Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

  • Greatest Hits Vol. 2 [Tamla, 1967]  
  • What Love Has Joined Together [Gordy, 1970] B+
  • One Dozen Roses [Tamla, 1971] B+
  • Flying High Together [Tamla, 1972] C+
  • 1957-1972 [Tamla, 1972] B+
  • Anthology [Motown, 1973]  
  • Anthology [Motown, 1995] A-

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Greatest Hits Vol. 2 [Tamla, 1967]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library]  

What Love Has Joined Together [Gordy, 1970]
At first this seems disgracefully skimpy--six romantic ballads totalling 27:36, including a slow "My Cherie Amour," a cover of Herb Alpert's vocal debut, and one count-it one (old Mary Wells) tune by Smokey himself, for title and "concept." Then you notice a gliss, a chuckle, a soulful paragraph or two, and realize that he's singing even more exquisitely than usual. Then, if you're me, you get annoyed at the Mo-on-the-town arrangements, with their full string sections and muted trumpets. And then, if you're me, you find yourself transformed by the urge to act as nice as Smokey himself. B+

One Dozen Roses [Tamla, 1971]
Twelve songs, just like the old days, every one sweet and smooth and tinged with pain. And just like in the old days barely half of them are as vivid (musically or verbally) as hits like "The Tears of a Clown" or "I Don't Blame You at All." For your convenience, all of the good ones are listed on the cover, and all of the second-raters aren't. B+

Flying High Together [Tamla, 1972]
A dutiful, pleasant, and very mild close-out--I enjoy "With Your Love Came," for instance, mostly because it starts out like "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever." Easy to imagine better versions of the nice enough Ashford-Simpson and Wonder-Wright songs, and the champ adds only a Johnny Bristol piano riff to hits by up-and-coming falsettos Record, Thompkins, and Jackson. C+

1957-1972 [Tamla, 1972]
If this live-double souvenir of Smokey's farewell tour with his group were the only Miracles record I owned I'd play it a lot. It totals less than an hour including patter and offers little that's new, but the show band gets through all the oldies with a minimum of extraneous swing and only on "Shop Around" does Smokey betray the kind of embarrassment that so frequently afflicts upwardly mobile performers reprising their teen hits. Good for him--he knows these are great songs, and he sings his ass off. B+

Anthology [Motown, 1973]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]  

Anthology [Motown, 1995]
The hard truth that minor Miracles songs are just barely carried by the breathy faith and modest grit of Smokey's tenor is softened by the minor miracle of how diligently he nurtured the inspiration that put him on the charts at 18. Granting a few wonderful moments, this gets going midway into disc one, with 1963's "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," my nomination for the best thing he ever recorded. It rolls through 1967's "I Second That Emotion" and then starts wandering--wandering attractively, intelligently, imaginatively, professionally, but with only "Tears of a Clown" (and its follow-up, the graciously sarcastic "I Don't Blame You at All") worthy of serious payola. A-