Friday, November 27, 2015

Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz

After Diana Ross filmed The Wiz in 1978, Motown (the label she was signed to) decided to hurry and get her to record covers of several of the movie's songs. They'd release it in January of 1979, and it would serve as a companion to the movie soundtrack, or make a nice single disc option for someone who might not want to buy the 2-disc soundtrack album, a piece of movie merchandise, and also another album for her fans.

Except, as we know, The Wiz movie was not the expected box office smash. And so, Motown decided to shelve the record... until now!!!

Except it's available only through digital music providers. You can get the 13 track album from iTunes, Amazon MP3 or wherever else you might get music digitally. You'd think there'd be enough demand from collective fans of Oz, The Wiz and Diana Ross to guarantee sales of a CD or even a vinyl. (Imagine if it was finally released on the format it'd originally been intended to be on!)

Seems all providers allow you to buy each of the tracks individually, or all of them in an album at a nice discount with a PDF of a booklet that explains the history of the album with some photos of Diana Ross that they say some of which have never been published before. ... Well, she doesn't look much like her Wiz appearance in them... I don't know much about Diana Ross outside of The Wiz, so I guess I don't have much more to say about that.

So, let's get to the tracks.

  1. The Feeling That We Had - I rather enjoyed Diana's take on this song. It's fairly simple, ever soulful, just as it should be. Almost makes me think she could have made a very effective Aunt Em at some point.
  2. He's The Wizard - Here Diana lets you know what you're in for as she begins to say some dialogue to briefly retell the story. I almost wish she hadn't as it gives the songs a crowded feel, but she sings the song quite well, trying a slightly different voice for "Miss One."
  3. Soon As I Get Home - Again, Diana quickly says some dialogue as she sings a more upbeat but uniformly slow version of the song. I like this version better than the movie soundtrack version. Diana also adds in a bit of dialogue during the song, saying, "Come on, Toto."
  4. Trio Medley - Diana sings through "You Can't Win," a very brief "Slide Some Oil To Me" and "Mean Ole Lion," with Diana shifting her voice slightly to bring to mind each of the characters. She seems to enjoy getting into these characters. As I said to a friend, "And now listening to Diana Ross as Michael Jackson."
  5. Ease On Down The Road - This take plays loosely with the music, but generally has Diana singing all three versions of the song as one version with three verses with some nice extra rhymes during a musical bridge. "Get up off your knees and sing! Me and my pals gonna do our thing! Come on, let's take it step by step! First your right, and then your left!" "Down the road is where it is, come on, we're gonna see the Wiz!" While some might understandably prefer her version with Michael Jackson, this is quite a nice version!
  6. Be A Lion - Like "The Feeling That We Had," Diana still gives a soulful rendition, just now minus additional vocals by Ted Ross. To make up for that, on the final "Be a lion!" she sings, "Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!" just before it.
  7. So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard - The looseness of some of these covers hits its high here as the music doesn't resemble the original song at all, and Diana cackles and nearly shrieks the lyrics and additional dialogue and rhymes. Andre DeShields, where are you?
  8. Is This What Feeling Gets? - This song was written for the film, and its theme is often heard through the film as it is subtitled "Dorothy's Theme." (Sam has noted that the final notes can be heard as we see Dorothy in an Emerald City hotel room after they first meet the Wiz. We needed to say that sometime...) This is a more confident take on the song and makes for a nice contrast with the soundtrack version. (Because it did make it to the soundtrack!)
  9. No Bad News - While I don't think she topped Mabel King, Diana's Evilene is a nasty bit of work and well-performed.
  10. Wonder Wonder Why - This was billed as a "bonus track" in some press announcements, suggesting that it wasn't originally intended for this album. This song was originally written for the original musical, but was cut before the Broadway debut. Later, it was reincorporated into a revival for Dorothy to sing as she cleans Evilene's castle. There's apparently rumors that it was recorded for the film, but was not included. (I couldn't imagine where it'd fit in.) This soft, simple take on the song marks its first commercial recording, and may likely be the first time many fans are hearing the song at all.
  11. Brand New Day - This version isn't as gripping as the movie soundtrack, but it's much shorter and is still a worthy cover. I just can't tell if Diana has backup singers or if they recorded her singing her own backup.
  12. Believe In Yourself - Diana proves a worthy Glinda in another fairly simple and respectful cover.
  13. Home - Again, another respectful cover, though Diana does add some nice, vocal flair.
So, overall, it's a nice album. For fans of The Wiz and Diana Ross, it's a must, though the more picky might want to pick a track or two. But I wish I wasn't at the point of recommending a digital-only album release...

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