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  1. #1

    The Supreme Florence Ballard CD: Your opinion? Any favourite tracks?

    I was apprehensive about getting this CD because it was out of print and expensive, but also because I read a bunch of negative reviews of it, from not only from the more cultlike Beyhivish Diana fans (which is to be expected) but also from a number of Florence fans, claiming a number of reasons such as the poor production values and lack of effort from ABC.

    Anyway when I had a bit of cash, I knew I just as a huge Florence fan I had to have it. She's my idol to the extent that I haven't seen Dreamgirls yet because I know it will make feel too sad seeing Flo get a happy fairytale ending in make-believe only. Also from what I've seen of the movie, Effie is very different from Florence and seems to be a pastiche of several soul legends (Etta and Aretha I have read), since Effie seems to lack Florence's innate sweetness and warmth, and obviously makes no reference of the true darkness that was gnawing away at Flo inside her, such as the death her father and younger brother, as well as the trauma of being raped at knifepoint at 16. Also Florence was never that big at the height of the Supremes power, and we all know that was just something Gordy did to mess with her head, as Flo didn't start really really really drinking and overreating until all her depressions, hardships, traumas and heartaches reached critical mass. Also, the diet pills that she started taking to get Gordy off her back about her weight actually messed with her natural metabolism and weight until they ended up making her put on much more weight in a faster period. Those things are worse then scams. So Dreamgirls is a very apt title, as its a dream. It's to the true story of Flo (as it has to be knowing Motown's very fierce lawyers) as Disney's Pocahontas is to its titular real life heroine, or the Don Bluth Anastasia, who as well know now thanks to DNA testing, did not survive the massacre of the Romanov family.

    Anyway.

    So after a few days of waiting until I felt ready to meet another aspect of my idol, I popped it on. I listened to Buttered Popcorn, which was one of the songs I'd heard of hers by then, which at first I wasn't sure about and didn't like because it was so different to everything else Supreme I had heard.... but now it's one of my quintissential Supreme tracks. Love it. It has its charms that I appreciate and feel sad that they were not to be heard from again for the rest of Flo's Supreme career.


    And then I hit a track, You Bring out the Sweetness In Me. Loved it. Most of my fave tracks on the CD are clustered around there. For a while that track was my fave, but soon I found myself loving, and I do mean loving, Love Ain't Love, Forever Faithful (my favourite parts of that song are when Flo sings "Oh Baby Heaven must have put in overtime for me" and "i WILL keep on telling you through eternity", Ain't That Good News, Forever Faithful.... but my fave song on there is It Doesn't Matter How I say It, (It's what I say that matters), because of how cute and silly but also quite raunchy as well the lyrics are, delivered with Flo's sweet, warm sensuality. It felt like an older, more mature version of Buttered Popcorns in that Flo was delivering very risque sounding double entendres, but managed to make them sound sweet and innocent and silly as well, with her natural charm and warmth. It felt like the brassy, sassy but also sweet girl in Buttered Popcorn had grown up and matured, into a young mother. I consider the two songs a bit of a set to each other in my head.

    If she was a candy dish, I'd want to be the one I'd put all my butterscotch caramels in, I can tell you! I love old fashioned hard candy.

    But another standout track on there for me is Heavenly Father. When I heard that for the first time, you felt the intense sadness in the heart of this sweet young lady. The gentle anguish, sweet heartache, loving gentleness, but determined, resolute glass half full nature. I lost my own father when I was six, and now when I sing this song to myself I think of the song addressing the heavenly father about my own father in heaven and how I miss him despite not having many memories of him before his death. And it makes me feel.... like Florence would have understood my sorrow at losing my dad, as she was very much a daddy's girl and adored her father and was very close to him, and lost hers as a teenager. You know Florence was beyond distraught if Diana had to sing at his funeral and not her. I myself was the main speaker at my mother's funeral, and that was.... very easy for me, because I knew it's what she would have wanted, but I would totally understand Flo not wanting to.

    I don't know. I feel like this CD is the tip of the iceberg of Flo's true talent and potential, and it's one of my most prized possessions now and one of my best purchases ever, musical or not.

