Not to typecast her, but there have always been three key elements in the repertoire of living legend Diana Ross. First, there are the glossy and dramatic ballads like "Do you know where you're going to" or "Missing you". Second, there are the slick pop-R&B nuggets such as "Upside down", "Chain reaction", "Love hangover" or "Muscles". And third, there are the jazz and blues classics, which have often popped up in the lady's vast discography.
"Blue", as its title implies, finds Diana Ross dealing with the latter. An album originally planned as the sequel to the "Lady Sings the Blues" soundtrack, it got shelved at the last minute and gathered dust for over thirty years. Given the absence of any new Diana Ross material ever since this new millenium began, releasing "Blue" is an initiative likely to be applauded by her legion of starved fans.
And for many good reasons : this album is a true gem, arguably recorded at a moment in her career where her voice was at its finest, sounding both youthful and experienced. She delivers these classics in her instantly recognizable vocal style, investing each line with the appropriate emotional involvement, soaring when it's necessary and showing just the right amount of restraint when needed. Her selection of material is impeccable, and there are plenty of highlights here ("Smile", "Little girl blue", "Love is here to stay", "Had you been around", "What a difference a day makes"). The tasteful and low-key arrangements are obviously similar to the stylings heard on "Lady sings the blues", and the title of this intimate and delicate album couldn't be more appropriate.
Before buying this album, the completist should know that "Blue" partly consists of alternate takes of songs that were previously released on the "Lady sings the blues" soundtrack. These new takes sound fresh and shed a different light on the songs, though; as for the songs that were formerly unreleased, they are well worth the purchase of this album.
Now, if Diana could just return to the studio and deliver us a brand new pop album...