I'm the greatest star/I am by far! But no one knows it...
- Fanny Brice, Funny Girl
Back in 2012, while reviewing Hip-o Select's splendidly expanded edition of The Supremes at the Copa, I wrote of the "altogether enjoyable [and] still inexplicably not on CD" album The Supremes Sing and Perform Funny Girl. Indeed, that 1968 LP, featuring Motown's greatest stars tackling the showstoppers from Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's score, has long been one of the rarest and most-requested titles in the Supremes discography. Yet Funny Girl has remained unavailable throughout the entirety of the compact disc era...until now. The good news is that the long-awaited reissue will arrive in lavishly expanded form, with twelve bonus tracks, on April 29. But with every parade must come some rain: this deluxe edition of Diana Ross and the Supremes Sing and Perform Funny Girl is currently only scheduled for release as a digital download. It will appear the same day that the 50th anniversary of the Broadway production of the musical is celebrated with a new CD/LP box set of its original cast recording from Capitol Records, sister imprint of Motown Select within Universal Music Enterprises (UMe).
The eight-time Tony-nominated musical by librettist Isobel Lennart, composer Styne and lyricist Merrill opened in March 1964 at New York's Winter Garden Theatre, sealing the deal on superstardom for its leading lady, Barbra Streisand. Streisand's tour de force as Ziegfeld Follies comedienne Fanny Brice became the stuff of legend, and Styne and Merrill's score yielded the near-instant standards "Don't Rain on My Parade" and, of course, "People." Funny Girl didn't go unnoticed by Motown chief Berry Gordy. In concert, Diana Ross rendered the sweetly upbeat "I Am Woman (You Are Man)" to coquettish perfection while Florence Ballard belted the dramatic "People" from the heart.
It wasn't unusual for The Supremes to switch gears back and forth between Holland-Dozier-Holland's explosive Top 40 R&B and classic Broadway and standard repertoire. It was all part of Berry Gordy's plan to make his artists true stars, appealing to the affluent supper club set as well as the teenagers buying the latest 45s. In early 1965, The Supremes began work on There's a Place for Us, so named for Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story lyric to "Somewhere," for which they recorded both "People" and "I Am Woman." That summer, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard made their debut at the Copacabana, singing live many of the songs they had recorded for There's a Place for Us. With the release of The Supremes at the Copa, the studio album was shelved, eventually arriving on CD in 2004. Other Broadway-themed Supremes recordings were made, however, some even with Holland-Dozier-Holland at the helm. 1967's The Supremes Sing Rodgers and Hart, produced by Berry Gordy and arranger Gil Askey, reached back to the Broadway of decades before Funny Girl.
In 1968, however, Gordy and Askey had good reason to turn their attention back to the Styne and Merrill musical. Its big-screen adaptation was arriving from Columbia Pictures; Streisand would win an Oscar for reprising her role as Fanny. Hitting record stores on August 26, 1968 (other sources say May) in advance of the movie's September 19 release, Diana Ross and the Supremes Sing and Perform Funny Girl - performed by the new line-up of Diana, Mary and Cindy Birdsong - included nine Styne and Merrill songs (eight from the stage score and the movie's title song) plus "My Man," a signature song of Brice's that was replaced in the stage score by the ravishing "The Music That Makes Me Dance." (The movie featured "My Man" instead of "Music," but Diana and the girls did both!) The Supremes promoted the album with a medley on The Ed Sullivan Show, and even Jule Styne gave his stamp of approval to the project by writing an adoring, appreciative note for the sleeve. The great composer (Gypsy, Bells Are Ringing) observed, "Although the girls are young and new and part of the now world, they have always showed great respect towards composers Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin (and now Jule Styne). Thank God. They are always aware of what's new by their appreciation of the sounds of Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Webb, etc. What Diana Ross does...is something else again. If I sound excited, I am...My life is now complete. From Frank Sinatra, to Barbra Streisand, to Diana Ross and the Supremes. What a parlay!"
