*Right afterwards Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and added legends accomplished filming the affected adaptation of the Broadway abnormality The Wiz, appear in 1978, Motown Records beatific Ross aback to the flat to almanac an anthology of all of the musical’s songs — including those articulate by her casting mates.
The anthology was to accept been alleged “Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz”, and was appointed for absolution in aboriginal 1979 as a accessory allotment to the movie’s Quincy Jones-produced soundtrack album.
The blur itself was mired in altercation afore filming began, with critics savaging Motown for casting a 33-year-old Ross as the The Wiz’ 24-year-old Dorothy.
The cine was about panned aloft its release, and it under-performed at the box office. Motown after annulled the absolution of the accessory Ross album.
Ted Ross, Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, and Michael Jackson in 1978’s “The Wiz.”
With the access of time, anniversary anniversary showings on BET and added networks, and the deaths of best of the arch casting (including Michael Jackson in 2009), the affected adaptation of The Wiz is beheld abnormally today. As NBC readies a December 3 alive advertisement of a new assembly of the musical, Motown Universal has dusted off and remastered Ross’ aboriginal 1978 recordings. “Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz” will be released, for the aboriginal time, on November 27.
This anthology is one of the best activating of Ross’ 50 year career. The new absolution includes a admirable anthology with never-before-published photos of Ross, and a new article accounting by the reissue’s producers Andrew Skurow, George Solomon, and Harry Weinger.
The aboriginal anthology was produced by Ross herself, adept Motown controlling Suzanne de Passe, and Grammy and Emmy Award-winning ambassador and arranger Lee Holdridge, who had accounting the adjustment for her #1 accident “Do You Apperceive Where You’re Activity To?”. Holdridge told me he was afraid to apprehend that the songs he produced for Ross about 40 years ago are assuredly actuality released.
“I bethink accomplishing the advance for her,” Holdridge recalled by phone. “As was so accepted at that time, we did accent advance aboriginal and again she came in and put her articulation down. I had affable conversations with her, and she was a joy to assignment with. But there was some applesauce activity on amid her and the almanac company, she wasn’t blessed about a lot of things, and she was in a abhorrent affection back we recorded those songs.”
If the Academy Award-nominated Ross was in a anger back she recorded the songs for “Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz”, it’s a attestation to her acting adeptness that you’d never apperceive it by alert to the album. The fable delivers adventuresomeness performances of abounding of the songs that were added aseptic on the soundtrack, like “Is This What Feeling Gets?” and “Can I Go On?”, while lending her allegorical articulation for the aboriginal time to songs like “He’s The Wizard” and “Don’t Cipher Bring Me No Bad News.”
Diana Ross and Sidney Lumet
On some of the album’s songs, like the Leash Medley including “You Can’t Win”, “Slide Some Oil To Me”, and “I’m A Mean Ol’ Lion”, Ross about inhabits the characters of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, respectively. In added cases, like “Be A Lion” and “Believe In Yourself”, Ross outdoes her own absorbing assignment on the aboriginal soundtrack, with the above song featuring a gospel-inspired leash accessory as the accompanist delivers a beauteous vocal.
The album’s adaptation of “Is This What Feeling Gets?” appearance a bare down, apparent and accessible Ross with a abandoned piano accompaniment, and audition the recording for the aboriginal time gave me chills. Similarly, Ross’ alternating booty on The Wiz’s showstopper, “Home,” is annihilation beneath than breathtaking.
The “lost” anthology additionally includes a benefit clue of sorts: the previously-unheard “Wonder Wonder Why”, which was accounting for the aboriginal Broadway assembly but cut from the appearance afore its aperture night in 1975. It’s connected been accounted that Ross recorded the song for The Wiz, but until now it’s never apparent the ablaze of day. Ross gives “Wonder Wonder Why” her all, and the after-effects are Grammy-worthy.
According to longtime Ross biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, no one should be afraid to apprehend Ross accord aggregate she had on “Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz”.
“The aboriginal time I heard these recordings,” Taraborrelli reminisced, “I was absolute abroad by them because they articulate like absolutely complete Diana Ross performances. She didn’t accept to attach to the ambit of her appearance in the cine or of the Quincy Jones productions on the soundtrack, or to any parameters. That’s what admirers are activity to adulation about this album: it’s a full-on, unrestricted, able Diana Ross achievement that’s never been heard by the accepted public.”
Speaking of Quincy Jones, he would accede with Taraborrelli about Ross’ achievement of the songs from The Wiz. At the time of the movie’s absolution he wrote of Ross’ assignment on the soundtrack “She was singing a accessory third college than she’s anytime articulate in her life. Diana Ross is the hardest alive aerialist I’ve anytime formed with and aloof as admirable a person. I absolutely anticipate that…Diana’s affective account of the songs…[supplies] the moments we bare for the film.”
“Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz” is a beauteous accession to any Ross, Motown, R & B, pop, or agreeable amphitheater fan’s music collection. But added than that, it’s a ahead forgotten, exceptional activity from one of entertainment’s accurate icons. I asked Taraborrelli whether we could attending advanced to added of Ross’ exceptional treasures, or those of added Motown legends.
“I absolutely apperceive what’s in store, but I can’t share,” Taraborrelli teased. “But I can say this: there’s a lot of stuff! There are Diana Ross & the Supremes songs in the vaults that admirers accept not heard yet, and the aforementioned holds accurate for appealing abundant all of the artists at Motown. If the admirers abide to appeal the material, and be articulate about it, again it will surface.”
“Some Motown fans are adjoin the angle of agenda releases,” Taraborrelli continued. “They appeal CD releases, and they’ve fabricated an affair of this by adage that they’re not affairs any artefact that’s not appear on CD. That’s not the position to take. By not acknowledging this album, or any of the added agenda releases that accept appear out of Motown, the bulletin that’s actuality beatific is that cipher wants this stuff.”
“Those of us of a assertive age are activity to aloof accept to abandonment to the actuality that CDs are on the way out, and there’s annihilation we can do about that,” Taraborrelli continued, “the aforementioned way we had to abandonment to the actuality that we weren’t activity to be able to get our vinyl or our cassette tapes. If we draw a band in the beach and say we’re not affairs agenda releases, we’re not activity to get ANY releases.”
If “Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz” is apocalyptic of the affection of previously-unreleased actual we accept to attending advanced to from Motown, I couldn’t affliction beneath WHAT architecture they’re appear in! If you’re a fan of the 1978 film, or you appetite article new to accept to as you delay for the December 3 alive advertisement of NBC’s new production, download a archetype of this anthology on November 27 and adapt to accept your apperception absolute by the aboriginal diva.
“Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz” will be accessible via iTunes, Amazon and all agenda platforms on November 27.
Michael P. Coleman (pictured) is a freelance biographer who lives in Sacramento, California. But in his heart, he’ll consistently be a Detroiter. Michael has a BA with High Honors and Distinction in Communications from the University of Michigan. He is a approved contributor to EURThisNThat.com and sacculturalhub.com. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com, and chase him on Twitter.
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