Motown’s fiftieth birthday celebrations roll on with this superb new package on Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. The Miracles – as they were more simply billed back in the day – were one of Motown’s first big money spinners and Berry Gordy allowed them the honour of releasing regular albums (in the days when singles were viewed as the bread and butter). Indeed ‘Hi, We’re The Miracles’ was Motown’s first proper album release and that, along with the group’s four subsequent LPs are brought together here on two CDs – and together they offer all kinds of fascinating glimpses into Motown’s infancy. Above all, they show a label striving for a sound and an identity and youthful group reaching for stardom and recognition. ‘Hi, We’re The Miracles’ includes the hit ‘Shop Around’ and the classic ballads ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’ and ‘You Can Depend On Me’ while Claudette’s lead on ‘After All’ indicates the group hadn’t fully worked out its signature sound at that stage. ‘Cookin’ With The Miracles’ – their second LP – shows the group were confident enough to tackle a standard – George Gershwin’s ‘Embraceable You’ while the third album – ‘I’ll Try Something New’ offers the standout title cut (revisited wonderfully a lot later by the Temptations and the Supremes). ‘The Fabulous Miracles’ – the Miracles’ fourth album – sees the group’s and the label’s sound crystallising. That album’s biggest hit was, of course, ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ … the later recording of which by a young group from Liverpool was to have a huge impact on Smokey, The Miracles, Motown and the mop tops themselves. The fifth album in the collection is the obligatory live set – taken from various performances of the famed Motown revue and what’s lacking in quality is made up for by the raw energy and excitement. The massive fifty two tracker is completed with the inclusion of two bonus cuts – a regional version of ‘Shop Around’ and a single cut of ‘The Only One I Love’. The album packaging is wonderful too – all the original art work is included along with rare, atmospheric photos, essays and annotations. Superb.