Week 34: Front Row Center Pt. 1

By: Vincent the Soul Chef

Aug 23 2009

Tags: ,

Category: 1977

19 Comments

Hello, kiddies.

I’ve been on the fence for weeks about my next offering, but after some serious thought (and a raised eyebrow from our fearless leader), I decided to just go with my gut, so here goes…

I’ve always been a concert-goer. Nothing beats being in the audience at a large concert hall (or even a dingy hole in the wall bar) to see my favourite artists do their thing on the stage. In my 40 years, I’ve seen my fair share of shows. In fact, some artists I’ve seen an excessive number of times. One of my all time favourite concert bands, Gov’t Mule, I’ve seen at least 25 times, just a little over a two weeks ago in fact, they came back to my neck of the woods… Some artists I know I need to see before I depart this life and some artists I will sadly never see because they departed this life. In any event, since I know I can’t see them all, I sometimes rely on the purchase of a live album to fill the void so with your indulgence, I have one seriously rare performance to lay on you so let’s spend An Evening With Diana Ross!

The time is September 1976. The place is the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. This is a few excerpts from the tour which was in support of the self-titled album that yielded the successful single “Theme from Mahogany” and of course, the Disco anthem “Love Hangover”. Now it’s fair to say that this particular performance resembles a Broadway type atmosphere which may have some of you asking “why the hell is he posting this”, but seriously, kids, this is one cool performance, with the arrangement duties being overseen by Gil Askey, who has seen his fair share of work for Motown. Most notable is the bulk of concert albums that the Motown elite produced back in the glory years, as well as providing the incidental music for the stunning film “Lady Sings The Blues” (nice run-on sentences… I hope my English professor isn’t reading this post). It’s also important to note that the trio of background singers is the Jones Girls, who later gave us Quiet Storm staples such as “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else” and “Nights Over Egypt”… I had to throw that in there for a little extra incentive.

The show as a whole has some great moments, including the obligatory medley of Motown standards, but what really sticks out in my mind is “The Point”, a lovely story that Ms. Ross apparently used to tell to her oldest daughter Rhonda back in the day*. It may sound silly, but there is a not-so subtle message to be heard there. I am also enamoured of the slightly psychedelic tinge that the core rhythm section brought to the table which until just recently I never knew existed. As far as the overall compilation value goes, it may seem a little disjointed in spots, but for the most part you have a fairly clear picture of what it was like to be in the audience at a Diana Ross concert back when it really meant something.

Thankfully, scoring a copy of the vinyl isn’t that tough as there are a few reasonably priced copies available. The CD on the other hand will require a little; check that, a LOT more change! Either way, it’s an investment that shouldn’t disappoint.

Still not sure? Have a look at this:

(Youtube clip borrowed from FellipeFerrari who has posted the entire concert video. The clip above is the first part out of 8 – a perfect way to spend an hour or two. Click here to see the rest!)

Well, there you have it. I got one more childhood memory out of my system… like it or not. I could easily share a couple more of my favourite live joints if it pleases you; I’m sure I could find a few gems lurking among the stash. Thanks and praises once again goes to my beloved uncles for making me hear this record ad nauseum as a kid, and subsequently donating their respective copies of the vinyl to me so that I can in turn share them with you. With all that said, it’s time to go and rip some more… until the next time, have fun(k), and as always, please be safe.

Peace and blessings!

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*Laf’s note: Ahem, Vincent! The Point is a wickedly wonderful story (and animated TV movie) by Harry Nilsson from 1971, about a little roundheaded boy called Oblio and his dog Arrow, living in a world of pointy heads – all of it accompanied by fantastic Beatlesque music. Funny enough, I remember the psychedelic TV-animation being narrated by Dustin Hoffman, but when I copped the VHS release, it was narrated by Ringo Starr! And on the Harry Nilsson LP “The Point” from the same year, Harry does the storytelling all by himself. Click here for a sentimental review of the movie and some preview clips…for more information, just google it! 🙂

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19 comments on “Week 34: Front Row Center Pt. 1”

  1. It’s OK, Vincent…the gut is where it’s at! Now, everybody enjoy the sweet selection for Week 34. And don’t forget to leave a comment!

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  2. Damn! I’ve had this record for 33 years, and never even looked for Nilsson’s name on the back cover… that was indeed good looks, Laf. Thanks! I’m gonna have to hunt down a copy of that VHS somehow.

    And the concert video… once again, I never knew such a thing existed. I better go have a chat with my uncle as I am sure he has a copy somewhere. 🙂

    I’ve been struggling with this essay all week, but I am just about finished… I think. Thanks for letting the crappy cover art fly. I’m sure you kids will forgive me this time. Enjoy.

    Peace and blessings.

