As a committed, fervently adoring Diana Ross disciple, I wanted to wait a while before writing my review, because of course I loved this from the very first listen, but I wanted to really "get to know" this album and see what our "relationship" develops into. In that way, I can better evaluate the album's strongest points and cuts. I purchased my first copy at Starbuck's on May 16, then two more for friends in early July.
Ultimately, to cut to the chase, I feel that this CD is perhaps THE most important Diana Ross effort to be freed from the vaults. It even surpasses the excitement of the original Chic mix of "diana" when that was released in 2003. That moment for me was pure ecstasy; however, "Blue" is even more glorious. More importantly, it certainly ranks among her finest work PERIOD, solo or otherwise, and in my opinion surpasses the LSTB soundtrack. There is something about "Blue" that is even finer. Basically, she is jazzier on here and so Supremely confident. As far as how this ranks compared to Supremes vaults releases, I have a hard time deciding if this is even better than "There's A Place For Us", released in 2004. Vocally, Ross is more mature (though still young -- a mere 28!), confident, and most of all, JAZZ-ORIENTED as opposed to more showbizz-oriented (i.e. schmaltzy), as she was in the 60s. Also, the sound quality, due to the fine musicians, Gil Askey's true jazz arrangements (which only slide into Vegas on "I Loves You Porgy"), and the fresh mix, puts this above TAPFU.
1. "But Beautiful" - Wow is all I can say. She is tender, delicate, and brimming with a perfect balance of melancholy and wistfulness. This, folks, is singing. (Streisand, take notes.)
2. "Easy Living" - The epitome of jazz cat coolness! Diana has this totally classic laid-back approach and it just makes you grin.
3. "Let's Do It" - I am surprised more reviewers haven't lavished praise on this track. Ross nails this one, biting into the humour of the lyrics, while bringing it right back to a sincere romantic plea in the last bar. A correct interpretation.
4. "Solitude" - I know from listening to this that this was one of the "demo" takes from the original LSTB sessions, because the sound and Gil's clapping at the end matches the sound on a rare acetate I own of LSTB outtakes. A stunning, simple performance. Dreamlike.
5. "No More" - Again, a correct lyrical interpretation. I say "correct" because most pop singers not of the jazz idiom would not understand the subtleties and complexity of the lyrics. It is a beguiling song in which you aren't sure if the character is glad to be without her lover or not, and the character sounds as though she may be toked up or sloshed. Ross's rendition is sung with amazing intelligence.
6. "Had You Been Around" - This track is important because it was an original written specifically for "Lady Sings The Blues". On the soundtrack, a singer called Michelle Aller does about 30 seconds of it in a scene in a club. But for some reason, Diana's version didn't appear on the soundtrack. This is a fine, sterling track and what makes it important is that being an original composition, Diana didn't have a Billie or Ella original to listen to; she had to invent the style to sing it in. She nails it in true jazz style, which proves that she could do jazz without listening to somebody else first.
NOW - what intrigues me is this: did or didn't Diana record "Happy", the love theme from LSTB??? Why wouldn't she? Is it still in the vaults? I mean, everyone at Motown from Smokey Robinson (on "A Quiet Storm"), Michael Jackson, and Bobby Darin recorded this. Why wouldn't Diana have sung when it was written for LSTB? Can't figure that one out, but I would give anything to hear her sing it!
There are more great moments on the CD, but these are the ones I have chosen to pontificate on in my review. Get "Blue" and you won't be blue -- you'll be lost in a moment!