Despite the enormous success of the motion picture, the Supremes' Funny Girl album only reached No. 150 on the Billboard 200 and No. 45 on the R&B chart. The motion picture soundtrack featuring Streisand fared rather better with a No. 12 peak, but Diana, Mary and Cindy didn't have to wait long to return to chart supremacy. The very next month after the Funny Girl LP's arrival, the group released the single "Love Child." By November, it had reached No. 1. And that wasn't all. Their collaborative album Diana Ross and the Supremes Join the Temptations, released the same month of November, reached No. 2 and its single "I'm Gonna Make You Loved Me" became a Billboard No. 2 Pop smash on 45. Miss Ross kept some of the Funny Girl music in her live repertoire well into her post-Supremes solo years.
What will you find on this new Funny Girl? Hit the jump for that and more!
The digital-only expanded reissue of The Supremes' Funny Girl features twelve bonus tracks. The entire album is included in newly-remixed form; whereas the original album tracks were heavily sweetened with a chorus, these remixes will feature only the voices of only Diana, Mary and Cindy. Two further bonus tracks have been taken from live performances - "My Man" from Las Vegas, and "I'm the Greatest Star" from the 1968 television special TCB starring The Supremes and The Temps. A digital booklet is also included.
In short, this looks like a very special release that would have made a fine and important addition to the Hip-o Select Supremes/Diana Ross library of deluxe expanded CD reissues. Is this MP3 release a sign that the label's superlative physical program is over? Might a CD release, with its superior sound quality, still be a possibility? Would Hip-o consider licensing this project to one of the numerous labels that have licensed official titles from Motown in recent months, i.e. Ace, Big Break Records, SoulMusic Records or Real Gone Music? We have no further information at this time, but we'd love to hear your thoughts on, and hopes for, the future of the classic Motown catalogue! Please sound off below!
And don't miss Sing and Perform Funny Girl on Tuesday. You can pre-order at the link below!
Diana Ross and the Supremes, Sing and Perform Funny Girl (Motown LP MS 672, 1968 - reissued Motown Select digital-only, no cat. no., 2014) (Amazon U.S. )
- Funny Girl
- If A Girl Isn't Pretty
- I Am Woman (You Are Man)
- The Music That Makes Me Dance
- Don't Rain on My Parade
- Cornet Man
- His Love Makes Me Beautiful
- Sadie, Sadie
- I'm the Greatest Star
- Funny Girl (Remix)
- If A Girl Isn't Pretty (Remix)
- I Am Woman (You Are Man) (Remix)
- The Music That Makes Me Dance (Remix)
- Don't Rain on My Parade (Remix)
- People (Remix)
- Cornet Man (Remix)
- His Love Makes Me Beautiful (Remix)
- Sadie, Sadie (Remix)
- I'm the Greatest Star (Remix)
- I'm the Greatest Star (Live from TCB)
- My Man (Live from Las Vegas)
Tracks 11-22 previously unreleased
Do you think Hip-O Select/Universal Select is switching to digital-download only overall? I'm all for it if it gets them to release more, especially expanded, but still -- it'll disappoint many, many collectors...
Ricardo Amaral says
If they do it in FLAC, I'm not completely against it. But I still find "historical" releases with digital booklets a pain.
This would have been beautiful as a CD release. I sure hope the future brings one with the booklet.
I refuse to get excited about a digital only release, sorry...
I don't think there will be anymore HIp-O-Select physical reissues. This would have made a lovely set. Both the Supremes and solo Ross campaigns have not finished.
Michael Nordeman says
I'm so thrilled to finally get these songs remastered... and equally disappointed that they come as downloads only. Sign of the times, I guess, but they could at least make the tracks available in FLAC.
It has been confirmed that the next releases from Hip-O-Select will indeed be on physical format, thank god. I would have loved to buy Funny Girl on CD, but I will definitely NOT buy an MP3 "release"!
From Motown Andy:
Hello everyone! Wow, Funny Girl seems to have stirred up some pretty strong opinions on both sides of the playground. We are aware that most of you want CD's, we do too.
