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Soul - Released January 1, 2004 | Hip-O Select

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The Live Collection (2004) is a limited-edition package consisting of two previously released Smokey Robinson & the Miracles long-players from 1969 and 1972, respectively. Disc One houses Live! (1969), from a set at Motown's unofficial hometown digs, the Roostertail in Detroit. Disc Two contains the somewhat misleadingly-titled 1957-1972 (1972). While their first concert recording, Miracles on Stage (1963), captures the incipient incarnation with Claudette Robinson (Smokey's wife), the skimpy track list hardly did them justice. Not to mention, at that point the vast majority of their biggest hits were yet to have been created. In addition to Robinson, the Miracles' lineup consisted of vocalists Bobby Rogers, Pete Moore and Ronnie White. On Live!, they are instrumentally supported by a presumably ad hoc aggregate of Motown session players. The assembled band pull off those tricky and intricate licks with a swinging precision that is uncannily similar to the familiar studio 45s. The program is chock-full of anticipatory hits such as "I Second That Emotion," "Yester-Love," "Mickey's Monkey," a breathtaking "Ooo, Baby Baby" and a reading of "Going to a Go Go" that simply defies the listener to sit still. However, it is the unexpected covers of "Poinciana" -- giving the Four Freshmen a run for their money -- "Up, Up and Away," "Walk on By," "Yesterday" and the striking "Theme From 'The Valley of the Dolls'" and are definitely worthy of garnering repeated spins. By 1972, R&B and soul music had evolved into a very different place and the assumption that Robinson and company's popularity would have waned or that they had become passé is immediately dispelled. Greeted by shrieks and hearty applause, the Miracles set out to perform their last gigs prior to the permanent departure of Robinson -- who acknowledges the occasion by presenting his replacement, Billy Griffin. The larger ensemble boast full horn and string sections under the direction of Motown stage conductor and arranger Thomas "Beans" Bowles. The proceedings are punctuated by favorites such as the opening rave-up "Tears of a Clown" followed by their final Top 40 pop entry with Smokey, "I Don't Blame You at All." Not to be missed is the loose and joke-filled "Shop Around," plus a particularly jaunty take of "More Love." Although the remakes are fewer in number, "Abraham, Martin and John" and "Got to Be There" -- a concurrent smash for fellow Motown artist Michael Jackson -- are given admirable overhauls. Another surprise is the on-stage reunion with Claudette Robinson, who briefly rejoins the group after a heartfelt introduction from then-hubby Smokey during the prologue to "Bad Girl." Enthusiasts and potential consumers should make haste as Live Collection is only available in an edition of 5,000 copies, obtainable exclusively through Hip-O Select's online shop, www.hip-oselect.com. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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R&B - Released November 1, 1965 | UNI - MOTOWN

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R&B - Released November 1, 1965 | UNI - MOTOWN

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Soul - Released October 5, 1963 | Motown

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This was recorded in October 1963, when the Miracles still included Claudette Robinson, Smokey's wife, in the lineup; she sings lead on "Let It Snow." Smokey contributes one original, the mid-tempo "Christmas Everyday," that stands as one of the finest Motown seasonal favorites, and one of Smokey's most memorable performances of his long career. © Dennis MacDonald /TiVo
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R&B - Released February 10, 1998 | UNI - MOTOWN

Motown Records is a bit like the Walt Disney Studios, in the sense that both organizations made a good deal more money in recent decades marketing their histories and reputations than they have in creating very much that's new -- indeed, Motown hasn't been an active label, in the sense of recording any new artists, in more than a decade. Apart from its Anthology series in the mid-'70s, however, the label seldom came up with anything that could hold a permanent place in a collection, or was reasonably comprehensive. Then came the Ultimate Collection series, which was timed to coincide with the first technological upgrade in CD mastering to 20-bit digital audio. This disc has 25 songs that encompass all of the Top Ten hits by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles released between 1960 and 1969 (as well as their 1970 number one hit, "Tears of a Clown"), but also some of their finest B-sides ("Choosey Beggar," "Who's Lovin' You") and an album track or two of significance, and it also sounded significantly better than any prior hits collection on the group, including the upgraded Anthology two-CD set issued just three years earlier. What's more, while it in no way supplants the four-CD 35th Anniversary Collection, it offers one track that didn't make it onto that set, the second version of "Way Over There," which -- though it never charted -- is a brilliant piece of writing, singing, and production. After all, "Way Over There" was the very first actual "Motown" single; in fact, it was one of the most ambitious and beautiful records that Berry Gordy ever produced personally -- and it did sell a reported 50,000 copies, which was significant enough in helping to keep the fledgling company afloat. That's as much of a "history lesson" as this CD provides, though people will always happily hear history lessons like that. Mostly, it's a gorgeous flood of sound washing over you for 70 minutes, though not quite like you've ever heard these songs -- including the gently ringing rhythm guitar on "Tracks of My Tears," the in-your-face drums that open "My Girl Has Gone," and the strings of the Detroit Symphony on "Way Over There," but most of all the silky lead and backing vocals, which have never sounded closer or smoother. The standard is now 24-bit, and someday there may even be a DVD audio or SACD of hits by the Miracles, but for a collection featuring some of their most enjoyable and best-sounding music, no one is going to be cheated by buying this disc. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1961 | UNI - MOTOWN

