So, one of the most underrated, ignored part of The Supremes legacy is that, as an R&B act positioned to conquer the great white middle class (and deprive them of their income one LP at a time) they recorded some fantastic renditions of “tradtional” pop…
By 1965 each hit single was bookended with a standard. For every perfomance of “I Hear a Symphony” came “Somewhere” from West Side Story or “You’re Nobody til Somebody Loves You”
Had to win over the Republicans somehow….
The peak of the pandering came with their Rodgers and Hart LP recorded in late 1966 and released in conjunction with an ABC Special featuring them, Bobby Darin, Petula Clark, The Mamas and the Papas and Count Basie.
Originally to be a 2LP Gatefold, it was cut down out of doubt into a single disc… with the songs of the great tin pan alley duo molded into beats to sound within grasp of people sending The Supremes Sing Holland Dozier Holland into the Top 10 LPs during the spring of 1967.
All for the worse, because all of the songs done in a traditional jazz/big band feel are the stellar tracks, and a splendid return to the beautiful harmonies that were the heart of the group. Indeed their renditions of “Blue Moon” “Thou Swell” and “There’s a Small Hotel” are some of the best harmonizing between Diana and Florence (and pointed to a sad loss that the group legacy was about to suffer in a few short months with Ballards departure), while “Spring is Here” and “Little Girl Blue” display the hickory smokiness of Mary Wilson that repeatedly gets lost in Supremes lore.
It’s incredibly sad and poignant to think of this LP, the last full one done in The Supremes classic period. Mainly in the fact that it proved that deep down, between all the hard work, crushed dreams and favoritism that was about to pull the most successful female act apart within half a year, there was 3 women who, above all else, just wanted to sing, sing their hearts out, make themselves happy (and those they touched by default) by their innate vocal talents.
To think later Standards LPs by The Supremes (Notably Diana Ross and The Supremes sing Funny Girl), like a majority as their Pop/R&B Material was overdubbed by in-house background singers The Andantes (and as wonderous they are, when they started backing every Girl Group release at the label, it lead to a blandness not only to The Supremes recordings, but The Vandellas and Marvelettes as well) make these recordings a poignant moment of never will be again.