Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day!

Diana Ross Missing You

It’s a few days late — but Happy V-Day to Diana fans around the world!  If there’s any holiday that seems to fit in with the career of Diana Ross, let’s face it, it would have to be Valentine’s Day — is there anyone alive who can tug at the heart and interpret a lyric of love like The Boss?

So, in honor of the day (and in absence of anything new to post about — I think I’ve just about covered her solo career!) — let’s talk about Diana’s romantic, lush ballad performances.  Here’s the question — what are the top 5 best ballad performances in the Diana Ross solo discography?

Questions like this are maddening, due to the volume of work recorded by Diana Ross as a solo artist between 1970 and today.  And, of course, as fans — our “favorites” are always changing.  That’s the great thing about Diana’s work — as we grow, she grows with us, and thus new songs become important and personal.  That said, since I’m posing the question, I guess I have to take a crack at it.  So — as of this very moment, these are the five ballads I would say display Diana Ross at her best vocally; they are works of art that more than stand the test of time, and which easily reveal her as a singer of enormous skill and artistry.  (Note:  Each one is linked to the original post on which it appears, and I’ve pasted in a few comments from my original reviews of each song.)

***

1) Missing You:  “This is, simply, one of the great R&B ballads of the decade; again, that it garnered no Grammy nominations at all seems baffling now, especially given that the song which followed it at #1 on the charts, “Nightshift” by the Commodores (coincidentally also dedicated to the late Marvin Gaye) won one for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.  Still, it gets my vote for the best ballad performance of Miss Ross’s career, and remains definitive proof that she’s among the very best pop and soul singers of all time.”

2) To Love Again:   “I’d also say that Diana’s singing of the words “to love again” at 2:19 (when she takes them an octave higher than she had earlier in the song) is one of the single most beautiful moments in a Diana Ross recording; her delicate, crystal clear reading of the words, and her four-note improv following them, combine with the soaring strings of the instrumental track to create a breathtaking musical interlude.”

3) Be A Lion:  “…perhaps the most thrilling moment here is Diana’s reading of the lyric, “You’re the bravest of them all,” during which she nearly screams out the words, belting higher than she had in years (probably since the Surrender album).  Not only is she belting out the notes, but she sounds great doing it; there’s a power here that many people are unaware exists in her abilities, and she nails the notes spot-on.”

4) Little Girl Blue:  “There’s a complexity here, a subtlety that hints at an entire story happening beneath the surface of the lyrics, that makes it a compelling listen.  This kind of subtle shading is something Diana Ross is so good at that it’s too often taken for granted or, unfortunately, completely overlooked…which is a real shame.  This is a masterpiece.”

5) Summertime:  “Diana Ross becomes one of the instruments here, gliding along as easily as the string and wind instruments accompanying her.  This is a song with a challenging melody; like 1977′s “To Love Again,” it never allows for Miss Ross to oversing, lest she become completely tangled up in the words and kill all emotion.  Thankfully, Miss Ross is a singer for whom subtlety comes naturally, and her performance is one of emotional complexity disguised in simplicity.”

***

This was tough; there are several “honorable mentions,” among them “Let Somebody Know” from Take Me Higher and “Always and Forever” from I Love You.  There are also much lesser-known gems like “All The Befores” (Surrender) and “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?” (from the Everything Is Everything Expanded Edition) that arguably deserve a place.  And what about big hits like “Endless Love” and “Theme From Mahogany” — certainly those are among the best, too.

Anyway, now it’s your turn — what are your top 5 Diana ballads?

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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38 Responses to Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day!

  1. wayne2710 says:

    OOOH NO ! I can’t possibly name just five ! But I guess in no particular order I would have to mention:
    Didn’t We
    You’ve Changed
    Overjoyed
    Selfish One
    Remember Me

    But then I’d also have to say – You Got It,Too Shy To Say, One Shining Moment, The Same Love That Made Me Laugh, Come In From the Rain, Where There Was Darkness, It’s My Turn, My Man, Touch Me In The Morning, Dark Side of the World and probably about 100 others !

    • Paul says:

      Ha ha, I know, I know…5 is such a small number considering all the amazing ballads Diana’s recorded!! I always forget “Didn’t We” is technically a solo Diana performance, since it appeared on a live Supremes album — but wow, is it a GREAT performance. Her voice is thick with emotion and so skillful.

  2. Robert Rigney says:

    1. Experience
    2. Come In From The Rain 3.If We Hold On Together 4. When You Tell Me That You Love Me 5. When You Tell Me That You Love Me ( with Westlife version.

    • Paul says:

      Hey Robert! I agree “Come In From The Rain” is high up on the list — really, all of her ballads from BABY IT’S ME are great recordings!

  3. Tony says:

    This feels impossible. Oh my…..my choices seem to change regularly depending on my mood and life circumstances.

    Here we go:

    It’s My Turn
    To Love Again
    Home
    I Thought we were Still in Love
    Remember Me

    Honourable mention
    Missing You
    To Shy to Say
    Mahogany theme
    Its hard for me to say
    You’ve Changed

    Ok, can I re do this if my feeling change one the next few days?

