Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lost Pieces of Golden Ice: Diana Ross's "Ross" LP...27 years later

When one thinks of Ms. Ross, her beautiful ballads such as “Touch Me In the Morning,” or her sassy disco classics such as “I’m Coming Out” may come to mind. In 1983 Ross ditched both the beautiful ballads and glamour diva image with Ross.

This collection of 8 new songs produced and written by Michael McDonald, Ray Parker Jr. and Ms. Ross herself re-invent the Supreme diva into more of a downtown girl. Even the album cover, which depicts a almost drugged-out Ross posing as if she’s out if it in a red sheet-like gown and her signature big hair.

While the production is icy, almost reminding one of a cold morning driving through a small, charming town, Ross’s usually warm vocals stay on key. While the album failed to go Gold or have any high-charting singles, it remains a staple in Ross’s discography and has become a rare gem for her fans. “Pieces of Ice,” the album’s first single, blends 80’s-Pop with unique lyrics and a distinct melody. It’s the “Disturbia” of its time. The production is low-key, and while danceable, focuses more on its haunting keys and druggy bass. Its lyrics couldn’t even be explained by the diva herself.

Aside from “Ice” the albums, for the first time in Diana Ross’s career, discuss relationship issues more in depth than in her Supreme days. Noteworthy is the Soul/Twang cut “Love or Loneliness,” in which the singer details a relationship based more on sex than love, and how unfulfilling it has become. “That’s How You Start Over” and “Let’s Go Up” are more jazzy-up tempo tracks that have the singer in character of a woman pleading for her new man to let go of his past and try something new with her.

Two tracks that seem to go together on the album are “Love Will Make It Right” and “You Do It” both slow, almost non-definable tracks with sweet melodies. “You Do It” is a more sweet track about love with almost a Country-driven production, while “Love Will Make It Right” details the singers message to her lover, when both are married. This track isn’t a ballad, or dance, or R&B, or country, or even pop. While experimental, this track becomes the weaker of the material on the disc.

The most exciting tracks on the album is the rock-infused “Up Front,” while catchy, has Ross’s most cringe worthy lyrics in her career. “I’m gonna do what the heck I please,” Ross croons over the Pat Benetar-like production makes her sound like she’s playing it safe at the same time trying to be edgy. The album’s closing track, the Ross-penned “Girls,” which was written with Ray Chew, who also collaborated with her on the 80’s classic “Work That Body,” blends 80’s Disco with the rest of the albums’ more hometown sound. A semi-female-empowering track speaks of how girls can do anything, only speaks more about modeling/fashion.

While not as strong as “diana” or “The Boss,” the album certainly doesn’t fail like “Workin’ Overtime” did. It’s actually some of Ross’s more interesting material. For the first time one gets to see her capture sounds rather than Pop/R&b/Disco/Jazz successfully in her career. It’s not as graceful, glamorous, or even as hot as the album cover portrays, but it’s definitely a piece of gold.

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