Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 1995 album Take Me Higher by Diana Ross. But was this album a new peak, or was it a low point? Read on…
This 11 track album opens with lead single and title track Take Me Higher. It starts with a dance beat and Diana’s breathy spoken word vocals. The song then grabs a wonderful heavy bassline and lays it over the snare and handclaps. My foot taps as the melody weaves towards the chorus. Diana’s vocals are strong and confident in the verses, but a little weaker in the chorus, but she’s joined by backing singers to help lift her higher. It’s quite a nice little pop/dance track. This song stumbled at #32 in the UK singles chart, but definitely deserved to reach higher. I can imagine that the remixes were probably quite good.
If You’re Not Gonna Love Me Right follows this, and it takes the tempo down a little bit, with the kind of beats and style that you’d expect from Eternal. Again, Diana puts in some more breathy spoken confessions, as piano and strings help to keep the song gently swaying along. It definitely feels like it might have been on Eternal’s recording schedule.
Up next is I Never Loved A Man Before, and this opens with a Spanish acoustic guitar that really delicately leads us into a gentle egg-shaker-filled song. Diana is pitched against piano, congas, bass, and gentle warm keyboards, with the Spanish acoustic guitar taking a centre role in the chorus. The guitarist really does a wonderful job of keeping the Spanish acoustic carefully away from being over-used. The result is quite a nice little mid-tempo pop love song.
This is followed by Swing It, which is a heavier RnB track, and the first track here to feature Babyface as one of the co-writers. Musically it’s a simple song, and the hard drums, and backing vocals kind of dominate the song, with Diana feeling like a bit of a guest.
The second Babyface co-write Keep It Right There follows, and again the beat is hard, but the tone is one that feels much more sultry due to Diana’s performance as a piano leads a series of descending chords. By contrast, this track is much better, with the backing vocalists complimenting Diana rather than dominating her performance. This is a really nice mellow but moody song.
Don’t Stop is up next, and for a moment I thought that it was starting with sleigh bells. It’s use of vocal samples, and it’s soft drums, really makes it sound of a similar style to the great track Don’t Stop from 1994 by Madonna.
Next up is second single Gone (re-titled I’m Gone at release), with an intro that sounds quite cheap and dated. The bassline meanders around as strings gently swirl in the chorus. A piano tinkles along in the background as Diana sings (perhaps a little too loud) over the top. The single stalled in the UK, peaking at #36 in the charts, and to be honest, I think that’s fair.
The mood shifts down as a sad sounding piano introduces ballad I Thought That We Were Still In Love. Diana’s voice here is beautiful – really shining and getting to show off the richness as she’s pitched against the piano. After about 1m 40, a moody saxophone and beat arrives, and by 2mins in the orchestra arrives too. The song builds up wonderfully, and Diana is flawless throughout.
Voice Of The Heart follows this, and this is a pretty standard little pop song. It gives Diana plenty of space and time to show of her vocal capacity, with little else getting in her way. The backing vocalists and guitarists are present but keep out of her way. Even the key-change for the final third of the song, feels right and Diana makes the jump with great ease. This was the third single from the album, with If You’re Not Gonna Love Me Right, but it failed to chart in the UK.
Penultimate track Only Love Can Conquer All which gives us a breathy slow song. Diana’s voice is high and delicate here, as the low bass plods on.
The album closes with third and final single I Will Survive – a dance cover of the classic disco track by Gloria Gaynor. Despite the song being regularly covered, this version managed to give Diana a #14 UK hit, and definitely belts it out – vocally and musically (well, the snare drum at least).
Where is Diana Ross now?
This was Diana Ross at the start of her 50s. Now in her 70s, it’s difficult to imagine her delivering such a slick contemporary production as this now, but it’s a great addition to her career. Whilst the album and singles didn’t particularly find great commercial success, it has remained a fan base favourite.
The album was followed by Voice Of Love and its sell-out tour in 1996 – a love songs compilation. However, she returned to the UK Top 10 singles chart in 1999 for the first time since 1992 with dance hit Not Over You Yet. Despite this hit single, it’s respective album Every Day Is A New Day stalled at #71 in the UK.
Her most recent UK single was When You Tell Me That You Love Me, a pointless cover of her earlier hit, but with Irish pop leeches Westlife. This gave them a #2 hit in 2005.
In 2012 Diana received her first Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and whilst showing no signs of slowing down – she has continued to tour and perform. In 2015 she taken a second residency for a series of regular shows in Las Vegas, USA.
POP RESCUE RATING
Over all, this album gives a respectful nod to the long career that Diana had already had, whilst giving us a great slice of 90’s dance and RnB.
Whilst a couple of songs sound a little simplistic or as if they’ve (the ballads) fallen out of a 70’s album session, it really is a nice album. Gone was a mistake as a single, and we should have seen Don’t Stop or Keep It Right There released instead.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1995 UK CHART PEAK: #10
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.