Tuesday, 28 June 2011

“The Solo Albums: Volume 4 – Love Breeze & Where There’s Smoke…” by SMOKEY ROBINSON (2011 Hip-O Select/Motown CD Reissue - Ellen Fitton Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Baby Let's Cruise…Away From Here..."

This is the 4th of 6 volumes by Hip-O Select chronicling Smokey Robinson's solo albums for Motown. It was initially available from their US website from 28 Jan 2011 and then commercially released 15 Feb 2011. Now it’s the UK’s turn - let’s get to the details…

UK released 21 February 2011 (28 January 2011 in the USA) - "The Solo Albums: Volume 4 – Love Breeze & Where There's Smoke…" by SMOKEY ROBINSON on Hip-O Select/Motown B0015163-02 (Barcode 602527586359) offers 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD plus 1 Bonus Track and breaks down as follows (78:15 minutes):

1. Why You Wanna See My Bad Side
2. Love So Fine
3. Feeling You, Feeling Me
4. Madam X
5. Shoe Soul [Side 2]
6. Trying It Again
7. Daylight & Darkness
8. I'm Loving You Softley
Tracks 1 to 8 are his 6th solo album "Love Breeze" - released February 1978 in the USA on Tamla T7-359R1 and in May 1978 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 12081.

9. It's A Good Night
10. I Love The Nearness Of You
11. The Hurt's On You
12. Ever Had A Dream
13. Get Ready [Side 2]
14. Share It
15. Cruisin'
Tracks 9 to 15 are his 7th solo album "Where There’s Smoke…" - released May 1979 in the USA on Tamla T7-366R1 and August 1979 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 12115. Side 1 is called 'Smoke' (tracks 9 to 12) and Side 2 is called 'Fire' (tracks 13 to 15).

16. Get Ready (12-Inch Instrumental) - June 1979 non-album B-side to the US 12" single of "Get Ready" on Motown M 000027D1

The gatefold card-digipak has the same generic look and feel of the Volumes 1 to 3 and 5. This edition (Vol. 4) has a 28-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 sleeves, the lyrics to all the songs and detailed recording and release credits. It’s very tastefully done…

Remastered by ELLEN FITTON from the original Stereo tapes - the sound quality is superb (she did an equally great job on Volumes 1 and 3). 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 she’s been involved in that are worth noting.

Unfortunately, like Volume 3, the really great sound quality helps you to swallow the huge amount of saccharine pap that Motown produced in those disintegrating years – and these 1978 and 1979 offerings are guilty of the same. Both have been (and will probably always remain) absolute dollar-bin fodder on both sides of the pond. But – and this is the big but – there’s rediscoveries on here absolutely worth making…

The smoochy "Feeling You, Feeling Me" would do a night in a Theopolis P. Wilderbeast shagpad proud - while "Madame X" is a sort of "Cruisin'" variant that talks about 'faces in discotheques' and is excellent. "Shoe Soul" is a terrible song about sneakers, but the lovely slink of "Daylight & Darkness" is much better. And again the sound quality is ace. The slap-bass, strings and hooky beat of "It’s A Good Night" reflect the club sound of 1979 and it’s a good opener for the "Where There’s Smoke…" album. "Share It" is an uptempo love song – the kind of infectious Summer-feeling hit that Smokey is so good at. Then of course there’s the huge and sexily wonderful "Cruisin'" (lyrics above) which is represented here in its full six-minute glory. It was issued as an edit on 7” single and is wicked - I’ve had it on CD for a few years now just to have the track – shame there wasn’t room for that unique version of it on here.

There's one bonus track, but it’s a peach and a genuinely sought-after rarity. "Get Ready" was originally done by RARE EARTH back in 1970 (Smokey wrote the song) – his new version is a funked-up one. But the reason DJs love the B-side so much is because it removes the lyrics, peppers it with a girly chorus every now and then and concentrates instead on the funky guitar…and man what a groove it is – fabulous stuff.

To sum up – like Volume 3 – it’s not all genius of course and there’s cringingly awful stuff on both albums. But there’s also the good gear - that cracking bonus track and the warm and funky sound that make it another enjoyable purchase in this ongoing series…

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