This record is reputed by some to be the best Miracles record out there. I have no idea if that is true because I’m pretty sure this is my first ever Miracles record. And given that I have no intention of listening to every Miracles record, I guess I just have to take it on faith.
Like basically every Motown record I’ve ever heard, this has singles that are significantly stronger than the other material on the record. The label did like to pump out records and was never super worried about filler. (I suspect some of this had to do with Gordy coming of age when albums didn’t matter.) It’s not that the weaker material is awful – it really isn’t. Robinson is, after all, probably the best of their songwriters of the era (certainly among their performer-songwriters). But it’s clear that the attention went to the six singles and, especially to the title track and “Tracks of My Tears”, by the far the best thing here.
My usual issue with Motown applies: this is slick stuff, with any of Sam Cooke’s rawness ironed out and with doowop basically not even a thought – except perhaps on one track – and a big sound on some of the tracks, particularly when that orchestra comes in. (Even the tracks that seem like they won’t have a lot of instruments soon build to the classic Motown Wall of Sound thing. Well, nearly all of them.)
But I suspect it’s one of the better Motown records of its era. One thing to keep in mind is that soul was pretty slow to evolve compared to some other contemporary music and this music was also extremely commercially viable in 1965. It’s certainly not an innovative record or an important one but I bet that, if I stacked against contemporary Motown and other slick soul records of the day, it would hold up pretty well.