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  1. The Supremes version of The Nitty Gritty

    Curious about everyone's opinion of Diana Ross's performance of "The Nitty Gritty." I had heard Gladys Knight's version first of all, of course. Then I bought a Motown multi-CD collection and The Supremes' unreleased version was one of the bonus songs.

    What's funny is that I wasn't really knocked out by Gladys Knight's version. It was funky and soulful, but I just never got into it. Then I heard Diana Ross singing it and even with the same (?) backing track, I heard it very differently; I found I enjoyed it so much, I kept playing it over and over. The Diana Ross version just seemed to be much more fun to listen to.

    I think what did it for me is while everyone knows Gladys can "throw down" on a song and give you soul from here to eternity, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Diana's take on it. To me, it just sounded like Diana was having a ball with this tune. She didn't really "soul", instead, she kinda "glides" and happily "skips" all over the tune and it's just an joyous, fun performance.

    Maybe some with put the song down, comparing it unfavorably to Gladys's version; but for me, it was a really pleasant surprise that always makes me just a bit happier whenever I listen to it.

  2. #2
    I think it is a combination of things that makes "The Nitty Gritty special. Diana rarely had a chance to sing this soulful plus the backing vocals are clear and upfront.
    I really love her performance on this song. It's a huge shame it never found a home on the Love Child album.

  3. #3
    This was a great song, and inexplicably canned at the time. Of all the Supremes material that’s emerged since the 80s, this is possibly my favourite.

  4. #4
    Both versions are nice, but, for me, neither can touch Shirley Ellis' 1963 original.


  5. #5
    Not a fan of GK&Pips version. Not all that crazy about the Supremes' version either, but I like it a little more than either the original or GKP versions. I agree that Diana doesn't get gritty like Gladys but she does bring something likeable to it.

  6. #6
    Gladys' version needs to be heard in the mono single mix or not at all. The stereo mix with its reverb kills the energy. A waste of tape.
    Funk and reverb just don't go together IMHO.

  7. #7
    I love backing track and the background vocals (Mary & Cindy with the Andantes). It’s Diana’s vocal that’s disappointing. It’s a lackluster performance and with the track being produced by Norman Whitfield you’d think he’d try to get her to attack it with more energy and soul. I feel she just kind of sings it without the excitement or power that she would do with Ashford & Simpson or on some of the later tracks like “No Matter What Sign You Are” which is what this song needed.

  8. #8
    I like The Supremes' version of The Nitty Gritty - which surprised me when I first heard it in 1997.

    Similarly, Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone also surprised me. It has always been a favorite of mine by both GK&TP and The Temptations. Diana's take is quite enjoyable, imo.

    I was surprised that I liked these two songs. I do not enjoy Diana's versions of Heaven Must Have Sent You, Stay In My Lonely Arms or Come On And See Me. I'm amazed that songs that I had high hopes for left me disappointed and songs that I had low expectations for turned out better than I expected.

    I think Nitty Gritty and Ain't No Sun would have fit nicely on the Let The Sunshine In album.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by johnjeb View Post
    I like The Supremes' version of The Nitty Gritty - which surprised me when I first heard it in 1997.

    Similarly, Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone also surprised me. It has always been a favorite of mine by both GK&TP and The Temptations. Diana's take is quite enjoyable, imo.

    I was surprised that I liked these two songs. I do not enjoy Diana's versions of Heaven Must Have Sent You, Stay In My Lonely Arms or Come On And See Me. I'm amazed that songs that I had high hopes for left me disappointed and songs that I had low expectations for turned out better than I expected.

    I think Nitty Gritty and Ain't No Sun would have fit nicely on the Let The Sunshine In album.
    Agree about "Aint No Sun". I enjoy Diana's vocal. Add background vocals and I think it might have been a good fit for the Love Child album in place of "Honey Bee".

