ADRIAN THRILLS Thank you, Miss Ross! Motown’s Supreme survivor releases album of new material… at 77
DIANA ROSS: Thank You (Decca)
Verdict: Dazzling moments, schmaltzy lyrics ★★★✩✩
GARBAGE: Beautiful Garbage (Mushroom)
Verdict: A recycled gem ★★★★✩
The first time that Motown Records boss Berry Gordy heard Diana Ross singing, he said the quality of her voice ‘stopped me in my tracks’.
That was in 1960, after another aspiring Motown star, Smokey Robinson, had brought the teenager into the fabled Detroit label for an audition.
Six decades on, that voice remains in fine fettle. On her first album in 13 years — and her first collection of new songs since 1999’s Every Day Is A New Day — Miss Ross is singing with all her old elegance and élan. At 77, she can still hit the high notes on a power ballad or glide along with a velvet disco groove.
Diana Ross is keen to woo younger fans, and her contributors here include Ed Sheeran associate Amy Wadge, R&B singer Tayla Parx and Taylor Swift’s producer Jack Antonoff.
Co-written with a multitude of collaborators and recorded in her home studio during the pandemic, Thank You contains plenty of throwbacks to her glittering past.
The singer made her name fronting The Supremes in the Sixties before hitting the solo heights (and becoming a Hollywood star) in the Seventies and Eighties. This comeback leans on that legacy.
With the death in February of fellow former Supreme Mary Wilson, Ross is now the only surviving original member of the group behind such soul classics as Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love and You Keep Me Hangin’ On, so it’s hard to blame her for feeling nostalgic.
In a bid to broaden her appeal, however, she has also invited some contemporary songwriters and producers along for the ride. Diana, who had been due to play this year’s cancelled Glastonbury Festival, is keen to woo younger fans, and her contributors here include Ed Sheeran associate Amy Wadge, R&B singer Tayla Parx and Taylor Swift’s producer Jack Antonoff.
Not that Thank You is brazen in trying to modernise her polished approach. Its most vivacious moments hark back to her days as a dancefloor queen, when she worked with Chic on I’m Coming Out, Barry Gibb on Chain Reaction, and producer Hal Davis on the delirious Love Hangover, the last of these an unlikely hit among London’s punks in 1976.
The title track opens the album with a message of togetherness and a shimmering arrangement that harks back to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Motown standard You’re All I Need To Get By. As well as singing brightly, Ross drops into some trademark spoken word asides, her tender voice accompanied by piano.
Of the floor-fillers, the best is I Still Believe. Produced by Antonoff, who also plays guitar and percussion, it builds from a smooth, jazzy introduction into a brassy, samba-like shuffle.
Ross is now the only surviving original member of the group behind such soul classics as Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love and You Keep Me Hangin’ On
Elsewhere, Tomorrow is a highoctane disco romp, and If The World Just Danced an enjoyable anthem that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Kylie album. The ballads are another matter — beautifully sung but burdened with lyrics that frequently lapse into schmaltzy platitudes.
On Count On Me, Diana is the morning sun to ‘turn your dark nights into day’. The sentiments of The Answer’s Always Love are admirable; lines like ‘you can ignore the dreamers, but you can’t ignore the dream’ less so.
Some magic still seeps through. In Your Heart contains a lyrical reference to her 1970 solo ballad Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand), and All Is Well — the song for which Diana this week announced her first music video in over a decade — is a slick but sensitive soul serenade.
The best moments here find Miss Ross in an exuberant frame of mind. Here’s hoping she finally gets to spread some Sunday afternoon joy at Glastonbury in 2022.
The third album by British-American rock band Garbage was understandably overshadowed by more serious global events when it was first released, a mere three weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon in 2001.
With little promotion it failed, abjectly, to repeat the breakthrough success of its two predecessors.
Two decades on, Beautiful Garbage is up for reappraisal thanks to a 20th anniversary reissue that contains a remastered version of the original LP, plus bonus discs of outtakes and live material.
Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson believes the group’s third album is finally receiving the respect it was due 20 years ago
As a record that built on rock basics by adding more electronic, hip-hop and girl-group influences to the mix, it stands up remarkably well, too.
Vocalist Shirley Manson, a Scot who moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to start the group with American musicians Butch Vig (producer of Nirvana’s Nevermind), Duke Erikson and Steve Marker, believes the album is finally receiving the respect it’s due.
‘We’ve always felt it was ahead of its time,’ she says, aware that pop is now a more eclectic beast than it was 20 years ago. Highlights include the single Shut Your Mouth and 60s-style pop number Can’t Cry These Tears.
The crunching pop song Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) is still in the band’s live set today, and Breaking Up The Girl appears to foreshadow today’s cancel culture: ‘My friend you must be careful, they’ve a million ways to kill you,’ warns Manson.
Of the bonus tracks, the multiple remixes are largely superfluous, but the live takes reaffirm how much the band were expanding their palate at the time.
There’s an excellent cover of The Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses, an affectionate homage to Lou Reed on Candy Says and a surprising foray into U2’s Pride (In The Name Of Love). Recycled Garbage is clearly a good thing
You’ll forget why you didn’t like it
Poised to become one of the world’s biggest bands after 1997’s OK Computer, Radiohead instead turned in on themselves.
With singer Thom Yorke saying he’d ‘had it with melody’, they abandoned guitars on two wilfully difficult albums, Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001).
Radiohead, while never a group to give themselves (or their fans) an easy ride, are capable of disarming prettiness
They were harshly judged, with Kid A seen as commercial suicide, but a new, deluxe reissue, Kid A Mnesia (XL, ★★★★✩) casts both records in a more favourable light, with the music containing pointers to guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s future as an Oscar-nominated film composer.
Kid A Mnesia, out in numerous formats, is also notable for a third disc — a more accessible, 12-track LP of unreleased songs and out-takes that would have been a more natural bridge between rock and experimentation.
Of the bonus tracks, fans of OK Computer will love the previously unheard ballad If You Say The Word and the acoustic Follow Me Around, a long-term live favourite finally given an official release.
The folky Fog (Again Again Version) reiterates that Radiohead, while never a group to give themselves (or their fans) an easy ride, are capable of disarming prettiness. Amnesiacs? Maybe they forgot how good they are.
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