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The Supreme

Florence Ballard

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Album Review

Florence Ballard is a figure who continues to haunt the history of the Supremes — the founder and the lost child all at once; it's impossible not to feel a terrible sadness for the fate she endured. 14 of the 18 songs on this collection were recorded in 1968, as Ballard took the first steps to a solo career that never quite happened. Discovered long after her death in 1976 (at age 32), they were bootlegged heavily,and only allowed to trickle out furtively — the very fact that this CD is a release of the Spectrum label — a European catalog item — shows how obscure the material is; if, say, ABKCO Records uncovered 13 completed solo songs by Brian Jones, you can bet they wouldn't be snuck out into the mid-priced European marketplace. They aren't exactly a revelation, though there's a lot of good work here. At last granted a place in the spotlight, Ballard's gritty, tough, yet still very alluring voice was seeking the right vehicle, on songs like "The Impossible Dream," "Yesterday," and "It's Not Unusual," and even crossing into the Supremes territory on the exciting and sensuous "It Doesn't Matter How I Say It" (which came out as a single at the time). Listening to "Stay in Love" or "Walk On By," one realizes a strange dichotomy — Ballard's voice isn't overtly "pretty" in the manner of Diana Ross, but she gets into a groove and she sings pretty; on "Goin' Out of My Head" and "You Bring Out the Sweetness in Me," a different split is evident, as she sings with a mix of raw power and terrible vulnerability. The arrangements are (mostly) sympathetic to her abilities, and at least two-thirds of what is here was definitely releasable by any reasonable standard — that it was, instead, buried is yet another offense committed against this tragic figure. The 1968-vintage sides have been augmented by four songs featuring Ballard from the Supremes catalog, "Buttered Popcorn" from Meet The Supremes, "Ain't That Good News," the previously unissued "Hey Baby" (from the same 1961 sessions that yielded "Buttered Popcorn"), and the previously unissued "Heavenly Father." The annotation is thorough, and the sound is very good, and why this material isn't in a U.S. catalog, and hasn't been written about more extensively — if only for a change of pace from the last (or inevitable next) Supremes hits compilation issued here — is anyone's guess.

Customer Reviews

A tragedy that Florence is forgotten!

Florence Ballard, the original Supreme (you might call her) has been tragically wiped out of musical history so I'm so glad this is finally available. She had a wonderful, soulful voice and it's well worth getting a few of her songs. Check out The Impossible Dream and Like You Babe.

The Real Effie White: Florence Ballard

The released sessions from Flo's tenure with ABC are certainly not the best representation of her great vocal ability BUT do give an insight into what could have been had ABC Records promoted and distributed her singles properly - which are both VERY GOOD with the second one "Love Ain't Love" with "Forever Faithful" being an improvement over the first. Standouts on the album are: LIKE YOU BABE IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW I SAY IT (IT'S WHAT I SAY THAT MATTERS) - (a-side of first single) WALK ON BY - brilliant soulful cover of the Dionne Warwick classic GOIN' OUT OF MY HEAD - (b-side of first single) great cover EVERYTHING WONDERFUL - really lovely, smooth, classic R&B ballad - a good one for a wedding LOVE AIN'T LOVE - (a-side of second single) - great song that should have put Flo up against the best FOREVER FAITHFUL - (b-side of second single) - should be a classic, brilliant soulful song that could have been an a-side HEY BABY, BUTTERED POPCORN and AIN'T THAT GOOD NEWS - are a good showing of Flo's ability from her time as a Supreme as they really show off that rich, thick, soulful voice Flo had - and Hey Baby and Heavenly Father give a little peak at the pretty soprano that soars on People from the now released "There's A Place For Us" album by The Supremes.

Biography

Born: 30 June 1943 in Rosetta, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Florence Glenda Ballard was born in Rosetta, MS, June 30, 1943, the ninth of 15 siblings. The family moved to Detroit before she turned ten to take advantage of the city's booming job market. Ballard took music classes, sang in her school's choir, and built a reputation as a talented singer in her neighborhood. At 14, she befriended the Primes (Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Kell Osborne) and performed a few gigs with the smooth, silky trio at Detroit venues. The Primes' manager, Milton Jenkins,...
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