Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is Red Hot Rhythm And Blues – the US edition of the 16th solo album by Diana Ross. Does this album get you dancing, or is it just a bit tepid? Read on…
This 10 track album opens with lead single Dirty Looks, which is a great little track, and gives Diana some wonderful pop vocals, including a few breathy lines to smolder down the mic. This was Diana in her early 40s. If you think about what Madonna or Kylie released at that age, then this is quite gentile.
Stranger In Paradise is up next, and this includes some nice synths and beats against some guitar. Diana’s vocals stand here strong, in what is undoubtedly an 80s pop-rock track. It’s a bit slower from the preceding track, but it’s still a perfect song. Sadly, it wasn’t released as a single.
The Leonard Cohen co-written track, Summertime, opens with Diana’s beautiful vocals, that gently usher in a warm strings section. It reminds me a bit of something from Madonna’s I’m Breathless album.
Next up is Shine, which I was surprised to see was written solely by Mick Hucknall from Simply Red. Back in 1987, Mick was working on the second Simply Red album Men And Women with veteran Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier, and so it was probably with little effort, that he ended up giving this track to Diana.
This track is quite a funky number, with a nice bassline opening it, before the rest of the ensemble kicks in – including breaks and brass sections. This is a nice enough song, although I can easily imagine Simply Red returning to this – which i don’t need to, as they released it as a b-side in 1989.
Second single Tell Me Again is up next, and this is classic Diana power ballad territory (imagine an early When You Tell Me That You Love Me). Here, she’s pitching her vocals against an orchestra, with lyrics that sound like they might have been from one of her 60s hits with The Supremes.
After what feels like a bit of a 70s show theme intro, Selfish One gives Diana another great little pop number. This again feels like its roots were somewhere in the Motown garden. Musically, lyrically and stylistically, it reminds me of something from her vast 60s back catalogue.
Seventh track Cross My Heart is up next, and this is another well formed 80s track, giving Diana a great range of vocals, although the lyrics are a little. It comes complete with soaring strings, although I think they take a bit too much of a back seat.
Next up is a cover of The Drifters‘ 1959 song, There Goes My Baby, and this is the biggest nod here to Diana’s musical past. Her version, doesn’t really stray from their version. It’s a little odd to find this cover here, when Donna Summer had already made a moderate hit of it in 1984.
Penultimate track, another ballad, sees Luther Vandross gain a co-writer credit, and backing vocal appearance. The track gives Diana another chance to showcase her vocals without much of challenge from the music.
The album closes with the up-beat Shockwaves which became the third single in the UK from the album (after a Shep Pettibone remix). It’s a great pop track, and companion to lead single Dirty Looks. It feels like it belongs as a feel-good song on an 80s film soundtrack.
This is the US edition of the album, identified by the lack of two tracks – a cover of Etta James‘ hit Tell Mama, and a cover of The Bobbettes‘ hit Mr Lee (which became the 4th single in the US only).
Where is Diana Ross now?
Not long after this album, Diana released an album of Love Songs just five months later. She also became a mother again in 1987, and again for the final time in 1988.
Commercially, her solo music has been well received, but sales have often been stronger outside of her native US.
Now in her 70s, Diana is still performing, and even as I write this review, she’s on tour, performing music from her vast Supremes and solo back catalogue.
POP RESCUE RATING:
There we have it, a Diana Ross album – her last for RCA Records, and one that contained nothing that I was previously familiar with. In conclusion, this is a really good album – from a pop song and 80s pop viewpoint, as well as there being plenty here who enjoyed her 60s music career.
Whilst this album bombed commercially in the US (reaching #73 on the US Billboard chart), and did a little better in the UK, I think that this is actually a much underrated album.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1987 UK CHART POSITION: #47
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from an Oxfam store.