The obscure Supremes albums


Flo, Mary, Diana

I started thinking about the obscure Supremes albums partly because Diana Ross is turning 80 on March 26, and the late Mary Wilson would have turned 80 on March 6.

By obscure, I mean the albums that didn’t contain the hits. These recordings, at least early on, were designed to showcase the broad commercial range of the group. Yet some of the LPs did well.

I used to own many of them before they were stolen from my grandmother’s house c. 1972.

Meet The Supremes (1962) – this was obscure because they weren’t that popular yet. I didn’t buy it until after the reissue cover was used in 1965. Your Heart Belongs To Me. Did not chart pop or RB. 

Where Did Our Love Go (1964) – NOT obscure, as it had three #1 hits. #2 for four weeks pop, #1 RB.

A Bit of Liverpool (1964) – It contains five Lennon-McCartney songs. You Can’t Do That is probably the best. #21 pop, #5 RB.

The Supremes Sing Country, Western, and Pop (1965) I rather liked this one. It starts with Willie Nelson’s Funny How Time Slips Away. #79 pop. 

We Remember Sam Cooke (1965) – It’s one of the better-themed albums. (Ain’t That) Good News, with the late Florence Ballard on lead vocals.#75 pop, #5 RB.

More Hits by The Supremes (1965) – with two #1 hits, not obscure. #6 pop, ##2 for six weeks RB. 

Merry Christmas (1965) – I never owned this album, but tracks appeared on Motown compilation albums. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Me. #6 Xmas


The Supremes at the Copa (1965) – a live album. “Playing the club was seen by Motown CEO Berry Gordy as an in-roads into the conservative white middle-America market.” It wasn’t my cuppa. Put on a Happy Face. #11 pop, #2 RB.

I Hear a Symphony (1966) – While a hit-laden album, it also contained standards such as Stranger In Paradise.

The Supremes A’ Go-Go (1966) – the album went to #1 pop for two weeks, the first album by an all-female group to reach number one on the Billboard 200 album charts. #1 for four weeks RB. 

The Supremes Sing Holland–Dozier–Holland (1967). – a silly title in that they sang a lot of H-D-H at the time. It contains two of my favorite non-hit tracks by the group, Remove This Doubt and Going Down For The Third Time. #6 pop, #1 for three weeks RB

The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart (1967) – When my albums were stolen, this one survived. Perhaps it was dropped. I learned to appreciate the composers’ work and its import because I initially heard those songs here. Mountain Greenery.#20 pop, #3 RB. 

Diana Ross and the…

At this point, Florence Ballard left the group, Cindy Birdsong joined, and Diana Ross got top billing.

Reflections (1968). #18 pop, #3 RB.

Diana Ross & the Supremes Sing and Perform “Funny Girl” (1968). This album, which I never owned, was a commercial failure.#150 pop, #45 RB.

Live at London’s Talk of the Town (1968) – released the same day as Funny Girl, with a combination of standards and Supremes hits. This is not THE recording of You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You, but it has elements. #57  pop, #22 RB.

Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations (1968) – this worked, with a #2 hit. The first song is Try It, Baby, a Berry Gordy song originally performed by Marvin Gaye. #2 pop, #1 for four weeks RB. 

Love Child (1968) Increasingly, Mary and Cindy were supplanted by Motown session singers The Andantes. #14 pop, #3 RB.

Let the Sunshine In (1969) – the commercial and artistic decline. #24 pop, #7 RB.

Together (with The Temptations) (1969) – I own the LP, but nothing sticks out in my mind. #28 pop, #6 RB. 

Cream of the Crop (1969) – didn’t buy. #33 pop, #3 RB

G.I.T. on Broadway (1969) – a TV special with Temptation. Eh. #38 pop, #4 RB.

Farewell (1970) – the live farewell at a Las Vegas club, where Jean Terrell was introduced as Diana’s replacement as DR went solo. It’s a good place to stop. #46 pop, #31 RB.

Albums almost abandoned, and one that was

Emmylou, Joni, and Herbie

Hissing of Summer LawnsWhile listening to Herbie Hancock in early April, his birth month, I was reminded by two albums almost abandoned by their owners to me. Another one actually WAS given to me.

Around 1995, a choir friend was complaining about the new Emmylou Harris album, Wrecking Ball, that she’d just purchased. She was a huge Emmylou fan, but Wrecking Ball was not her cuppa.

It was produced by Daniel Lanois, who had produced or co-produced albums for U2, Peter Gabriel, and Bob Dylan, among others. Additionally, Lanois was also a solo artist; I’m quite fond of his Acadie album.

My choir buddy decided that maybe she’d get rid of Wrecking Ball. I said, “Give it to me!” But she decided to keep it. I wonder if she ever warmed up to it.