However, this was an opportunity to put out The Supremes Sing And Perform Funny Girl the same day as the Streisand 50th Anniversary Broadway Cast Album, or wait until who knows when.
We took the chance and it is paying off, paving the way for our next releases, which have all been in purgatory for the last 18 months. The others will be physical, and then maybe we can do this physically in the future as well.
In the meantime, we hope you'll all listen in to John Perrone's Nightflight at http://www.womr.org this Tuesday, April 29 at 9 PM EST/ 6 PM PST, to hear George and I discuss Funny Girl, play the new mixes, and do a loving tribute to our friend Gil Askey.
Kevin Reeves is even stopping by to talk about our work with Diana, Gil and the new Funny Girl mixes.
See you all then!
Gary Stape says
It's hard to believe that my all-time favorite record company -- MOTOWN -- has resorted to second-rate digital downloads instead of first-rate, high-quality CD's. (I saw it coming when Motown released the series of previously-unreleased 1962 Various-Artist recordings of Gospel, Jazz, and early pop in digital download format only. I never dreamed it would happen to The Supremes) In my opinion, Motown Select's deluxe CD reissues over the years have made Hip-oSelect THE Cadillac of reissue labels. For them to stoop so low to the opposite extreme of releasing digital downloads only is both shocking and disheartening. I've been begging Motown for years to release Diana Ross & The Supremes' "Sing And Perform Funny Girl" on CD, but to no avail. Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" (a wonderful album) has seen at least three reissues on CD, but The Supremes' "Funny Girl" got zero reissues. I just don't get it. Come on, Motown. Some of us have been faithful fans since 1964. We deserve better.
Is that Andy McKaie? Thanks.
Joe Marchese says
The post duplicated above is from the "Funny Girl" set's producer and one of the leading lights of Classic Motown catalogue, Andy Skurow.
The "Motown Andy" referred to above is Andy Skurow, producer/historian, who has worked on the majority of the Supremes (and Motown) CD releases through Hip-O Select the last 10+ years. It's not Andy McKaie.
R. Mark Desjardins says
Andy; I appreciate all the hard work digging through endless reels of tapes you, George and Harry undertake, as well as the thought and care that go into the research and art direction to consistently deliver a top notch product that we Tamla/Motown fans cherish. I realize the music industry has changed virtually overnight and getting word out to fans is a daunting task. Keep the faith, and the tide will turn. There will always be a core of music lovers that realize that music is a treasure that must be paid for, not taken for granted as an entitlement.
down with digital. I have never nor will I ever purchase a digital only release.
My thoughts exactly - never have and never will purchase a digital only release!
Ron C says
I, too, am so disappointed that "Funny Girl" is arriving in only digital format. It makes no sense... Maybe Motown will sell some copies of the digitalversion now and then turn around and put out a CD version later on. Seems that is what Andy said may happen... and Motown will make money twice.
I would love to see the Deluxe version on CD, but it not, maybe Culture Factory can get a hold of "Funny Girl" and put it out in their LP Duplication line. I have purchased the other Supremes releases in that series and find them very good...
As for me, I will purchase the digital on Tuesday, because that's what I will do... despite the fact that I also hate digital downloads. They feel so "empty" and void of any real connection, but at least we do get the music in a nice sound. (It's funny: I have two young daughters who ONLY do downloads. All they know and love is digital music. It is definitely a generational thing!)
Philip Cohen says
It would appear that Universal Music has put their mail-order "Hip-O Select" label on hold. There have been no new releases from the label in the first four months of 2014. As for the Supremes, I'm a big fan of most of their music, but not their show tunes & standards, so this is one release that I wouldn't have bought, even if it had been released on CD.
Tata Vega fan says
Tata Vega available on digital download only. pathetic. i will not even attempt to do that. it's extremely disappointing. i want CD's in my hand. screw technology.
Any idea when this download will be a available outside the US? At the moment UK Supremes fans (surely some of the most loyal!) cannot purchase it.
