Tuesday, 7 July 2009

1986 Diana Ross: Chain Reaction

After her early eighties rebirth as a disco diva courtesy of the Chic boys, if the good ship Ross wasn't washed up in 1986, then it was certainly taking in water after a series of ho hum singles suggested her star was on the wane. Step forward the cavalry in the form of the Brothers Gibb and 'Chain Reaction', a song that could have rolled off the production lines of the Motor City Hit Factory in its heyday.

'Chain Reaction' sounds like the offspring of 'Baby Love' and 'Jimmy Mack' but with the brakes removed. The standard verse/chorus/verse structure flow into each other in a continuously building loop of sound that sparks off itself, shifting up a key with every bar before spiralling off the rails at about the halfway point and once again beginning it's climb of joyful exhilaration to a peak where only the blackest of hearts aren't caught up in it all and singing along. I have no idea if Ross was jumping around and grinning like a fool in the studio when she recorded this, but it sounds like she was.

And why shouldn't she? For the first time in decades she finally had a song worthy of the ones that Holland, Dozier and Holland used to write for her, albeit one with a thumping dance beat welded on to bring it up to date and to make it plain that Ross was not parodying herself. Homage maybe, and it may seem strange for a singer to be paying homage to herself (especially with her vocal styling here deliberately revisiting the muted and slightly lispy way she sang with The Supremes), but the video's shifts from 1960's to 1980's environments were enough to show that everything here was good natured.

'Chain Reaction' is not some cheap and cynical cash in, the Gibbs know their trade too well to stoop to that level and it's genuine enough to not sound like it was created to order in a test tube. Admittedly, the combination of the old with the new doesn't give birth to a hybrid that tears up any new ground, but as a bookending career resume of where she came from and where she was now, 'Chain Reaction' hits the target with a clear bullseye. Good stuff.

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