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  1. #1

    Smokey: Quantity vs Quality?

    It has always amazed me how much music Smokey Robinson has written, produced and recorded; between 1961 and 1987 he released no less than one album EVERY year (as a member and lead singer of The Miracles and then as a solo artist) which is absolutely incredible!

    However, was this TOO MUCH?

    As solo artists (in the '70s and '80s) Stevie and Marvin had LPs out every couple of years, and such albums have come to be seen as nothing less than masterpieces!

    So, do you think Smokey should have maybe worked a bit longer on each album, and made them better overall?
    What do you think of Smokey's solo career? Did he prioritise quantity over quality?

  2. #2
    Tom I can't comment too much my computer seems to have deleted most my Smokey albums. However if it was not for Smokey's 1989 album 'Love Smokey' my daughter would still be nameless today. Thanks Smokey.

  3. #3
    The 60s were characterized by artists commonly releasing two or three albums each year. The quantity was part of the creative process. From reading Smokey's biography, his life's orbit was far beyond his control in the late 70s and early 80s. Very few of the writing credits belonged to him on the later albums, which could partially explain the lack of a Quiet Storm type masterpiece.

  4. #4
    I never really thought of it that way. I do remember being happy with every new release by Smokey after he went solo. He did not make you wait forever for new music from him. The quality was still there in my opinion.

  5. #5
    I also love all Smokey's solo albums. He really made some good solo albums.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    It has always amazed me how much music Smokey Robinson has written, produced and recorded; between 1961 and 1987 he released no less than one album EVERY year (as a member and lead singer of The Miracles and then as a solo artist) which is absolutely incredible!

    However, was this TOO MUCH?

    As solo artists (in the '70s and '80s) Stevie and Marvin had LPs out every couple of years, and such albums have come to be seen as nothing less than masterpieces!

    So, do you think Smokey should have maybe worked a bit longer on each album, and made them better overall?
    What do you think of Smokey's solo career? Did he prioritise quantity over quality?
    I think Smokey just loved making music. I do not own everything he recorded but i have most of the stuff. I agree the quality sometimes was not as high as it could have been , but the majority of his material hit the mark for me, but i have to agree with you when comparing him to Stevie and Marvin. Albums by that pair of icons always seemed to be an event whereas Smokey's output was far more prolific and we perhaps took it more for granted. An interesting topic for sure.

  7. #7
    Maybe it's because he fonctionned more like Johnny Mathis or Barry Manilow than what seems more "involved" artists like Stevie.

  8. #8
    I loved Smokey's original work with The Miracles - particularly since some of it was so quirky and different. I was always less impressed with cover versions on some albums which dragged them down. There are particular highs and lows on "Away We A Go Go" for instance in my view. As regards his solo work not a lot stands out for me but I haven't listened to it as much as I should.

  9. #9
    I always thought, and started a thread on this once, that the quality of his song writing really dropped off when he went solo. I liked some of his early solo albums, especially "Love Breeze," but I thought the brilliance of his early writing credits were somehow missing and his writing had become more or less lackluster. His voice stayed pure and beautiful but to me, the magic was largely gone. Even his later hits, like "Cruisin'" and "Being With You" seemed to me they could have been sung by almost anyone. They just lacked excitement.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    It has always amazed me how much music Smokey Robinson has written, produced and recorded; between 1961 and 1987 he released no less than one album EVERY year (as a member and lead singer of The Miracles and then as a solo artist) which is absolutely incredible!

    However, was this TOO MUCH?

    As solo artists (in the '70s and '80s) Stevie and Marvin had LPs out every couple of years, and such albums have come to be seen as nothing less than masterpieces!

    So, do you think Smokey should have maybe worked a bit longer on each album, and made them better overall?
    What do you think of Smokey's solo career? Did he prioritise quantity over quality?
    I think that Smokey Robinson's solo career might have benefitted if he did fewer albums (especially during the peak years of his solo years from the mid '70s to the early '80s). Perhaps he was into that having a new LP out every year mindset. Anyway, I still enjoy my favorite Smokey solo albums: Pure Smokey, A Quiet Storm, Where There's Smoke..., Warm Thoughts & One Heartbeat and I think he had a great solo career overall.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    I think that Smokey Robinson's solo career might have benefitted if he did fewer albums (especially during the peak years of his solo years from the mid '70s to the early '80s). Perhaps he was into that having a new LP out every year mindset. Anyway, I still enjoy my favorite Smokey solo albums: Pure Smokey, A Quiet Storm, Where There's Smoke..., Warm Thoughts & One Heartbeat and I think he had a great solo career overall.
    Also consider that he was a VP at Motown and may have had the company's annual revenues in mind when releasing so many albums.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    Tom I can't comment too much my computer seems to have deleted most my Smokey albums. However if it was not for Smokey's 1989 album 'Love Smokey' my daughter would still be nameless today. Thanks Smokey.
    How can a computer arbitrarily delete data unless you got some nasty malware, or the user screwed up?

