Surrender

Diana Ross

Motown, 1971

http://www.dianaross.de

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/02/2010

I count myself as one of the biggest Diana Ross fans there is, and although I have been left feeling disappointed far too often after purchasing her albums of the last two decades, there is still much love there. Miss Ross, of course, was once the glamorous and charming lead singer of the all-conquering Supremes, who unfortunately fell out of favor with her bandmates (Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard) after her boyfriend and Motown boss Berry Gordy rechristened the group Diana Ross And The Supremes. 

This, of course, was common practice, as it made a group more marketable with a clear lead singer; Smokey Robinson and Martha Reeves both fronted their respective groups, albeit without the animosity and jealousy that Ross had to endure from her bandmates. So it was that plans for Ross to leave the group and strike out on her own were well underway by the late ‘60s, and the final curtain came following the success of her swansong for the group “Someday We’ll Be Together.” That single was the twelfth number one hit in just six years for The Supremes; it would also be the last. 

Ross made the transition to solo performer without a hitch in 1970. Her first two albums (Diana Ross and Everything Is Everything) earned her more success with singles “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” “I’m Still Waiting,” and the chart-topping “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Her third album, however, did not bring Ross the continued success she was hoping for, and it would be two more years until she made its follow-up, the soft but sweet my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Touch Me In The Morning

During that break, Ross starred in and recorded the soundtrack for Lady Sings The Blues, a film that told the life story of Billie Holiday, which earned her an Academy Award nomination.  It is that soundtrack and this album that are my favorite releases from Ross’ entire recording career. Although Surrender sold quite well, it fell off the radar rather quickly because it had no hit singles to help it along. 

This puzzles me, to say the least, because this record contains some of Ross’ finest singing to date – not to mention the stellar production by Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who also wrote the album (except for the one cover), as they did for Diana’s self-titled debut. Motown legend Paul Riser was also on board to arrange and record the strings and horns to accompany these tracks, which greatly enhanced the quality of them all. The other major factor in the overall standard set by this album was Ross’ performance. 

It was here that Diana really started to feel the music and do so much more than sound pretty and hold a few notes. Her emotive readings on these cuts are the sound of a singer gaining in confidence, knowing that her next project would demand nothing less than a brilliant performance. 

A few highlights from this fantastic record begin with the opener and title track, a glorious mid-tempo love song that Ross revels in. The punchy horns and funky percussion only add to her vigorous performance, introducing this album perfectly. Equally effective is her melancholy performance on “I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You,” which features her spoken verses set to a piano track before the full band is used for the catchy choruses. Meanwhile, the defiant and exuberant soul/funk of “I’m A Winner” is also worth a mention. 

My favorite song on the album (“Did You Read The Morning Paper”) is a jazz-inspired, mid-tempo ballad that finds Ross working through her full vocal range to great effect. The only cover on the album is a radical reworking of “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” which is the closest Ross had come by this point to singing the blues. The restrained and tender delivery is one of her finest moments to date. And let’s not forget the effervescent classic “Remember Me,” which again is one of Ross’ finest songs to date; this song has a life of its own and never loses its luster. 

All of this and more help to make Surrender not only one of Diana Ross’ best ever albums, but an underrated soul gem that is right up there with the best of them.

Rating: A

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