Tuesday, January 10, 2006
The First Delivery:
The Supremes - Mary, Scherrie & Susaye (1976, Motown)
The Supremes - You're My Driving Wheel
The Supremes - Sweet Dream Machine
The Supremes - Let Yourself Go
The Supremes - Come Into My Life
The Supremes - We Should Be Closer Together
The Supremes - Love I Never Knew You Could Feel So Good
Edited Feb. '07
Yay, the first post! For this special occasion, I picked one of my favourite albums of all time.. Yes, The Supremes (minus Miss Ross) went on to do disco, and do it very very well I might add. Their final album "Mary, Scherrie & Susaye" (1976, Motown) is quite simply one flawless album from start to finish. Produced by Brian and Eddie Holland of Holland-Dozier-Holland fame (who had produced some of the Supremes' biggest hits in the 1960's), it's probably one of their finest yet most underrated albums. Earlier in the year they had released another album also produced by the Holland Brothers called "High Energy," the amazing title track and the single "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" solidifying their place in the clubs and disco charts, with the latter being their last top 40 pop hit (and their biggest in a little while by this time). Most people interested in The 70's Supremes seem to pay attention to the "High Energy" LP for that very reason, but in my opinion "Mary, Scherrie & Susaye" was the superior album..
Perhaps somewhat ironically, the "High Energy" LP was a bit more low-key, with the Hollands opting for a more softer, almost orchestral sound on that album. On the other hand, "Mary, Scherrie & Susaye" kicks things up a few notches, delivering a much more assertive, funkier, straight-to-the-floor disco sound on many of it's tracks. Side One (undoubtedly the "disco side") would probably be the best example of that, kicking things off with "You're My Driving Wheel" (also the first single). The guitars practically make this song with that moving, shuffling, and certainly, driving groove they've got going on. Those choppy guitars and that elastic bassline pick things up where the piano left off, getting you hooked on that groove like nothing else in the mix.. Changing gears somewhat, the next song "Sweet Dream Machine," is nothing less than a surefire, sexy stormer with a layered, soaring, sensual arrangement and funky guitar effects all around. One of the most distinctive and certainly one of the most sensual and seductive things ever done by the Supremes. That said, the real big stormers however, are the next two..
Song number three, "Let Yourself Go" was apparently one of the major club favourites on the LP. Evidently a favourite of legendary Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan, it's no wonder why... Tapping into that elevating spirit which exalted earlier Supremes classics like "Stoned Love" and "Up The Ladder To The Roof" and moving it into the disco era, "Let Yourself Go" is like a little piece of disco heaven. The ladies, all three together with their lead singer Scherrie Payne (sister of Freda Payne of "Band of Gold" fame) right up front, took things to heights never before reached by the Supremes on record. It's not just the groove, or that exhilarating chord change part way through, but it's also that infectious performance by the ladies that makes this record work. It's as if they were not only taking the listener to new heights, but taking themselves along for the ride and enjoying every second. Plain and simply, it's one of those songs that just radiates pure joy in every possible way..
Side One closes with song number four, "Come Into My Life," or as I'd like to call it "I just can't believe it's the Supremes." Possibly one of the most out-of-left-field, adventurous things ever recorded by the Supremes. Led by that hypnotizing bassline, seductive congas, those horns in hypnotic unison with the bass, right along side those crazy, out-of-this-world synth effects, "Come.." is simply a masterpiece of pure, propulsive, dark disco-funk. To me, one of the best passages on this track is when Susaye Greene's soaring Minnie Riperton-esque vocals get phased and blended seamlessly with that pseudo-psychedelic synth coloured backing. The result is nothing less than mesmerizing. Listening to the album for the first time, just when you the trip would end with "Let Yourself Go," this track kicks in and takes it even further. While "Let Yourself Go" is a climb to new heights, "Come Into My Life," is, to paraphrase the lyrics, like a "magic ride..off to lands of mystery.." Beckoning and seductive right from the first few bars, it's pretty clear right from the beginning, that this thing definitely ain't gonna be no "Baby Love." Personally, I'd like to describe this song as "psychedelic disco-funk," so take that however you may.. In my opinion though, the fact that this track was so overlooked is possibly one of the great injustices in The Supremes' history..
Side Two, on the other hand is slightly more low-key, opening with a sensual Mary Wilson-led ballad "We Should Be Closer Together" and ending with another disco stormer "Love I Never Knew You Could Feel So Good" led, once again, by Scherrie Payne, closing things on a high note. One interesting thing about the album is that by this time all three ladies were taking a turn at lead vocals, where most of the previous albums going back to the Miss Ross days were dominated by a single lead vocalist. By now their primary lead was Scherrie Payne, a vocal dynamo if there ever was one. Along with Scherrie the group now included the equally dynamic, multi-octave voice of Susaye Greene, formerly of Stevie Wonder's Wonderlove and Ray Charles' Raelettes and last but not least, original Supreme Mary Wilson herself. By this time Wilson was stepping out a little more as a vocalist and rightfully so; by this time Wilson was the undisputed heart and soul of the Supremes by virtue of being the only remaining original member.. Perhaps not as dynamic a voice as the other two ladies, but certainly an underrated one, in my opinion. Vocally I'd describe her voice as something of a cross between Gwen McCrae and Roberta Flack; the natural, unpretentious quality of Gwen with the warmth of Roberta and a sensuality and sexiness all her own.. Although she wasn't the lead on many of the disco tracks, her turns on this album (and the other late '70s Supremes albums) displayed a strong, warm, blossoming sensual voice that was unique in it's own right..
Sadly, the Supremes would break up the following year with Mary Wilson announcing her departure at their 1977 farewell show at London's Drury Lane Theatre. Who knows what could have been had they soldiered on, but evidently things just didn't seem to be working in their favour by this point. Wilson herself has spoken at length about the frustration during this period: records and concerts not selling, personal relationships breaking down, lack of record company support. Amidst all of that, the ladies with the help of the Holland brothers managed to deliver an amazing swan song which, though underrated, overlooked and overshadowed, remains an undiminshed classic.
note: The Supremes' '70's albums are due to be reissued on CD at some point by Motown/Universal though their Hip-O Select (www.hip-oselect.com) division. They will be released in two parts, this album to be included in the second batch.. Hope to see it happen sometime *fingers crossed*
SUPREMES - MARY, SCHERRIE & SUSAYE LP @ DISCOMUSIC.COM
THE SUPREMES @ ALL MUSIC GUIDE
THE SUPREMES @ DISCOGS
THE SUPREMES 70'S BLOG
THE SUPREMES 70'S REISSUES @ MYSPACE
THE SUPREMES 70'S STYLE @ MYSPACE
THE SUPREMES 70'S REISSUES 2.0
THE SUPREMES - THE 70'S ANTHOLOGY (2 CD SET)
| CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.COM |
LIFE:STYLES COMPILED BY DJ SPINNA (2 CD SET) (INCLUDES “COME INTO MY LIFE”)
| CD UNIVERSE | AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM |
MARY WILSON - DREAMGIRL & SUPREME FAITH (BOOK)
CATEGORIES: DISCO DELIVERIES