  13. #13
    Thanks all for your replies! Very interesting.

    I kinda think Smokey's solo career might have been better overall if he had done fewer albums, but it's still great.

    IMO Smokey still had that golden voice throughout... and his songwriting was still as clever and interesting as it ever was, even into the later stages of his career... for example I just love the wordplay on 1978's "Vitamin U" and the clever lyrical hook of 1979's "It's A Good Night"...

    Oh, and "Cruisin'" is probably my all-time favourite Smokey song and one of my favourite songs, EVA! Pure bliss... and pure Smokey

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    How can a computer arbitrarily delete data unless you got some nasty malware, or the user screwed up?
    soulster the user screwed up it looks like I never copied them over from my old computer something that I've been putting right.
    Anyway back to the question, I agree with Bluebrock Smokey just loved to make music. Out of all his solo works I was never keen on his Big Time album though.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Also consider that he was a VP at Motown and may have had the company's annual revenues in mind when releasing so many albums.
    That's true. And consider that Smokey Robinson initially had NO intention of being a solo artist when he left The Miracles. It's only when he wanted to release the song "Sweet Harmony" as a tribute to his group (and with encouragement from then wife Claudette when she saw that Smokey truly missed performing) that he launched his solo career.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    That's true. And consider that Smokey Robinson initially had NO intention of being a solo artist when he left The Miracles. It's only when he wanted to release the song "Sweet Harmony" as a tribute to his group (and with encouragement from then wife Claudette when she saw that Smokey truly missed performing) that he launched his solo career.
    Well........ I have heard two versions of that story. I like yours best. It is much more pleasant than the other one. LOL!!!!

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Thanks all for your replies! Very interesting.

    I kinda think Smokey's solo career might have been better overall if he had done fewer albums, but it's still great.

    IMO Smokey still had that golden voice throughout... and his songwriting was still as clever and interesting as it ever was, even into the later stages of his career... for example I just love the wordplay on 1978's "Vitamin U" and the clever lyrical hook of 1979's "It's A Good Night"...

    Oh, and "Cruisin'" is probably my all-time favourite Smokey song and one of my favourite songs, EVA! Pure bliss... and pure Smokey
    "Vitamin U" is such a wonderful pop song and, for me, much tighter and instant in 7" single form. I also love the word play. Smokey didn't write it but the lyricist really knew how to "Do a Smokey".

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    "Vitamin U" is such a wonderful pop song and, for me, much tighter and instant in 7" single form. I also love the word play. Smokey didn't write it but the lyricist really knew how to "Do a Smokey".
    OH! Smokey didn't write it? Wow! It really sounds like a Smokey song. I didn't even check I was that sure...! Thanks Sotosound

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Thanks all for your replies! Very interesting.

    I kinda think Smokey's solo career might have been better overall if he had done fewer albums, but it's still great.
    Agree.

    For me, it seems like his best albums were in the 70s. My favorite two albums are "Pure Smokey", and "Quiet Storm", the ones where he was at the top of his game. "Baby That's Backatcha" is my all-time favorite Smokey solo single.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by soulster View Post
    Agree.

    For me, it seems like his best albums were in the 70s. My favorite two albums are "Pure Smokey", and "Quiet Storm", the ones where he was at the top of his game. "Baby That's Backatcha" is my all-time favorite Smokey solo single.
    Nice choice, soulster. I love that song. And, yes, those mid-'70s albums were among Smokey's best.

  21. #21
    I would say my favourite Smokey track is Just My Soul Responding favourite album is probably Smokey's Family Robinson.

  22. #22
    Looking at it from the perspective of pop hits, putting out thirteen albums in his first ten years as a solo artist from which only four Top 30 charters emerged ( and of those only two became big hits) , then ya maybe more time and effort should have been put into fewer releases with more quality.
    After Smokey went solo, did he pen any memorable tunes for any other artists? Maybe a couple for The Supremes - FLOY JOY, AUTOMATICALLY SUNSHINE - come to mind. ?

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    I would say my favourite Smokey track is Just My Soul Responding favourite album is probably Smokey's Family Robinson.
    Great choice, Paul. "Just My Soul Responding" is wonderful and poignant. And then it goes all Native American-ish halfway through!

