Diana Ross

Last Time I Saw Him

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The early 1970s were a pivotal time for Diana Ross. In 1973 alone -- between touring and performing for SRO crowds in Vegas, she managed to record enough material for a number of different projects. Last Time I Saw Him (1973) was just one of several Ross releases that year as she worked on the still unissued To the Baby album, which was filled with songs for her daughters. She also released the hugely popular Touch Me in the Morning (1973), as well as contributed to Diana & Marvin (1973) -- an LP's worth of duets with Marvin Gaye. Last Time I Saw Him is particularly striking as the spotlight belongs on Ross' remarkable versatility. Although arguably campy, the countrified title composition is larger-than-life thanks to Michael Omartian and Gene Page's arrangement. They throw in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink with a score that is all over the musical map from Dixieland band jazz to banjo-pickin' and even an orchestrated string section. The lightweight poppy "No One's Gonna Be a Fool Forever" is memorable as Ross adopts a Barbra Streisand approach, giving the song enough style as to level out the ersatz instrumentation that hopelessly places the tune squarely in the '70s. Conversely, the ballads "Love Me" and "Sleepin'" are among the best that Ross has to offer. The latter is marked by a dramatic delivery, suggesting a subtext that would reveal more than the story lets on at face value. She likewise scores on the light and funky love song "When Will I Come Home to You" thanks to a jazzy melody and catchy chorus. "You" is another winner as the gospel-infused redemptive waltz is custom-made for Ross' emotive reading. One minor caveat being that her spoken recitation comes off a tad too maudlin and actually sounds like an exchanging of vows. Similarly, her remake of the Malvina Reynolds/Harry Belafonte lullaby "Turn Around" -- which had initially been earmarked for the aforementioned To the Baby -- suffers from the same melodramatic dysfunction. Ross returns to form for the upbeat rocker "I Heard a Love Song (But You Never Made a Sound)" with roots reaching deep into a vintage Motown groove. "Stone Liberty" continues with an empowering R&B statement that might have been penned for the emergent women's liberation movement, but works equally as well as a personal declaration of freedom for all oppressed peoples. Wrapping things up is a cover of "Behind Closed Doors," which Ross turns into a soulful number giving the lyrics a bit of a lilt woefully absent from Charlie Rich's hit version.

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