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Agree about "Aint No Sun". I enjoy Diana's vocal. Add background vocals and I think it might have been a good fit for the Love Child album in place of "Honey Bee".
    OMG, in the past few years I've been obsessed with "Honey Bee". I think it would have been a good single. Recently, out of the blue, a friend, well-versed on all things Motown, mentioned that "Honey Bee" should have been a single. (Well, we were talking about DRATS and maybe even the LC album, so it most likely wasn't totally out of the blue as if we were talking about impeaching Trump and all of a sudden Honey Bee is in the conversation...but, I digress.)

    I think Honey Bee is a nice Pop song, has a catchy beat and is very hummable. Rolls off the tongue easier than "Capricorn, Scorpio, Taurus, Gemini ..." The energy of the song makes the syrupy lyrics more palatable than say the lyrics of You've Been So Wonderful to Me or Will This Be The Day (both decent songs).

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by BigAl View Post
    Both versions are nice, but, for me, neither can touch Shirley Ellis' 1963 original.

    The best version by far!

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by johnjeb View Post
    OMG, in the past few years I've been obsessed with "Honey Bee". I think it would have been a good single. Recently, out of the blue, a friend, well-versed on all things Motown, mentioned that "Honey Bee" should have been a single. (Well, we were talking about DRATS and maybe even the LC album, so it most likely wasn't totally out of the blue as if we were talking about impeaching Trump and all of a sudden Honey Bee is in the conversation...but, I digress.)

    I think Honey Bee is a nice Pop song, has a catchy beat and is very hummable. Rolls off the tongue easier than "Capricorn, Scorpio, Taurus, Gemini ..." The energy of the song makes the syrupy lyrics more palatable than say the lyrics of You've Been So Wonderful to Me or Will This Be The Day (both decent songs).
    I like Honey Bee too but i think that by the time you got to mid/late 68, it was just a bit too out of date. wasn't contemporary. had they done the song in 66 or 67, it could have been a good one. but i think the musical scene had just changed too much by mid 68. you needed something heavier

    now i agree that Sign was nothing more than a cheap knock-off of Aquarius. perhaps if it had a completely different story line and set of lyrics

  13. #13

    also missing the sun...

    Quote Originally Posted by johnjeb View Post
    I like The Supremes' version of The Nitty Gritty - which surprised me when I first heard it in 1997.

    Similarly, Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone also surprised me. It has always been a favorite of mine by both GK&TP and The Temptations. Diana's take is quite enjoyable, imo.

    I was surprised that I liked these two songs. I do not enjoy Diana's versions of Heaven Must Have Sent You, Stay In My Lonely Arms or Come On And See Me. I'm amazed that songs that I had high hopes for left me disappointed and songs that I had low expectations for turned out better than I expected.

    I think Nitty Gritty and Ain't No Sun would have fit nicely on the Let The Sunshine In album.
    Johnjeb -- Dusty Springfield's version, on her Definitely Dusty album, which also includes her version of I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You -- is another fine interpretation of Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone.

    I agree with your impression of Heaven Must Have Sent You, Stay In My Lonely Arms and Come On And See Me, and My Guy is, for me, another on the same list. You sort of wonder, what is the point. Generally, Diana was known for the sincerity she could convey, even on simplistic songs like Baby Love, but on these Motown covers and some of the other material recorded at this time, she (as narrator) didn't seem to care about the lyrics, and she and the band seemed to just race through these, or, in the case of Stay In My Lonely Arms, dragged it to its death.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I like Honey Bee too but i think that by the time you got to mid/late 68, it was just a bit too out of date. wasn't contemporary. had they done the song in 66 or 67, it could have been a good one. but i think the musical scene had just changed too much by mid 68. you needed something heavier

    now i agree that Sign was nothing more than a cheap knock-off of Aquarius. perhaps if it had a completely different story line and set of lyrics
    In 1969 I don't think I ever thought Honey Bee would be a good single. There were other songs from Love Child that I preferred, particularly Keep An Eye.

    It's only in recent years that I started to think that Honey Bee would have been a good single. That's in hindsight based on the reality of what was released: Shame, Composer, and Sign - ugh! Honey Bee, a little retro, would have been better than what we got. I think Motown was interested in the song because they did two versions - I prefer the 1968 released version from the LC album.
    Last edited by johnjeb; 07-10-2019 at 12:08 PM.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by benross View Post
    Johnjeb -- Dusty Springfield's version, on her Definitely Dusty album, which also includes her version of I Can't Give Back The Love I Feel For You -- is another fine interpretation of Ain't No Sun Since You've Been Gone.

