Diana Ross is by far the most enduring female personality to emerge from Motown’s 1960’s heyday. As the lead singer of the Supremes, she was one of the finest straight up melodicists that ever came out of the Motor City pop/soul scene the label helped to create. In the 70’s she became both a solo artist and actress on television and screen. Her musical output gradually withered away as Berry Gordy and the public became more and more fascinated by her visual appeal. After the early part of that decade,it did seem that her musical career was a very minor aspect of her celebrity. By the middle of the decade,the focus of Diana Ross’s art would return to the recording studio.
It was songwriter Pamela Sawyer and producer Hal Davis of Jackson 5 fame who came up with the song I’m going to talk to you about today. Her and Davis came up with the track with either Ross or Marvin Gaye in mind as the lead singer. Both were in need of comebacks in mid 70’s. Gaye wound up working with Leon Ware. And Diana Ross ended up with the Sawyer/Davis composition that would not only reinvent her as a musical entity,but help usher Motown into a totally different era. Especially at a time when most of the classic artists at the label were leaving it behind. The song itself,released on Diana’s self titled album in 1976 was called “Love Hangover”.
A scaled up string arrangement intros into the songs slow funky rhythmic ballad shuffle. This is accompanied by a popping electric bass line that hits every note of the bluesy acoustic piano. That in turn is accompanied by a glassy,high pitched processed Fender Rhodes with lighter strings in the back round. About two minutes into the song,the horn phrased string parts suddenly burst the song into an uptempo percussive groove. And the bass line is turned right in the mix and plays it’s own memorable phrase throughout the remainder of the song. It continues to be chased along with the string arrangements and the jazzy electric piano parts all the way to the songs conclusion.
Repeated listening to this song amidst discussion with my friend and blogging inspiration Henrique have revealed to me that this is one of the most instrumentally fluid grooves to come out of the disco process of the mid 70’s. It’s straight up funk all the way in fact-the jazz/funk flavor of the live instrumentation and the vital 70’s Motown trait of upfront bass lines locked into a sensuous embrace with the 4/4 beat. And even that accented by Brazilian funk percussion accents. The fact that it melds together two different tempo variations of proto sophistifunk gives it the ideal sound for the “funk functioning as disco” concept that represents a musical transition for the next half decade or so.