Thursday, 6 January 2011

“The Solo Albums: Volume 3 - Deep In My Soul and Big Time” by SMOKEY ROBINSON (2011 Hip-O Select/Motown CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…My Mind Went Blank…No Words Came Through…"

The third volume of CD Reissues in a Series of 6 covering Smokey Robinson's Solo Albums on Motown reaches the year of Disco and Funk – 1977. Once again we get two full albums expertly Remastered onto 1 CD and even have Two Rare Bonus Tracks thrown in. Here are the Big Time details...

Released January 2011 in the UK (delayed from December 2010) – "The Solo Albums, Volume 3 - Deep In My Soul/Big Time" by SMOKEY ROBINSON on Hip-O Select/Motown B0014909-02 (Barcode 602527518923) breaks down as follows (77:36 minutes):

1. Vitamin U
2. There Will Come A Day (I'm Gonna Happen To You)
3. Let's Do The Dance Of Life Together
4. If You Want My Love
5. You Cannot Laugh Alone
6. In My Corner
8. The Humming Song (Lost For Words)
Tracks 1 to 8 are his 5th solo album "Deep In My Soul" - released January 1977 in the USA on Tamla T6-350S1 and in April 1977 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 12055.

9. Theme From Big Time
10. J.J.'s Theme
11. Hip Trip
12. He Is The Light Of The World
13. So Nice To Be With You
14. Shana's Theme (with Dialogue)
15. If We're Gonna Act Like Lovers
16. The Agony And The Ecstasy
17. Theme From Big Time (Reprise)
Tracks 9 to 17 are his 6th solo album - the Soundtrack to the movie "Big Time" - released June 1977 in the USA on Tamla T6-355S1 and September 1977 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 12068.

18. Mother's Son
19. Pops, We Love You (12-Inch Version)
Tracks 18 and 19 are from the Various Artists tribute LP to Berry Gordy's father called "Pops, We Love You...The Album" (he died at the age of 90 in 1978). It was released December 1978 in the USA on Motown M7 921R1 and June 1979 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 12114.

The gatefold card-digipak houses a 20-page colour booklet containing liner notes by PETER DOGGETT (formerly of Record Collector magazine and author of the book "There's A Riot Going On"). It also reproduces the American artwork front and rear for each album (even though in truth they're impossible to read), has photographic outtakes from the album sleeve and detailed recording and release credits.

Remastered by ELLEN FITTON from the original Stereo tapes - the sound quality is superb (she did an equally great job on Volume 1). I've reviewed CDs remastered by Fitton before - she's one of Universal's top engineers (others are Erick Labson, Suha Gur, Gavin Lurssen, Gary Moore and Kevin Reeves). I've created a TAG above (pictorial displays of artwork) for `both' her remasters and Hip-O Select releases worth noting.

Unfortunately, the great sound quality is where the good news ends. It's easy to hear why the album "Deep In My Soul" is dollar-bin fodder - none of the 8 tracks are written by Smokey and most are syrupy late Seventies pap done by in-house writers. Things improve a little with the obvious lead off single "There Will Come A Day (I'm Gonna Happen To You)" put out in January 1977 on Tamla 54279 (it reached 7 on the R&B charts), but it's B-side "The Humming Song" (lyrics above) sum up the whole record - uninspired for the most part - and only ever workmanlike elsewhere.

The rare and largely forgotten "Big Time" soundtrack from 1978 is a strange one. Executive Produced by Smokey, he gave it a whole year of his life and wrote all the music too (yet rarely talks of it). Although most of the shortish tracks are only ok, it opens on an absolutely lengthy blinder - "Theme From Big Time" - a nine and half minute funky workout that has long since been sought after by rare groove aficionados. It was issued as a 7" single in the USA and split across 2 sides (Tamla 54288), but the real prize is a promo-only 12" version of it edited to 8:29 on Tamla PR-29 - it commands big money among DJ's who appreciate the wallop a 12" single. As far as I'm aware, this is its CD debut and it's a welcome reissue. Another nice mid-tempo dancer is "Hip Trip" and the six-minute ballad "So Nice To Be With You" is pretty too.

There's two tribute songs tagged on as 'bonus tracks' at the end that are truly dreadful - awful cloying pap - and painful reminders of just how quickly the company had lost its way and fans in the process.

To sum up - with only a couple of tunes on the first album and a funky workout on the second - this is without doubt the most disappointing release of the Series so far. And even if some of it is rare and the sound quality is's a 3-star release - and pushing it at that...

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