The Miracles' first album is a magnificent debut, filled with impeccable vocal performances, inventive and occasionally brilliant songwriting, and an aching romantic aura. "Shop Around" was the big hit on the record, but another highlight is the group's recut version (also available on the old Miracles' Anthology double-disc set) of their single "Way Over There" in a lusher, more beguiling arrangement, which anticipated Phil Spector's "pop symphony" productions with the Crystals, Darlene Love, the Ronettes, and Tina Turner. Smokey Robinson authored or co-authored (with Berry Gordy or fellow Miracle Ronnie White) all but one track here -- all are winners, and songs like the ethereal Robinson-White "Heart Like Mine" are worth the price of the disc. They'd do classier, more elaborate work later on, but the youthful verve of Robinson, Claudette Rogers Robinson, Ronnie White, Bobby Rogers, Pete Moore, and Marv Tarplin on these tracks makes this an indispensable record, even for casual fans. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Soul - Released November 1, 1965 | Motown

Though its title track ignited a nationwide fad for go-go music, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' Going to a Go-Go LP certainly wasn't just a cash-in effort. It's one of the best records the group put out, and the first six songs make for the best side of any original Motown LP of the '60s (granted, all but one are also available on dozens of Miracles compilations). The four biggest hits were among the best in a set of Miracles archetypes: the throwback to the aching '50s doo wop ballad ("Ooo Baby, Baby"), the flashy up-tempo dance song ("Going to a Go-Go"), the dancing-with-tears-in-my-eyes jerker ("The Tracks of My Tears"), and the mid-tempo orchestral epic ("My Girl Has Gone"). "Choosey Beggar" is one of the sweetest of all Robinson's lead vocals, with stunning background work by the rest of the Miracles. Even the album tracks shine, with "All That's Good" and "Let Me Have Some" working as excellent additions to the program. © John Bush /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1963 | UNI - MOTOWN

"You Really Got a Hold on Me," one of the Miracles' most popular songs, is the cornerstone of this popular set. Smokey brings his feather-light tenor down a couple of octaves on these sessions, ending his Nolan Strong imitation. Strong, of the Diablos, influenced the young William Robinson; Smokey's first recording was a Nolan Strong remake, "Adios Senorita." Some of Robinson's most brilliant songs -- "Such Is Love, Such Is Like," "Happy Landing," "A Love That She Can Count On," and the bouncy "I Can Take A Hint" -- provide some serious grooves. Original member Warren Moore is not pictured or featured because of a prior commitment with Uncle Sam. © Andrew Hamilton /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1971 | Motown

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One of their better latter-period albums. Though the singles ("The Tears of a Clown," "I Don't Blame You At All," the lovely "Satisfaction") were the focal points of the set, the real gem is "No Wonder Love's a Wonder," a haunting, socially conscious ballad where Smokey Robinson speaks the lyrics as the Miracles harmonize in the background. It marked one of the few times Robinson ever engaged in social commentary. © John Lowe /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1999 | Motown

Like any record company worth their salt, MCA knows a good gimmick when they see it, and when the millennium came around, the 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection wasn't too far behind. Supposedly, the millennium is a momentous occasion, but it's hard to feel that way when it's used as another excuse to turn out a budget-line series. But apart from the presumptuous title, 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection turns out to be a very good budget-line series. True, it's impossible for any of these brief collections to be definitive, but they're nevertheless solid samplers that don't feature a bad song in the bunch. For example, take Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' 20th Century volume -- it's an irresistible budget-priced summary of their prime Motown recordings. There may be a couple of noteworthy songs missing, but many of their best-known songs are here, including "The Tracks of My Tears," "Ooo Baby Baby," "The Tears of a Clown" and "I Second That Emotion." Serious fans will want something more extensive, but this is an excellent introduction for neophytes and a great sampler for casual fans, considering its length and price. That doesn't erase the ridiculousness of the series title, but the silliness is excusable when the music and the collections are good. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released February 22, 1994 | UNI - MOTOWN

This four-CD boxed set covers every essential track that Smokey Robinson and the Miracles ever recorded, and then some -- at least a dozen never previously anthologized tracks are included here, among them the original single versions of "Way Over There" (unavailable elsewhere) and "Shop Around" (which had already been released locally in Detriot when Berry Gordy decided one night to get a session together, punch up the rhythm, and lay down a new version, which became the hit). Even better is the remastering, which runs circles around any previous edition of the Miracles' work, and the annotation -- including an essay by Claudette Robinson -- that gives credit to all of the participants, including the backup musicians who were seldom if ever mentioned during Motown's heyday. The Smokey Robinson & the Miracles Anthology is a fine collection, but this set is the definitive history, and irreplaceable for anyone who genuinely loves the group. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Ambient/New Age - Released October 5, 1963 | UNI - MOTOWN

