“Lookin’ down you’ll never see me, try the sky ’cause that’ll be me…”
Before I write anything else, I must say I have no information regarding the possibility of a Baby It’s Me Expanded Edition. That is the number one topic that brings people to this little website, and is easily the most asked question over e-mail — my original post on the 1977 LP is far and away the most viewed on The Diana Ross Project. I wish I had some news — if any Diana Ross album deserves the deluxe treatment, it’s this one. It’s ripe for rediscovery, especially as more and more people finally start to realize what a singular musical talent the singer really is.
All that said, I hear from sources that 2014 will likely bring us the release of a “long-awaited cover” by Diana Ross & The Supremes on the wonderful Hip-O Select label. Does this mean Diana Ross & The Supremes Sing And Perform Funny Girl will finally get a proper CD release for fans?
If so, this is fantastic news. Although thus far The Diana Ross Project has solely been devoted to the solo career of Miss Ross, the 1968 Funny Girl LP was arguably the first major showcase for Diana Ross as a solo star. There is no doubt that the goal of the album was to position Diana as an entertainment force; critics had heralded Barbra Streisand as the ultimate female entertainer in Funny Girl on Broadway, and her film adaptation was about to be released. According to J. Randy Taraborrelli’s Diana Ross: A Biography, “Berry [Gordy] had the shrewd idea of beating the original soundtrack recording into the shops” (192). Though it was apparently rushed, the man who wrote the music for the show, Jule Styne, was involved in the Motown recording and wrote glowing liner notes for the LP.
Diana’s vocal work on the album (which really didn’t feature very much of the Supremes as a group) is easily her best of the entire decade; on some songs, her performances rival anything she’s done in her entire career. Producer Gil Askey is quoted by Taraborrelli as saying, “Diane was in her glory every step of the way” (192), and that’s extremely apparent in the finished product. There’s an unparalleled joy in her vocals on songs like “I’m The Greatest Star” and “If A Girl Isn’t Pretty,” not to mention the kind of power and control one would expect from an experienced Broadway actress. This is especially true on the magical “The Music That Makes Me Dance,” a song which finally found its way onto CD with the 2009 Supremes compilation Love Songs. This is one of the most thrilling and romantic musical moments of Diana’s 50+ year career; listen to the way she leisurely paces the song, beginning with a warm, sultry croon and ending in a brassy belt worlds away from her early-60’s work. This is a tour de force.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that, indeed, 2014 is the year of Funny Girl. Although there are albums fans would probably much rather see reissued (not just Baby It’s Me…what about 1978’s Ross?), a chance to reevaluate this important moment in launching Diana Ross as a star would be a wonderful treat.