Monday, 6 December 2010

"The Solo Albums: Volume 2 - A Quiet Storm and Smokey's Family Robinson" by SMOKEY ROBINSON (2010 Hip-O Select/Motown CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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Number 2 is a series of 6 - Volume Two chronicles Smokey Robinson’s 3rd and 4th albums for Motown in 1975 and 1976 with a non-album single side thrown in as a bonus. It’s not all undiscovered solid gold for sure but the good stuff is great - and the improved audio quality is an absolute treat. Here are the Quiet Storms and Castles Made Of Sand…

Released November 2010 – "The Solo Albums: Volume 2 – A Quiet Storm and Smokey’s Family Robinson" by SMOKEY ROBINSON on Hip-O Select/Motown B0014571-02 (Barcode 602527450704) offers 2 LPs Remastered onto 1 CD Plus One Bonus Track and pans out as follows (72:53 minutes):

1. Quiet Storm (7:48 minutes)
2. The Agony And The Ecstasy (4:49 minutes)
3. Baby That's Backatcha  (3:48 minutes)
4. Wedding Song (3:37 minutes)
5. Happy (Love Theme From "Lady Sings The Blues") (7:07 minutes)
6. Love Letters (4:16 minutes)
7. Coincidentally (5:10 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 7 are his 3rd solo album "A Quiet Storm" - released March 1975 in the USA on Tamla T6-337S1 and in June 1975 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11288

8. When You Came (5:24 minutes)
9. Get Out Of Town (4:48 minutes)
10. Do Like I Do (4:42 minutes)   
11. Open (3:50 minutes)
12. So In Love (4:42 minutes)   
13. Like Nobody Can (4:12 minutes)
14. Castles Made Of Sand (4:49 minutes)
Tracks 8 to 14 are his 4th solo album "Smokey's Family Robinson" - released February 1976 in the USA on Tamla T6-341S1 and April 1976 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 12021

15. An Old Fashioned Man (3:28 minutes)
Track 15 is a 7” single-only release - “An Old-Fashioned Man” was released October 1976 in the USA on Tamla T-54276F and was taken from the MGM movie “Norman, Is That You?”

The gatefold card-digipak houses a 20-page colour booklet containing entertaining and knowledgeable liner notes by PETER DOGGETT (formerly of Record Collector magazine and author of the book “There's A Riot Going On"). Like the excellent Volume 1 – 2 also reproduces the American artwork front and rear for each album, has 4 new full-page colour photos of Smokey from the period and detailed recording and release credits. But the big news for fans is the fabulous remasters Audio…

Remastered by KEVIN REEVES from the original Stereo tapes - the sound quality is truly fantastic - beautifully done (Ellen Fitton did an equally great job on Volume 1). There’s amazing warmth now to these recordings and the bass is just so sweet. I've reviewed CDs remastered by Reeves before - he's one of Universal's top engineers (others are Erick Labson, Suha Gur, Gavin Lurssen, Gary Moore and Ellen Fitton). He mastered “Pass The Plate” and “Images” by The Crusaders, “What Color Is Love” by Terry Callier and “I’ve Got So Much To Give” by Barry White (see reviews for all of them).

To the album itself - having lived with the 3:49 minute single edit of “Quiet Storm” for so many years now, it feels odd to hear the full 7:49 minute album version – but it’s just as slinky - and even at that length doesn’t overstay its welcome (lyrics above). Also – as the liner notes explain – “Quiet Storm” was the name given to a radio program for Soul Music that year by WHUR in DC – and hundreds of radio stations have adopted the title ever since. The album literally started a ‘smooth soul’ revolution on the airwaves that’s been going on ever since – no mean achievement.

Other highlights include two superbly funky winners in “Baby That’s Backatcha” (first single off the album in the States) and the lesser-heard “Coincidentally” (tremendous sound on both). “When You Came” opens the “Smokey’s Family Robinson” album with a decidedly disco beat that sounds dated now - while the only US single off the album was a wise choice – the well-funky “Open” – a sort of hybrid AWB, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Labelle mishmash. It’s a long forgotten gem that deserves rediscovery. The album ends with the plaintive “Castles Made Of Sand” which features a slickly produced acoustic guitar throughout. The bonus track “An Old Fashioned Man” and the overly long "Happy" are the kind of forgettable movie pap that featured in so many Seventies films.  

What’s missing? Like Volume 1 – time restrictions have excluded tasty bonus tracks. The two LPs produced four singles Stateside and a couple in the UK - most had edited versions of their longer album versions while USA promos often came with a promo-only MONO mix – all AWOL unfortunately.

But again at less than a fiver per album this is great value for money (and often cheaper from certain online retailers). It may not all be full-on Biblical in terms of rediscovery – but like his first two albums “Smokey” (1973) and “Pure Smokey” (1974) on Volume 1 – these two slices of mid seventies Soul have stood the test of time. And now with their superb new audio quality…this is one Quiet Storm that deserves another go around…

PS: I've also created a TAG called "Kevin Reeves Remasters" in '' - which when clicked will give you a pictorial display of titles he's been involved in. There's also the same for Erick Labson, Suha Gur and Ellen Fitton - if their names are in the mastering/transfer credits, I find it to be a sign of great sound quality

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