. Jaap says:

    “Goin’ Back” was indeed released as a single in the Netherlands, b/w Not Over You Yet (though misprinted as “Not Over You Jet”) and as promo single in the UK and Japan. The most interesting about the song is the producer Guy Chambers, the main guy behind Robbie Williams first solo albums/hits. I remember when it was announced that Ross would work with Chambers, that sounded of course very promising, although the end result is a bit disappointing…

  2. Paul says:

    “Not Over You Jet?” Wow — that’s pretty funny!! Yeah, you’d think Diana and Chambers could have come up with something more inspired than this. Especially soon after this success of “Not Over You Yet” — Diana could have done something both sophisticated and modern. Instead, we got this rather heavy-handed and morose tune.

  3. I have to respectfully disagree on ‘Goin’ Back’, I think because of the time it was released & the challenges our Miss Ross had been through at the tim, it adds a level of gravitas to the recording. I find it heartbreaking and as Diana often says herself of the songs she records it is important she connects the lyric (as much as the melody) with where she is currently in her life. This is almost the perfect marriage of these aspects and for me is just as successful a recording as ‘It’s My Turn’, ‘I’m Coming Out’ & ‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’ (maybe not as mythic). This is what for me makes her such a successful artist, even if the casual listener can’t quite put their finger on what makes Miss Ross so potent a singer.

    I wish there had been more of this kind of work on the later ‘I Love You’, deeply felt, deeply reflective work that was a statement on where The Boss was as a mature artist.

    That said I do find the odd one chorus Gospel Choir a little left of centre and unnecesary to proceedings. 🙂

    • Paul says:

      Interesting to hear your opinion — you seem to like the song for the reason it doesn’t quite gel with me — that gravitas in Diana’s voice. To me, it’s just challenging to listen to. While it worked for me in a song like “What About Love” — here, I wanted to hear a “lighter” sound from Diana.

  4. wayne2710 says:

    I’m in agreement with Julius, I love this track. I suppose loving the song from way back helped, but I really thought Diana’s version was superb, I thought her vocals captured the essence and feeling of the lyric beautifully, and regret her not doing more work with Guy Chambers, especially because at that time he had his finger on the pulse of what was selling. Why it didn’t get released as a single here in the UK was puzzling as it certainly seemed to be well received on radio.

    • Paul says:

      It would have been interesting to see how the song would have done in the UK had it been released. Did this collection get lots of publicity overseas, and did it do well? It never got a release in the states.

  5. wayne2710 says:

    It went Top 30, and I believe ended up going ‘gold’. But I don’t remember it being heavily promoted. I do remember Diana doing a couple of radio interviews promoting the collection but don’t recall any tv advertising. One of the radio shows she was on had a regular slot for showcasing up and coming single releases and thay had listeners voting for their favourite that week. Goin’ Back received over 70% of the vote that week, and the two other featured singles – well one reached no.2 in the charts and the other was top 10. So all in all baffling as to why it was pulled from release. There was of course her coffee table book published around the same time with the title ‘Goin’ Back’.

    • Paul says:

      I had totally forgotten about the book tie-tin. You’re right — that makes it even weirder that it wasn’t a single in the UK. Amazing that it got 70% of the vote in the radio showcase — really shows how much people love Diana overseas. In the US, radio would have never touched the song.

      • Tony says:

        I have to say this song does move me. I hear her pain and sadness. I am sure she chose the song because of what was going on in her life. Her voice sounds defeated as if she has been hurt deeply.

      • Paul says:

        I think you’re right — there was a deliberate choice here to record this song. The early 2000s was obviously a tough time for her, and it showed in some of her recordings.

      • To be honest, I don’t think anything Diana released to US radio at this point would have got much love – regardless of quality. Likewise in UK, Diana was starting to struggle for airplay, though ‘Goin’ Back’ did its commercial job to a certain extent to raise awareness of the compilation EMI were pushing at the time (thought by then there had been such a glut of Diana comps on the market the set was almost bound to under perform).

        One of the only routes available to Diana at the time to gain significant radio exposure was to team with a younger, currently popular act. That’s what happened with Westlife in the UK, and I reckon a similar approach could even have given Diana a chance in the US.

        Regardless, radio reaction is never a reflection of quality, just what’s in vogue at that particular moment, and I think in terms of quality ‘Goin’ Back’ is one of the finest recordings of Diana’s later career. There’s a lyrically depth there that Diana can bring real gravitas too. A real relief after the series of overblown MOR ballads she’d leaned towards in the decade previous to this. Don’t get me wrong, I liked ‘In The Ones You Love’ but it was a well-worn formula for her by then. ‘Goin’ Back’ is a just a beautiful song by a truly great songwriter that avoids lazy cliches to achieve real poignancy – and you can tell Diana really means it.

        Shame more fans didn’t get to hear it. I still think it would have worked perfectly as the title track for her last album ‘I Love You’ – the sentiment would have really set up the reflective mood of the set.

      • Paul says:

        You know, I thought the same thing when I heard Diana sing “Remember” on I LOVE YOU — it was so similar to “Going Back” I thought the two could have been companion pieces on the same album.

  6. Lawrence says:

    I personally really like this cover. Not sure it sounds like a single, but you can tell Diana was really connected to the lyrics.

    • Paul says:

      She definitely does sound connected — I think the fact that it sounds so autobiographical is why it turns me off a little, because the sadness is a bit tought to listen to. This was obviously a tough time for her.

  7. I think that’s why the song resonates, and that you highlighted what is almost certainly a lost gem (being as it is half way through the track listing of the second disc) speaks volumes to the artist that Miss Ross is and always will be. We always consider Diana such a controlled performer & personality that when she does reveal her vulnerability (performing ‘It’s My Turn’ on Oprah, this track, or much of ‘Everyday Is A New Day’) it is that much more poignant.

  8. davidh says:

    i always thought that GOING BACK was kinda a left over from the VOICE OF LOVE.i like it but not as a single but now i will go and have another listen.

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