The Supremes

Sing Rodgers & Hart

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The somewhat unlikely appearance of an album's worth of show tunes from a group primarily known for R&B and pop music proves once again that Motown was producing artists and concepts that reached far beyond that of other record labels. The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart began as a multimedia spinoff based on the female vocal trio's appearance on the prime time ABC TV special Rodgers & Hart Today during the summer of 1966. Although the original idea that included a double LP was scrapped, the dozen tracks that made the cut are indeed the crème de la crème of savory and sophisticated stage and screen showstoppers with '60s soul. The naturally dramatic vocal delivery of the Supremes -- Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard -- was an obvious key to the success of their chart-topping hits "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Where Did Our Love Go," and "You Can't Hurry Love." Additionally, the trio had incorporated show tunes both into its stage performances and recordings, so the concept was not as foreign as first impressions might suggest. The mix of traditional and modern arrangements also lends to the ageless quality of the music. The album is bookended by the lavishly orchestrated "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Blue Moon"; however, the whole of pop music is explored in between. The intimate jazz leanings of "My Funny Valentine" and "Thou Swell" foreshadow the role Ross would play in Lady Sings the Blues. There are also a few instances of the fusion between the hip-shakin' Motor City R&B magic that had become synonymous with Motown and the songwriting craftsmanship of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The uptempo "My Heart Stood Still" and "This Can't Be Love" mirror the funky and contemporary rhythms of "You Keep Me Hanging On." The perky "Mountain Greenery" has a bossa nova influence, with the trio's cherubic and spry vocals gently peppering the melody. These recordings also marked a historical milestone for the Supremes. Not only would this project be the last time the trio would receive group credit -- as all future releases involving Ross would give her top billing -- but sadly, these also turned out to be the final studio recordings made by the original lineup. Shortly after a final run of shows at the Copa in New York, Flo Ballard would be replaced by Cindy Birdsong.

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