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Diana Ross has been the Motown legend, the disco queen, Michael Jackson's Dirty Diana, the delicious sex goddess with a love hangover, and the queen of 80s aerobics classes.
This compilation of her biggest numbers, from more than three decades of stardom, has more hits than misses. It divides the songs into Disc One - Life, and Disc Two - Love, although there's no thematic link between music and title.
The material on Love & Life varies from remastered versions of the scratchy Supremes 70s dance party classics, like the Bee Gees penned "Chain Reaction", "Baby Love", and "You can't hurry love," to her Disco-pop crossover ballad, the knee-melting and much remixed "Love hangover".
One of the joys of Diana Ross's music is the cheesiness of it. Taking joyful ickyness to its pinnacle is Michael Jackson's "Muscles", on which Ross is wonderfully shallow. It's music made for aerobics and the body-beautiful, leg-warmer culture. Dragging tackiness to new lows is the religious flavoured "Force behind the power." Extreme camp and happy clappy Christianity haven't dated well, it seems.
If silliness is a problem for you, the increased level of sighing, tinkling bells and other over-the-topness on Disc two isn't going to appeal. If you like a cheese fondue, this is a dream come true. Get out the falsies, gold heels and glitter, and buy yourselves some soothing throat sweets for the next morning. This CD makes dancing on the bar counter to "YMCA" look like an act of straight pride.
The Love collection features a few hits that were also on soundtracks for films starring Diana Ross, such as "Do you know where you're going to?" from Mahogany (1975). Not necessarily chronological, Love also covers hits like "I'm gonna make you love me" and "Some day we'll be together", which revisit the doo wop Motown tendencies of her earlier work with The Supremes. Any new tracks? Yes, there's "Goin' back", which shows she's still got it where it counts. Her dry, flexible, breathy voice stands out on track after track - by some miracle, not even the horrors of 80s production completely ruined Ross.
As with almost all compilations, fans will want to make an iPod version that chucks out tracks they don't like. Perhaps the synthetic "One Shining Moment", and gospel ranting "In the ones you love" will be Disc two's instant casualties. Absolute completeists will want more, and may choose to go download "Doo Be Doo" and "Surrender" to finish off the collection.
If you're more into The Supremes stuff than her later solo work, check out Best Of Diana Ross & The Supremes instead. If you only want her solo work, there are many shorter and cheaper compilations out there that might suit you better. But you won't get a better overall representation of Diana Ross's overall career than you do from this CD set.- Jean Barker
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