At the start of this record – though maybe it was mixed in years later – there’s a lovely bit of stereo panning where a troupe of polite feet tap across your head from right to left and then quickly back. What images does it summon? Fuzzy TV pictures of women in formation, a tidy, untouchable trio swaying and clapping in perfect order. “Baby Love” still irresistibly provokes movement – but neat, clipped, upper-body movement. It acquiesces mildly to Motown’s rhythmic grid, never challenging it and just as crucially never really using it to build momentum. There’s a hint of drive in the gradual crescendo on the sax break but “Baby Love” is still the most inert of the big Supremes hits.
Does that mean it’s a bad record? God no, it’s a fantastic record. In terms of the drama and energy of its stablemates “Baby Love” falls flat but it’s hard to think of many other hit records so absolutely committed to simple gorgeousness. In fact I have only just realised – on, what, my 100th listen? – that the story in “Baby Love” is one of romantic crisis, so to the track’s other failures we must add a total inability to reflect its own lyrics. And does that matter? Not at all – a single coo dispels the heaviest doubt. “Baby Love” is a gambol, a delight, a chiming wonder, a focused pursuit of prettiness centered on Diana Ross who turns out to be a professional and a performer and one who knows precisely how much sugar you need to ice a cake.