Danny Bakers Internet Treehouse


The hit factory calls in the new technology

DIANA ROSS (Diana on Motown) &

JERMAINE JACKSON (Let's Get Serious on Motown)

NOT THAT it means shit but Tony Thompson is the best drummer in the world. You'll understand that I'm not the type given to pressing an ear next to a speaker so as to evaluate individual rnusicianship on a scale of one to ten…… if it don't leap right out at me straight off, I rarely grant a record a reprieve…but the best way to begin a review of the new Diana Ross album is to say that Tony Thompson is the best drummer in the world.

Diana Ross is far from the best singer in the world, but when you're being written, produced and supported by the Chic Organisation all you really need to be able to do is yell in key and hang onto your hat. The Chic singers certainly can't sing, Sister Sledqe have yet to learn how to croon through fixed grins (hey gals, I can let you have Donny & Marie's home number if you want), Sheila B. Devotion doesn't have a clue what she's on about anyhow and phrases accordingly. That leaves Norma Jean, who nobody seems interested in (possibly cos she's on Bearsville, f'chrissake), and now Diana Ross.

Now though I love all those artists' collaborations (collaborations, that's a laugh! Like saying that Anarchy In The UK was a joint effort between Chris Thomas and Paul Cook) with Edwards and Rodgers, the meeting with the fading Diana has produced the very finest vinyl yet from the re-re-re-doubtable hit factory…….and it takes a lot for me to swallow my distaste at Diana Ross, with all her multi-media across-the-board slick appeal.

At first sight and sound you may think the LP is just a predictable proving ground for Chic, but it's more. This is the most interested they've sounded in a while and confirms, as I suspected, that much of the last Sister Sledge LP was merely the tat left over from the originals presented to Motown. It's far tougher and far less tuneful then anything Motown have ever released, and effortlessly humiliates all that snarling, fu-fu-funky, let's rock and roll bullshit that the company have spent the last decade or so trying to impress us with.

Diana by Diana RossLowlights on "Diana" include the obligatory ballad, (which obligatorily dreadful) and the long track "Have Fun" which doesn't sound finished and has a major cock-up with a false ending. Otherwise it's solid, Nile Rogers' guitar at the playout of "Upside Down", the great brass in "I'm Coming Out" - gosh I wonder if the gays will make that a powerplay, yawn - and there's always Tony Thompson, who I don't know if I told you is the best drummer in the world.

"Lets Get Serious" is the rogue Jackson's third attempt at not being left in the starting stalls, though more interestingly I notice that Stevie Wonder has chosen JJ to be his nasty alter-ego. For his own projects Wonder thinks it's all too important to break loose any more…….besides all those is harsh brass rifts upset the gladioli -so here, under the guise of Writer/Producer, he shouts and bellows and exorcises all that funky stuff right out through his medium mouthpiece Jermaine.

The big hit single and title track is the best example of this. Talk about everything but the kitchen sink! Still, it's not as terrible as I first thought and at other places on the album Stevie takes a blow-ha ha ha-and Jermaine tries to be as warm as younger brother Michael, misses by a few tearjerkers and an affair with Tatum O'Neal, but still stays afloat. With this he can at lest target those earlier booboos of his, and at the next family get-together he can actually talk shop with his kin without getting looks of pity and stop those "we'll stand by you son, even though you're a catastrophe" speeches from dad.

No, Jermaine's alright- and as soon as he eases upon the mechanical handclaps, gets a good bass riff and stops trying so bloody hard, his albums might justify the ludicrous price you'll be rushed to this. "Let's Get Serious" is actually worth about £2.25, which is twice the price I'd have given you for Motown this time last year.

They say you don't know what you've got fill it's gone, well …….. ol' Tamla have certainly had time to reflect on that and I bet even now they don't realise their plight. Their talents are meagre even if the names are 'big' and their back catalogue unmatchable. The only way they're gonna avoid folding when the recession really hits is to open the doors, sweep out all the trophies, all the shit too and start to learn why people buy records in 1980. Diana has chosen two of the right ears to whisper into, but Jermaine is still the faithful dog and company man he always was.

Huh, it's the label's twentieth anniversary and still no-one's got the balls to stop Stevie Wonder lousing up tracks with that twee pigeon-lunged harmonica blowing of his. I'd ask Tony Thompson to do it but, as the greatest drummer in the world, he is undoubtedly crazy.

Danny Baker in New Musical Express 1979

Thanks to Nick Ratcliffe


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