SMOKEY ROBINSON; The Solo Albums Volume 2 (Hip-O Select)

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Here’s the second instalment of Hip-O Select’s serialisation of Smokey Robinson’ solo albums and here the man’s third album – the wonderful ‘Quiet Storm’ – is paired with his fourth – the quirky ‘Smokey’s Family Robinson’.

‘Quiet Storm’ is one of Smokey’s best-loved solo sets and the title cut – which, of course spawned a whole musical genre – is a summation of everything that the singer/songwriter is rightly famed for. The lyrics, the melody, the production, the arrangement… and that voice are all absolutely perfect and it’s impossible to tire of it. The LP’s other big tune was the almost as good ‘Baby That’s Backatcha’, though I know plenty who’d argue that ‘The Agony And The Ecstasy’ is the set’s second-best song. It’s certainly beautiful and like ‘Wedding Song’ and ‘Coincidentally’ also hark back to the sounds of the Miracles.

‘Smokey’s Family Robinson’ is different again and marks, I’d suggest, the final severing of the subconscious ties with his old group. ‘Open’ for instance is almost funky in its own hypnotic way while ‘Do Like I Do’ offers something similar. Long time Smokey fans were a little taken aback by the album’s darkness though they found some solace in the pretty ‘So In Love’ and ‘Castles In Sand’ which features some vintage Marv Tarplin guitar. The measure of the album’s “different” Smokey sound lies in the fact that the Motown execs pulled just the one single off the LP (remember, they found three goodies on ‘Quiet Storm’). That one single was the aforementioned ‘Open’ but Motown choose to follow it with the Ron Miller/William Goldstein movie song ‘An Old-Fashioned Man’ which Hip-O Select in their thoroughness have included here as a bonus cut.

(BB) 4/5