    I would be pleased to know if any of you enjoyed it as much as me. And if you didn't like it, I would be interested to know your critiques, as I don't think it's perferct but for me, singing is like fashion, it's not what you wear, but how you wear it, it's not what you sing but how you sing it. And I can tell no thought was put into it by ABC and it was doomed from the start, but I am very grateful and happy that I have a whole 18 tracks where my idol gets to shine. I'm hoping if Cindy Birdsong and Jean Terrell and Mary Wilson have shelved albums too, as all I have heard is Dancing Room, which really didn't showcase Cindy's lovely talents very well, though I did like the lyrics. There is a whole bunch of shelved Supremes albums that I would be so happy to see dragged up from the depths, like the Disney album and the Roostertail one.

    Also I loved Forever Faithful/Love Ain't Love so much I got it on vinyl and made sure it came with the sleeve. I watched One Night ONly only Youtube (the Deena Jones and the Dreams version) and I was pleased to spot that Effie's single sleeve was clearly a reference's to Flo's Love Ain't Love/Forever Faithful release.

    Sorry if I wrote a whole essay I have a lot of feelings and reactions! The Supremes and Flo in particular mean so very much to me.

    I would say the album is missing several songs, such as songs where Diana and Flo sang lead together, such as Manhattan and People (which I consider Flo's song in the Supremes repetoire), and songs where all girls shared leads. Save me a Star really needs to be there as well. I would also be interested in renaming some of the more clunky titles into something a bit more punchy. It's a very sixties thing to do is to have long and very bald emotional titles, such as I Only Want to Be With You and Where Did our Love Go (look at the original title for Breathtaking Guy), but I think some of them could be trimmed. I think If I were a Candy Dish is a better title for example. Love Ain't Love could do with a longer title as I would say it is perhaps the strongest original release by Flo, so perhaps A Bell Ain't A bell Until You Ring It? Love Ain't Love, Bells Ain't Bells?

    I would be interested in having CDs that each focus on one specific Supreme be released. A best of Jean and the Supremes would be easy to do, Jean probably has my favourite singing voice of any individual living or dead. I love it so! I think of it being as a combination of Diana's sweet and breathy silky vocals, delivered with Flo's velvet sensuality, raw charisma, effortless charm and gospel powerhousing. It's divine, like pure distilled nectar, she has the voice of an angel!

    But I would be interested in one that allows sweet Cindy to be in the spotlight, with songs like the Wisdom of Time and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Miss Birdsong works hard and throws no shade in an industry where feuds can end up playing like a social media version of the Kashmir border, it's about time she got her dues, I think we all can agree.

    But yes. I'm so happy I got this CD.
    Last edited by Coppelia-Birdsong; 06-10-2018 at 10:38 AM.

  2. #2
    I love Flo's album as well. Love Ain't Love is a soul 60's classic, in my books. So glad to hear that you managed to find it and that you are enjoying it.

  3. #3
    I recall the effort that was made by fans such as myself back in the days when we petitioned MCA to release the album and for a long time it seemed as though it was not going to be released. There was a massive letter writing campaign and finally they asked us to cease writing in requesting it be released. This CD has an extensive history to it. Consider yourself lucky to have it. I doubt that there are many in existence today.

  4. #4
    Not a big fan of it. The Motown stuff was better than the ABC material.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by woodward View Post
    I recall the effort that was made by fans such as myself back in the days when we petitioned MCA to release the album and for a long time it seemed as though it was not going to be released. There was a massive letter writing campaign and finally they asked us to cease writing in requesting it be released. This CD has an extensive history to it. Consider yourself lucky to have it. I doubt that there are many in existence today.
    I just located the original information on the earlier effort to get the CD released. I am going to include it here.

    From the February 1988 Florence Ballard Fan Club Newsletter.

