Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
When Diana Ross left The Supremes in 1969 to emerge as a solo act in 1970, it was in sequence with the shift from singles to albums in the popular music marketplace. That change in what appealed to listeners underscored the sessions for what became Ross' eponymous LP for Motown Records, initially conceived by Bones Howes, an aural visionary behind The 5th Dimension's sepia pop-soul. In the end, it was the pen and production of Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford, along with up-and-coming maverick Johnny Bristol, that constructed Diana Ross.
The record highlighted Ross' impressive interpretive skills against a backdrop of black pop, deep soul and gospel flourishes. Split between original material, such as her signature tune “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand),” and several rhythm and blues chestnuts from Syreeta Wright (“Something On My Mind”), The Velvelettes (“Dark Side of the World”) and Tammi Terrell with Marvin Gaye (“Ain't No Mountain High Enough”), Ross made all of these songs her own.
Ashford and Simpson mapped two other fine albums for Ross with Surrender (1971) and The Boss (1979), but Diana Ross holds its ground as an album that consolidated and expanded upon the abilities of its titular heroine, setting the standard for her peer group and beyond.