One of the most eagerly anticipated records of the 1970s
Daryl Easlea 2009
Diana Ross was one of the most eagerly anticipated records of the then-new decade, the 1970s. At the very start of the year Ross had played her farewell gigs with the group that she had led throughout the 60s, the Supremes, in Las Vegas. The Supremes, in all their chiffon and finery were already by this time the most successful female vocal act of all time (a record they still hold). And in Diana Ross, they had a true star as their leader. Groomed for superstardom by Motown boss Berry Gordy far beyond the confines of the trio format, it was a question of what approach she would take when her first solo record was released. 'Grand yet intimate' was the answer.
Released in June 1970, its cover could not have made it plainer. This was a new Diana. Shorn of all the dresses and gladrags, here she was in sepia sitting in a tye-die and shorts eating an apple with an impish look and her hair brushed forward. The music inside – full of going-it-alone, inner strength messages – typified the ornate, manicured ballads would become her trademark.
It is producers Ashford and Simpson's album, writing ten of its 11 tracks – the only outsider is the song she cut a year earlier with Johnny Bristol, These Things Keep Me From Loving You, which sounds most Supremes-like. Three tunes stand out: Her re-recording of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's You're All I Need To Get By and the opener, Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand) were both powerful and poignant.
But it was the last track recorded for the album that was not simply a case of show-stealing but larceny on the grandest scale. Ain't No Mountain High Enough gave Ross an enormous anthem, one that proved she was a superlative song stylist. The arrangement is so over the top it almost beggars belief; with its spoken word passages and gospel choirs, it demonstrated that Ms Ross and her writing and production team were a force to be reckoned with.