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Diana Ross: Blue

Opening vaults has never been the same since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s. With considerably less hoopla, Motown recently unearthed a cache of jazz and pop standards by Diana Ross (circa 1972) originally intended to ride the highly successful coattails of her Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. But there’s no real treasure here; just a well-manicured collection of good tunes, each showing an original approach in interpretation. Yet when all is said and sung, it would make a more effective concert set than a recording session that’s unable to make up its mind whether to swing.

Ross sings quite pleasantly over a smooth rhythm section and occasionally a big band, supported by lush strings and even French horns. Her phrasing reveals a strong magnetic pull to Lady Day, which is understandable. But it doesn’t work on tunes such as “Let’s Do It,” “Can’t Get Started With You” and her best swinger, “I Loves Ya Porgy.” It works better on “You’ve Changed” and “T’aint Nobody’s Bizness If I Do.” Her dramatic skills are properly lavished on “Smile” and “Little Girl Blue.” On the latter, the overdubbed spoken- word falls flat. So does her adorable attempt to add a postscript of announced scat on “Porgy.” It’s not in the same key.

Originally Published