    • Paul says:

      I know — mine will probably be different tomorrow! You added some great ones here — “I Thought That We Were Still In Love” is masterful, as is “It’s Hard For Me To Say” — both songs deserve to be much more high-profile. And who can forget “Too Shy To Say?” A great song for Diana and she does it brilliantly!

  4. fredpostman says:

    The top 5..that’s impossible but here are a few that i think are wonderful
    Too Shy To Say
    Never Say i Don’t Love You
    We Need You
    To Love Again
    Sparkle
    umm……all these wonderful songs.

  5. ejluther says:

    Beautiful post as always, Paul – it gives me a reason to relisten to the cuts and that’s been the greatest gift of this project…reasons to listen to Diana Ross! Best ballads? You really hit some highlights but I would add “One More Chance” from TO LOVE AGAIN for it’s rawness and power. I also think “This House” from WORKIN’ OVERTIME deserves a lot of love for its slinky take on a ballad. I’ve also always loved, loved, loved her “Overjoyed” from A VERY SPECIAL SEASON – simply gorgeous in every way and criminally overlooked. Throw “Tell Me Again” from RED HOT R&B, “I Thought It Took a Little Time” from DIANA ROSS (1976), and “Too Shy To Say” from BABY IT’S ME in there with your Top 5 and I’m loving that as a Top, um, 11. As for her big ballad hits like “It’s My Turn”, “Touch Me…” and “Endless Love”, they’re such obvious choices and big hits that they seem to be givens and stand on their own…

  6. spookyelectric says:

    Okay, I’m going to go for:

    1 ‘What About Love’ – she digs unusually deep on this one. Never fails to move me. Something very honest and raw about the vocal.

    2 ‘Confide In Me’ – late night sultry Diana at her best – it’s like she’s whispering in your ear.

    3 ‘You’ve Changed’ – of all her jazz-leaning recordings, this could well be the best (from today at least!) Really get inside the lyric. (Almost chose ‘More And More’)

    4 ‘Where Did We Go Wrong’ – the ’78 version. Wore this out when I first had it on the flip side of ‘My Old Piano’. One of those lovely cinematic sweeping 70s numbers she excelled at. Listen to those ad-libs at the end. Could easily gone for ‘I Thought It Took A Little Time’ or ‘To Love Again’ here too.

    5 ‘Home’ – the Wiz soundtrack version for the full-tilt boogie high drama of it all. A grandstanding vocal performance on a stunning tune.

    • Paul says:

      Fabulous lineup — “Confide In Me” was a contender for my list, and I only left off “Home” because I like the vocal control she displays in “Be A Lion” slightly better. I didn’t even think about “Where Did We Go Wrong,” but goodness is it fantastic, too. I hope beyond hope that this year we get it remastered on a CD!

      • spookyelectric says:

        ‘Be A Lion’ is great, absolutely. I didn’t really think of it as a ‘ballad’ as such – but listening to it again now, I was thinking more of the end of the tune where Ted Ross comes in. Diana’s whole vocal performance in The Wiz is on another level really.

        The other tune I really thought of including was ‘Sleepin’ – one of her great underrated sides – but again wasn’t sure you could call it a ballad!

      • Paul says:

        It’s true — the definition of “ballad” can be a little fluid — I’d say “Sleepin'” qualifies — and it’s another classic! I think next week we’ll do top 5 uptempo — I’m already trying to decide which dance songs are her best — it’s as impossible as ballads!

    • Tony says:

      Where Did We Go Wrong…..is a fine piece of work. I should have added that one. I actually love both versions….but the one from Ross is spectacular and haunting non

  7. spookyelectric says:

    Looking forward to it, Paul.

  8. Lawrence says:

    This is too difficult to limit to 5 songs – and of course there are other huge hits that can be mentioned. I picked 16 ballads (and wouldn’t this be a perfect CD?!)! I will go chronologically –

    1)Reach out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)
    2)I’m Still Waiting
    3) Remember Me
    4) Touch Me in the Morning
    5)Theme From Mahogany
    6) After You
    7)Come in From the Rain
    8) Home
    9) It’s My Turn
    10) Missing You
    11) It’s Hard for Me to Say
    12) If We Hold on Together
    13) Gone
    14)Until We Meet Again
    15) But Beautiful
    16) What About Love

  9. Lawrence says:

    my list?! 🙂

  10. Eric Duerr says:

    If I had to pick an “Take you higher” track, it wouldn’t be that one but…i’m still upset it didn’t get much attention. i had my ultimate Miss Ross setlist until she came out in her sweat pants and sang “I Love you” to us…I had no idea and she was amazing. I would love to hear a lot of things but the fact that Diana Ross sang to me in her sweats is all I ever need.

