Thursday, May 22, 2014

Smokey Robinson - Where's There Smoke...

Today (May 22nd) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Where There's Smoke..., the ninth solo album from Motown legend Smokey Robinson. This 1979 release spent forty-seven weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 17. It also went to number 8 on the US Billboard R&B chart.

Side one begins with "It's a Good Night", a funky mid-tempo dance song. Robinson tells his date how he is enjoying the evening and how he does not want it to end.

The sweet and soulful "I Love the Nearness of You" was co-written by Robinson and Stevie Wonder.

The tempo stays slower with "Hurt's on You", which allows Robinson the opportunity to deliver his trademark tender vocals.

Things pick up a bit to close the side with "Ever Had a Dream", a track that you can dance to. I like the guitar solo on the bridge.

Side two opens with "Get Ready", a nearly six minute long disco reworking of the 1966 hit written by Robinson and recorded by the Temptations. I am on the fence here. On one hand, I am all for songs getting fresh coats of paint for a new decade and audience. On the other hand, the original is such a classic. But, if anyone was going to remake it, why not the song's author?

"Share It" saunters up next and propositions you.

The album closer is the hit single "Cruisin'"; it hit number 4 on the both the US Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, and number 1 in New Zealand. In 2000, the song would return to the charts when covered by Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis for the karaoke-inspired film Duets. I am a fan of this song, thus this one ends things on a very high note for me. It is one of those songs I will sing along to whenever it comes on the radio; it just takes me away.

Where There's Smoke... did not have the fire I had hoped it would. It is not a bad album by any means. I just had such high expectations because, after all, this is Smokey Robinson we're talking about. Give it a listen on Spotify and let me know your thoughts.

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