    In 1968, Florence recorded an album for ABC Records with the proposed title, YOU DON'T HAVE TO. As thousands of fans waited in anticipation of its release, the album became a hushed topic. As her solo career went into a decline, the album became an abandoned project, never to see the light of day. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of this unreleased album which now sits in the vault at MCA. The album was a crowning act of Florence's solo career. Great effort and love went into its creation. It meant a lot to her. We, Florence's fans, want the album released. After all it was for her fans for which it was intended from the start. On this twelfth anniversary of Florence's passing from this life, there could be no greater tribute to her memory than the released of her album to the public. However, sentiment alone will not get the album released. As massive letter writing campaign must be started. I am setting this process in motion by appealing to each of you to ask at least five of your acquaintances to write to MCA requesting the release of Florence's album. In turn your acquaintances should ask at least five of their friends and associates to do the same. All letters should be addressed as follows: Mr. Andy McKaie, Special Markets & Products, MCA Records, Universal City, CA 91602.

    /s/ Alan White 2/22/68
    President
    Florence Ballard Fan Club, Los Angeles, CA.



    From the May 1988 Florence Ballard Fan Club Newsletter

    I have been corresponding with Andy McKaie of MCA Records as a result of the letter writing campaign to gain the release of Florence's recordings. The letter writing campaign, McKaie says, was a success on one level in that he finally listened to the Florence Ballard ABC tapes. He goes on to state, "Unfortunately, the reason they were never released was quite apparent--the recordings are not very good. In fact, the recordings are quite disappointing on every level, and I would recommend against MCA releasing the collection intact. At some point in the future, a song may be culled for a 'rare soul' or similar compilation, but that's as far as I would take it."

    Although we did not get the expected result of getting the album released, MCA is giving a bit of thought to releasing at least one of the songs. There is also some other options. I am still in communication with MCA. There are other possible options for the recordings. As soon as I get more details information will be provided. As an aside, I might mention that I have heard seven songs from the ABC recordings and they sound just fine to me. Apparently they do not measure up to MCA's standards for whatever reason.
    Meanwhile, I am calling off the letter writing campaign at McKaie's request. Please pass the message along to whomever you may have asked to write letters. All of you were wonderful in the great support you gave to the letter writing campaign. It was just great team work and definitely made a big statement to MCA.

  6. #6
    Oh trust me, I am. But. Let's redial a bit.

    You mean to truly say, there is a AN ENTIRE album of Florence Ballard's solo work, that is just sitting in the vaults? You ain't s**tting me?

    So what do we do? How do we all come together and lobby and get that album out of the vaults? There must be something we can do. Something!

    You know a bell ain't a bell until you ring it, a song ain't a song until you hear it and Flo's album is just possibilities until you release it!

    Do you know anymore information? We must get the word out. I know a lot of people we can pass the information onto.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Coppelia-Birdsong View Post
    You mean to truly say, there is a AN ENTIRE album of Florence Ballard's solo work, that is just sitting in the vaults? You ain't s**tting me?
    It was released on CD in 2001. Try googling "The Supreme Florence Ballard CD". Woodward was sharing an old excerpt from the Florence Ballard Fan Club Newsletters, years before the CD was released. I remember signing the online petition in the late 90's.

  8. #8
    I am not a fan of her solo work from ABC. I have the CD that was released in 2001. The material remained me of what Nancy Sinatra was doing at the time. In my opinion it was a poor choice of material.

  9. #9
    I believe it was Doesn't Matter How I Say It that popped up on a Soul Diva compilation cd. I really enjoyed that song. When the album was finally released, I have to admit I was disappointed. The released songs were pretty good but the rest of the album didn't seem finished. The vocals sounded like run throughs, not finished. Even though they said the album was in the vaults awaiting released, I don't believe it was really ever finished. I think, if the first singles had hit, the rest of the album would have been much better because the time to complete it properly would have been taken. I'm glad to have the tracks for historical purposes but I don't believe it lives up to what I think Florence could have achieved.

  10. #10
    "Love Ain't Love" was my favorite.

  11. #11
    I feel sad now. I was hoping there was another album in the vaults.

    Well I am very grateful to all of you who helped me get this album. It's one of my favourite CDs ever. It doesn't hold a candle to what Florence was capable of, but I personally believe her charm and talent transcend the material and piss poor production and there are some serendipidious treats too.