Emmylou, also born in April, shows up on so many of my albums. In addition to her solo stuff, she’s a background singer for Lyle Lovett, Neil Young, and so many more. She’s on albums with Mark Knopfler, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Linda Ronstadt, and of course the Trio albums with Dolly Parton and Linda, the complete set of which I bought in 2020.

Joni and Herbie

Back in 1975, Sue, the girlfriend of my friend Jon – who I’ve lost track of – picked up The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the new Joni Mitchell album. She did not know if she’d keep it because it was too different from what she had expected. I said, “Give it to me!” But she decided to keep it. I wonder if she ever warmed up to it.

The album is transitional to a more experimental sound (Hejira, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter et al.) I liked it. BTW, her birthday is in November.

My late friend Donna was kvetching about the 1996 Herbie Hancock album The New Standard. It was a jazz cover album of pop songs by Peter Gabriel, the Beatles, Babyface, Sade, Prince, and Simon and Garfunkel. She was a jazz fan, but she did not like this. She said, “Do you want this?” I said, “Heck, yeah.”

Hancock’s 1998 album, Gershwin’s World features Joni on vocals for two songs, The Man I Love and Summertime. His 2007 album River: The Joni Letters is a tribute album featuring cover songs written by Joni, with an eclectic group of singers

The songs

Though they are very different, because these three artists have been so eclectic, I think of them fondly in the same way.

From Wrecking Ball

Where Will I Be? with the songwriter, Daniel Lanois
Wrecking Ball, written by Neil Young
Orphan Girl, written by Gillian Welch

From The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the first three songs

In France They Kiss On Main Street, which could have fit on her previous studio album, Court and Spark
The Jungle Line, which would not
Edith and the Kingpin – I heard Rebecca Jade do a great cover of this recently

From The New Standard

New York Minute  – co-written and originally performed by Don Henley
You’ve Got It Bad Girl – co-written and originally performed by Stevie Wonder
All Apologies – written by Kurt Cobain, originally performed by Nirvana

Proxy title songs of albums

“It’s time for a few small repairs”

Joan Armatrading
Joan Armatrading

Back in the olden days, when people used to buy albums, there were naming protocols. Often the first album was named for the band. Those albums are called self-titled or eponymous. Here are some of the best.

Variations are albums that have the group name in the title. Herb Alpert’s Ninth, Chicago V, Meet the Supremes, Beatles for Sale, the new McCartney III.

Particularly in the early days of the LP, there would be a track that was designated to be the “hit” or the most significant. This is called the title song, and there are scads of them. Are You Experienced -Jimi Hendrix, Let It Be-The Beatles.

There’s another category, and I don’t know what it’s called. It’s the songs that have the title of the album in the lyrics, but the name of the album is NOT the name of the song. I’ve called it Proxy title songs of albums, but if there’s a better designation, I’m amenable.

The list came from a Facebook music group and a couple of folks from Quora, but not the guy who suggested I “look on the Internet.” Some I already knew.

The music

I’m Lucky – Joan Armatrading from Walk Under Ladders. “I’m lucky. I can walk under ladders.”

E.T.I.  (Extraterrestrial Intelligence) – Blue Öyster Cult from Agents of Fortune. “Don’t report this, agents of fortune.”

Sunny Came Home – Shawn Colvin from A Few Small Repairs. “It’s time for a few small repairs.”

Drive, She Said – Julian Cope. “Here piggy Peggy sooey suicide.”

Alison – Elvis Costello from My Aim Is True is mentioned in the track Alison. “Oh, Alison, my aim is true.”

Skateaway  – Dire Straits from Making Movies. “She’s making movies on location.”

You Learn – Alanis Morissette from Jagged Little Pill. “Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill).”

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana from Nevermind. “I found it hard, it’s hard to find. Oh well, whatever, never mind.”

Brain Damage – Pink Floyd from Dark Side of the Moon. “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

Dancer – Queen from Hot Space. “Hot space let’s go!”

Groups beginning with the letter S

Without a Trace – Soul Asylum from Grave Dancer’s Union. “I joined the Grave Dancers Union, I had to file.”

We Built This City – Starship from Knee Deep in the Hhoopla. “Knee-deep in the hoopla, sinking in your fight.” Oy.

Doctor Wu – Steely Dan from Katy Lied. “Katy tried. I was halfway crucified… Katy lies, you can see it in her eyes.” (Close enough.)

Sister Moon -Sting from …Nothing Like the Sun. “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.”

The Six Teens – Sweet from Desolation Boulevard. “And dream they saw their name in lights On Desolation Boulevard.”

Girlfriend Is Better -Talking Heads from Stop Making Sense. “I got a girlfriend that’s better than that.”

Walk On – U2 from All That You Can’t Leave Behind. “The only baggage you can bring Is all that you can’t leave behind.”

Mean Streets – Van Halen from Fair Warning. “Wait a minute, ah (This is home) Somebody said ‘Fair warning’, Lord.”

Could This Magic? – Van Halen from Women and Children First. “Better save the women and children first.”

