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Latest release from David Nathan’s SoulMusic Label (here in conjunction with The Second Disc label) delivers four hard to find albums from one of soul’s Premier League groups – SMOKEY ROBINSON AND THE MIRACLES. The group need no introduction here. They were Motown trail blazers giving Berry Gordy’s fledgling label one of its first big hits – 1960’s ‘Shop Around’. From then on, the quality hits continued; indeed some statisticians reckon that the Miracles had more US chart hits than any other Motown group – the Supremes and Temptations included!

Thus, Miracles  fans in particular and lovers of quality group soul in general will be delighted at what is one offer here – the last four studio album from the icons! They are ‘WHAT LOVE HAS JOINED TOGETHER’ (1970), ‘A POCKET FULL OF MIRACLES’ (1970), ‘ONE DOZEN ROSES’ (1971), and ‘FLYING HIGH TOGETHER’ (1972). The first three are all making their worldwide CD debuts, while the ultra-romantic ‘What Love Has Joined Together’  has long been out of print. The collection also offers two bonus tracks ‘(You’ve Got Me) Looking Through the Eyes of Love’ and ‘Paper People’ also make their CD debut.

Highlights abound, especially for those of a romantic persuasion. Indeed as we’ve said, ‘What Love Has Joined Together’   was conceived by Smokey as a romantic-themed set. The title track is quite gorgeous. One of Smokey’s old songs, it was originally written for Mary Wells and  then recorded by the Temptations, but for his version Smokey and the group put a whole different spin on  it – indeed as they do with things like ‘My Cherie Amour’ and ’If This World Were Mine’.

The four albums yielded a number of hits – things like ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Blame’ and ‘Crazy About the La La La’ while ‘The Tears of a Clown’ makes a sort of “guest appearance” on ‘One Dozen Roses’. The song first appeared on the 1967 LP, ‘Make It Happen’ but its belated chart success saw it being recycled several times!

These four albums are a wonderful testament to proper soul icons. And there’s a real poignancy to the music. In the late 60s for family reasons, Smokey had decided to leave the group but circumstances meant that the departure was a drawn out affair with each album shaping up to be a swansong! As it was ‘Flying High Together’ became that very thing and ironically, that set’s  biggest hit was ‘We’ve Come Too Far To End It Now’.  The group had, for sure,  travelled far but Smokey knew deep down that he had to end it somewhere. ‘Flying High Together’ was that ending… and, of course, also a new beginning – both for Smokey and, with new lead singer, Billy Griffin, the Miracles.

(BB) 4/5