The Supremes aren’t the only Motown act getting a little bit of reissue love today from Hip-o Select!
William “Smokey” Robinson has lived up to his nickname in a staggering seven decades now, setting the charts ablaze with particular frequency in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. So it was with a deep catalogue already behind him – and yet more hits ahead of him – that Robinson recorded the double live album Smokin’, which arrived in stores in October 1978.
Back in January, The Second Disc confirmed the news that Volume 5 of Hip-o Select’s ongoing Smokey Robinson: The Solo Albums series would be dedicated to Smokin’. This was a relief to fans and collectors who found the album skipped over when Volume 4 included the albums directly before and after the live set, Love Breeze and Where There’s Smoke. The label will restore to print this sprawling live document in a remastered edition on June 14.
Smokin’ wasn’t the first live album recorded by Robinson, but it was his first without the Miracles. (All three of the group’s live albums have been released on CD in various configurations by Hip-o Select.) As such, he drew most heavily on current material, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to also revisit some of the classics that defined the Sound of Young America.
Smokey Robinson spent much of the 1970s concentrating on his behind-the-scenes role as Vice-President at the rapidly-growing Motown corporation, but he stretched himself as producer and composer of the film Big Time and still pursued solo projects. 1975’s A Quiet Storm spawned an entire genre marrying soulful vocals to mellow, slow R&B grooves. A Quiet Storm definitively proved that Robinson was just as musically groundbreaking as he had been in the previous decade. Three tracks off that seminal album were performed during the 1978 concert stand (“Baby That’s Backatcha,” “The Agony and the Ecstasy” and the title cut). The LP released directly before Smokin’, 1978’s Love Breeze, was the most well-represented on the live set, with five songs (“Love So Fine,” “Why You Wanna See My Bad Side,” “Daylight and Darkness,” “Madam X” and “Shoe Soul”). 1973’s solo debut Smokey and 1977’s Deep in My Soul yielded one track each, “Baby Come Close” and “Vitamin U,” respectively.
Robinson paid homage to his former group, The Miracles, with renditions of “The Tracks of My Tears,” “The Tears of a Clown,” “Bad Girl/(You Can) Depend on Me,” “Here I Go Again,” “Mickey’s Monkey,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “I Second That Emotion” and “Ooo Baby Baby.” Many of these songs still form the backbone of Robinson’s concert repertoire.
Hit the jump for pre-order information, track listing and more!
Smokin’ didn’t make much of a dent on the album charts, placing at No. 165 Pop and No. 8 R&B. But the artist’s commercial fortunes were on an upswing with his very next release. Where There’s Smoke contained the smash “Cruisin’” which had equal success in both the pop and R&B markets, hitting No. 4; “Being with You,” off the 1981 album of the same name, did even better, reaching No. 2 pop and topping R&B. It became Robinson’s biggest post-Miracles hit. (That LP will likely be collected with 1980’s Warm Thoughts as the next volume of the series.)
There is no word yet on any additional bonus material that might be included on The Solo Albums Volume 5: Smokin’. Should any tracks be added to the original double-LP sequence, we’ll be sure to report back. Smokin’ can be pre-ordered at the link below; Amazon will likely amend its incorrect “import” designation as soon as more information is available.
Smokey Robinson, The Solo Albums Volume 5: Smokin’ (Tamla T9-363A2, 1978 – reissued Hip-o Select, 2011)
- The Tracks of My Tears
- Love So Fine
- Baby That’s Backatcha
- The Agony and the Ecstasy
- Quiet Storm
- Why You Wanna See My Bad Side
- Daylight and Darkness
- Madam X
- The Tears of a Clown
- Bad Girl/(You Can) Depend on Me
- Here I Go Again
- Mickey’s Monkey
- You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me
- Shoe Soul
- I Second That Emotion
- Ooo Baby Baby
- Vitamin U
- Baby Come Close