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Archive for June 13th, 2012

Review: The Supremes, “The Supremes at the Copa”

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The building on New York’s East 60th Street might between 5th and Madison Avenues might not have looked like much from the outside.  But within the walls of 10 E. 60th, it was a different story altogether, as that address housed the fabled Copacabana.  Lyricist Fred Ebb asserted of New York City itself, “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere,” but he could have been writing of The Copacabana.  And Berry Gordy wanted to make it there.  More accurately, the Motown Records chief wanted his acts to make it there, breaking not just a color barrier but an age barrier.  Diana, then Diane, Ross quipped from the Copa stage, “I know if there were teenagers in the house, they’d know our names!” as she introduced her fellow group members to the sophisticated Manhattan crowd. The Supremes’ August 1965 engagement was such a success that it led to stands there by Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. It also yielded the only full live album issued by the classic Supremes trio line-up, which has just been remastered and expanded by Hip-o Select.  In its new 2-CD form, The Supremes at the Copa (Motown/Hip-o Select B0016644-02, 2012) has never sounded fresher.

The Supremes weren’t the first African-American artists to play The Copacabana, with Harry Belafonte, Sam Cooke and Sammy Davis Jr. all having preceded them.  But when they triumphed at the venue, it was clear that the Sound of Young America had appeal to a much wider demographic than might have been expected.  The transformation of the Supremes, already the No. 1 vocal group in America,  into supper-club superstars was orchestrated to a tee by arranger/musical directors Gil Askey and Maurice King, choreographer Cholly Atkins and Artist Development personnel including producer Harvey Fuqua and instructor Maxine Powell.  No stone was left unturned in Motown’s quest for true Supremacy.  Luckily for Gordy, Diane Ross (jokingly referred to as “the intelligent one” in her own stage patter), Mary Wilson (“the sexy one”) and Florence Ballard (“the quiet one”) were all up to the task.

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Written by Joe Marchese

June 13, 2012 at 09:46

Posted in Diana Ross, News, Reissues, Reviews, The Supremes

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