Smokey Robinson Phyl Garland - Essay

Phyl Garland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Perhaps I was spoiled by "Smokin'"…, Smokey Robinson's last live album. It was a treasure trove of all the aged-in-soul songs that made him the dean of rhythm-and-blues writers back in the early Sixties when Motown was synonymous with the vibrant sound of an emerging urban generation. It would be difficult even for Smokey to produce another gem comparable to Ooh, Baby Baby, but if he could, it isn't on ["Where There's Smoke"]. Of course, these songs are new and haven't had a chance to imbed themselves in our minds to the point where the lyrics seem like old friends, but in their freshness and consistent quality they are nevertheless a pleasure to hear.

The range of the material is relatively broad, from It's a Good Night, an interesting disco play on the basic melody of the standard It's a Good Day, to Share It, which is almost old-fashioned in its directness and simplicity. Indeed, one of the elements of Robinson's staying power is the elegant leanness of his music. Where others employ electronic gimmickry and endless overdubbing, he relies steadfastly on the music to convey its own message…. Maybe this isn't a landmark album in Robinson's long and fertile career, but it is solid, ingratiating music that should wear well.

Phyl Garland, "Popular Discs and Tapes: 'Where There's Smoke'," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1979 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 43, No. 4, October, 1979, p. 112.