Diana Ross & the Supremes / The Supremes

Let the Sunshine In & Cream of the Crop

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This two-LP-on-one-CD compilation isn't a bad idea, in terms of the listening, pairing as it does the contents of the surprisingly soulful Let the Sunshine In with those of the final Diana Ross & the Supremes album, Cream of the Crop. Both albums are very much hodge-podge creations, assembled from sessions involving Ross much more than the other Supremes (much of the time, it seems to be the Andantes, another Motown vocal outfit, backing her up rather than Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong, et al; and even the biggest hit here, "Someday We'll Be Together," the last number one single credited to the Supremes, was cut as a Diana Ross single; on the other side of the ledger, there is at least one cut here -- "Let the Music Play," recorded back in 1967 -- that includes Wilson and Florence Ballard. The second half of this CD, devoted to the Cream of the Crop album, is weaker, with lower quality songwriting, though Ross acquits herself well and the production, on the lavish side of soul, does work well for her and the material, and elevates the latter. And she does better with her renditions of "Hey Jude" and "Blowin' in the Wind" than she does with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" -- actually, "Blowin' in he Wind" is a strange pop/soul take on the Dylan masterpiece that may offend fans of the original; but at least Ross and the arrangers do something memorable with it, which is more than they did with the Hair medley. And the closing number, "The Beginning of the End," is a warmly nostalgic farewell. In actual fact, with all due respect to the second album's title, little of what is here represents the cream of the Motown crop, but 40 years, on even second-rate '60s-vintage Motown sounds mighty good. What's more -- and a significant plus -- this compilation was part of the second wave (from 2000 and beyond) of Motown CD reissues, generated out of Europe, the producers got the sound right.