Thursday, September 11, 2014

Diana Ross - Swept Away

This week (September 13th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Swept Away, the fifteenth solo studio album from Motown legend Diana Ross. This Gold seller went to number 78 in Australia, number 40 in the UK, number 37 in Canada, number 32 in Japan, number 22 in Germany, and number 10 in the Netherlands and Sweden. Here in the US, it spent forty-five weeks on the Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 26, and also went to number 7 on the Billboard R&B chart.

Accompanying Ross on the album were a number of noted musicians. Jeff Beck, Nile Rodgers and G.E. Smith all played guitar, Arthur Baker provided keyboards and synthesizers, Bernard Edwards contributed on bass, and Dave Weckl was on drums. Horns were provided by Michael Brecker and Randy Brecker.

Side one begins with the Lionel Richie penned “Missing You”, a tribute by Ross to her recently departed good friend Marvin Gaye. Ross and Gaye worked together at Motown for a long time, including doing an album of duets together in 1973. As the album’s third single, it went to number 95 in Australia, number 76 in the UK, number 29 in Canada, number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 4 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. This gentle-swaying ballad always hits a tender spot in my heart when I hear it, and I will end up trying to harmonize with Ross on the chorus.

“Touch by Touch”, with its Latin rhythms, brings up the mood a bit with a song about intimacy between a man and a woman.

“Rescue Me” is a cover of the 1965 R&B hit by Fontella Bass. Ross plays it pretty safe vocally, however the arrangement does feature a funky instrumental bridge.

Next up is “It’s Your Move”, a mid-tempo number about a woman who is waiting for the man to make his intentions known.

“Swept Away” was co-written by Ross, Daryl Hall and his longtime girlfriend Sara Allen. This second single went to number 63 in Germany, number 36 in the Netherlands, number 28 in Belgium, number 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 17 in Canada, number 3 on the US Billboard R&B chart and number 1 on the US Billboard Dance chart. I remember this one having a good run at the night clubs back in 1985, thanks to a solid beat and a catchy chorus hook. The album track takes advantage of that; it is a minute longer than the single version.

Side two starts with something you don’t hear any more, the dialing of a “Telephone”. As the fourth single, this slinky and sultry booty-call reached number 13 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

“Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do” was written by husband and wife team Robbie Benson and Karla DeVito. With a strong synth line, the song has a distinctively new wave vibe to it. DeVito would record it herself a few years later for her 1986 album Wake ‘Em Up in Tokyo.

The next track “All of You” is a romantic duet with Julio Iglesias. It first appeared on his album 1100 Bel Air Place which was released a month earlier than this record. As the first single, it went to number 43 in the UK, number 38 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 32 in Germany, number 23 in France and Ireland, number 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and in Australia, number 12 in Austria, number 10 in New Zealand, number 9 in Belgium, number 8 in Canada, number 7 in the Netherlands, number 5 in Italy, and number 1 in Spain. Of the four single, this is my least favorite. I think that is because it is really more of an adult contemporary track and that was certainly not what I was into back in the mid-80’s.

The B-side to the third single was “We Are the Children of the World”, a danceable number with an uplifting inspirational lyric. The chorus, complete with singing kids, gets a little annoying after a bit.

The album closes with “Forever Young”, a cover of Bob Dylan’s 1974 hit. Ross goes with a simple piano accompaniment, giving a new spin to the original arrangement.

While I was familiar with the hit singles, the deeper cuts on Swept Away were new to me. This one is not available for digital download or streaming at this time, so thanks go out to folks on YouTube for posting the tracks for listening. Overall, the singles are the high points of this record for me, but I am willing to revisit the rest of the tracks again to see if any others catch on.

For more Diana Ross reviews, click here.

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