    I agree with your impression of Heaven Must Have Sent You, Stay In My Lonely Arms and Come On And See Me, and My Guy is, for me, another on the same list. You sort of wonder, what is the point. Generally, Diana was known for the sincerity she could convey, even on simplistic songs like Baby Love, but on these Motown covers and some of the other material recorded at this time, she (as narrator) didn't seem to care about the lyrics, and she and the band seemed to just race through these, or, in the case of Stay In My Lonely Arms, dragged it to its death.
    Yes, Dusty does a nice version. This is just a great song that should have been a hit for someone. Chuck Jackson and Unidisputed Truth have versions on their debut Motown albums.

    In some instances it seems Diana did a better job on Motown songs she covered that were originally recorded by male artists, whereas those by female artists seemed to be less of a challenge or hold little interest for her.

    And back to the thread topic of Nitty Gritty, Diana seems to like the song and sing it well. I think I play it more than Gladys' version, whereas the other songs we mentioned I would never purposely play.

  16. Quote Originally Posted by johnjeb View Post
    And back to the thread topic of Nitty Gritty, Diana seems to like the song and sing it well. I think I play it more than Gladys' version, whereas the other songs we mentioned I would never purposely play.
    I'm enjoying all the replies to this one and this is one where I can see everyone's point of view, those who like the song and those who don't really.

    I feel as you said, Diana seems to like the song. For me, that joy trumps the Gladys Knight version. It's along the lines of what H-D-H said about "Going Down For The Third Time"; Martha did it and of course, you knew she could belt it out, but when they gave it to Diana, it worked out well.

  17. Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    I like Honey Bee too but i think that by the time you got to mid/late 68, it was just a bit too out of date. wasn't contemporary. had they done the song in 66 or 67, it could have been a good one. but i think the musical scene had just changed too much by mid 68. you needed something heavier
    I'd have gone with the first version of Honey Bee. It has a much harder kick...just my 2 cents.

  18. Quote Originally Posted by bradsupremes View Post
    I love backing track and the background vocals (Mary & Cindy with the Andantes). It’s Diana’s vocal that’s disappointing. It’s a lackluster performance and with the track being produced by Norman Whitfield you’d think he’d try to get her to attack it with more energy and soul. I feel she just kind of sings it without the excitement or power that she would do with Ashford & Simpson or on some of the later tracks like “No Matter What Sign You Are” which is what this song needed.
    My feeling is that Norman probably knew there was no way he was going to get gutbucket soul from Diana so he just tried a different approach, let the music provide the fire and Diana could provide a sort of counter. I think Diana's vocal works purely from phrasing as opposed to her letting loose and trying for an Aretha-type delivery.

    Or, this may have been a scratch vocal. Years ago, someone posted here that a lot of these vaulted recordings should not be released as many are not finished products, but rehearsals or initial attempts. Perhaps this is one of those initial attempts that was abandoned.

  19. Quote Originally Posted by Ollie9 View Post
    I think it is a combination of things that makes "The Nitty Gritty special. Diana rarely had a chance to sing this soulful plus the backing vocals are clear and upfront.
    I really love her performance on this song. It's a huge shame it never found a home on the Love Child album.
    Yes, another reason I enjoy this: it's not overly produced. You can hear the vocals, including the backing vocals, loud and clear, upfront. To me, everyone conveys that they were having fun recording this.

  20. Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Not a fan of GK&Pips version. Not all that crazy about the Supremes' version either, but I like it a little more than either the original or GKP versions. I agree that Diana doesn't get gritty like Gladys but she does bring something likeable to it.
    "Likeable" is the whole key to why I enjoy this version. True, it isn't a Grammy-Award winning tune or performance, but it's just so fun and likeable.

  21. #21

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    I'd have gone with the first version of Honey Bee. It has a much harder kick...just my 2 cents.
    Agreed. It packs an exciting punch. Love it!