  24. #24
    I liked both Smoke's solo work and his time with the Miracles. The
    earlier writing to me seemed to be more focused clever rhyming
    and word play and later became more concern with subject matter
    though there was some overlapping. Who's Gonna Take The Blame
    with the Miracles actually kind of set me up for was one of his most
    poignant songs besides Just My Soul...Holly. It still chills me, having known more than one or two "Hollys" myself in real life...

  25. #25
    I'm pretty sure he was still with the miracles when he produced the floy joy album. I really haven't heard of him producing someone else after he went solo

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Looking at it from the perspective of pop hits, putting out thirteen albums in his first ten years as a solo artist from which only four Top 30 charters emerged ( and of those only two became big hits) , then ya maybe more time and effort should have been put into fewer releases with more quality.
    After Smokey went solo, did he pen any memorable tunes for any other artists? Maybe a couple for The Supremes - FLOY JOY, AUTOMATICALLY SUNSHINE - come to mind. ?
    Smokey had some great, great songs released in the 70s and 80s. I loved "Daylight & Darkness", "Let Me Be the Clock", "Being With You", One Heart Beat", "Baby Come Close", "Crusin'", "Tell Me Tomorrow", "Touch the Sky"." Just to See Her" and on and on. I never thought about counting the number of albums he released in a certain period of time, but I guess it was a lot.
    Last edited by marv2; 06-19-2017 at 02:17 PM.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by McMotown View Post
    I would say my favourite Smokey track is Just My Soul Responding favourite album is probably Smokey's Family Robinson.
    Oh yeah! The first time I heard it I couldn't believe it was him! That's also one of my favorite Smokey songs!

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by splanky View Post
    I liked both Smoke's solo work and his time with the Miracles. The
    earlier writing to me seemed to be more focused clever rhyming
    and word play and later became more concern with subject matter
    though there was some overlapping. Who's Gonna Take The Blame
    with the Miracles actually kind of set me up for was one of his most
    poignant songs besides Just My Soul...Holly. It still chills me, having known more than one or two "Hollys" myself in real life...
    "Who's gonna take the blame" is an Ashford/Simpson song and production, nice on too.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    I'm pretty sure he was still with the miracles when he produced the floy joy album. I really haven't heard of him producing someone else after he went solo
    Ah yes, thanks blackguy69.
    Did a bit of checking and Smokey took on that Supremes project at the end of '71. Smokey and the Miracles were still saying their goodbyes in the summer of '72.
    So Smokey provided the Supremes with their last respectably charting hit of their career with FLOY JOY (#16 pop , tying , surprisingly to me, their previous charter NATHAN JONES ) AUTOMATICALLY SUNSHINE would squeak into the Top 40 peaking at #37.

    And that would be the last time it seems? that Smokey had any involvement with any other artists' careers either by producing or as a result of his songwriting from that solo period.
    ?

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Ah yes, thanks blackguy69.
    Did a bit of checking and Smokey took on that Supremes project at the end of '71. Smokey and the Miracles were still saying their goodbyes in the summer of '72.
    So Smokey provided the Supremes with their last respectably charting hit of their career with FLOY JOY (#16 pop , tying , surprisingly to me, their previous charter NATHAN JONES ) AUTOMATICALLY SUNSHINE would squeak into the Top 40 peaking at #37.

    And that would be the last time it seems? that Smokey had any involvement with any other artists' careers either by producing or as a result of his songwriting from that solo period.
    ?
    In the early 80s, I recall reading that Smokey was working on an album for Claudette but it never came out.

    Also, after Kim Carnes had a hit with a remake of MORE LOVE, Smokey wrote some songs for her and submitted them to her producer, George Tobin. When George heard them, he told Smokey he should record them. Among these were BEING WITH YOU.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post

    Smokey had some great, great songs released in the 70s and 80s. I loved "Daylight & Darkness", "Let Me Be the Clock", "Being With You", One Heart Beat", "Baby Come Close", "Crusin'", "Tell Me Tomorrow", "Touch the Sky"." Just to See Her" and on and on. I never thought about counting the number of albums he released in a certain period of time, but I guess it was a lot.
    I hadn't counted all of them before either , but that is the point of this thread isn't it? !
    And yes we can each list songs that we like from those thirteen LPs but I was referring strictly to the resulting hits .
    So Marv in your nine choices , three were of those four pop hits I was referring to: BEING WITH YOU (#2), CRUISIN' (#4), and BABY COME CLOSE (#27). One other you mentioned liking was a marginal hit (not Top 30), LET ME BE THE CLOCK (#31). You cite JUST TO SEE HER which was a biggie (#8) as was the follow-up you also list ONE HEARTBEAT (#10) but both are outside the 10 year period I was referring to.

