Wednesday, February 24, 2010

431. Anthology- In the days before they were a kind of pizza.

Album: Anthology.
Artist: Diana Ross
Year: 1974
Genre: Girl Groups


  1. Let Me Go The Right Way
  2. A Breath Taking Guy
  3. When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes
  4. Standing At The Crossroads Of Love
  5. Run, Run, Run
  6. Where Did Our Love Go
  7. Baby Love
  8. Ask Any Girl
  9. Come See About Me
  10. Stop! In The Name Of Love
  11. Back In My Arms Again
  12. Nothing But Heartaches
  13. I Hear A Symphony
  14. My World Is Empty Without You
  15. Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart
  16. You Can't Hurry Love
  17. You Keep Me Hangin' On
  18. Love Is Here And Now You're Gone
  19. The Happening
  20. Reflections
  21. In And Out Of Love
  22. Forever Came Today
  23. Some Things You Never Get Used To
  24. Love Child
  25. A Hard Day's Night
  26. Funny How Time Slips Away
  27. You Send Me
  28. Falling In Love With Love
  29. I'm The Greatest Star
  30. I'm Gonna Make You Love Me (with the Temptations)
  31. I'm Livin' In Shame
  32. The Composer
  33. I'll Try Something New (with the Temptations)
  34. No Matter What Sign You Are
  35. Someday We'll Be Together

The Supremes- a story of how three young girls with stars in their eyes became one girl with two other girls and then three different girls before becoming no girls at all. A tragic tales of rampant egos, spangly dresses, alcoholism and a spooky resemblance to Michael Jackson.

This album is actually a bit of a problem since there are as many versions of it as there are line ups of the Supremes. It was originally released as a three LP set in 1976 before being revised and expanded in 1986. And then revised and expanded again in 1995 before finally being revised and altered significantly in 2001. When Rolling Stone magazine put out their list they neglected to mention which of the many incarnations of this release they regarded as holding spot number 431 which leaves me in a bit of a pickle when it comes to reviewing it. I've chosen to stick to the core songs which make up the bulk of every release and include all the actual hits. The remaining tracks (which were only altered in the hopes of persuading die-hard fans to purchase every version) I've pretty much ignored, which is fine because the rest of the pop world has pretty much done the same.

When they started out in the early sixties the Supremes were a trio of girls one of whom was Diana Ross. Their beginning wasn't spectacular by any stretch of the imagination and they really started to take off when Motown head Berry Gordy decided to alter the band structure and make Ross the leader of the group. He made this decision based partly on her looks, partly on her talent but mainly because he'd been secretly extending her more than just professional guidance, if you know what I mean (Gordy was later revealed as the father of one of Ross's children). Previously vocal duties had been shared more equally by the three girls but when the name changed to Diana Ross and the Supremes the others faded into the background and became mere backing singers. If you listen to this album in something like a chronological order you can hear different voices taking leads in the early days before it gradually becomes Diana's show. Not long after her ascension to "Supreme Supreme" Ross's bandmate Florence Ballard succumbed to alcoholism brought on in part by her jealousy at Diana's supreme supremacy. She left and was replaced with another singer, a line-up change that I'm sorry to report isn't really evident on this album. By the time she departed Ballard was just a backing vocalist and easily replaced by someone with a similar voice and less of a tendency to balloon out of proportion thanks to substance abuse.

Obviously the biggest hit on this release is Stop! In the name of Love, which is probably their signature tune and I have to say is the bane of my life. In the school I teach in it's quite common for someone to correct errant behavior by holding out a raised palm and saying "stop" in a forceful tone. I know I'm not the only one who immediately sings "In the name of love! before you break my heart!" in my head, but I'm probably the only one who keeps singing it for the rest of the day. I'm sure its not just me who suffers from Supreme-meme Syndrome in the workplace. Nurses in maternity ward must have Baby Love running as a constant loop in their head; People who sell mirrors must be constantly singing Reflections; Trapeze artists would be forever humming You Keep me Hanging On and TV executives must surely find themselves singing I'm living in Shame on a fairly regular basis. The biggest hits on this album are definitely well produced pop tracks sung by the undoubtedly talented Ms Ross and whichever two peons were lucky enough to back her at the time. They sounded good on record, good on the radio and very good when done live in nice frocks with accompanying dance moves.

While it's easy to sing the praises of the girls in front of the microphones I have to stop at this point and mention the boys behind them. Lamont Dozier along with Brian and Edward Holland made up a writing team known as Holland-Dozier-Holland who together wrote all the original hits the Supremes charted with. Baby Love, Stop in the name of Love, You Can't hurry love, You keep me hanging on and Reflections were all HDH compositions as were many other lesser Supremes songs along with hits recorded by Marvin Gaye, The Four tops, Martha and the Vendallas and Michael Jackson. As a trio they wrote 25 number one hit singles which is no mean feat. They deserve credit for not only churning out so many songs (over 200 according to their official website) but for being able to vary their style and not just repeat a set formula over and over again. They were truly talented guys and they deserve the royalties they still receive whenever anyone cranks out a cover of one of their tunes.

Whichever version you get your hands on Anthology is a lot of Supremes and certainly too much for the likes of me. While their hits are great pop, some of their covers (A Hard Days Night for example) aren't worth hearing more than once. There are one-disc compilations out there which have all the hits and none of the filler that pads out this mammoth release. If you're a fan of girl groups then you could do much worse than get your hands on the greatest girl group of them all.

Influenced by: Motown's stable of singers and songwriters.
Every girl group that's gone after them.

For me it's Reflections but you'll have your own personal favourite.
Lowlight: A Hard Day's Night- it was compulsory to do a Beatles cover at the time but not many people did them very well.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Gee, I really have to get into the new think. Let's see. I go to the Louvre and am shocked to find Mona Lisa's smile has now been airbrushed into a frown and to make something new out of the painting someone has added a mustache. If I object, I should "get over it." After all, we had the original painting for so long! Is the listening public today that dumb and that gullible that 15 seconds more of a fade and tricked-up remixing rates five-star reviews and 20 bucks put down for a C.D.? Sounds like it, and I guess I'll have to get over THAT, too."

-Get into the new think. That's a great phrase. And I like the Mona Lisa comparison, although it does fall down a bit when you consider the fact that there is only one Mona but there are dozens of Supreme's CD's and so remastering one doesn't really damage all of them.

So what do you think- is this Supreme entertainment or do you wish they'd Stop in the name of love? Let me know below.

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