Music Article

Time-Tested Tunes

We grade releases from Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson -- Is 1972's previously unreleased ''Blue'' better than ''Timeless Love''?

We grade releases from Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson

Ever since Rod Stewart reminded us that there are big bucks in revisiting standards, record shelves have been filling up with collections of them. Now two more discs — one long-buried and one newly minted — join the fray. How do they fare?

DIANA ROSS

Blue
WHAT IT IS The never-released 1972 companion album to Ross' Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues.
BRAVEST MOVE Just tackling Holiday both on screen and on disc took chutzpah. But Diana does right by Billie.
WORST CALL Ross' breathy, sexy delivery is the wrong fit for the languid version of ''Smile.''
BOLD {DOES ROSS SET A NEW STANDARD?}] Well, no. We're talking about Lady Day, after all. But most of Blue — including the romantic classic ''Our Love Is Here to Stay'' — plays nicely to Ross' strengths as a chanteuse. B+

SMOKEY ROBINSON

Timeless Love
WHAT IT IS Twelve well-worn love songs (13, if you count Cyndi Lauper's ''Time After Time'').
BRAVEST MOVE A surprisingly funky rendition of ''I've Got You Under My Skin.''
WORST CALL Even the silky-voiced Robinson can't help but sound ridiculous on the singsongy ''Tea for Two.''
DOES ROBINSON SET A NEW STANDARD? Unlike Ross' disc, Timeless does not play to Robinson's strengths. ''Night and Day'' falls prey to gloppy arrangements, while ''Our Love Is Here to Stay'' is an overwrought mess. C-

Originally posted Jun 23, 2006 Published in issue #884-885 Jun 30, 2006 Order article reprints