Sunday, January 04, 2015

Diana Ross: The RCA Years

I hope you've noted the year-in-review articles already but if not C.I. notes:

 2014 year-in-review pieces:  Isaiah's "2014 Self-Exposure," Kat's "Kat's Korner: 2014 In Music," Ruth's "Ruth's Radio Report 2014," Martha and Shirley's "2014 in Books (Martha & Shirley)"  Ann and Stan's "2014 in Film (Ann and Stan)" which first went up at their own sites as Ann's "2014 in Films (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2014 in film (Ann and Stan)," Third's "2014 Notable Events" and my "2014: The Year of Self-Exposure."

Last week, I wrote "Diana Ross' Swept Away" and there were a lot of e-mails.

Most were glad to see Diana get some credit for some strong work.  But 3 insisted the RCA years were worthless.

That's an opinion.

I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong.

If we were talking about the painter Monet, for example, there are periods of his work you might like and periods you might not.  The are some who wouldn't like any of it.  There are some who would like all of it.

That's art.

But while I will gladly have no problem with individuals who disagree about Diana's RCA work, I do have a problem with a set of 'critics' who have trashed the work from the start and done so for reasons that had nothing to do with art.

One thing to grasp quickly is that the $6.99 CD of Why Do Fools Fall In Love is a gift because it has kept Diana's RCA career available but you can't compare it to 1980s' diana.

First off, diana is a classic.

But I'm talking in terms of sound.

The RCA period has not been remastered as it should have been.

So the sound quality is off.

If you want to hear the six studio albums in better quality -- and expanded editions -- click here for Funky Town Grooves.

Before Funky Town Groove's recent efforts, 1997's Greatest Hits: The RCA Years was the best chance to hear Diana's RCA recordings -- it gathered 20 of her recordings.

Now Eaten Alive and Red Hot Rhythm and Blues need less work because those two albums were recorded at the start of the CD wave.

But Swept Away and everything previous were recording during the audio (not digital) cassette period.  Stevie Wonder was the only artist who was really knew what was coming and you can look at interviews as early as 1982 with Stevie and he'll be discussing the digital transition that's coming.

So factor that in on your evaluation of that period.

The first album, Why Do Fools Fall In Love isn't my favorite of the period.  But along with the title track it does contain "Mirror, Mirror" which is one of Diana's best hits of the 80s.

Silk Electric has a better sound -- arrangements and production (see "So Close" most obviously but all of it including "In Your Arms") but these albums from 1984 back were just slapped on CD for years.  They weren't recorded for digital sound and the Funky Town Grooves efforts have pulled them into modern day so you really should check those out if you're a Diana fan or just curious.

I think Swept Away and Eaten Alive are as good as anything she ever did at Motown -- at her Motown best.

But if you're not an album person, I'd note the following 20 tracks that argue strongly that Diana's RCA period was not a waste.

1) "Swept Away"

2) "Mirror Mirro"

3) "Summertime"

4) "Muscles"

5)"More and More"

6) "Experience"

7) "Forever Young"

8) "Oh Teacher"

9) "Chain Reaction"

10) "Love on the Line"

11) "Love or Loneliness"

12) "Crime of Passion"

13) "Experience"

14) "That's How You Start Over"

15) "So Close"

16) "All Of You"

17) "Shine"

18) "Shockwaves"

19) "We Are The Children Of The World"

20) "Tell Me Again"

Those are 20 solid tracks -- some hits, some not even singles -- that argue for the artistic strength of her RCA years -- and that's not ranked in any order, by the way.  Those are just the 20 tracks I think make the strongest argument.

I need to note Brenda e-mailed to make another argument -- valid as well as my own -- because she thinks the RCA years let Diana explore more than she could at Motown and cites "Upfront" and "Fool For Your Love" as two strong examples.

But let me stress again that it's more than fine if you don't care for the RCA years.  The Motown years include some incredible work.  I love the Motown years.  I'd be one of those people who enjoy and applaud all periods and eras of Diana's work.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Saturday, January 3, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, 3 Sunni clerics are assassinated and the White House is silent, 3 Sunni children are part of 20 civilians killed in Falluja and the White House is silent, Barack wants US troops to train the League of Righteous and America is silent, and much more.

Nickolay Mladenov has declared, "The Iraqi ordinary citizen continues to suffer from violence and terrorism.  2014 has seen the highest number of causalities since the violence in 2006 - 2007."

Nickolay Mladenov is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy to Iraq.  The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq counts at least 12,282 deaths and 23,126 people left injured.  This doesn't include Anbar which means the numbers are significantly higher since Anbar is the scene of much violence.

Not including Anbar not only reduces the number of dead and wounded, it also allows people to pose and pretend.

'Oh, that awful Islamic State! Killing innocent civilians!'

You mean like the Iraqi government does?

Alsumaria reports 20 civilians were killed in Falluja yesterday -- including 3 children -- and another twenty left injured.

Who killed and wounded those people?

The Iraqi military.

They've been bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja since January.  It's a War Crime.

Nickolay Mladenov has made one statement opposing it -- it's now a year that it's been going on, that the Iraqi government has been killing Iraqi civilians.

