The final three 70s Supremes' albums have finally dropped in LET YOURSELF GO: THE 70S ALBUMS, VOL. 2: 1974-1977 THE FINAL SESSIONS, 3-CD set, which featured the line-up of Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong, Scherrie Payne, and Susaye Greene. Not only does it collect the group's last three albums "The Supremes," "High Energy," and "Mary, Scherrie & Susaye," but the set generously includes alternate takes, extended versions, previously unreleased tracks, and different lead vocals (listening to the Greene lead on "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking" and you'll swear you're hearing Deniece Williams).
But more importantly, the last three albums indicated a dramatic vocal styling change for the Supremes. Whereas the previous albums -- sans Diana Ross -- could've been called "Jean Terrell and The Supremes," these gems have the group sharing lead vocals and have closer and tighter harmonies. Wilson gets her time to shine in the spotlight, and Payne providing powerhouse-soulful vocals, took the group's sound in much more mature-sounding direction.
For some reason, I always found Jean Terrell's voice cloying, like a little girl's voice, even though I like the songs "Up The Ladder," "Nathan Jones," and "Stoned Love," and always felt that Motown/Gordy went looking for someone who sounded like Ross to replace her. On these tracks, you'll hear none of that. Wilson and Payne sound nothing like Ross (or Terrell for that matter), which is why I say that this group's incarnation was radically different sounding from anything that came in the previous shake-ups in the Supremes' past. Even with the addition of Susaye Greene, whose got like a four-five octave range and can hit those high notes that sound like a whistle (on "High Energy" you'd swear it was Stephanie Mills with a little Minnie Riperton thrown in), the sound is no longer filled with longing and innocence, but maturity and sophistication. Perhaps it was a product of the changing times, but I'm not talking about lyrics here because "Love Child" and "Stoned Love" could've fit the bill, no, this line-up of The Supremes was definitely a change in attitude and sound.
The songs contained in the set are likeable and have infectious grooves and bass hooks that'll keep you grooving. And they don't sound dated at all like some records recorded in the "disco" vain. The tracks sound soulful and funky, though not as hard driving as Labelle and not as disco-fied as Sister Sledge, it makes one wonder why these albums weren't commercial hits during their time. Aside from not getting the marketing push from Motown, I think the other problem was the monicker "The Supremes."
Even though one of the founding members of the original Supremes, Mary Wilson, worked many years to get the name of the group to the top of the charts and in the public eye, not to mention the history books, and fought hard to keep the name alive, in this instance I think it was detrimental to the group's continued success. The sound and group dynamic was so unlike anything that came before it -- or perhaps more closely aligned with the original intention of the group when it first started out -- that it should've changed its name and re-branded itself. Like Duran Duran when it split and became "Arcadia" and "Power Station" (or better yet when Patti Labelle and the Blue Belles became "Labelle"), Wilson really should've let the name go. Of course, there's really no way of knowing whether that would've made any difference but I think that the public would've been more receptive and at least more interested in a different group; one with a fresher sound, which this line-up of The Supremes clearly had.
Nevertheless, these three albums, including all the extra tracks, are a joy to discover and are just as good -- if not better than -- anything else that was released during the same time period by other artists.
Hip-O Select does it again, remastering each track so that it sounds fantastic, as though they were recorded yesterday, and wonderful presentation! The 3 CDs come in a hardcover book that includes color and black & white pictures on glossy pages with full page color photos of the front and back of the original album covers, liner notes that includes the bio of the group (written for this release) and quotes from each member, some original liner notes, song credits and trivia, and remastering credits. I've posted pictures above.
The only minor issue I have is that the discs, which I'm going to transfer to a CD case, come in hard cardboard pocket pages in the book, so you have to be careful removing and storing the CDs. Other than that the set is well worth it!
Just listen to the track samples above and you'll see that this was definitely NOT the same Supremes that were led by Ross and Terrell. Although the set is a bit pricey, it's definitely worth it.
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