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New Supremes deluxe reissue features classic alternate takes, live ’67 show

Founding member Florence Ballard heard prominently on ‘Supremes Sing HDH’



The Supremes, gay news, Washington Blade

The Supremes (Photo courtesy Motown/Universal)

It’s been a particularly rich several years for Supremes fans as Universal (previously under the now-defunct Hip-O-Select imprint) continues its series of classic album “expanded editions” from Motown’s leading ladies.

The latest — perhaps the series’ best, although that’s a tough call — is the deluxe reissue of “The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland: Expanded Edition,”  a two-CD digipak that features the original album in both stereo and mono mixes, 12 alternate takes/extended mixes and a jaw-droppingly pristine recording of the group’s 1967 engagement at the famous Copacabana nightclub in New York where just a few years earlier, they’d recorded their legendary “At the Copa” album (itself reissued in deluxe format in 2012).

The album — named for Motown’s main songwriting team — features the Supremes’ no. 1 hits “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Love is Here and Now You’re Gone” as well as a cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ hit “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave” (interesting, though the girls don’t capture the Vandellas’ fire; it illustrates beautifully how different the two groups were) and “Going Down for the Third Time,” one of the Supremes’ best deep album cuts (it was later the B-side to “Reflections” and sounds like it could have been a smash itself).

The 1967 Copa recordings are notable on several counts. One, they’re the final group appearances of founding member Florence Ballard who was officially ousted from the group soon thereafter and replaced by Cindy Birdsong. Two, while bootlegs have circulated of these shows among fans in recent years, they’ve either been very hard to come by and/or available only with distorted audio. Everything’s cleaned up just so on the new album and we get the pleasure of hearing Ballard and fellow Supreme Mary Wilson’s backing vocals surprisingly high in the mix (we hear them much more prominently than we do on the accompanying studio recordings although, even there, they’re prominent).

The Supremes in their last few years with Diana Ross (she left in 1970) were a mixed bag. There were still hits (although not nearly as many) in the post-Ballard era (“Love Child,” their joint albums with the Temptations), but it was never quite the same. Birdsong did an admirable job with big heels to fill (her singing was lovely) but she could never hope to match Ballard’s sassy persona and brassy vocals. There’s a reason characters inspired by Ballard — played by Jennifer Holliday and and Jennifer Hudson in the stage and screen versions of “Dreamgirls” — are the ones everybody remembers.

The second disc here, with the Copa material, gives us the chance to hear Ballard on classic Supremes live material, especially a mash-up of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Second Hand Rose” and “Mame” we’d previously only known from the group’s 1968 “Live at London’s Talk of the Town” album with Birdsong (itself, admittedly, a gem).

Culled from the best takes from two shows, we also get an alternate version of “Put On a Happy Face” (a different take than the one on the Supremes 2000 box set),” an uber-rare live version of “My Favorite Things” (recorded on the Supremes’ Christmas album) and a blistering live version of their 1967 No. 1 hit “The Happening.”

Thanks to these wonderful reissues, we now have a much better picture of the Supremes’ true stage act throughout the ‘60s. For decades, all we had were the original “At the Copa” and “Talk of the Town” albums (both heavily edited), but it’s now possible to truly feel what the Supremes classic lineup was like live between the “Copa” reissue album, this 1967 Copa show on the new release and the bonus disc of the 2012 equally grand re-release of the “I Hear a Symphony” album which features a previously unreleased (and complete!) live performance of the Supremes at the Roostertail in Detroit.

It’s all dated in the most deliciously endearing way, a breath of fresh air in our exceedingly jaded and ironic era. The cheesy, Vegas-y string section, the reprises that are nothing more than a retread of the last several bars of music, the canned stage patter — it just all works the same way you never get tired of “Carol Burnett Show” reruns or other classic relics of the era. It’s just a bit raw too — Ross’s lead vocals sound a tad weathered by constant touring. There’s a gritty topcoat on the otherwise wonderfully syrupy vocals we hear her offer on the studio material here.

Even though these final moments with Ballard are bittersweet to hear, I’m still champing at the bit for Universal to continue this series into the Birdsong years. It will be amazing — one can only hope — to hear the full “Talk of the Town” live recordings as well as a proper reissue of the group’s “Farewell” 1970 album. Although most notable as the group’s final shows with Ross, it’s of greater historical note to me because it’s all we really know of the Supremes’ 1969 live act.

Wilson told the Blade in a 2017 interview the “Farewell” material was pretty much the group’s 1969 live show, i.e. it was not greatly altered for the Frontier engagement (which became the “Farewell” album), still I yearn to hear what the group sounded like on a “normal” night that final year together. They toured relentlessly that year — let’s hope series producers Andrew Skurow and George Solomon are eventually able to unearth some heretofore unknown 1969 live material or at least some alternate Frontier-recorded Supremes performances.

Also, do yourself a big favor and don’t get this release on a digital or streaming medium. The foldout digipak is gorgeous and comes with two booklets, both chocked with vintage photos. One features an amazing interview with Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier (of the title); the other is a reproduction of the Supremes’ 1967 tour program.


Music & Concerts

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

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Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

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