Smokey Robinson really had a "hold on me" back in the day. Smokey Robinson was one of the pantheons of soul sensations that exploded onto the American music scene courtesy of Motown Records. Going to a Go Go, Second That Emotion, Tracks of My Tears, and Tears of a Clown were just a few of the hits that kept Smokey and the Miracles on top of the pop and soul charts in the 60s. Smokey's new CD, Timeless Love, is a look back but not to the 1960s. Rather, Smokey has gone back even further and put together of what may be called American standard love songs.
Other recording artists have tried this crossover before. Some, like Linda Ronstadt (What's New and Lush Life) and Willie Nelson (Stardust) have produced classics in their own right. Others, (Rod Stewart and Michael Bolton come to mind) have not been nearly as good in my opinion. Fortunately, Smokey has done exquisite justice to a group of wonderfully written love songs and has crafted a CD that can join Ronstadt and Nelson in my own must-have collection.
Smokey's choice of material is excellent. Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Jimmy Dorsey and Sammy Cahn are well represented here. He has not attempted to imitate those performers who have covered these songs before. Rather, he has stayed true to his own musical style and put his own imprint on them. At age 67 Smokey's range is still good and he can still hit the high notes I could never hit even when I was a boy soprano. Robinson shifts tempo and tone throughout the CD and those shifts create some surprising new takes on the songs. Robinson, for example, takes the temp down a notch in Our Love is Here to Stay and in doing so makes the song sound more intimate than I recall in earlier versions. He does something similar in Tea for Two, a song that I never particularly cared for in its upbeat (happier sounding) presentation and adds a layer of wistful longing that I haven't heard in earlier covers.
Although the orchestration here is excellent the centerpiece of the CD is Robinson's singing and the lyrics and music. This stands in some contrast to Ronstadt's Lush Life and What's New in which Nelson Riddle's arrangements shared center-stage with Ronstadt's vocal interpretations but both Ronstadt's and Robinson's choices in that regard resulted in a great performance.
So, if you are a fan of Smokey Robinson, a fan of classic standards, or simply want a CD that you put on when you want to put the lights down low and set a cozy romantic setting for a night in with your `significant other', Robinson's Timeless Love is as good a place to start as any other.