    There are two more marginal hits for Smokey in that ten year period-
    in 1975: THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY (#36).
    and in 1982: TELL ME TOMORROW(#33);

    And the other of his four songs to break the top 30 was BABY THAT'S BACKATCHA peaking at #26 in 1975.
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 06-19-2017 at 07:29 PM. Reason: Smokey NOT Smokie !!!!

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Ah yes, thanks blackguy69.
    Did a bit of checking and Smokey took on that Supremes project at the end of '71. Smokey and the Miracles were still saying their goodbyes in the summer of '72.
    So Smokey provided the Supremes with their last respectably charting hit of their career with FLOY JOY (#16 pop , tying , surprisingly to me, their previous charter NATHAN JONES ) AUTOMATICALLY SUNSHINE would squeak into the Top 40 peaking at #37.

    And that would be the last time it seems? that Smokey had any involvement with any other artists' careers either by producing or as a result of his songwriting from that solo period.
    ?
    Smokey produced "Keith & Darrell" his nephews. Their first single was "Feel the Fever" b/w "Things You're Made Of," released in 1981.

    He also produced his background singers "Quiet Storm".

  33. #33
    To me, this Smokey at his best. From 1978 and "Daylight and Darkness"


  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    It has always amazed me how much music Smokey Robinson has written, produced and recorded; between 1961 and 1987 he released no less than one album EVERY year (as a member and lead singer of The Miracles and then as a solo artist) which is absolutely incredible!

    However, was this TOO MUCH?

    As solo artists (in the '70s and '80s) Stevie and Marvin had LPs out every couple of years, and such albums have come to be seen as nothing less than masterpieces!

    So, do you think Smokey should have maybe worked a bit longer on each album, and made them better overall?
    What do you think of Smokey's solo career? Did he prioritise quantity over quality?
    Tom I don't think Smokey taking years to concentrate on a single project would have changed anything. I don't think he was that type of artist, the kind that creates a What's Going On or Songs In the Key of Life. Smokey was a poet at heart, I think. His strength was always going to be a love song of some sort. He recorded some gems in the 70s and 80s, but I think he may have ended up like a lot of his peers from the 60s during this same time period, trying to find a new groove and where he fit in. For my personal taste though, "Agony and Ecstasy" and "Being With You" are as good as anything he did with the Miracles.

  35. #35
    Anything by smokey is cool alright with me,however he didn't write every song on his solo albums,and some songs suffer for it.

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Tom I don't think Smokey taking years to concentrate on a single project would have changed anything. I don't think he was that type of artist, the kind that creates a What's Going On or Songs In the Key of Life. Smokey was a poet at heart, I think. His strength was always going to be a love song of some sort. He recorded some gems in the 70s and 80s, but I think he may have ended up like a lot of his peers from the 60s during this same time period, trying to find a new groove and where he fit in. For my personal taste though, "Agony and Ecstasy" and "Being With You" are as good as anything he did with the Miracles.
    Yea, I think I agree, RanRan! Smokey does seem like the kind of artist who just loves writing songs and making music. He was prolific and consistently excellent!

    And, yea, I love those songs! Both his solo and Miracles stuff are fantastic.

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Smokey produced "Keith & Darrell" his nephews. Their first single was "Feel the Fever" b/w "Things You're Made Of," released in 1981.

    He also produced his background singers "Quiet Storm".
    Keith & Darrell's "You're My Gardener", penned by Smokey, is well worth a listen.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by marv2 View Post
    Smokey had some great, great songs released in the 70s and 80s. I loved "Daylight & Darkness", "Let Me Be the Clock", "Being With You", One Heart Beat", "Baby Come Close", "Crusin'", "Tell Me Tomorrow", "Touch the Sky"." Just to See Her" and on and on. I never thought about counting the number of albums he released in a certain period of time, but I guess it was a lot.
    "Baby Come Close" and "Cruisin'" are my two favourite solo recordings of Smokey.

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    Keith & Darrell's "You're My Gardener", penned by Smokey, is well worth a listen.
    It certainly is, 144man. Very Smokey-ish. Very nice!


  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    It certainly is, 144man. Very Smokey-ish. Very nice!

    I don't really care for it, but I'm struck by how much they sound like Smokey. I wonder if its mimicry or a general family vocal sound.

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    "Baby Come Close" and "Cruisin'" are my two favourite solo recordings of Smokey.
    Isn't that something? Those are from the beginning and ending of his seventies solo hits and big favorites of mine as well.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by 144man View Post
    Keith & Darrell's "You're My Gardener", penned by Smokey, is well worth a listen.
    Yes they performed it on a local Detroit show called The Scene when Smokey was back home for a concert. Keith and Darrell are still in Detroit by the way.

  43. #43
    Darrell went on to become of the lead singers of the Monitors for a while.

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