This is like the Rosetta Stone of dance music; you can hear the Holland/Dozier/Holland sense of rhythm in all that we call dance music today. The great early Supremes records are perfect variations on a similar theme, with a one-two rhythm structure that makes even the least confident of dancers feel okay shaking it (this is similar to how trances beats are all 1s. To wit: standard pop rhythm structure is 1-2-3-4, the first Supremes classics are 1-2-1-2, and trance is 1-1-1-1).
Where Did Our Love Go, long before the epic Soft Cell cover, is a textbook example of what makes the Supremes a fundamental part of music history: a driving and relentless rhythm section orchestrated perfectly with hooks and a great vocal performance. Baby Love is just as legendary, and just as rhythmically tough. Stop in The Name of Love works in some minor key experimentations that must have sounded like a revolution on the radio.
I Hear A Symphony has always been a personal favorite, but here in the midst of the best that resulted between the Holland/Dozier/Holland/Ross/Wells/Wilson collaborations, it gains the power of a Phil Spector/Tina Turner River Deep Mountain High or a Five DuTones Shake a Tail Feather, one of those records
that makes time stop such is its structural and emotional perfection. My, I do go on.
Just before the 1967 shift to Diana Ross & the Supremes, theres a shift in the kind of records that the group was making, becoming more musically experimental. You Keep Me Hanging On is actually kind of a weird-sounding record, and quite intriguing to compare with Kim Wildes much more traditional 1986 cover. Likewise, Love is Here and Now Youre Gone is a strange record that is structured as if in opposition to what audiences would have expected (though to put it in a contemporary dance music idiom, Love is Here would be the record that made extensive use of drop-outs before others), and The Happening is a quasi-psychedelic nugget that I had never heard before that doesnt sound anything like classic Supremes, and yet it was a number one hit (and a great pop record), which indicates that audiences back in the 60s were a lot better suited to artists changing their sound than even we are today.
Reflections is a marvel, even today, with all sorts of strange little vweepy noises, and while Love Child feels a little like an Afterschool Special to todays listeners, its social impact at its time of release cannot be underestimated.
And, as a testament to the Supremes influence, who can forget Sweet Sensations epic Latin disco cover of it? While on the subject, lets think about the countless covers and samplings of these hits that weve heard over the years. Evelyn Thomas version of Reflections was an early mainstay of the first incarnation of Almighty Records, theres the aforementioned Soft Cell take on Where Did Our Love Go, Phil Collins bland-but-still-kind-of-interesting You Cant Hurry Love, Someday Well Be Together is sampled in Janet Jacksons If, and, moving into Miss Ross solo hits, Love Hangover has been sampled inordinately, with its slow part giving rise to Monicas The First Night and Hands On Experience by High-N-Mighty, while its uptempo disco part forms the basis of Will Smiths Freakin It, and Im Coming Out is the spine The Notorious B.I.G.s Mo Money Mo Problems is built on. Thats a pretty sizable chunk of chart and cultural vitality for songs in their third or fourth decade.
And while speaking of Miss Ross solo hits, while I am happy to have them here, it wouldnt be one of my reviews unless I had some track selection quibbles, and I really wish this collection could have found room for Its My House, which may be the subtlest disco masterpiece ever, or early-90s European hit When You Tell Me That You Love Me. It is also unfortunate that we couldnt get some of Miss Rosss RCA tracks, as Swept Away, Chain Reaction, and Missing You are all classics in their own right. Of course, you can get all these tracks on other comps, but it would have been a nice extra for this one.