And Nickolay thinks one statement takes care of it?

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has never said one word.

Not one word.

Does he really think he represent the best of the world's aspirations by staying silent about a government killing civilians?


That's not the century.

That's the number of civilian corpses Falluja General Hospital has received since the fall of victims of these attacks.

1900 is the number the western press won't tell you.

1900 is the number of innocents whose lives didn't matter to the Iraqi government and whose deaths clearly do not matter to the world press, to the White House or to the United Nations.

At what point does the world insist that the Iraqi government stop killing Iraqi civilians?

If you're wondering that's why the UN doesn't include Anbar in their death tolls -- they don't want to confront the reality that people are being killed -- so many are being killed -- by the Iraqi government.

It's not because they can't 'verify' the deaths.  They can verify deaths in Anbar as easily as they can anywhere else in Iraq -- in fact, they can verify them in Anbar a great deal easier than they can in Nineveh Province (especially Mosul).

They chose not to include Anbar and have done so because they don't want to 'embarrass' the Iraqi government.

Never forget that: The UN which proclaims "it's your world" bends over backwards to avoid documenting the deaths in Anbar because they don't want to 'embarrass' the Iraqi government.

And the White House just doesn't give a damn about Sunnis.

Doubt it?

Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reported Friday about an attack in Basra Thursday night which left 3 Sunni clerics dead.  The State Dept said nothing.

No statement was issued.


Not even a damn tweet.

Three religious leaders are assassinated and two more are injured and the White House is silent -- Joe Biden's Twitter feed had time yesterday for Brazil, the State Dept had time for North Korea, the State Dept's Brett McGurk had time to trumpet bombings and other non-State Dept issues -- everyone's silent.

They'll issue a statement on the Shi'ites at the drop of hat.

But the Sunni community -- and it's noticed in Iraq -- can be attacked, can be savaged and the from the White House on down, the administration just doesn't give a damn.

And that's clear by the White House's refusal to call out the bombing of residential neighborhoods in Iraq.  These are legally defined War Crimes -- recognized as such by the US government.  And it is incumbent upon the White House to call them out.

These War Crimes?  They also legally mean the White House cannot arm the Iraqi government -- not when it's killing Iraqi civilians.  And this isn't in doubt, it's been going on since January of 2014.  It is documented, it is established.

Again, the White House silence is noted by Sunnis in Iraq.

Of the assassination,  AFP notes that "the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the main Sunni political parties, said the attack was carried out by 'criminal militias,' an apparent reference to Shiite fighters Baghdad has turned to for support in its battle against IS."  And, of course, these Shi'ite militias forces would have been part of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's tour of Basra on December 31st and clearly could have stayed the next day to take part in the assassinations.  The Iraqi military that the US wants to train first needs to be purged of all criminal militia elements -- including those who, of course, kidnapped and killed US troops -- for those who missed it, Barack Obama released some of those in 2009 as a deal to get the League of Righteous to release the 1 living British hostage and the corpses of the other British hostages -- but remember, Barack insists that he doesn't make deals with terrorists.  The League of Righteous has been very clear that a deal was made -- very clear to the Iraqi press.

We're going to do a lengthy sidebar right now on the League, National Iraqi News Agency reports the League's Qais al-Khazail declared Tuesday that the United States and Israel were conspiring to destroy Iraq.

And that's who Barack's sending US troops to train.

The League is also known as Assaib al-Haq.  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in September of 2013 that thug Nouri al-Malliki, then the prime minister of Iraq, had brought the Shi'ite militias under his wing -- providing them with military uniforms and weapons:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

Again, this is the military that Barack wants US troops to train.  Grasp that.

If you're not getting how disgusting this is, let's drop back to the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

No one ever did.  Barack was never held accountable for it.

But grasp that US troops are being expected to advise and train those who targeted and killed them but those who are running around Iraq telling the press that the US is conspiring with Israel to destroy Iraq.

Let's go back to the assassination of the 3 clerics.  Alsumaria notes that Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri has called Friday for a serious investigation, for accountability and for prosecution over these assassinations (two more clerics were left injured in the attack).  And, no surprise, he's not satisfied with leaving the investigation to the Ministry of the Interior and wants Parliament to form an investigative committee as well.

For Friday's violence, Alsumaria notes an Abu Ghraib roadside bombing has left 1 person dead and four more injured, a Hussein roadside bombing has left seven people injured, and a Mahmudiya sticky bombing left two people injured. All Iraq News notes that the corpses of 3 police members were discovered dumped in Tikrit,  AFP reports that the Islamic State kidnapped "a total of 170 men were taken from the villages of Al-Shajara and Gharib in Kirkuk province, after two ISIS flags were burned in the area, an account confirmed by other officials from the province."

With the Iraqi military failing in Mosul so spectacularly last year, Parliament is investigating what went wrong. National Iraqi News Agency notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc has stated they are prepared to call Nouri al-Maliki to testify in Parliament if the investigation warrants it.  Nouri is now one of Iraq's three vice presidents.  At the time of the fall of Mosul, he was the prime minister of Iraq.  More recently, Nouri attempted to publicly pin the blame for his failures as commander-in-chief with the fall of Mosul on the Kurds.