Take Me Higher

Diana Ross

Motown, 1995

http://www.dianaross.de

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/06/2010

Back in the late 1980’s, Diana Ross departed RCA (her label for eight years) after releasing six albums as per her $20 million contract. A few of them were fine, but the rest were anywhere from messy to, well, really bad. Ross originally left Motown is search for a massive deal that would give her complete control of her work; she achieved this, so it was a curious choice that having decided to leave RCA, she then headed straight back to the Motown family. Her initial release, 1989’s Workin’ Overtime, died a quick and rather painless death, and its follow-up The Force Behind The Power (from 1991) did only marginally better. 

So after a career retrospective box-set (Forever Diana from 1993) to celebrate her thirty year anniversary in the business, Ross released a Christmas album the next year, A Very Special Season, before turning her attention to recording a new album in early ’95. The result was Take Me Higher, in which Ross’ sound was finally updated and her singing reached new heights. It’s not a great record, but of her three original albums released during the ‘90s, it is clearly her best work. Ross oversaw the production along with a handful of talented producers and engineers that helped create a more urban soundscape for the appreciative Ross. 

The album is a fine mix of R&B ballads and urban dance tracks that blend seamlessly to make a very consistent and mature-sounding record. Ross by now was singing better than ever, as her voice had deepened a little and phrasing on the more “wordy” songs is fantastic. The best cut here (and one of her best ever), though, is a pure jazz ballad that only Diana Ross could do justice to. “I Thought That We Were Still In Love” is worth the cost of the album all by itself – it’s that good. Rarely in recent years has Ross given such an emotive delivery on record, and the beauty of her singing jazz has to be heard to be believed.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There’s plenty of sweet sounding tracks (“Keep It Right There,” “Swing It,” and “Don’t Stop”) to keep things moving along nicely, and even a cover of “I Will Survive” is dealt with superbly, as the team managed to breathe new life into an old relic from the distant, dark days when disco ruled. The title track is a fine dance number that Ross revels in, and along with “I Will Survive” and the standout, subtle groove of “Gone,” gave her some great chart success in the UK, where the album peaked at #10.

Another highlight is the mid-tempo swinger “If You’re Not Gonna Love Me Right,” on which the sharp track and Ross’ breezy delivery are in perfect contrast. “Voice Of The Heart” is another uplifting ballad that Ross added to her collection (although she hardly needed another), but it’s still a sweet song all the same. “Only Love Can Conquer All” is the only dud on the record as it’s just far too schmaltzy – think Celine Dion – to have a positive impact on me.  Much better is the urban groover “I Never Loved A Man Before” that features some great acoustic guitar and percussion backing Ross’ low-key vocal. 

That really is the joy about listening to Ross’ performance on this album – low-key and subtle vocals were not always her forte, but they work well amid the fresh sound the team created for her here. I purchased this album when it was originally released, and although I listen to Ross’ classic works of the ‘60s and ‘70s all the time, I still find plenty to like about this one fifteen years down the track. It really hasn’t dated at all, and Ross’ voice was showing signs of becoming an even sweeter instrument than it already was. 

Her next album, Every Day Is A New Day, found her venting after a bitter divorce, so it really is a somber affair. With the “lost” album Blue (great) and a disappointing covers album I Love You (lousy) being released in recent years to make up for Ross’ reluctance to record new material, Take Me Higher remains her most pleasing studio effort since Swept Away, some twenty-six years ago.

Rating: B+

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Comments

I've seen this record in stores but never bought it because that album "Working Overtime" sucked.On
your recomendation i'm going to get it. I miss Diane Ross, I'm glad you guys decided to feature her. Please feature more R&B and dance music.








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