Smokey Robinson Geoff Brown - Essay

Geoff Brown

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Smokey certainly isn't the consistently stunning writer he was in the Sixties. His bitter-sweet love songs have lost their sharpness but he's matured as a composer with considerable dignity and has occasionally responded to the challenge of writing interesting lyrics about home, family and more adult topics which superceded those in the older songs of teenage love.

Consequently, his recent albums have been professionally done affairs with one or two tracks retaining the grace and appeal of his best work.

Since splitting with the Miracles in 1972 I can think of only one Robinson solo album, "Smokey's Family Robinson" in 1976, that was a total disappointment. On the four albums since then …, there have been plenty of the composer's creamy rich melodies from the jaunty "It's A Good Night" to the romantic "I Love The Nearness Of You" …, from the hipness of "Cruisin'" to the conscious cuteness of "Shoe Soul".

And last year's "Warm Thoughts" set kicked off with two excellent tunes, "Let Me Be The Clock" and "Heavy On Pride"….

[The] four songs [on "Being with You"] which Robinson wrote himself are the best.

The title track … is a typically simply realised mid-tempo ballad…. Never can holding on to the affections of a potentially troublesome lover under the disapproving gaze of family and friends have been made to sound so attractive.

"Food For Thought" … has a doomwatch lyric wagging a "concerned" finger at cigarette manufacturers, industrialists who're polluting the oceans, rampant male fornicators and inattentive wives.

Stringent warnings definitely aren't Smokey's strong point. His melodies are too gentle, his voice too soft and warm.

"If You Wanna Make Love (Come Round Here)" is a plainly done ballad with a gorgeous chorus and attractive Piccirillo guitar riff while "You Are Forever" is another subtly worked meditation on true love, setting up the premise of eternal devotion being stronger than monarchies and Mother Nature in the first verse and sort of musing thereon for the rest of the track….

So, two good, Seventies-style Smokey songs in "Being With You" and "If You Wanna Make Love", plus one quite good, one barely so-so.

Geoff Brown, "Lifetime of Devotion," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), March 14, 1981, p. 20.