Diana Ross

I Love You

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In what might be the least inspired album of her career, iconic diva Diana Ross sleepwalks through a mishmash of seemingly randomly chosen love songs, all covers save for one new composition, adding nothing to them and forcing one to wonder just why she bothered. It's been standard music industry practice for years for artists to record (or for their labels to release compilations of) romantic tunes in time for Valentine's Day, and the January 2007 arrival of this set couldn't have been better timed as it also coincided with the release of the film version of Dreamgirls, based on the career of the Supremes. But Ross doesn't seize the moment: she puts little emotion or enthusiasm into her recitations here, and seems to have little familiarity with, or understanding of, the songs she and producers Peter Asher and Steve Tyrell have chosen for the album. Her vocals are largely nondescript and at times barely hint at the qualities that made her such a distinctive force for decades, and the arrangements and production are whitewashed and lacking in originality. The material is all over the place, including songs from the '50s to those of more recent vintage, from the Platters' "Only You" through Berlin's "Take My Breath Away," and from fellow Motown great Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" to the ubiquitous (and, at this point, plain annoying) "You Are So Beautiful." Ross takes Jackie Wilson's "To Be Loved" and bleeds the soul from it, and she drains the magic from the Drifters' classic "This Magic Moment." Harry Nilsson's "Remember" not only opens the album but closes it in a brief reprise version, but Ross seems unsure what to do with it either time. The Beatles' "I Will" might be an excellent cover choice in more sympathetic hands, but Ross sounds uncomfortable with its simplicity and quietness, while her reading of Burt Bacharach-Hal David's sultry masterpiece "The Look of Love" is embarrassingly lifeless, especially if compared with Dusty Springfield's definitive '60s version. Whoever came up with the idea of Ross covering the Spiral Starecase's 1969 hit "More Today Than Yesterday" at least gets a few points for digging a bit deeper into the covers well, but Ross puts no fire into the up-tempo/upbeat song. Interestingly, the one new track here (other than a piece from the current Broadway production of The Color Purple), the Fred White-penned ballad "I Love You (That's All That Really Matters)," makes the most of Ross' vocal capabilities and range, begging the question of why she didn't just record an album of new material custom-fitted to her talents. Had the singer on this album been an unknown trying out for American Idol with these performances, no doubt Simon Cowell would have found her appalling. This has to be chalked up as an anomaly and a mistake, because an artist as singular as Diana Ross doesn't just forget who she is and what she does best.

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