Smokey Robinson & The Miracles ‎– The Best Of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

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Motown ‎– 012 153 398-2
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CD, Compilation, Remastered
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Tracklist Hide Credits

1 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles The Tears Of A Clown
Arranged By – David Van DePitte, Paul RiserProducer – Smokey RobinsonWritten-By – Stevie Wonder, William "Smokey" Robinson*Written-By, Producer – Henry Cosby
3:03
2 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles Shop Around
Written-By – William "Smokey" Robinson*Written-By, Producer – Berry Gordy
2:51
3 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles The Tracks Of My Tears
Producer – Smokey RobinsonWritten-By – Marvin Tarplin, Warren Moore, William "Smokey" Robinson*
2:58
4 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles I Second That Emotion
Written-By, Producer – Al Cleveland, William "Smokey" Robinson*
2:49
5 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles Mickey's Monkey
Producer – Brian Holland, Lamont DozierWritten-By – Brian Holland-Lamont Dozier-Edward Holland Jr.*
2:51
6 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles You've Really Got A Hold On Me
Producer – Smokey RobinsonWritten-By – William "Smokey" Robinson*
2:53
7 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles More Love
Producer – Smokey RobinsonWritten-By – William "Smokey" Robinson*
2:50
8 Smokey Robinson & The Miracles Ooo Baby Baby
Producer – Smokey RobinsonWritten-By – Warren Moore, William "Smokey" Robinson*
2:49
9 Smokey Robinson Cruisin'
Arranged By – Reginald "Sonny" Burke*Producer – Smokey RobinsonWritten-By – Marvin Tarplin, William "Smokey" Robinson*
4:29
10 Smokey Robinson Just To See Her
Executive-Producer – Berry GordyProducer – Peter Bunetta, Rick ChudacoffWritten-By – Jimmy George, Lou Pardini
4:05
11 The Miracles With Billy Griffin Love Machine (Long Version)
Arranged By [Strings And Horns] – Wade MarcusProducer, Arranged By [Rhythm Arrangements] – Freddie PerrenWritten-By – William Griffin*, Warren Moore
6:53

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Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode (Scanned): 601215339826
  • Barcode (Text): 6 01215 33982 6
  • Matrix / Runout: 012 153 3982 01% AZ
  • Mastering SID Code: IFPI L007
  • Mould SID Code: IFPI 0305
  • Pressing Plant ID (Stamped, inner ring mould): MADE IN USA BY UML

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IanPhillips1979

IanPhillips1979

November 28, 2016

Smokey Robinson was easily one of Motown’s most prolific songwriters and with his group, The Miracles, notched up a string of successful hit singles and albums, some of which are among the most remarkable recordings in the history of pop and soul music. Though there are only eleven tracks here (much the case with 20th Century Masters’ compilations), it is quite well-rounded in that it features some of their landmarks from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The fact that it includes two of their greatest - The Tears Of A Clown and The Tracks Of My Tears - makes it most essential for the casual collector. So, here’s what’s on offer here:

THE TEARS OF A CLOWN

During Motown's Christmas party in 1966, Stevie Wonder took Smokey Robinson aside to play him a demo of an instrumental he had crafted with Hank Cosby. Instantly impressed, Smokey's initial thoughts were of Ruggieno Leonca Vallo's nineteenth-century opera Pagliaccii, which told the tragic (and true) tale of the scorned lover Canio, who, despite his personal grief, masks his sadness by adopting a happy persona while on stage. From this seed, grew the song's rich, endearing text, Smokey delivering one of his most inspired pieces. Totally infectioys, the tracks boasts the classic Motown sound, gripping the listener from that famous opening hook, to James Jamerson's cluttered bass triplets that speed the verses along joyously. Apparently it took upwards of forty takes before the track was nailed to perfection.

Upon The Tears of A Clown being completed, it was curiously hidden away on Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ excellent 1967 studio album Make It Happen. It was only when an employee at the UK’s Tamla Motown recognised it was smacked with commercial potential, was it released as a single – amazingly, nearly four years after it had been recorded. The idea had stemmed following the successful British re-issue of The Tracks of My Tears, and once released as a single, it began a six-week climb up the charts, hitting #1, and later becoming Tamla Motown’s fourth-best-selling 45 ever. The song’s reputation spread like wild fire as it went on to top the charts in a large number of European countries, before proudly becoming the Christmas number one hit of 1970 in America. One of the jewels in Smokey’s crown of his 4,000 + compositions.

SHOP AROUND

Written by Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy Jr, Shop Around bore the distinction of becoming Motown's very first R&B chart-topper. The song had originally been intended for Barrett Strong as a follow-up to his hit Money (That's What I Want). Berry Gordy considered it to be more suited to the style of Smokey Robinson and his group The Miracles and, therefore, persuaded the group to record it instead. Following its initial release in September 1960, this became The Miracles fourth American single, backed with Who's Loving You as the B-side. However, it was hastily withdrawn from the market shortly after going on sale. Berry decided he wanted a tighter, punchier and more rounded production of the recording. When the single was re-issued, containing the familiar version we all know and love, it flew up to #2 Billboard Pop, and in the early months of 1961 sat pretty at the top of the R&B Chart for two months. This also marked their first release in Britain, released on the London American label in February'61. It's an immensely catchy recording, the strident bass-line capturing the early Motown sound at its best, while Smokey Robinson delivers a terrific lead with his sensual falsetto, complemented by a dazzling backdrop of harmonies from the Miracles.

