Smokey Robinson: The Solo Anthology (2001)
Smokey Robinson left the Miracles in 1972, by which time he was already fading to the nether reaches of White America’s radar.
He re-emerged seven years later with the release of “Cruisin’,” which went top five on the Pop charts. After that he hit the higher reaches of the pop charts pretty regularly for another decade or so and clinched his place on the short list for things like Kennedy Center honors and Gershwin Awards and various and sundry other well-deserved lifetime achievement recognition which he had earned before he left the Miracles and almost certainly never would have received if he had left it at that.
Black America never forgot. The extent to which they never forgot becomes evident near the end of the first disc of this fine compilation, as the seventies come to a close.
It’s not as though Smokey had exactly taken the decade off. The tracks that clinched his comeback were preceded by records as monumental as “Sweet Harmony” and “Baby That’s Backatcha,” (the closest he had come to breaking pop in the wilderness years). Beyond that, all he had done was name–and define–a radio format (Quiet Storm) and remain one of the great vocalists of the age.
But the sequence that closes the first disc is still a breathtaking blast-off back into the mainstream….it makes one wonder if the reception he got live was finally what gave him the strength to carry on until the world, however briefly, reawakened.
Because when this comes on–recorded and released a year before “Cruisin’,” with his career at its nadir–you can hear who he was to the audience who had hung with him.
To them, he was Elvis.
After which, bang…
…He was Everybody’s Poet again.
On the second disc, you can hear him go to war with the Frozen Silence.
He barely holds on. But then, he was Smokey Robinson, and you know the lesson was learned by everyone else: If we, the Suits and Machines, can do this to him, just think what we can do to you.
By the end he’s duetting with Kenny G.
I think by then the nineties had arrived. If you want to listen to all that, you’re on your own.