  12. #12
    Coppelia-Birdsong, I have quite a few albums that I feel exactly the same about. The singer is always what attracts me, and with this you can be charmed by Florence. I wish there were more treats, though, and that she'd had the opportunity to be shown to the best of her abilities.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by blkfrost View Post
    I am not a fan of her solo work from ABC. I have the CD that was released in 2001. The material remained me of what Nancy Sinatra was doing at the time. In my opinion it was a poor choice of material.
    Hmm. Interesting you bring up Nancy Sinatra. I was thinking of These Boots Were Made for Walking and it seemed like a song Florence could've done solo. I don't know why ABC didn't offer that song to do as a cover! Would've been interesting to hear that than her trying to sing Supremes-esque songs.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Coppelia-Birdsong View Post
    I feel sad now. I was hoping there was another album in the vaults.

    Well I am very grateful to all of you who helped me get this album. It's one of my favourite CDs ever. It doesn't hold a candle to what Florence was capable of, but I personally believe her charm and talent transcend the material and piss poor production and there are some serendipidious treats too.
    I don't think her heart was in it tbh...

    When I hear the ABC tracks, I felt she was dialing in. The love of performing had dwindled due to how she was feeling about the record business. And it showed. Whereas in the Motown recordings, you hear her hunger and joy in singing. Just wasn't there in the ABC recordings. That's why even though I dig some of them like My Heart and Yours Until Tomorrow, I don't think in retrospect it was good to release it. Flo probably wouldn't have wanted those tracks to be released because she knew she was capable of doing much better.

  15. #15
    She was also eight months pregnant. But I disagree, I feel like Flo really shines on the tracks that were either fresh or written specially for her, such as Forever Faithful and I personally believe you can feel her hunger and joy in those far more then the Beatles or Tom Jones type stuff. But Love Ain't Love really could have been a strong selling single at the absolute minimum had ABC bothered to push it, coupled with Forever Faithful on the backside.

    Really the absolute failure of Florence's deal with ABC is completely upon their heads. The ABC tracks are pretty much Flo and the (very talented) background singers and the songwriter doing all of the work, mostly Flo. If ABC had bothered to put some real effort in, this album could have been a masterpiece of Flo's talent. Instead we only got the tip of the iceberg of her potential.

    That being said, the tip of Flo's talent is plenty to write home about, or in this case, in my case, on Soulful Detroit about.

    Myself, I really want to do a live performance of my favourite tracks on this CD in tribute to Florence, along with several other songs that I felt should have been on here. The songs I have chosen so far are:

    Manhattan

    Buttered Popcorn

    It's Not How I say It (It's What I say that Matters)

    Everything Wonderful

    You Bring Out the Sweetness In Me

    Forever Faithful

    Ain't That Good News

    Save me A Star

    Love Ain't Love

    Heavenly Father.

    I would say for me these are my top Florence Ballard songs, and I really am interested in performing a live medley of them when I get better at my singing/instruments.

  16. #16
    It has often been said that Flo was supposed to have sung lead on These Boots...on a go go but then it was given to Diana. ABC also wanted to give Flo POP material, Supremey . They didn’t have HDH so they couldn’t pull it off. Too bad they couldn’t have given her some real soul stuff which she could excel on. But I agree her talent still shines through.

  17. #17
    My opinion is that the songs are hit and miss. There are a couple that I absolutely love ("My Heart", which is my favorite, "Goin Out of My Head", "Forever Faithful", "Love Aint Love", "Walk On By"), a couple that I don't care for at all ("Yesterday", "The Impossible Dream", "It's Not Unusual"), and the rest are cool to good, but nothing to knock your socks off. Overall, for my personal tastes, it's a decent collection.

    I find it interesting that the MCA rep referred to the recordings as disappointing on every level. To me that says a lot about the attention that was given Florence's first solo go, because clearly the rep was disappointed by more than Flo's singing. So much was going on at that point (the pregnancy, the new marriage, the emotional issues, the alcoholism, the expectations of the label, the effort of the producers, etc) that it's a wonder that the recordings were made at all.

    Had Flo lived and continued to record I think we'd talk about her first recordings in the same way we talk about the Supremes' first recordings. Love the songs or hate them, there isn't a lot of harsh judgement about them considering how they're evidence in the Supremes' growth and how much greater the group became. Flo sadly doesn't have that luxury. Her first solo recordings are her last musical legacy, and unfortunately some use it as a reason to knock her skills as a vocalist and the potential she had to make it in the business.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Flo Ballard was put on this earth to sing. The girl was tough. We should've had more of her.