Stinkfoot – Frank Zappa from Apostrophe (*). “Well I told ’em right then, Fido said. It should be easy to see. The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.”

Since  I wrote this, I found a slew more of these. Expect a follow-up.  

Everybody owns the album 2

Only 12.5

Here’s the followup to the video about the albums that everybody owned if they had started buying vinyl in the 1970s and 1980s. He notes that if it’s not in HIS collection, it’s not on his list.

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. LP, CD. Not only do I have the first one, but I also have the second one. I Want You.
Aqualung – Jethro Tull. LP. Like a lot of music, this has a specific recollection. Aqualung.
Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. CD. The nice thing about some greatest hits collections is the inclusion of some live takes, which makes you feel as though there’s a reason to buy the compilation. The Boxer.
Who’s Next – The Who. LP, CD – the CD has extra music from the Lifehouse project. Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the Beatles – LPs (US, UK), CDs (standard, mono box). No, I didn’t get the 50th-anniversary version. I have covers of Sgt Pepper by Big Daddy and Cheap Trick as well as a MOJO compilation. Getting Better.

Imagine – John Lennon – LP, CD. The album with How Do You Sleep AND the title track. Gimme Some Truth.
Machine Head – Deep Purple – LP. I have no recollection of buying this. Did someone give it to me? Smoke on the Water.
Graceland – Paul Simon. LP, CD. I actually sent my copy of the CD to a friend of mine because he had NEVER heard it. I bought the 35th-anniversary version hoping that it’d have the 6-minute version of Boy in the Bubble that was on a 12-inch; alas, no. The Boy in the Bubble.
Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits – do not have, and somehow was unaware of its existence. Now I do have his Greatest Country Hits that came out in 1990, a decade later, with six common songs, The Gambler being one.
Eliminator – ZZ Top. LP. I always wished I could do that spinning guitar thing they do. Or grow a beard that long. Sharp Dressed Man.

Saturday Night Fever OST – LP, CD. My then-girlfriend’s son gave me grief about having a disco album. Teenagers! If I Can’t Have You – Yvonne Elliman.
Slippery When Wet – Bon Jovi. Never owned. I own no Bon Jovi, except tracks on a few compilation albums. You Give Love a Bad Name.
Doors Greatest Hits. A couple of odd Morrison tracks included. Break On Through (To the Other Side).
Appetite for Destruction – Guns ‘N’ Roses. Never owned. Sweet Child o’ Mine.
Band on the Run – Paul McCartney and Wings. LP, burned CD. I was happy that Paul’s post-Beatles career finally seemed assured. Let Me Roll It.

A song that’s a cover version

I have LOTS of cover albums.

CovervilleThe next musical prompt is: “A song you like that’s a cover by another artist.” A cover version is “a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded, commercially released song.”

I’m a very big fan of the podcast Coverville with over 1250 shows. “Listen to music so good, you’ll feel like you’re cheating on the original versions!”

I have LOTS of cover albums, including of Aerosmith, Johnny Cash, Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Richard Thompson, Elektra records, and Motown, among many others. I own at least two dozen albums of just Beatles covers, including re-creations of most of the Fab Four output.

There are those songs you never knew were covers – well, YOU knew – such as the obvious classics: Hurt – Cash, Respect – QoS, and All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix.

Listen to:
Strawberry Letter #23 – Brothers Johnson (#5 pop. #1 RB in 1977); OA: Shuggie Otis (1971)
Remove This Doubt – Elvis Costello (1995); OA: the Supremes (1966- b-side of You Keep Me Hangin’ On)
Every Little Thing (He) Does Is Magic – Shawn Colvin (1994); OA: the Police (She- #3 for two weeks in 1981)
Got to Get You Into My Life – Earth, Wind, and Fire (#9 pop, #1 RB in 1978); OA: the Beatles (1966; #7 in 1976)

Baby, Now That I Found You – Alison Krauss (#49 CW in 1995); OA, The Foundations (#11 pop, #33 RB in 1968)
The Mercy Seat – Johnny Cash (2000); OA: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1988)
Big Bad Bill Is Sweet William Now – Van Halen (1982); OA: Margaret Young, accompanied by Rube Bloom (1924).
Jump – Aztec Camera (1984); OA: Van Halen (#1 for five weeks in 1984)
Spanish Harlem – Aretha Franklin, #2 for two weeks pop, #1 for three weeks RB in 1971 OA: Ben E. King, #10 pop, #15 RB in 1961
My Heart – Audra McDonald (2006) OA: Neil Young and Crazy Horse (1994)

All chart action from Billboard (US); RB – rhythm and blues/soul; CW – country
OA – original artist

The Best Cover Songs of 2018 according to Cover Me

50 Cover Songs Way Better Than the Original

K-Chuck Radio: Thou Shalt Not Cover Motown (if you don’t know what you’re doing)

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