It’s impossible to ignore or understate the importance of an album that gave its name to a radio programming format. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!
Apparently Smokey Robinson didn’t like what was happening in soul music in the 1970s so he decided to make a record that sounded like… a lot of the soul music being made in the 1970s. Honestly, I don’t really get the idea of this record being a pathbreaking record. It’s like a slightly weirder, slightly more idiosyncratic and slightly (I said slightly) less overproduced Philly Soul record. Sure, there are no strings. Fair enough. But there are plenty of instruments, and everything is pretty damn precise. I would expect nothing less from a Motown alumnae on a Motown subsidiary. (To be fair, I have heard very little ’70s Motown.)
Smokey Robinson is one of the great soul songwriters of his era, even if I find his particular take on soul to be not my thing. But is this set of songs a particularly great one? Well, I have not heard enough of his material (outside of his biggest hits) to know if there’s a particular album (non Greatest Hits variety) that really shows off his incredible knack for melody. But I submit that this one probably isn’t it. The songs are catchy enough, I guess. And a couple are catchier than the rest. But I don’t find them compelling enough to overcome the slick production, which I really don’t like.
This is very much not my kind of soul. It’s slick and there isn’t much variety. My knowledge of ’70s funk and soul is limited to Al Green, Funkadelic and some records by various other artists. So I cannot tell you for certain that this album’s reputation is way overblown, but I really don’t get how it’s so different from the smooth soul that came before it that is should create its own radio format. (Also, “quiet storm” conjures up something very different than Smokey Robinson if I hear the term out of context…)
Very much not my thing.