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Review: Diana Ross: Blue

Lady sings the blues... again

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Recorded in 1972, this was Motown's (specifically label head Berry Gordy's) attempt to capitalize on the success of Diana Ross' recent triumph in the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings The Blues. Her portrayal of one of jazz's most tortured souls gained raves (and an Oscar nod), and Blue was seen as a studio sequel to the hit film soundtrack. Gordy shelved the project after completion, however, and steered Ross back towards pop with Touch Me In The Morning. This is Blue's first public release.

About this CD

  • Recording: 1971 - 1972, Los Angeles, CA
  • Release date: June 20, 2006
  • Label: Motown/Universal
  • Catalog number: MOT 569402
  • Produced and arranged by Gil Askey
  • Engineered by Guy Costa
  • Mastered by Kevin Reeves at Universal Mastering
  • Liner notes by David Ritz
  • Cover photo by Harry Langdon

Pros

Diana Ross: Blue

Diana Ross: Blue

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  • Miss Ross is in perfect voice and arguably at the height of her interpretive powers.
  • The song selection is top-notch, focusing on a wide range of jazz-pop standards.

Cons

  • Diana remains Diana, but some of these songs are just beyond her emotional reach.
  • Gil Askey's arrangements often cross the line into Vegas schmaltz.
  • The alternate versions of four Lady Sings The Blues tunes aren't especially revelatory.

My review

The release of Diana Ross' Blue -- 34 years after its recording -- proves that Motown was always the rock label friendliest to America's pre-war music. Label head Berry Gordy started in jazz, after all, and the Supremes themselves had already dropped Sing Rodgers and Hart on an unsuspecting Summer of Love crowd. So it only made sense for the label's greatest diva to follow up her star turn as Billie Holiday with this collection of pop standards. It may have worked too well, in fact: Gordy shelved the album specifically because it was too authentic, fearing it would start to drive Miss Ross' postwar pop audience away.

He needn't have worried: while Diana's voice remains a beautiful natural instrument, she's navigating some very tricky emotional ground here, as evidenced by Gershwin's "I Love You Porgy," which she sings as if she learned it phonetically. And Gil Askey's arrangements threaten to overwhelm the uptempo numbers like "Let's Do It." David Ritz' liner notes claim that Blue represents some of Diana's "most emotionally satisfying music," but that says more about the nature of her catalog than it does her interpretive ability. Strictly for those who idolize the diva and want to see her in... well, in something more blue.

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