With NBC’s airing of “The Wiz Live!” on December 3rd, nostalgia is building for the beloved musical “The Wiz.” What better time to release some unreleased music from the 1978 film that starred Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and more?
After filming ended, Motown wanted Diana Ross to record an album of the musical’s songs and called Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz. It was slated to be released in 1979 and accompany the Quincy Jones-produced soundtrack. However, the album was shelved, but according to EurWeb, it’s being resurrected from the vault for a digital release on November 27th.
The album features a booklet with never before see photos of Ross and an essay written by the reissue’s producers Andrew Skurow, George Solomon, and Harry Weinger. The album was produced by Ross, veteran Motown executive Suzanne de Passe, and Grammy and Emmy Award-winning producer and arranger Lee Holdridge (the arranger of Ross’ hit “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”).
According to the album’s review, Eurweb says Ross was not in the best spirts while recording due to some disagreements she had with Motown at the time, but the recordings came out great; Holdridge says she got into the character of all the characters to perform their respective songs.
“On some of the album’s songs, like the Trio Medley including ‘You Can’t Win’, ‘Slide Some Oil To Me’, and ‘I’m A Mean Ol’ Lion’, Ross almost inhabits the characters of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, respectively. In other cases, like “Be A Lion” and “Believe In Yourself”, Ross outdoes her own impressive work on the original soundtrack, with the former song featuring a gospel-inspired trio accompaniment as the singer delivers a stunning vocal,” the review by Michael Coleman writes.
Ross biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli says the recordings are amazing as well. “I was blown away by them because they sounded like completely unrestricted Diana Ross performances. She didn’t have to adhere to the parameters of her character in the movie or of the Quincy Jones productions on the soundtrack, or to any parameters. That’s what fans are going to love about this album: it’s a full-on, unrestricted, unfettered Diana Ross performance that’s never been heard by the general public.”
Sounds like something special!