  3. Hmmmm.. Ok! I LOVE live music too! I actually love the Gov’t mule and I am a huge fan of Warren Haynes… Always post more live music its wonderful… Now I am on the second record of this album and I promised myself I would hold off commenting until I listened to the entire concert in its entirety… Now my first thought was the big production had an almost moody blues twinge to it.. but the one thing put me off this album is the same reason why I don’t care for most of diana ross, her albums and apparently live music as well.. The sound seems SO OVERPRODUCED!! I can dig big band but not when there is little to no focus on the instrumentation… Like there are moments where the band is on fire, but they are buried in the mix,,. I thought Love Hangover should have played out in its entirety it seems like it cut short before it got really good… Diana does have a good voice and she displays her vocal abilities but it just seems that the whole album is very tounge-in-cheek, or very kitschy.. which is fine but I like emotional powerful soulful performances, Diana seems like she had a ton of fun, and I do dig motown (I love the funk brothers) but the motown medley misses grabbing some of the magic of the songs especially when Diana says ” don’t they sound like the supremes” in I hear a symphony, well it did kinda sound like they were trying to pull off some cover songs. I think my favorites on the album is “Overture” for sure, that song is great I do like “The Point” , “Theme From Mahogany” I mean the album is cute, big production with a few classic jazzy songs… You can tell through the recording what a spectacular performance this show must have been, I haven’t seen the live vids yet but I imagine the really big production with the big orchestra.

    • Marty!
      I kinda agree with some of that…but it still beats any two hours spent with any radio station. I listened to the album like 2 times in a row (while cleaning the house), and I must say I actually warmed towards the album…it’s varied enough, interesting enough…felt like spending a lazy Sunday watching reruns of an old favourite tv-series…and best of all – the entire family liked it…spreading happiness throughout the house!
      And later, when I watched 4 parts of the concert video posted on Youtube (in spite of the crappy resolution) I liked it even more!
      Lightwheight, yes!
      Mainstream, yup!
      Kinda cheezy and overproduced, you bet!
      Still, the best kind of entertainment for any lazy day spent with the family!
      Great selection, Vincent!

    • Ditto, Marty and Laffy. Overproduced indeed. And I hope y’all didn’t notice that really CRAPPY mix that they did with “Love Hangover”, so that Ross could go and “powder her nose”… hehehe I’m sorry, I shoulda said “do a costume change”
      however, in defence, its a much nicer recording than it was actually marketed to be. I mean, Motown did kinda throw this one together last minute to “cash in”, and since Ross and Gordy were on the outs at around that time, it becomes more apparent that the production value was not going to be a top priority. That is just my observation…
      When I listened to the rip a few weeks ago, I found myself liking the not-so obvious tunes more than the hits, mainly sides 2 and 4 for the very reason you explained, Marty… pure kitsch in every sense of the word, but that’s also what made it so charming.
      Funny enough, Laf, but that’s the main memory I have was hearing this one as a kid while my uncle cleaned house.
      Thanks for the observations, Marty, and for the record… the new Gov’t Mule joint comes out 27 October… 🙂
      Peace and blessings.

  4. Many thnaks for this one 🙂

  5. Thanks Soul Brothers.
    Love Diana Ross, and i do not have the entire album. Such a great career.

    Holla!

  6. Thanks for posting this classic!

  7. I feel you; it is sad to think about the artists who departed this life and we´ll never be able to see live (MJ and Joe Pass especially in my case).
    I´m hoping to see Diana Ross live someday but, for now, Ima cheer myself up with this one!
    Thanks for the post Vince 😉

  8. well I can say for sure that second time through I enjoyed the album a lot more. And Laff you are dead on when you say listening to this album is better than anything else on the radio, I agree with that 1000000% there is a lot to enjoy about the album, the second side of the first album really is magical, and in a lot of ways I wish I could have transported myself to be in there in that moment in time .. must have been something special … She sure does have a great voice

  9. This is a great post Vincent. I actually own this record and I am glad you resurrected it from my stacks. Some great moments and I agree with you guys totally. The radio has nothing to offer these days unless you are after comedy…cuz the shit is a joke. I am auto tuned out when it comes to the radio! hehe Thanks for the awesome write up. Be in touch soon. Peace & Blessings.

  10. This is one of my favorite Diana Ross lp. She an entertainer so one should see her live. Thanks for posting.

  11. A true classic .Thanx a lot

  12. This looks ill..Thanks

  13. I’m a big Diana Ross fan and i don’t know this live.
    So you make my day.
    Thanks

  14. Great concert! Great television special. (hopefully it will be released on DVD…right after T.C.B.!) By the way, I’ve seen countless live concerts (of all multiple musical-genres), but Diana Ross remains the best solo/stand-up singer I’ve ever experienced in a *large arena. She “is” the it-factor! Out-shining all the glitter, special effects, etc.
    (*in an intimate club, Carmen McRae was tops. ..off-topic, but I had to say it)

    • My latest “Wow!” experience was definitely Sharon Jones…intimate small venue, gaddamn the lady got chops!

      • well Laf, I am still a little salty about SJ. Don’t get me wrong, I love her, but we had tix to see her when she came to B’more a couple years back. they CANCELED THE SHOW!!! 😦 I am going to make every effort to see her next month, but I’ll have to travel to PA… not too much of a struggle, in fact, it’ll be worth it 🙂

        Glad you liked the record, Satya. It’s getting increasingly cheaper to find the vinyl; i saw one yesterday for 3 bucks at my local corner store. A CD however is a much different story.

        Peace and blessings.

  15. Thanks again Vincent! Luckily, I have the LP & CD of this great show. Amazing how many Motown classics were very-limited CD-releases. Well, at least Hip-O-Select is on the case. (there’s an expanded Touch Me In The Morning CD set dropping later this month)
    Peace!


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