It's hard to imagine that someone as famous as Diana Ross, recording for a label as successful as Motown, could have such a fine album drop from sight shortly after its initial release. Despite cracking the top-20 with its title single, Motown apparently lost interest in the album when follow-up singles failed to break and Ross' attention was diverted by her work on the film "Mahogany." Unreissued since its original 1973 date (one of three Diana Ross projects that year), Hip-O's resurrected this little known catalog item with a deluxe 2-CD set. In addition to the album's original ten tracks, the Japanese quadraphonic mix is included (though folded down to stereo) alongside ten bonus tracks from the album sessions.
Though the album lacked hits, it didn't lack good material. The album tracks are anything but filler, with arrangements that add adventurous touches. The title track has a bouncy country-soul sound with electric piano and strings complemented by banjo and clarinet on the old-timey coda. "No One's Gonna Be a Fool Forever" has a Burt Bacharach style to its horns, but with an unusual line of pedal steel woven underneath. The brassy "Sleepin'" is a dramatic song of gritty urban streets, and the thankful love song "You" is gospel and blue. The album's only real miss is an arrangement of "Turn Around" whose soaring strings and overwrought choral surges are at odds with Harry Belafonte and Malvina Reynold's gentle lyrics. A trio of Bob Gaudio (Four Seasons) songs on the album's second side is also somewhat non-descript.
The bonus tracks fit in theme and sound with the album and include the emancipated "I Don't Care Where the Money Is," an early version of "Where Did We Go Wrong" (which wouldn't turn up again until the 1978 "Ross" album), a slow, soulful cover of the Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You," a cover of Roger Nichols and Paul Williams' hit with the Carpenters, "Let Me Be the One," and the Broadway styled "Old Funky Rolls." The highlight of the bonuses is a cover of the superb Motown oldie "I Wanna Go Back There Again," originally waxed by Chris Clark in 1967.
Ross is on top of her game throughout the original album, and though obviously a star, she lets the songs be her spotlight rather than overpowering the lyrics and arrangements with her voice. As with many of her albums, the material isn't as uniformly strong as the hit single, but there's more than enough worthwhile material here to have merited a reissue a few decades sooner. The stereo mix of the Japanese quadraphonic release features different song lengths and some minor instrumental changes, but it could have been dropped in favor of reducing this to a single disc Still, Ross fanatics who'd been savoring the opportunity to fill in a missing piece of her recording career might be just the sort who want every last configuration. 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2007 hyperbolium dot com]