Review: “Eaten Alive” by Diana Ross (CD, 1985)

Today’s Pop Rescue from obscurity, is the 1985 album Eaten Alive – the sixteenth album by American singer and former-Supreme, Diana Ross. Is this album a tasty dish, or is it hard to stomach? Let’s find out..

Diana Ross - Eaten Alive (1985) album cover
Diana Ross – Eaten Alive (1985) album cover

The album opens dramatically with the dramatic beats and bass-y synths of lead single and title track Eaten Alive, and it also introduces us to Diana’s three well-known collaborators – Barry and Maurice Gibb (of Bee Gees) who get co-writer credits here with Michael Jackson, the latter of whom picks up a backing vocals and co-producer credit for it as well. Diana’s vocals are very fast and whispery in the verse, but she’s pitched alongside Michael in the chorus, where he somewhat dominates the sound. This track essentially sounds like it is mostly Jackson’s rather than Ross’. Despite the presence of all this pop royalty, when it was released as the lead single in the UK, it flopped at #71.

This is followed by Oh Teacher, as which is musically wonderful – the kick of the bass drum against the piano. Robin Gibb joins his brothers on the co-writer credits (his first of seven here). Barry Gibb briefly joins Diana on the mic for the mid-section, but the song is thankfully Diana’s. This is a really nice up-beat track and it flows effortlessly, aided by a few bursts of electric guitar, whilst also challenging Diana’s vocal range gently.

Third and final UK single Experience is up next, and it sounds a bit all over the place in the intro, before stepping back to give Diana a nice soft and warm mid-tempo song. Barry delivers that familiar supporting Bee Gee sound in the chorus, which provides a melody that reminds me somewhat of their other hit Heartbreaker with Dionne Warwick from a few years earlier. Barry’s vocal only helps to lift Diana’s tender vocals, resulting in a nice little song but it missed the UK top 40, stumbling at #47.

From that drum fill, you’re hit with a contrast as Chain Reaction follows this, and upon release as the second single, it rightly gave Diana a huge #1 UK hit. I remember this hitting the charts – completely aware of who she was, and that Bee Gees were involved somehow. The video was eye-catching and a respectful nod towards her earlier career (it now reminds me a bit of Hey Ya! by Outkast). Listening to it now, it’s blatantly clear of Bee Gees involvement – they wrote it, but Barry Gibb is the only Gibb brother to get a vocal credit (alongside his producer credit) for the album. Diana’s vocals really shine here, and she’s perfectly lifted upon the very pedestal she sings about, as the music builds around her. A fantastic piece of iconic pop music, for a musical icon.

That’s followed by a jazzy piano solo opening track More And More. Diana picks up the mic, sounding like she’s in a late night jazz bar a-top the piano. She sings with vocal perfection – rich, warm, and somewhat spine-tinglingly. She’s joined by some sweeping strings about half-way, allowing the track to lift the song momentarily. Perfect!

I’m Watching You is next and this is a mid-tempo ballad, that pitches a whispery Diana over a fairly straight forward rim-shot led track. The strings return in the final third to help lift the song up. Diana makes easy work of this song, and thankfully does get the opportunity to let those vocals rip towards the end. It’s nice enough, but lacks the magic of other tracks here.

Then there’s some disco-funk nods in Love On The Line, led by some synths and a wonderfully plodding bass. Diana delivers some powerful vocals, sometimes duelling with some roaring guitars, over a fairly catchy melody. There’s a whiff of Bee Gees in the chorus, but Barry sticks to backing vocals as Diana leads the way. This would have made a great choice for a single.

(I Love) Being In Love With You follows that, opening with some soft keyboards, as we meander into this mid-tempo track. Once again, Diana’s vocals are flawless, and this gentle track sounds like easy work for her. The track kind of wafts along though, with the chorus almost taking you surprise each time because it’s hard to follow.

Synths lead us into next song Crime Of Passion, and roaring electric guitars soon drop in as the song chugs along at a good steady pace. The track gives Diana a more interesting song to work with, particularly the bridge and chorus, which shows off a funky song with some loud almost shouty vocals. This energy is mimicked by the guitars before everything mellows out again in time for the verse. Brass join in, giving the track an even more catchy funk sound.

That’s followed by penultimate track Don’t Give Up On Each Other, which as you might expect from the title, is a tender heartfelt ballad. A simple piano/keyboards sequence ushers in some soft reminiscent vocals from Diana. Strings subtly slide in as the song begins to build. Then, guitars drop in as the powerful and motivational ‘don’t give up!‘ lyrics and theme drops in. The song alternates between these two moods, before really building up for the final part as the strings swoop, guitars roar, and Gibb joins in on backing vocals. Oddly it fades out, and I think it would have been better to have suddenly stopped.

The album closes with Eaten Alive (Extended Re-Mix), weighing in at 5m 52s (an extra 2 minutes on the earlier version). The beats are heavy here, with a ton of percussion sounds and a thick bass. The tempo races along as Diana’s vocals sound increasingly like Michael Jackson’s – who turns up for the chorus, once again dominating the sound. To be honest, this probably should have been released as Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, and it would have been a hit.

Diana Ross’ lead single ‘Eaten Alive’

Verdict

Over all, this album is a fairly strong album. The consistent presence of the Gibb brothers – Barry, Maurice, Robin, and Andy on songwriter duties, as well as Barry on vocals and musical duties, ensures that this album works together.

There’s plenty of Bee Gees style here, and this does give some wonderful moments – the highlights being Chain Reaction, Love On The Line, and Oh Teacher, with a beautifully performance from Diana in the slower jazzy More And More. Michael’s performance and involvement in the co-writing, vocals, and co-production of the titular Eaten Alive does give it a very stylistic sound that’s more him than Diana, but it does inject a wonderful energy. Even the Extended ‘Re-Mix’ manages this too.

Where the album sits a little weaker is in some of the mid-tempo tracks like I’m Watching You and (I Love) Being In Love With You, which don’t really develop very far as the songs progress, but these are only minor criticisms, as the over all result is a really enjoyable mid-80’s album from one of music’s biggest stars. If you disagree, then just play Chain Reaction twice.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1985 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #11
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.37 from MusicMagpie

Based on all of the Diana Ross albums we have reviewed so far, we are able to calculate her average score as
4.20 out of 5.

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