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This review is from: The Motown Anthology (Audio CD)
Yet another "Ross's Greatest Hits" in a package? Well, yes and no. This "anthology" is,as you might expect, comprised of all of her biggest and lesser solo hits from the period 1970 until 1999-but with a twist: there is one previously unreleased track here and six or seven alternate takes/disco-remixes that first see the light of day in this collection-first, "the new track" "Time and Love" composed by Laura Nyro by Bones Howe of "Fifth Dimension, "The Association", and "The Mamas and Papas" fame: it is a well-performed uptempo distinctly pop song perfect for a 1970 audience. Mr. Howe envisioned molding the newly solo Diana into "a black Barbara Streisand"; had "Time and Love" become Ms. Ross' first solo single release as originally planned, his production would have represented an effective first-step in that direction. Interestingly, Streisand herself later recorded this composition for one of her albums. It is rumored that Ross also recorded "Stoney End" and "Love's Lines Angles and Rhymes" with Howe. The former was later a hit for Barbara Streisand and the latter for the Fifth Dimension. If in fact these Ross tracks are gathering dust in Motown's vaults, it would have been a treat to have had them included here as well. We wait for the next compilation!
As for the alternate takes et al., some such as that of the haunting "Remember Me" from the 1971 "Surrender" album are however so close to the well-known hit versions that they are barely alternate. The version of "My Mistake", her charming duet with Marvin Gaye included, is string and violin-heavy creating a prettier less soulful production. Lee Holdridge's production of "Home" from "The Wiz" is less soulful and more MOR than the highly emotionally charged Quincy Jones production from the movie soundtrack. The latter is preferable for the sheer power of Ms. Ross' performance which has always been considered one of the strongest-if not the strongest-of her solo career.
Alternate and not-so-alternate tracks not withstanding, this collection is refreshing in that it includes little known Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin gems such as "One More Chance" and "Stay With Me". Gerry Goffin is Carole King's ex-husand and ex-writing partner. These two gems sound great for the first time in their digitally remastered reincarnations. This is a must for all serious students of Ross and her stellar career.
However, the inclusion of "Lovin', Livin' and Givin", seems a misinformed choice: it appeared originally on a Casablanca Records-that is, not Motown or one of its subsidiaries-soundtrack to a Donna Summer movie. From a musical standpoint, the original opus was a brilliantly eccentric bellwether to the typical early '80s synthesizer fodor of Gary Numan-and even in current trends in electronica courtesy of Madonna-producer Mirwais Ahmadzai found on his solo album "Production".Summer herself would record "The Wanderer" which took its cue from the Moroder-esque beats of the late '70s/early '80s. In any event, the original version should be celebrated more than the alternate take or its reworking which, based on an analysis of her work circa 1975-1980, is more lush, smooth,live and jazzy yet very typical of Ross material circa that period a la Mahogany. Yet for this reason it pales in comparison to the musical revelation it once was. Perhaps, this would have bee an "alternate" version that was the preferred choice as a single around that time? The inclusion of "If We Hold On Together" may also raise some eyebrows as it appeared on -if memory serves correctly-an MCA Soundtrack to an animated movie.