b/w Heartbreak Road
(Written by Smokey Robinson)
b/w Heartbreak Road
(Released in the UK under license through EMI / Stateside Records)
Smokey Robinson heralds his return to the Miracles’ songwriting helm with this retread of one of Smoke’s most familiar lyrical tropes: parental advice.
This is very much the forgotten Miracles single. It’s not hard to see why; it’s never above the level of pleasant and entertaining, which coming from Smokey Robinson is something of a disappointment.
Aside from a neat fiddle break that crops up through the song, it sounds – lyrically and musically – as though it’s been stitched together with no great care from six or seven older Miracles records, all of which are better than this one. We shouldn’t be too surprised, of course, since Smokey was already a past master of reworking old material to find new angles – but there’s no new angle here. There isn’t even a great tune or a killer hook to excuse the shameless raiding of one’s own scraps closet; this is a hand-me-down sort of a single, a B-side thrown together at short notice that’s somehow found itself selected as the next A-side from one of Motown’s top acts.
That it still all sort of works anyway is testament to Smokey Robinson’s past strengths; with such great glories to draw upon, even a derivative highlight reel like this can hang together with surprising coherence. It’s lucky for Smokey there was such good material from the past from which to take some cues, because on the day everyone here, including Smokey the writer, Smokey the singer, Smokey the producer, the rest of the Miracles, the band, they’re all just phoning it in.
Supposedly this is a lost classic, a hidden gem, left off any LP or Anthoogy or best-of collection for 30-odd years. But to my ears, those commentators who’ve anointed this as hard-to-find treasure are grasping for something that simply isn’t there. This wasn’t anthologised because while it’s pleasant enough, it’s still comfortably the weakest Miracles single since Ain’t It Baby almost three years previously.
Not bad, per se, but absolutely nothing special.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)
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