  18. #18
    Flo went to ABC/MCA at a BAD time in her life imho...

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    Flo went to ABC/MCA at a BAD time in her life imho...
    Even at a good time I think she may have gone to the wrong record label.

    But Flo, like Mary and Diana, had been taken care of her whole musical career. Milton guided them, then Richard Morris, then Berry Gordy...there was never a time when Florence, Diana and Mary had to learn the business of the music business because some man was always handling that for them. So now here Flo is on her own and what does she do? She gets another man- her husband- to handle her career and he didn't know what the f--- he was doing! She needed someone in her corner who would point her in the right direction giving her guidance every step of the way. I think this was detrimental.

    Interestingly, I feel that Mary and Diana suffered the same fate as Flo, ultimately. Diana had the luxury of her solo career kicking off with Gordy's guidance from the jump, but when she left for RCA and relied on herself, she was out of her league. I think those first few years she coasted off of her name and pure entertainment value. But as pointed out in that everlasting Eaten Alive thread, at a point she fell off and fell hard, trying to do it all her own way. She should have had someone in her corner telling her when something was a good move and when something was a bad move.

    As for Mary, when Gordy kicked her to the curb, she brings in Pedro who also didn't know a damn thing. Then she goes solo and it seemed like it was one misstep after another. There really isn't a good reason for why Mary Wilson never had a record deal at a legit label, especially after her first book came out. The only thing I can think of is that she was out there on her own and no idea what to do. The publicity alone during the height of the Dreamgirl book should've been enough to have record companies waiting to sign her.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Even at a good time I think she may have gone to the wrong record label.

    But Flo, like Mary and Diana, had been taken care of her whole musical career. Milton guided them, then Richard Morris, then Berry Gordy...there was never a time when Florence, Diana and Mary had to learn the business of the music business because some man was always handling that for them. So now here Flo is on her own and what does she do? She gets another man- her husband- to handle her career and he didn't know what the f--- he was doing! She needed someone in her corner who would point her in the right direction giving her guidance every step of the way. I think this was detrimental.

    Interestingly, I feel that Mary and Diana suffered the same fate as Flo, ultimately. Diana had the luxury of her solo career kicking off with Gordy's guidance from the jump, but when she left for RCA and relied on herself, she was out of her league. I think those first few years she coasted off of her name and pure entertainment value. But as pointed out in that everlasting Eaten Alive thread, at a point she fell off and fell hard, trying to do it all her own way. She should have had someone in her corner telling her when something was a good move and when something was a bad move.

    As for Mary, when Gordy kicked her to the curb, she brings in Pedro who also didn't know a damn thing. Then she goes solo and it seemed like it was one misstep after another. There really isn't a good reason for why Mary Wilson never had a record deal at a legit label, especially after her first book came out. The only thing I can think of is that she was out there on her own and no idea what to do. The publicity alone during the height of the Dreamgirl book should've been enough to have record companies waiting to sign her.
    My good friend at Geffen Records told me a lot of people in the industry see Mary as trouble and not worth getting involved with. I said wasnt David Geffen about to sign her and my friend replied, NO that was all made up by Miss Wilson.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    My opinion is that the songs are hit and miss. There are a couple that I absolutely love ("My Heart", which is my favorite, "Goin Out of My Head", "Forever Faithful", "Love Aint Love", "Walk On By"), a couple that I don't care for at all ("Yesterday", "The Impossible Dream", "It's Not Unusual"), and the rest are cool to good, but nothing to knock your socks off. Overall, for my personal tastes, it's a decent collection.

    I find it interesting that the MCA rep referred to the recordings as disappointing on every level. To me that says a lot about the attention that was given Florence's first solo go, because clearly the rep was disappointed by more than Flo's singing. So much was going on at that point (the pregnancy, the new marriage, the emotional issues, the alcoholism, the expectations of the label, the effort of the producers, etc) that it's a wonder that the recordings were made at all.

