In the spring of 1991, my business colleague from Motown sent me a cassette with only “Change of Heart” listed 3 times correlating with the song repeated in as many times. After immersing myself in the “Workin’ Overtime” project that ultimately proved a disappointing, misunderstood move, I approached this new song with trepidation. I must have listened to this cassette numerous times before I surmised that this was better than anything on its predecessor. In fact, I was quickly falling in love. A few months before, Diana had united with the hot new artist, Al B. Sure for the bonafide R&B Top 5 hit, “No Matter What You Do”. Not only had Al B. Sure won me over as a budding newcomer, together they sounded soulful, convincing in an updated old school ballad. Still, Diana fans had endured lots of controversy on “Workin’ Overtime”.
i finally felt safe to turn my dedicated group of Diana friends/fans onto “Change of Heart”. It wasn’t long before we were swept away and happily surviving and thriving on this hot new song. I had gotten word that her new album would be released internationally first. “Workin’ Overtime” and a live album from its tour had at least become a respectable hit in European markets. I made contact with my counterpart at EMI UK, who informed me they were going with a different song, “When You Tell Me You Love Me”. European radio stations had immediately embraced it. Diana was scheduled to be the closing act for the highly popular annual Royal Variety Show for the Queen of England. No artist had ever been given the entire 2nd half of the show. She premiered the new single that was already being advertised and promoted at UK record stores with an elegant countertop piece. The performance would cause a sensation. It forced the label’s hand to do a rush limited release of her new album, “The Force Behind the Power”. The album art was by far one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. The single raced to the top of the UK charts. The limited album release would hit the Top 20 for the holiday season. It also meant I would be able to get copies of the CD early.
My Diana friends/fans around the country would all get a copy too. We decided to have a virtual listening party as fans were everywhere from San Francisco, Néw York, Boston, Providence to Néw Jersey. We all began listening simultaneously. By the end of the album, my friend, Rick, from Boston wisely and boldly declared it “a masterpiece”. We all agreed it was indeed…..a masterpiece. Not one track made you want to fast forward.
A few weeks later tour dates were being announced. She had already done 2 sold out nights at Wembley in London that December. But the U.S. tour dates would commence by June on the east coast. She had promised to hit every conceivable market from Néw England to Néw York, arguably her strongest markets. The tour opened in Poughkeepsie, NY to a sold out, record breaking engagement. Me and my friend, Chas, took the train from Grand Central and kicked off a great summer.. The first half of the show was not that different from her previous tour, except she did “Blame it on the Sun” and got the first of 7 standing ovations.
intermission comes and the 2nd commences. The stage was transformed into back drops reflecting the album art. It looked mystical and fantastic. She then proceeded to dig deep into the new album with one astounding performance after another. “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” sounded more soulful than the album version. Standing ovation! “Battlefield” was amazing. The less knowing could have easily mistaken it for another Supremes classic. “Waiting in the Wings” had everyone singing the new chorus by song’s end. Another standing ovation! “You’re Gonna Love It” sounded hotter than the album with more of the male hip hop call-in-response infused. Yet another standing ovation! Chas and I knew this was going to be the hot street track of the summer. We just knew it. She returned to the familiar “Mahogany Theme/Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” medley. Another standing ovation. She leaves the stage for another dress change and finale. She does the album title cut, “The Force Behind the Power” and one more time brings audience to their feet. She ressurrects “Reach Out and Touch” to an already elated audience. “Endless Love” says it all as she does version that is more solo. The final ovation! No one wants to leave until the lights are finally brought up. Chas and I felt like we had hit some magical substance because we were as giddy as teenagers headding back to the hotel with the hot new merchandising featuring that gorgeous artwork on teeshirts and the bes tour book she’s has eve done.
The train ride back through the Poconos into Grand Central on a beautiful June morning felt like a dreamworld!
Arsenio Hall appearance is announced. He had the hottest late night show at the time. But The Boss was making a rare appearance. She looked fabulous! The audience was enthralled! A display of the album art looked even more stunning in full vinyl album form. We just knew…..she was back in America! Europe and Asian audiences had already awarded the album Gold and Platinum discs. It was time for America to join the festivities.
Europe had now moved onto the next single, the title track with its arresting video…..flying straight up to the Top 20. (Album sales were so strong that the single wasn’t going to be enough for other fans). BET and VideoJukebox already had the title cut video in heavy rotation. Tour selling out across America, video in play….Motown still has no music in stores in the middle of the summer.
European dates were now in full swing. “One Shining Moment” with its high fashion video, is supporting tour datesecure anchors itself into the Top 10!European hit #3. (The Netherlands and Germany go with “Battlefield” and it becomes a hit). The album rebounds to the European Top 10 all summer! While in London for the remaining 4 Wembley dates, I stopped into the EMI UK office