The Supreme's debut didn't contain a single hit... how odd, because it's chock-a-block with distinctive, beautiful pop songs that charm with an unbelievable freshness and sweet naiveté. Just look at the gals on the cover: Diane Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, all dolled up in their Sunday best, awkwardly positioned on their stools, faces shining in that teenage way. Then consider that Barbara Martin, who was still in the group at the time, could not pose for the cover because she was obviously pregnant. It is a strangely lowly start for the group that would go on to symbolize Motown glamour. Compare the uncomfortable, malformed shrimp on the cover to the more evolved insectoid diva Diana Ross would grow to be.
The music within is just as adorable and youthful as the girls on the cover, but a lot less awkward. It's stunning, in places. "Your Heart Belongs To Me," the first track, sports a vaguely exotic production that's overwhelming in it's instant appeal, and lyrics pertaining to a girl's soldier boyfriend, who's off in a "faraway land." It's excellent (and, it's worth noting, written by Smokey Robinson). "Who's Lovin' You" and "Baby Don't Go" are both perfect pop songs in the early Motown mode, the latter with Wilson absolutely nailing the lead vocal part. "Buttered Popcorn," which you've probably heard before, continues to be just as perplexingly dirty as it ever was, a raucous and raunchy tale of a girl whose boyfriend has a butter obsession that befuddles even once you begin interpreting it as metaphor. Sometimes innuendo doesn't add up, it's just suggestive for it's own sake. A cunning stunt.
"I Want A Guy" is a stunner, a slightly middle eastern, lilting arrangement with fluttering flutes and "exotic" organ sounds. Diana Ross attacks the vocals in an early version of that alien trill that would make her so famous, and it's one of my favorite performances of hers... notable, perhaps, because it is her first.
Side two opens with "Let Me Go The Right Way," a great song which memorably has the backup vocals defiantly declaring: "I want to be a wife!" The rest of the side continues on the same rich vein. All the songs are great, what can I say? They're great. It closes with "He's Seventeen," a blushingly teenage song that obsesses over two details: he's only seventeen, and I'm just sixteen. The vocal arrangements are hilarious and oh-so-charming, and the whole song is just candy to anyone with a yen for dated teen songs. Which is not to place it in the kitsch category; it's pulled off with such panache that it achieves a resonance to anyone who had to be a teenager at some point.
It's a really sweet album.
(link removed by request. I hope you go find it somewhere, though. It's worth the effort, or even money)