    Had Flo lived and continued to record I think we'd talk about her first recordings in the same way we talk about the Supremes' first recordings. Love the songs or hate them, there isn't a lot of harsh judgement about them considering how they're evidence in the Supremes' growth and how much greater the group became. Flo sadly doesn't have that luxury. Her first solo recordings are her last musical legacy, and unfortunately some use it as a reason to knock her skills as a vocalist and the potential she had to make it in the business.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Flo Ballard was put on this earth to sing. The girl was tough. We should've had more of her.
    I bought the Flo solo Album but only listen to it twice as I thought it was real mediocre imo.

  22. #22
    Whether it's a Supreme or a Rupaul Drag Race Queen, no good has ever come of employing your boyfriend/husband/fiancee as your manager/agent. No good.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Coppelia-Birdsong View Post
    Whether it's a Supreme or a Rupaul Drag Race Queen, no good has ever come of employing your boyfriend/husband/fiancee as your manager/agent. No good.
    Celine Dion comes to mind as an exception.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Roberta75 View Post
    My good friend at Geffen Records told me a lot of people in the industry see Mary as trouble and not worth getting involved with. I said wasnt David Geffen about to sign her and my friend replied, NO that was all made up by Miss Wilson.
    I find it hard to believe that Mary ever had a reputation in the industry that people were even talking about. For eons she was a Supreme, nothing more, nothing less. What was there to consider her trouble over in the 80s? We do know she recorded demos at Atlantic, but what was the deal with that? The demos were actually pretty damn good and exactly the kind of direction I believe Mary should've gone in. It all makes me suspect that Mary was out there doing everything herself without a helping hand. Did she have a publicist? An agent? A manager? Maybe she did and they were the problem. Who knows? But I think it's sad that the three original Supremes left Motown and rarely (in the case of Diana) continued to make great moves on their own.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Coppelia-Birdsong View Post
    Whether it's a Supreme or a Rupaul Drag Race Queen, no good has ever come of employing your boyfriend/husband/fiancee as your manager/agent. No good.
    I don't think this is necessarily true if the person has experience or at least the knowledge tools to do the job. Some people have educational background that lends itself well to working as a talent manager/agent. Some people just have a natural instinct for the job. And then there are others. And from the looks of things Tommy and Pedro were others. Inexperience is a job killer. There are probably as many horror stories about significant others as managers as there are horror stories about parents/siblings/children/friends as talent managers.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Even at a good time I think she may have gone to the wrong record label.

    But Flo, like Mary and Diana, had been taken care of her whole musical career. Milton guided them, then Richard Morris, then Berry Gordy...there was never a time when Florence, Diana and Mary had to learn the business of the music business because some man was always handling that for them. So now here Flo is on her own and what does she do? She gets another man- her husband- to handle her career and he didn't know what the f--- he was doing! She needed someone in her corner who would point her in the right direction giving her guidance every step of the way. I think this was detrimental.

    Interestingly, I feel that Mary and Diana suffered the same fate as Flo, ultimately. Diana had the luxury of her solo career kicking off with Gordy's guidance from the jump, but when she left for RCA and relied on herself, she was out of her league. I think those first few years she coasted off of her name and pure entertainment value. But as pointed out in that everlasting Eaten Alive thread, at a point she fell off and fell hard, trying to do it all her own way. She should have had someone in her corner telling her when something was a good move and when something was a bad move.

    As for Mary, when Gordy kicked her to the curb, she brings in Pedro who also didn't know a damn thing. Then she goes solo and it seemed like it was one misstep after another. There really isn't a good reason for why Mary Wilson never had a record deal at a legit label, especially after her first book came out. The only thing I can think of is that she was out there on her own and no idea what to do. The publicity alone during the height of the Dreamgirl book should've been enough to have record companies waiting to sign her.
    Yeah. I wished the three had been more financially independent and business wise early on. But they came from very humble beginnings with families that were just there to survive. Also they were still kids (15 and 16) when they got with Milton and Berry.

    All three of them suffered.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Roberta75 View Post
    I bought the Flo solo Album but only listen to it twice as I thought it was real mediocre imo.
    That's exactly what I did too. "Love Ain't Love" was the best track, and I already had that on 45.

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