By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
IF MARIAH CAREY'S TURN AS LIL' KIM HAS RENDERED her music a negligible factor in her career, with hair, makeup and fashion overpowering her real gifts, she need only look to Diana Ross as a warning to step off that slippery slope. On the cover of Ross' latest album, Every Day Is a New Day (Motown), the pop diva looks like she's auditioning for the lead role in a Negro remake of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Slathered in makeup, with her hair an insane mass of nappy weave, the singer looks tragically adrift. Unfortunately, the record doesn't redeem the packaging.
Ross still sounds great, with a voice as strong and lovely as ever. The problem is the subpar material she's stuck with, none of which is remotely memorable or engaging, despite the guiding hand of legendary producer Arif Mardin. The presence of Hex Hector, who is to dance music what Rodney Jerkins is to R&B, doesn't help at all. Only on the stomping dance track "Carry On," a tune Martha Wash made her own a few years ago, does Ross sound like she has any connection at all to the material. Someone at Motown ought to figure out that hooking the singer up with latter-day house wunderkinds Masters at Work, David Morales or the guys from Murk/Funky Green Dogs would be a stroke of genius. No producers currently working in the R&B genre can rival any of those guys for soulfulness or innovation. (Given the breathtaking job he did on future club classics "Flowers" and "You Don't Know Me," even Armand Van Helden would be a smart choice.)
Until that happens, though, take a pass on Every Day and grab copies of the newly reissued, remastered versions of Ross' biggest-selling album, 1980's Diana, and her best, 1979's The Boss. The former contains the hits "Upside Down," "I'm Coming Out" and "Have Fun (Again)," and the crispness of Chic's production punches right through the speakers thanks to digital remastering. But it's The Boss that's the real prize. Larry Levan, the late, great DJ at New York's legendary Paradise Garage, used to spin Boss tracks "No One Gets the Prize," "Once in the Morning" and the title cut, and the crowd would go absolutely wild. The reissue contains bonus tracks of the original 12-inch disco remix of "The Boss" and the long-unavailable, promo-only remix of cult favorite "It's My House." Produced by Ashford & Simpson (who also provide stellar backing vocals), this is the album that silences Ross detractors. Soulful, deeply funky and filled with astonishing vocal performances, The Boss is a fantastic disco record that doubles as an underrated R&B/pop gem. Diana Ross was never this good before, and hasn't been since -- at 20 years old, The Boss is a serious candidate for 1999 album-of-the-year honors.
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