THE TRACKS OF MY TEARS

Undoubtedly one of Motown’s defining classics, The Tracks of My Tears was widely considered to be Smokey Robinson & The Miracles first masterpiece. The song deals with the tension of shielding emotional upset covered behind a jolly façade. It was songwriter and guitarist Marv Tarplin and Warren Moore’s opening section that was first formed (apparently found through playing around with the old Harry Belafonte hit The Banana Song ). It was then presented to Smokey as the basis of a song. At first he was a little thrown by what he deemed ‘it’s odd musical progression’, and developed the song further, though it would take Smokey over a fortnight to come up with a suitable chorus lyric. In a succession of inspirational flashes which provided him with the finished line, it was actually the song’s title phrase he came up with last.

The song earned him several accolades as a first-rate soul producer and when released in America in the summer of 1965, flew up to #2 R&B and #16 pop. Despite this success, it (bizarrely) failed to even dent the UK top forty, but upon its re-issue in 1969 it (deservedly) raced into the British top ten. An out-and-out classic and a great way to round this compilation off.

I SECOND THAT EMOTION

Smokey Robinson was ever-alert for inspirational ideas and he was provided with the genesis of this track while out Christmas shopping in 1966, with Motown songwriter Al Cleveland. After striking up a conversation with an assistant over some jewellery Robinson was purchasing for his then-wife, Claudette, Cleveland sought to remark “I’ll second that motion” but in mispronouncing the final word, he had inadvertently supplied his friend with the title of a new song. A lazily soulful recording that careers along at a sluggish pace, this became an instant favourite amongst the Miracles fans, hitting the US pop top five and scoring a number one R&B hit. British listeners were less enthusiastic, where it stalled at #27.

MICKEY’S MONKEY

Crafted by Holland-Dozier-Holland, Smokey Robinson claimed Mickey’s Monkey before it was even finished, the singer overhearing Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland working on the song. The ‘mock-live’ recording was in a similar style to Bo Diddley, considerably out-of-character for the group and its composers, rough-and-ready and inspiring a number of stage moves for The Miracles. Instantly infectious and immensely successful, Mickey’s Monkey became the group’s biggest pop hit since Shop Around, leading to other collaborations with Holland-Dozier-Holland over the ensuing months.

YOU’VE REALLY GOT A HOLD ON ME

The tempo mellows for this lilting ballad by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, which went top ten in the US as well as hitting the top spot on the R&B chart. Here is a prime example of Smokey's impeccable early balladeering style. He was intending to do something in the style of Sam Cooke's Bring It On Home To Me, coming up with a standard doo-wop cycle and thoughtfully emotive lyrics including a trademark contradictory couplet for its opening. Double-tracked by Bobby Rogers of the group, the harmonies intertwine seamlessly with Robinson's evocative lead. This was the first Motown number to be covered by The Beatles (their version of Money (That's What I Want) also being cut later the same day). Beautifully done and as is always the case, the Motown original is by far the best.

MORE LOVE

More Love was written in early 1967: A profound song, it was a devotional mitigation of the pain then being endured by his wife, Claudette, following the tragic death of her new-born twins in 1966 and a devastating sequence of miscarriages. Smokey’s genuinely moving text was a personal gift to her, a love song with which he open his shows for the next decade. The track contains a perfect example of the elegant simplicity of its writer’s lyricism, lines constructed from the directness of every day speech, yet with a rare level of emotional potency.

Lifted in the summer of 1967, during which some of the worst race riots in Detroit’s history occurred, it’s surprising More Love wasn’t a bigger hit, hitting the R&B top five but only climbing to #23 on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the UK it completely missed a foothold on the top forty Singles Chart.

OOO BABY BABY

Through 1964 when performing live, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles would close their shows with a riveting medley of material, original and non-original, which would usually culminate in a rendition of the doo-wop classic ‘Please Say You Want Me’, a hit for short-lived Harlem group The Schoolboys in 1955. From these sketches, Ooo Baby Baby was formed, Smokey intricately weaving phrased and elegantly composed lines about the plainly simplistic chorus, revealing an honest vulnerability. Described by Smokey as his ‘national anthem’, the track offers a smooth antidote to Holland-Dozier-Holland’s more energetic creations. It’s a soft, sumptuous, easy-going ballad, delicately bathed in warm harmonies coated with Smokey’s angelic tenor.
Its tranquillity was lost on the British public, failing to chart altogether, though scored the group another top twenty pop hit in America, plus a top five R&B placing.

CRUISIN’

The compilation then jumps forward to 1979 and Crusin’ is actually a Smokey Robinson solo. A steady, soulful, beautifully romantic number, this became one of his most successful singles besides those he recorded with The Miracles. Written by fellow Miracle Marv Tarplin, this lush, dreamy recording was included on his solo album Where There’s Smoke. Although bearing a distinctly 1970s sound, it’s subtly blended with a hint of his old classic Motown sound. A big hit in the US where it embraced the top ten, it managed to do even better in New Zealand, hitting the top of their chart.

JUST TO SEE HER

A Grammy-Award-winning song, Just To See Her is one of the few songs recorded by Smokey which hadn’t actually been written by himself. Another divine, smooth, contemporary R&B number, Smokey’s lead is as engaging as always. Written by Jimmy George and Lou Pardini and production courtesy of Peter Bunetta and Rick Chudacoff, this Smokey solo offering was released in 1987 and hit the top ten on both the pop and soul charts, though limped to only #52 in the UK. Just To See Her was included on his excellent studio album One Heartbeat (1986).

LOVE MACHINE

A solid disco classic, Love Machine was a huge cross-Atlantic hit for The Miracles, lifted from their album City Of Angels. Here, the full seven-minute opus is featured. Containing a humorous lyric in which the technological metaphor is used liberally for analogous blowing of fuses and flowing currents, the track hosts a sharp, funky groove and is wonderfully upbeat. Just to avoid confusion, this track doesn’t feature Smokey Robinson and this was easily their biggest hit single without his presence.

Ian Phillips