The Ultimate Collection (Motown ‘97) Rating: A
One of the greatest singles groups of all-time and the most popular "girl group" ever, The Supremes produced an astounding 12 #1 hit singles in a relatively short period of time (1964-1969). Arguably the definitive Motown group, certainly on the female side, The Supremes’ slick marriage of pop (primarily) and soul appealed to all audiences, and they had Motown’s most magnetic star in Diana Ross. The classic Supremes lineup featured Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, who augmented Ross’ light, angelic sex kitten vocals with the grossly underrated, always singable harmonies that helped propel Ms. Ross to superstar status. Of course it was too good to last, and the group was eventually billed as Diana Ross and The Supremes before Ms. Ross finally went solo. A tragic figure, Ballard left the Supremes at the height of their popularity (she was replaced by Cindy Birdsong) and ended up on welfare before succumbing to heart failure in 1976. Many Motown acts also grew jealous of the attention that Motown maestro Berry Gordy lavished on the group, and Ms. Ross in particular (small wonder, since Gordy was in love with Ross), but this collection fondly recalls only the best of times. The Supremes have many hits collections, but this generous but not too generous 25-track compilation is indeed the ultimate one, as it features every top hit penned by the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland production team (including “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” “I Hear A Symphony,” “My World Is Empty Without You,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “You Keep Me Hanging On,” and "Reflections"), as well as the few gems the group scored after H-D-H's 1968 Motown departure (such as “Love Child,” The Temptations duet “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” and their swan song, "Someday We'll Be Together"). Who among us hasn't sung along to some of these classy pop songs at one time or another? Indeed, these songs are premier examples of Motown’s simple yet sophisticated soul pop sound, and they seem destined to be fondly remembered and replayed for all eternity.