THE POET BEFORE AND AFTER (Segue of the Day: 10/22/17)

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…

bang…

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.

4 thoughts on “THE POET BEFORE AND AFTER (Segue of the Day: 10/22/17)

  1. I consider one of Smokey’s greatest accomplishments of his post-Miracles career to be the Supremes’ FLOY JOY album on 1972, an album that sold poorly, went straight to the cut-out-bins, and now nobody ever talks about.

    I found it in a 99¢ cut-out bi,n took it home, played so much that I was walking around greeting guys with “Floy joy, man!”

    But I greeted the chicks with a sexier “Floy floy floy floy joy … baby!”

    Of course everyone thought I was nuts, but that was cool …

    PS: I’ve ticked the Notify Me box.

    • That’s one I’ll have to check out….I’m a big fan of the Supremes post-Diana work anyway so I’m doubly intrigued.

      One thing I noticed on the Smokey comp was that, as the eighties came around he wrote less and produced less (kind of wonder if he didn’t love producing synthesizers and if, that being the case, he felt less compelled to write as well….kind of why bother if everything except his voice was going to sound crappy anyway! Just a theory.)

      Let me know on the notification. I had somebody else test it and they had problems as well. Had car trouble last week (which still hasn’t been resolved) so I haven’t been able to contact GoDaddy or WP yet. Haven’t forgotten about you!

  2. “One thing I noticed on the Smokey comp was that, as the eighties came around he wrote less and produced less”

    At that point, he’d been in the business for at least 20 years or so. I’m wondering if he was just running out of creative steam. It seems like most songwriters (excepting Neil Young, who’ll never stop) just start running out of ideas or incentive as they get older.

    Still, if that’s the case, Smokey did a fine job.

    • That’s quite possible. But I can’t help considering the possibility, at least, that a natural romantic could have come up against a severe case of writer’s block (or at least real inspiration block) when confronted with the mechanized styles prevalent in the 80s….Not to mention the political reaction, which is with us still. I need to do a deeper dive into his albums…another project for my old age!

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