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

Updated and re-uploaded March, 2007

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*








JMG said...

Nice start! Very nice. I have a couple of Sherrie Payne's disco 12"s lying around somewhere.

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comment! :-) I'm still getting the hang of things, but it's getting there..

I know of some 12" Scherrie did for Megatone in the early '80s, I have yet to hear them though..

Sexbox said...

thanks for the info. I look forward to further disco features.

Tommy said...

No problem.. and I look forward to posting more of them :-)

JMG said...

Sherrie had at least one minor hit with her disco cover of "One Night Only", from Dreamgirls.

Tommy said...

I gotta keep an eye out for that one.. Forgot that was from Dreamgirls, how appropriate hehe.. I also need to hear that second single, her 10cc cover "I'm Not In Love"/"Girl You're In Love."

Tommy said...

Best of luck with that todd! :-) Sounds like something I oughta start doing sometime..

Tommy said...

I agree, "Bad Weather" is a real gem! It's too bad it wasn't a hit, after hearing what he did with Syreeta, I would have loved to hear what else Stevie could have done for The Supremes.. I've heard of at least one other Stevie-produced Supremes track from this period called "Soft Days," which I hope gets released one of these days...

Anonymous said...

hey there, i'm marc great blog!!! i need to set one up so i can post more. anyways...any new in fo on the supremes new box sets?? also maybe you can help......a long time ago there was this tv movie of the week called "dallas cowboys cheerleaders" 1979 i think and they had one two songs i loved on there. one was linda clifford's "if my friends could see me now' the other i am looking for. i dont know what it's called or who sings it but some lyrics are "sunday after the fever" i wonder if you might know??? thanks!

Tommy said...

Thanks Marc! :)

I just got some new info on the 70's Supremes reissues, see the latest blog posting.. As far as the movie, sorry, I have no clue what that song could be.. You might want to try asking at the discomusic.com forums, someone there might know..:)

Anonymous said...

Great review! Mary, Scherrie & Susaye was a great Supremes album and Motown didn't push it. Anyone who hears this even to this day likes this album. Great vocals and great dance music! The Supremes would have reigned Supreme during the disco era had Motown not only cared about Miss Ross. The talent was there and this LP is a great reminder of what should have been.

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comments Scott B. and anon.. I didn't realize there were two newer comments here! I'm so glad so see that there are others who appreciate this LP as well.. Motown really slept on this LP. They coulda given The Supremes some new life had they gotten behind it, either way though, this LP is an absolute classic..

stage7 said...

You are most certainly RIGHT "THIS" lp was...IS a SUPREME CLASSIC! I have NO idea WHAT was going on in MOTOWN's agend to mess THIS one up, or the OTHER ones for THAT matter! THIS offering is Powerful start to finish! Man, I could NEVER've said it BETTER than YOU already DID! I just HAVE to add 'my' 2 cents in after discovering this blog! It is one of the greatest platters to HIT the table THEN and NOW! I TOO look forward to the reissue of THIS one as well as the others! The SUPREMES were absoLUTEly SUPREME 'Start To FINISH'! TOTALLY!!! WHAT MORE 'COULD' be said!!???

Tommy said...

Thanks for the comment and the kind words, CJ!
I wonder why Motown seemed to sleep on this LP too. It's unfortunate that they did, but on the bright side, this album has become a great hidden musical treasure..

Anyway, it's good to know there are others out there who love this LP for the classic that it is.. Thanks again for the comment!

Drake said...

Wow! this is FUN and Heavenly music! Thanks for posting. I'd heard Up the ladder and maybe 2 other tracks on an early '90's Supreme's Anthology but this is a Treasure!
Funny how Motown sat on this...meanwhile Beyon..er..Diana was getting ready to jump ship. LOL.
Thanks Again!!

Tommy said...

No problem, derec. Thanks for the comment! :) Fun and heavenly, for sure! Diane, as Mary would call her (hee hee) did some great stuff in the late '70s, but there was so much other great stuff on Motown that was overlooked as well, this being one of them.. I'm hoping they'll put this album on CD in it's entirety sometime (hopefully in my lifetime lol)..

Anonymous said...

A SUPREMELY DISCO CLASSIC!!!! I'm so glad I found this blog to get the 4-1-1 on the Mary, Scherrie & Susaye album. I just had The '70s Anthology (2-CD), and Greatest Hits and Rare Classics CD (with both solo recordings of Scherrie Payne). "We Should Be Closer Together" is one of the best ballads that Mary Wilson ever did - especially the cover of Dionne Warwick's "You Are The Heart Of Me" and the unreleased "Can We Love Again". By the way, just check out the "Sweet Dream Machine" video on YouTube

Thanks so very much for posting this!!! I hope we couldn't wait for the second volume of This Is The Story: The '70s Albums box set very soon.

Keep up the good work!!

Tommy said...

No problem at all, thanks so much for the comment Yanikee! :) I'm still pleasantly surprised by the wonderful response this album and this post still seems to get..

Along with the ones you mentioned, I also nominate "Early Morning Love" off Supremes '75 as another great Mary lead vocal.. She has such an underrated voice, IMO..

Regarding "This Is The Story, Vol. 2" - you and me both! :)

Thanks again for the kind words :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a little bit late to the party.... is there a possibilty to upload the files again? Thanks

QH said...

Personally, this was not my favorite Supremes line-up, that would be Jean, Mary, Cindy & Mary, Cindy, and Scherrie. The output from 1970-75 was a bit uniformly stronger, as it wasn't just disco.

I think that they had some strong cuts, that you've mentioned, but some of the other ones showed the wear after '75. I will say this era had some amazingly, pretty ballads, and Mary had some good leads.

Either way, I am eagerly awaiting the Scherrie remasters, as we know the Jean Terrell ones have been done. I have those, lol. Great piece! "Let Yourself Go" is ace though!-QH

Tommy said...

Anonymous: maybe sometime in the future!

Hey QH, thanks for the comment! I hope the Scherrie-era remasters come soon, too. I thought the first package for the Jean Terrell years was very well done! As far as the lineups go, I think this final lineup sounded great in the studio but after seeing the sppearances on YouTube, they seemed to lack something visually compared to the previous ones.. I agree though, I find that the 70's lineups with Cindy were stronger overall..

Search this blog