I was ready to go add this to my Amazon wish list until I saw it was a digital download only.
Another lost sale. Oh well.
Despite its chart performance, this has always been one of my favorite Diana Ross & The Supremes releases......and releases in general. While I would love to have it on CD for my CD collection, I am realistic enough to understanding that we are living in a digital world. And I must confess, I have converted to that world as well. Once owning nearly 10,000 CDs and albums, as my life called for it, I began downsizing which meant reluctantly saying goodbye to a collection I was immensely proud of. (But, in reality, besides the enormous stroke to my own personal ego, most of my friends who might have been awed by my collection were no longer here). I had the luxury of nearly two years to convert my CD collection into my digital music library (now totaling over 25,000 tracks.
I once had a state-of-the-art audio/video system. Because of space limitations, my system has been downsized to a state-of-the-art amplifier/receiver retaining most of the video components including laser disc. But honestly, even my Cambridge professional CD player hasn't been played in......well years. That said, because of my belief that CDs just sound better, my still steady music purchases are first on CD. Then immediately ripped into Mp3s, as my iPod Classic is my main form of playback, at home and outside of the home.
So while I would love to have "sings and performs "Funny Girl", in truth, I have had a very decent sounding bootleg CDR that has satisfied my listening for several years. Since I know that the album was recorded in a very short week in New York and Hollywood, I cannot imagine what a multi-page booklet would have to say.
Therefore, I was ready to pre-order my copy from Amazon, but, though that option was advertised on its Amazon page, it was apparently in error.
And though I have nearly every Streisand CD, I think Diana does a marvelous job of adapting it as her own, why even Jules Styne agrees with me. Her version of "The Music that Makes Me Dance" makes me swoon, she long proved that "My Man" was just as much hers as it was Fanny Brice's or Billie Holidays. She adds the right comedic touch where it is called for and the grand diva-ism when Gil Askey's orchestrations demand it.
Come the morning of 29 April, I tend to be one of the first down loaders at the Amazon Mp3 store (my personal favorite DPS (digital preference store???).......and still wish that maybe one day, a legitimate commercial CD will replace my, still well done, bootleg.
I want a cd release please.not a download.
Hey Second Disc folks,
Do you have any connections with Universal (or whoever is releasing this album)? If so, maybe let 'em know how many negative responses they're getting about the digital only idea.
I know it's a long shot, but maybe they'll reconsider.....?
Michael Nordeman says
Still not available on iTunes in Sweden. It's ironic that digital releases take longer to be available worldwide than physical releases - that is, if you want them the legal way.
R. Mark Desjardins says
As a long time supporter or Hip-o Select, I was disappointed in not being able to purchase a physical CD. However, I have a CD burning recorder and hooked up an audio patch from my mac. i downloaded the digital booklet onto my iPhoto and had 5X 7 prints printed. Maybe somewhat expensive, but the detail is razor sharp. Placed the photos in a DVD box (fits perfectly) and then placed hard copy CD into the box as well, and voila, a "home cut" hard copy. Hopefully Hip-O select will reissue this in an official CD format down the road. Where there is a will there is a way!
I'll wait for the bootleg on ebay. Motown is not releasing in a format that I desire so I will wait to buy a bootleg copy on ebay thereby striking back at Motown by cutting them out of the profits. An eye for an eye. I am very ethical by nature but I never feel bad cheating Motown. I'd rather get a freebie and send a chunk of change to one of their artist who they've been cheating for years. The Empire Strikes Back......
michelle criscuolo says
I too hav been waiting for a cd release of diana ross n the supremes sing n perform funny girl . I am 62 n I hav loved the supremes since the early 60s n I luv them as much today as I did then n maybe more since the release of many of their unreleased recordings I hav renewed respect for them for their diversity n talent . No other female group has even come close to what the supremes hav done n done so well. I never get tired of listening to their cds its good music not like the garbage being put out today . Thank god for cds where we get remastered n unreleased materials. I hope they will release the " funny girl " on cd before I die of old age what r they waiting for !