Picks and Pans Review: Smoke Signals

updated 03/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Smokey Robinson

It's too bad Robinson already has a nickname and that former pro basketball star Jamaal Wilkes has spoken for "Silk." Smokey is certainly still smooth and lustrous, as he has been for the past 27 years as a major star. He has kept his basic style—intimate, insinuatingly paced, sexy—always modifying it enough to seem contemporary. This LP is a perfect example. For one thing it is the first Robinson album in five years that he has not produced himself. Yet nothing his new producers, Steve Barri and Tony Peluso, have done seems out of character. The tune Some People (Will Do Anything for Love) is a triumph. Pushed along by the Tower of Power horns and arranger (and co-composer) Bobby Sandstrom's synthesizers, Robinson purrs on at a relaxed pace that still manages to be supremely—make that miraculously—kinetic. Then there's Hold on to Your Love, which Smokey wrote with Stevie Wonder. Wonder could probably make the sound of bread becoming toast danceable, and he and co-arranger Jim Lang created a compelling, multi-layered rhythmic foundation for Robinson here. Robinson's own Hanging on by a Thread (written with Mark Davis) beats, or rather snips, the lyric hook to death. "We used to be tapestry/ Now we're only hanging on by a thread" isn't that clever, after all. But even that tune has its affecting moments. While Robinson attracted an eclectic collection of sit-in performers for this set—Herb Alpert, Richard Carpenter, the Temptations, Bunny and Mark DeBarge—he is never in danger of being upstaged. He remains a unique and uniquely resilient performer. (Tamla)

From Our Partners