Friday, May 22, 2015

Diana Ross - Diana

Today (May 22nd) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Diana, the tenth solo studio album from Motown legend Diana Ross. Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic wrote all the tracks, performed on them, and produced the record. The result was Ross' biggest seller to date. The Platinum seller hit number 33 in Japan, number 17 in Australia, number 12 in the UK, number 8 in Canada, number 5 in Germany, number 4 in the Netherlands, and number 1 in Sweden. Here in the US, it spent fifty-two weeks on the Billboard Album chart with a peak at number 2, and it went to number 1 on the US Billboard R&B Album chart (a spot it held for eight weeks).

Side one begins with "Upside Down". As the smash hit lead single, it peaked at number 48 in Japan, number 15 in Spain, number 5 in Canada, number 3 in Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, number 2 in Austria, France and the UK, and number 1 in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Here in the US, it went to number 18 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, and number 1 (for four weeks) on Billboard's Hot 100, R&B (also for four weeks), and Dance charts. The album version contains an extra thirty seconds of instrumental goodness. The beat and the guitar riffs on this one were totally infectious. How could you not want to get up and boogie when you heard it? I certainly could not resist it!

"Tenderness" keeps the party going with another solid dance groove. The lyrics are a little light but that’s okay.

"Friend to Friend", the B-side to the first single, is a classic Ross ballad that showcases her layered and lovely vocals.

The second single was "I'm Coming Out", a song about embracing a personal transformation (and over the years it has become a gay-pride anthem too). It charted at number 68 in Canada, number 32 in Germany, number 21 in Belgium, number 18 in the Netherlands, number 13 in the UK, number 8 in Ireland, number 6 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 5 in New Zealand and on the US Billboard Hot 100. The blaring horns (including trombone by Meco Monardo - yes, that Meco) and the cascading drumbeats here really do it for me; it is one that I want to turn up loud and blare from my speakers as I drive down the road with the windows down on a beautiful Spring day.

Side two starts with "Have Fun (Again)", a song about kicking back and enjoying life, without worrying about the day-to-day grind, like we did when we were kids. At six minutes in length, it is the longest track on the original vinyl. That extra room allows for a bass-centric instrumental groove, including a fake-out fade-out, bridge near the end.

"My Old Piano", released as a single in 1982, rose to number 109 on the US Billboard singles chart, number 25 in Australia, number 20 in Austria, number 15 in Germany, number 5 in the UK, number 4 in Belgium and Ireland, and number 2 in the Netherlands. This mid-tempo dance tune pays tribute to Ross’ reliable instrument whom she personifies.

"Now That You're Gone" features a slinky melody that sets up the song’s mood of longing loneliness. But, as was in tune with the times, Ross shows she’s a strong woman who will survive on her own or will at least put on a good game face around others.

The B-side to the second single in most markets was "Give Up", the original vinyl album closer. Ross makes no bones about her intentions as she puts on the role of a policewoman on the prowl for passion.

The 2003 CD re-release of the album features a number of bonuses. First are the original Chic mixes of the album’s eight tracks. The second disk features thirteen tracks of remixes of earlier Ross hits and other bonus material. All of this can be heard on Spotify; it is definitely worth checking out. My online fellow music-lover Mark reviewed that version recently on his blog (click here for that review).

I did not own a copy of Diana, but back in 1980 I did have the first two singles on 45 and I played them quite a bit on my bedroom stereo throughout high school. They both were fantastic dance tracks to which I could practice steps. Listening to the rest of this album for the first time, I can see why it did so well. This is easily a record I would have loved thirty-five years ago had I picked it up; the re-release CD makes an even more attractive package.

For more from Diana Ross, click here.


Mark said...

Thanks for the shout out, Martin! Like you, I wish I'd had this one on vinyl back in '80. Better late than never.

HERC said...

Unlike you two yahoos, I owned this album back in 1980. The biggest disappointment back then was the lack of any twelve inch remixes. And then to find out some years later that there is an entirely different sounding verison of the album was mind-blowing. The only things I would have added to the 2003 Delxue Edition were the 45 edits of "Upside Down" and "I'm Coming Out".