‘Smokey & Friends’ duets nice, not vital

  • By Jeff Karoub Associated Press
  • Monday, August 18, 2014 11:47am
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Smokey Robinson, “Smokey &Friends” (Verve Music Group)

Smokey Robinson doesn’t want to be a relic and that’s understandable. He deserves for people to know his role as a chief architect of the Motown Sound and bard of the American romantic songbook, while remaining a vital, inspiring voice today.

Therein lay the catalyst and challenge of “Smokey &Friends,” which finds him pairing with artists young and old on classics he composed, performed or both. Some duets boost the mission while others backfire.

On “Cruisin’,” Jessie J offers a spoken-word testimony that includes how joining Robinson is “a dream come true.” It’s pleasant enough but hard to get past the pedestal upon which he’s been placed. On “Quiet Storm,” John Legend intones: “Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson one of the greatest poets of all-time. Smokey, it’s an honor to sing with you.” Just sing — that’s honor enough.

The collection clicks when the gushing takes a backseat to grooving. Steven Tyler approaches “You Really Got a Hold on Me” less reverentially and the result is something beautifully bawdy and bluesy. It’s less of a remake and more a reboot that doesn’t instill longing for the original. Other songs that work and curb pining for the past are “The Way You Do (The Things You Do)” with CeeLo Green, which romps and rolls in a sonic workout that respects the Temptations’ version while adding something new, and “Ain’t That Peculiar,” which ain’t as peculiar as it might seem to feature James Taylor and the low-key gravitas he brings.

The same can’t be said about takes on two of Robinson’s most enduring, essential works: Elton John is his soulful best on “The Tracks of My Tears” and Sheryl Crow delivers Motown-worthy harmonies on “The Tears of A Clown,” yet you’ll find yourself waiting for Robinson to come in.

The album proves Robinson retains that vital, inspiring voice and provides nice moments. The biggest success would come if it sends new fans back to the originals, which were not only nice, but necessary.

———

Follow Jeff Karoub at https://twitter.com/jeffkaroub

More in Life

Heavy Hollywood headlines: Robert Horton’s movies preview

In the midst of all the sexual-misconduct allegations, the holiday film season offers some relief.

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with reads, listens

Pay tribute to the contributions of indigenous people to national history and culture.

New York tabs share ‘I’m With Perv’ headlines on Trump

Both are reporting on the president’s backing of accused Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Where the wild things are in Snohomish

Step into the studio of Imps and Monsters creator Justin Hillgrove for a Black Friday sale.

Meet Nellie, Thor, Raven, Lola, Jasper, Gunner and Bella

These six dogs are waiting for loving homes.

Did you know? Bats edition

Worthwhile Everett library reading and viewing about bats of the animal, sport and hero varieties.

Sister is the victim of financial abuse

By Carolyn Hax / The Washington Post Dear Carolyn: My sister stays… Continue reading

Grandma’s fed up with kids’ disrespect for Thanksgiving traditions

By Tom and Dee Hardie with Key Kidder Dear Grandparenting: This is… Continue reading

Today in History: Nov. 22

Today is Wednesday, Nov. 22, the 326th day of 2017. There are… Continue reading

Most Read