The Supremes

Right On

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"Up the Ladder to the Roof" opens the album with enticing voices and Frank Wilson's underappreciated first-class production. Right On is a textbook on how to come back from the brink of disaster. The Supremes achieved something the Doors, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Creedence Clearwater, the Guess Who, and so many others could not, go Top Ten and survive the loss of the star who the world recognized and assumed was the key element of their success. Even more stunning is that they did it two months before Diana Ross would go Top 20 with her first solo hit. Jean Terrell brought a terrific voice and new emotion to a group that would rack up eight Top 40 hits without Diana Ross. This is not your Holland-Dozier-Holland Supremes; Wilson creates a sublime stereo mix for the debut single, a wonderful-to-this-day headphone mix with sounds swirling left and right. The follow-up single, "Everybody's Got the Right to Love," went Top 25 with its politically correct theme and clever R&B pop flavors. It gives Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong a chance to use their voices to interact with Terrell, creating a true group sound. A new team, a united front. Where producer Wilson would give the girls cover tunes to sing on the follow-up -- which came eight months after this debut -- they experiment with all sorts of styles on Right On. Among its generous selection of 12 titles, "I Got Hurt" gives a nod to the Honeycombs, "Baby Baby" seems to be a response to Diana's vocal work on "Where Did Our Love Go," and the Supremes take on the sounds of Dionne Warwick with "Then I Met You" (Warwick later hitting with "Then Came You," but this is more the Warwick of Bacharach/David, not the Philly sound). "Bill, When Are You Coming Back" is the Fifth Dimension meets Martha & the Vandellas by way of Laura Nyro. This is Frank Wilson and the Supremes having fun, and Right On holds up today as a solid pop album that is both adult contemporary and girl group pop. "But I Love You More" ends side one, a powerful composition co-written by producer Wilson, performed with enthusiasm by the Supremes. They would rack up four hits in 1970, double the tally by Diana Ross, and between 1971 and 1976 an additional four Top 40 titles. Eight hit singles is a major accomplishment for any recording act, more so for one that endured after the departure of a superstar. Right On is thoroughly enjoyable.

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