  11. George says:

    Here’s my awesome selection! 🙂

    1) Now That There’s You

    2) And If You See Him

    3) My Baby My Baby My Own

    4) I Thought It Took A Little Time

    5) Come in From the Rain

  12. Mikel Patrik says:

    GREAT list, and it’s an almost impossible task to limit it to just 5, but mine would be: Be A Lion, It’s My Turn, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Little Girl Blue, Didn’t We.

    • Paul says:

      Mikel — “Ain’t No Mountain…” is my all-time favorite Diana recording, but I wasn’t sure if it qualified as a ballad — it’s a song that almost impossible to define!! Love that we both included “Be A Lion” and “Little Girl Blue” — such great songs that deserve more attention!

  13. Tony says:

    Ain’t No Mountain ….is my utmost favourite as well…..but I agree it doesn’t really fit the criteria of a ballad. If it is a Ballad , than I need it in my list!

  14. Lawrence says:

    If I limited it to just 5 (and of course these change depending on my mood), here they are:

    1) Reach out and Touch
    2) Touch Me in the Morning
    3) Theme from Mahogany
    4) Home (from the Wiz)
    5) Missing You.

    🙂

  15. Christopher says:

    1. After You
    2. Summertime
    3. Love Me
    4. In Your Arms
    5. Where Did We Go Wrong

    But can’t ignore…
    Let Somebody Know
    You Are Not Alone
    Voice of the Heart
    We Need You
    What About Love
    Let Somebody Know
    Ain’t Nothing But a Maybe
    In The Ones You Love
    Gone
    More and More
    and probably more if I think about it.

  16. bokiluis says:

    Good question. It will be hard to keep it to 5 especially if you include her years as a Supreme. But here goes:

    1) “Endless Love”(solo)- besides by being the best thing on the disjointed “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” album, if she produced her vocals with the same meticulous precision, her RCA years would have been unparalleled. It far outweighs “The Billboard Biggest Duet of All Time” duet version. The last minute and a half captures Diana singing like we had never heard before. Makes me wonder if this were the original single released…how would it have fared. At moments, it feels like a sonnet to her tribe, her hardcore fan base.
    2) “Tell Me Again”-with its gospel roots written by Whitley Phipps, who most famously arranged “Amazing Grace”, it is truly a moment of grace.
    3) “Does Your Momma Know About Me”-one of the reasons the “Love Child” album is her best after the group name change. It is a bravura performance.
    4) “Ask Any Girl”-the first Supremes B-side that we loved immensely. Could have easily been a single as it was once slated to be. It was the beginning of near excellent Supremes B-sides.
    5) “Don’t Give Up on Each Other”- tied with “More and More” as the finest moments on the poorly titled “Eaten Alive” album. A deeply, heartbreaking ballad that I mistakenly dedicated to someone completely undeserving.
    HONORABLE MENTIONS:
    6) “My Man”/”God Bless the Child”- from her HBO debut special readings to the elegant closer on the soundtrack, “God Bless the Child” was also stunning at Central Park. She repeated another strong performance on the “Stolen Moments” album. She has never gone wrong when taking on either song.
    7) “Bah-Bah-Bah”- okay admittedly the oddest name for a song, I was a lovesick teen completely sure that I understood these sad lyrics. Easily the most played song from the “Reflections” album.
    8) “Just Say, Just Say”- while I wanted and expected more involvement from Ashford & Simpson, this subtle and beautiful duet grows on you with repeated listenings to “Diana & Marvin”.
    9) “I Thought it Took a Little Time”- despite its great success on the Adult Contemporary charts, this could and should have been her 3rd #1 from “The Black Album”. It’s chart life was unfairly eclipsed. Damn those Fifth Dimension.
    10) “Be a Lion”- whatever you feel about the movie, you have to credit Quincy Jones in assisting her to find a new octave to sing in. Better than Stephanie Mills original cast album version, Diana was well primed to knock us out vocally with “The Boss” once she mastered “The Songs from “The Wiz”!

  17. bokiluis says:

    How could I forget “Didn’t We” and “One Shining Moment”, that she actually transforms into a mid tempo song live from my favorite album of all time “The Force Behind the Power” which reminded me of the remix of “Waiting in the Wings” and the arresting “Blame it on the Sun”. Top 10 was hard enough…..Top 5 was just not possible.

  18. 1. Touch Me In The Morning
    2. I’m Still Waiting
    3. Remember Me
    4. Come In From The Rain
    5. I Thought It Took a Little Time (But Today I Fell In Love)

    If I were to add honorable mentions it would be ‘Missing You’ & ‘Endless Love’.
    There is something lush & all encompassing about the tracks I chose for me as a listener. The chorus’, the orchestras 70s Motown production at its finest & The Boss front and center doing what she does best interpreting a lyric & singing her heart out. I think there is also a yearning both in style & content in each of my choices that probably says more about me than I’d like to admit!

  19. Eric says:

    Touch me in the morning
    Not over you yet
    Love me
    Too many nights
    Never say I don’t love you

    Missing you is great but not my fav !

  20. Eric says:

    Damn! I forgot “my baby my own” and “so they say”!!!! Classics ! Endless classics !

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