DIANA ROSS: ‘Surrender’ (Label: Hip-O Select)

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DIANA ROSS: 'Surrender'

The Supremes was never going to be enough for someone as voraciously ambitious as Diana Ross. That became apparent in 1967, when Florence Ballard got shown the exit door, and Ross, with the backing of her mentor-cum-lover, Berry Gordy, put her name in front of the group’s and became its leader – and once Diana Ross & The Supremes was launched, it was only a matter of time before the Detroit singer jumped ship altogether to embark on a solo career. That happened in early 1970 when Motown issued her top selling debut LP ‘Diana Ross,’ helmed by ace songwriting and production duo, Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, who’d made their mark at Motown producing classic sides for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in the late-’60s. Ross’s inaugural solo set yielded the hit singles ‘Reach Out & Touch’ and an epic orchestral version of Marvin and Tammi’s ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.’ But despite the fact that the pairing of Ross with Ashford &Simpson yielded a potent creative chemistry, Ross opted for different collaborators on her next two albums, ‘Everything Is Everything’ and ‘Diana!’ Although they proved successful commercially, those two long players seemed to lack the special magic and sense of musical simpatico that Ashford & Simpson had previously been able to conjure for Ross. Maybe that’s why the singer reunited with Ashford & Simpson for her fourth solo foray, ‘Surrender,’ in 1971. Now reissued by Hip-O Select and bolstered with a slew of bonus cuts, ‘Surrender’ is ripe for re-evaluation. Certainly, it’s a strong album – one of Ross’s best and most soulful solo efforts – though it doesn’t quite hit the lofty heights of her glorious debut set. One of the most striking tunes is a tremendously imaginative reworking of the Four Tops’ ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There,’ where the song is recast as a brooding, introspective ballad that gradually builds to a fiery, gospel-soaked climax that is reminiscent of the epic treatment meted out to ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ on Ross’s first solo LP. It’s undoubtedly one of the best recordings Diana Ross made. The anthemic title cut is also noteworthy – a slice of gutsy soul that only scraped into the US R&B Top 20 in September 1971 – as is Ross’s passionate take on ‘I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You,’ recorded previously by Rita (aka Syreeta) Wright and Kiki Dee. ‘Remember Me’ is another strong tune from the pen of Ashford & Simpson, which according to the liner notes, was originally scheduled to appear on the songwriting duo’s own album recorded for Tamla (though it was never released). Paul Riser’s shimmering orchestration is a key component in ‘Surrender’s’ character and really shines on the track ‘And If You See Him.’ As well as the original 11-track album, this edition of ‘Surrender’ features nine bonus cuts – some are alternate takes of album cuts but best of all is the song ‘Baby I’ll Come’ and a different vocal mix of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.’ Interestingly, the final cut is Valerie Simpson’s original demo vocal of ‘Remember Me.’ Simpson also contributes her recollections to the liner notes, which undoubtedly adds to the listener’s appreciation of the music. An excellent reissue.
(CW) 4/5