504

Diana Ross: Blue

Samuel Chell By

Sign in to view read count
Diana Ross: Blue This album is an eye-opener, especially after all the negative press and peer criticism that followed the R&B queen's starring role in the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues: her portrayal of America's foremost tragic jazz diva, as well as her impersonation of a music persona of cult-like proportions in the inner, exclusive circles of the "hip" jazz world.

But the evidence on this long-suppressed disc from the same era is compelling. Ross did her homework, absorbing everything about the Holiday style except the rough (admittedly expressive) grain of the voice, undoubtedly exacerbated by years of smoking, drinking and doping. Moreover, she goes directly to the heart of Billie Holiday—the most painful, heart-wrenching performance of them all: Jimmy Van Heusen's "But Beautiful," from Lady in Satin (Columbia, 1958).

The phrasing, breathing, inflections, and, above all, unforced elocution are Lady Day. No artist could replicate Holiday singing "it's a heartache anyway" the second time through the tune—a moment when her heart and voice literally break, erasing the boundary between life and art—but Ross nonetheless shows that she "gets" it: she evokes the feeling and drama, wisely choosing not to reenact the excruciating moment itself.

"I Can't Get Started," "Easy Living," "Solitude," "He's Funny That Way," "T'ain't Nobody's Bizness" stand up right alongside the original performances—the tempos, storytelling, and emotions are so convincing that you might think the vocalist is channeling her predecessor.

No wonder the studio execs thought better than to release this one right after it was made—a "serious" project like this would very likely have made little money and put a damper on the mega-hits to follow in the singer's career. Still, Ross no doubt profited from the experience in non-material ways, learning how to communicate a song's essence as she had never done before.

Because there is some fluff on the album recalling the weaker moments of the movie, the songs cited above are the real essentials. The commercial glibness of some of the other performances serves as a reminder of how much better Ross could be when she put her whole self into challenging, even daunting material, literally becoming one with the tortured spirit and torturous consciousness of a creative genius.

Track Listing: What A Diff'rence A Day Makes; No More; Let's Do It; I Loves Ya Porgy; Smile; But Beautiful; Had You Been Around; Little Girl Blue; Can't Get Started With You; Love Is Here To Stay; You've Changed; My Man (Mon Homme); Easy Living; Solitude; He's Funny That Way; T'Aint Nobody's Bizness If I Do.

Personnel: Diana Ross: vocals; Harry "Sweets" Edison: trumpet; other musicians unspecified; Gil Askey: producer and conductor.

Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Motown | Style: Vocal


Shop

CD/LP/Track Review
  • Blue by Samuel Chell
  • Blue by R. Emmet Sweeney
Read more articles

More Articles

Read The Big Wig CD/LP/Track Review The Big Wig
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Dreamer Is the Dream CD/LP/Track Review The Dreamer Is the Dream
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert CD/LP/Track Review Bill Evans – Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 24, 2017
Read The Failure of Words CD/LP/Track Review The Failure of Words
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 24, 2017
Read Groove Dreams CD/LP/Track Review Groove Dreams
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 23, 2017
Read Kami Fusen CD/LP/Track Review Kami Fusen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2017
Read "Strong Tea" CD/LP/Track Review Strong Tea
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 27, 2016
Read "Nocturno" CD/LP/Track Review Nocturno
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 9, 2017
Read "Choice" CD/LP/Track Review Choice
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 9, 2016
Read "Xabregas 10" CD/LP/Track Review Xabregas 10
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 19, 2016
Read "The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture" CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Live In Ludwigshafen 1961" CD/LP/Track Review Live In Ludwigshafen 1961
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2016
comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, hide slide-outs, and provide read access to our future articles.

Buy it!