    Great dance track but perhaps not hit single material. Shame, really.

  23. #23
    Pretty biased on the GK&TP's version but I dig this version too. Diana tried to match the vocal of the original, I think.

  24. #24
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    I love Diana's enunciation during the early years, before Lady Sings the Blues. She had a wonderful midwestern accent that Berry eventually got rid of.

    "Git down .... double beatin' keep repeatin' ......'"
    Last edited by Circa 1824; 07-10-2019 at 07:08 PM.

  25. Quote Originally Posted by Circa 1824 View Post
    I love Diana's enunciation during the early years, before Lady Sings the Blues. She had a wonderful midwestern accent that Berry eventually got rid of.

    "Git down, double beatin'" .... etc etc
    Ha, ha, yeah. Sometimes a little bit of the "street" crept into some of her performances. I like that a lot though!

  26. #26
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    If you listen to Stormy, her Midwestern accent is very prominent. And, I love it ! (I am from Ohio, so I know the accent well.)
    Last edited by Circa 1824; 07-10-2019 at 07:11 PM.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    Curious about everyone's opinion of Diana Ross's performance of "The Nitty Gritty." I had heard Gladys Knight's version first of all, of course. Then I bought a Motown multi-CD collection and The Supremes' unreleased version was one of the bonus songs.

    What's funny is that I wasn't really knocked out by Gladys Knight's version. It was funky and soulful, but I just never got into it. Then I heard Diana Ross singing it and even with the same (?) backing track, I heard it very differently; I found I enjoyed it so much, I kept playing it over and over. The Diana Ross version just seemed to be much more fun to listen to.

    I think what did it for me is while everyone knows Gladys can "throw down" on a song and give you soul from here to eternity, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Diana's take on it. To me, it just sounded like Diana was having a ball with this tune. She didn't really "soul", instead, she kinda "glides" and happily "skips" all over the tune and it's just an joyous, fun performance.

    Maybe some with put the song down, comparing it unfavorably to Gladys's version; but for me, it was a really pleasant surprise that always makes me just a bit happier whenever I listen to it.
    There is no comparison. Gladys and the Pips' version was awesome, soulful and easy to dance to. The Supremes with Diana Ross on lead was not soulful. Maybe Florence Ballard would have been better suited for this song. Shirley Ellis was also soulful on the original version.

  28. #28
    Shirley Ellis version was very good. She had a pop voice too to my ears. I always thought she was very underrated and did good work beyond her three big hits (or 1 in the UK). But I’m glad Diana has a pop voice. That’s the reason why she fronted so many massive hits. Accessible to a mass market, easy on the ears, and very sing-a-long. Probably why I prefer The Supremes version of this song vs. even the original.

    This thread did prompt me to buy the recent, and excellent, Shirley Ellis compilation “Three, Six, Nine”. It’s well worth checking out.

  29. Quote Originally Posted by alanconnor_1 View Post
    Shirley Ellis version was very good. She had a pop voice too to my ears. I always thought she was very underrated and did good work beyond her three big hits (or 1 in the UK). But I’m glad Diana has a pop voice. That’s the reason why she fronted so many massive hits. Accessible to a mass market, easy on the ears, and very sing-a-long. Probably why I prefer The Supremes version of this song vs. even the original.

    This thread did prompt me to buy the recent, and excellent, Shirley Ellis compilation “Three, Six, Nine”. It’s well worth checking out.
    I'm going to have to check out that compilation. Only recently have I started really paying attention to Shirley Ellis. From what I've read, she was a very accomplished musically. Definitely more to her than "The Name Game". But even that one is fricken' awesome. I don't even dare call it a "novelty" song because it was so well constructed musically and rhythmically.

  30. #30
    I don't really like the Shirley Ellis version at all. Her voice is to pop sounding for my own taste. Gladys Knights version should be the best, but i find the production a little to busy. It's the Ross voice that makes this the superior version for me. Her voice is silky and sultry all at the same time. As smooth as brandy butter but with just a little edge to lend it a soulful kick.

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