The Supremes, Touch, Motown MS-737, 1971
No, The Supremes’ hit making career didn’t end with the departure of Diana Ross. In fact, their early post Ross records did quite well. Just ask Elton John, who writes a glowing set of liner notes for this very album. The hit single from it, Nathan Jones, later became a world-wide #1 for Bananrama. And the artwork for Touch was copied for the film adaptation for Dreamgirls (ending all mystery about who the play was written about!). While not may people know this record today, Jean, Cindy & Mary were clearly on a roll.
The basics out of the way, this copy is a great way to show the lifecycle of an unsold album. The 46 year old shrink wrap is still intact, amazingly, given the cutout of one corner. The twin price tags reveal that this once full price record was sent to a discount store. After they failed to sell it for $1.97, the price got dropped to 98 Cents! After that failed as well, it got sent back to the distributer, who cut the corner off and gave it away or donated it somewhere.
I don’t view that as a reflection (!) of The Supremes post Ross career. Very few artists would ever escape a cut out record, and it would be very hard for a company like Motown to gauge not only how many of a particular record to produce, but to know where the demand would be strongest. Touch sold about 100,000 copies in the US, a very decent showing, but that was still less than most Supremes albums sold. I’m just thankful that I was able to find this unsold one.
Cost: $2, $212 Remaining
Diana Ross, Diana, Motown M8-936M1, 1980
Hard as it is to imagine considering her superstar statue, Diana Ross’ solo career was fairly disjointed. Yes, there were #1 hits every so often, but there never was a remarkable ground breaking record until this one. That I was able to find a really great copy of it for $2 is not a testament to how good it is, but because it sold millions of copies and, well, people don’t like to move with albums.
The legend goes that Ms. Ross was hanging out at Studio 54 one night and heard (and met) producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. Their group Chic blended funk and soul in a very clean modern way. Ross, knowing a good thing when she heard it, asked Rodgers and Edwards to produce her next album. She told them she wanted to turn her career upside down, and come out with a whole new sound.
Rodgers and Edwards responded with amazing material, that Motown hated. Their own producer sat down with Ross and stripped most of the disco sounding guitar riffs and sped up the playback speed of the tracks before releasing it. Rodgers and Edwards sued of course, but the public didn’t care. The backstage drama still produced Diana Ross’ biggest album.
Cost: $2, $253 Remaining
Diana Ross & The Supremes, Reflections, Motown 665, 1968
For their 12th album, The Supremes were rebranded as Diana Ross & The Supremes, beginning what would be a three year departure process for the lead singer, Ms. Ross.
Having accomplished step one with the renaming, step two could take place with the solo shot of Ms. Ross on the back cover. Future Supremes albums would see their covers more and more Diana centric.
Step three would be finally replacing original lead singer Florence Ballard with look alike Cindy Birdsong. This album features the last recordings Florence made for Motown. Cindy was a very good replacement in virtually every respect except one: she couldn’t sing like Florence. The bulk of this album is by Diana Ross & The Andantes, the venerable Motown studio singers who sang on hits by virtually every great Motown star through the early 70s. This was their first appearance on a Supremes record though, and the sound is jarring. It’s not bad, it’s just not The Supremes.
This album came out a few months after the hit single title track. So the cover of Ode To Billy Joe is a nice touch seeing as that’s the number one record the blocked Reflections from hitting #1.
Cost: $3, $461 Remaining
Diana Ross, Everything Is Everything, Motown S-724, 1970
Motown was really trying to get Diana Ross’ solo career. There were some real highs but also some really low points as well. Namely her second solo album, Everything Is Everything. She was just coming off her first #1 single, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, and Motown rush released this record to cash in on the fame.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a really cohesive record. I don’t think it’s anything more than trial bits from random sessions. The only US single from it, I’m Still Waiting, peaked at #63 in the US (but it was a huge #1 in the UK). I do particularly love the title of song 6 on side 1…
That doesn’t mean you should’t get a record like this. Even no-hit Motown records have value. It doesn’t matter who the artist is, big or small, I buy every reasonably priced Motown record I find. Even if I never get around to listening to this record, I know it’s going to appreciate on my shelf.
Cost: $2, $506 Remaining
Diana Ross & The Supremes, Live At London’s Talk Of The Town, Motown MS 676, 1968
It’s a big no-no to take pictures in a casino. At best, you’ll be asked to stop, and at worst, arrested. But I have a fool proof method for pulling it off. Find a casino that was at one point the swankiest nightclub on Earth. Then find a still sealed copy of a live album recorded at said nightclub. Take said album into the former club and now casino, and look for the stage. Then ask to photograph said album on said stage.
Apparently, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney we’re in the audience in February 1968 when this album was recorded on this stage, all of which was a revelation to the staff that was working at the casino. They were so happy to see my record that they said I could take as many pictures as I want, as long as I didn’t show any players.
I had a harder time getting a photo of the album outside the building. I’m guessing by the looks I got that no-one in 2016 London knows that the now run down Hippodrome knows that it was once a very hip place, or what a vinyl record is. But no matter, it’s a sealed Supremes record coming home for a day.
Cost: $6, $659 Remaining
Various Artists, The Motor-Town Reveue, Vol. 1, Motown MT-609, 1963
Even when she was just one singer in the opening act for The Marvelettes, Diana Ross still found a way to be front and center of a Motown live album. This must have been quite the concert to attend, with I don’t even know how many top ten records recorded by these groups. With The Supremes as the opening act, you know it’s gonna be a good show.
I just wish they had recorded it better. When I found this, I almost couldn’t believe my luck. Any Motown album is worth buying at $2, but even though this one is only the 9th album released on the label, it’s just not that great to actually listen to.
True, the record isn’t in great shape, which never helps. But the recording is so primitive, probably just like the microphones and acoustics were, that it’s kind of painful on the ear. It’s not just Motown, The Beach Boys first Number One album was “In Concert” as well, and The Beatles tried to record one too, with the tapes turning out so badly that they shelved the idea. The eventually were released, in 1977, as a historical document, not necessarily as something to listen to and enjoy. This is a nice record to have, but it’ll be a while until I drop a needle on this one again.
Cost: $2, $723 Remaining
Diana Ross, Diana Ross, Motown M6-861S1, 1976
It’s not often you find Motown albums at discount prices, at least one that plays well. If you do, it’s usually a 70-80s one like this Diana Ross offering. True, it’s a long way from a Supremes record, but it isn’t a DeBarge one either.
There’s the two huge number 1s’ the Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To) and Love Hangover, but not much else. At least it’s the extended disco mix of Hangover.
I suppose this album is just a tab morose for me. It had just been released when original Supreme Florence Ballard died tragically at only 32 years old. Ms. Ross showed up to the funeral at the last minute, walked down the aisle to sit in the front row of the church and held Flo’s young daughter on her lap while the press took pictures. Harsh perhaps, but it was great publicity for the record.
Cost: $2, $795 Remaining