Love, Smokey

by: Smokey Robinson

This is another Smokey Robinson album (executive produced by Iris Gordy, Berry's daughter) and, well, it's definitely one of those discs you can put on for background, or while making out. Lord knows, the man is in fine, fine voice, indeed. However, for all the participation by people of the caliber of George Duke (who produced and appears on several tracks), the album mostly doesn't rise above sweet soul. Only four of the tracks break the groove and become anything else, and those are mostly straight dance grooves. The sound, arrangements, and performances are flawless. The disc has a clean, transparent, and airy sound that's rarely encountered this side of frothy new age discs, while the synthesizer and sampler work is terrific (the non- keyboard instruments, when they appear, are excellent, too). Unfortunately, very few of the songs have any particular immediacy, and none of them stick in the mind the way Smokey Robinson's songs used to -- the closest any of these come is "Easy," which has all the classic Motown elements wrapped up together, right down to the Stevie Wonder-style harmonica. More typical is "Unless You Do It Again" (one of two CD-only tracks; the other is "Just Another Kiss"), which sounds for all the world just about how one would imagine Philly soul nowadays -- MFSB with the technological edge. The album is basically very smooth, beautifully executed, and sounds good. The question: Is there really a market out there for yuppie soul? The phrase itself seems surely an oxymoron. But, oh, that voice. ~ Steven McDonald

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