REVIEW BY: Mark Millan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/05/2010
By the mid-‘80s, The Bee Gees were having more success writing and producing material for other singers than for themselves. Barry Gibb had scored a major triumph for Barbra Streisand with Guilty in 1980. Songs for Dionne Warwick (“Heartbreaker”) and Dolly Parton (“Islands In The Stream” with Kenny Rogers) were also big hits and kept the Brothers Gibb busy throughout the second dry spell of their recording career.
Following the success of 1984’s Swept Away, Diana Ross was keen to get back into the studio and keep the ball rolling. She set about convincing Barry, Robin, and Maurice to write and help produce her next album, and after some tense negotiations, the group agreed to do just that. The major clincher was that through Ross, the boys would get to co-write a song with the newly crowned King Of Pop, Michael Jackson.
Apart from working with MJ, Barry would never speak well of producing the great Diana Ross, as he felt her massive ego and reluctance to completely embrace the material hampered the album’s potential. Ross had some gripes of her own but overall was quite pleased with the record, and it did turn out to be the follow-up hit she wanted.
Eaten Alive opens with the title cut, which is the song MJ co-wrote and produced for his pal. It’s fair to say that it isn’t one of his best, but Ross loved it and in her world, that’s all that matters. The track itself is awash with electric drums and beefy synth riffs that today make it sound horribly dated, but at the time it was all cutting-edge stuff. Jackson provided backing vocals on the choruses in between Ross weaving a bizarre tale of dangerous love; the two sound uncannily alike when harmonizing, and it’s all good fun for a while.
“Oh Teacher” is the most Bee Gees sounding track on the album, and Ross did a great job imitating Barry’s lead vocals that he put down for the demo. They kept Barry’s voice in the track for backing on the choruses, and he also does some weird rap thing that is quite cool. “Experience” is the best ballad on the record and it also serves as one of the better love songs Ross recorded during the entire decade. It’s a beautiful blending of voices and words, and lyrically, it’s one of the few tracks on the disc that actually makes perfect sense.
The kicker here, though, happens to be the last song to date that topped the charts (in the UK) for Ross, a retro Supreme-styled pop song called “Chain Reaction.” The brothers wrote the song in the vein of a classic Motown hit and although they wondered whether Ross would want to revisit her past, they were surprised to hear that she loved it and was eager to record it. The song and video were one of Ross’ most exciting moments in a long time, and she still performs it live today.
Of the rest of the material on here, there’s nothing very bad and nothing very good – just solid, well-crafted pop songs that fill out the record without breaking any new ground, as maybe it should have. “More And More” is all jazz, and although I love hearing Ross sing jazz, this one’s a little too schmaltzy for my liking. Upbeat poppers “Love On The Line” and “Crime Of Passion” are the strongest on the album and provide enough buzz to the second half to make it a decent effort overall.
This was the second-to-last album that Ross would record for RCA before moving back to Motown, which strangely sent her career into a nosedive that she struggled to pull out of for some years. By this time, Ross’ whopping deal with RCA had made her a very wealthy woman and left her in complete control of her career. Unfortunately, the bulk of her RCA albums served as nothing more than a massive exercise in vanity. However, along with Swept Away and Eaten Alive, Ross managed to turn out a couple of very solid records that may have not made the earth move, but they kept her business ticking along nicely.
|I liked "More and More".|