This was recorded in October 1963, when the Miracles still included Claudette Robinson, Smokey's wife, in the lineup; she sings lead on "Let It Snow." Smokey contributes one original, the mid-tempo "Christmas Everyday," that stands as one of the finest Motown seasonal favorites, and one of Smokey's most memorable performances of his long career. © Dennis MacDonald /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Hip-O Select

Three albums after the departure of Smokey Robinson, the Miracles were performing respectably, chalking up a sizable hit in 1974 with the sexually charged “Do It Baby,” but they had no real blockbusters to their name until the sequined, spangled 1975 concept album City of Angels. As its title makes plain, this is a record about Los Angeles in the mid-‘70s, a place where everybody is on the prowl and there ain’t nobody straight. Such gay-friendly sentiments were groundbreaking for 1975 but they weren’t exactly uncommon in the days of disco, an era this album evokes effortlessly with its pounding four-four beats and swishing sheets of polyester strings. A large part of the appeal of City of Angels is as a period piece, how the album vacillates between the syrupy satin of the title track and the TV-theme disco of “My Name Is Michael,” peaking with the go-go good times of “Love Machine,” the single that gave the Miracles their biggest hit in the post-Smokey era. Like City of Angels, “Love Machine” is a quintessential slice of ‘70s glitz, and if the rest of the album lacks a single song as galvanizing as that anthem, it captures its time and place in a way few records ever do. [Hip-O Select’s 2010 reissue contains an instrumental version of “Love Machine” as a bonus track.] © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1972 | Motown

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The last studio album they recorded together as a group, it was produced by Johnny Bristol, who was by then experiencing career problems of his own. Although it was a cohesive, servicable disc, it lacked the clarity that made their earlier records (with Smokey at the helm) so special. Still, it gave the group their last Top 40 hit with "We've Gone Too Far to End It Now," which also cracked the R&B Top Ten. © John Lowe /TiVo
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R&B - Released August 29, 2005 | Universal Music Group International

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Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 1970 | UNI - MOTOWN

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R&B - Released August 29, 1967 | UNI - MOTOWN

The most underrated Miracles LP of the '60s, Make It Happen featured a spate of great songs, including three or four that really should've been hits (plus one that only became the group's biggest hit three years after release). Opening with "The Soulful Shack," a grooving dance number that would've fit perfectly on the previous year's Away We a Go-Go, the album featured plenty of near-misses, including a pair of delightful good-times dance songs, "My Love Is Your Love (Forever)" and "It's a Good Feeling," plus a great choice for a cover, a tender version of Little Anthony & the Imperials' "I'm on the Outside (Looking In)." The hits really did shine more than any of the other songs, though, marking yet another leap in the level of Smokey Robinson's compositional sophistication. "The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage" is a brilliant twist on a romantic novelty in the Motown mold (with a production that deftly references the British Invasion), while "More Love" is the most sincere lyric and most emotive performance in the group's catalog, a song of reassurance occasioned by several miscarriages suffered by Robinson's wife (and fellow Miracle), Claudette. The capstone, however, was the last song, "The Tears of a Clown," originally written as an up-tempo instrumental groover by Stevie Wonder and his producer, Hank Cosby. Robinson's lyric is witty yet sublime, and his lead vocal is one of the best performances of his recording career. One of the biggest misses by the notoriously hit-conscious Motown organization was failing to release this as a single before it became an album hit on British radio in 1970, three years after it first appeared. It shot to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and prompted Motown to re-release Make It Happen under a new title, The Tears of a Clown. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 24, 2002 | UNI - MOTOWN

There isn't much of a crucial difference between this and the previous Smokey Robinson & the Miracles collection entitled Anthology, originally issued in 1973 and then on CD with minor variations in 1995. More to the point, perhaps, about 85 percent of the songs on the two-CD set Ooo Baby Baby: The Anthology were also on the more plainly titled Anthology, so the differences are kind of cosmetic. Ooo Baby Baby: The Anthology has all 28 of their Top 40 hits, so someone looking for the essentials, garnished by a good amount of other material that isn't as familiar, will undoubtedly be satisfied. Ooo Baby Baby: The Anthology does have a small but significant edge in the inclusion of the exquisite mid-'60s mid-tempo ballad "Would I Love You," a great 1964 B-side that somehow escaped inclusion on the CD iteration of Anthology. As far as other minor differences that will probably escape detection by the great majority of listeners, there are first-ever stereo mixes of "Whatever Makes You Happy," "I Can Take a Hint," and "Baby Don't You Go"; the first CD appearance of both "I Can Take a Hint" (from the 1963 LP The Fabulous Miracles) and a live "I've Been Good to You" (also from a 1963 LP); and new, extended stereo mixes of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Would I Love You," and "I'll Try Something New." However you slice it, it's great soul music, not much less solid than single-disc Miracles collections, though owners of the previous releases titled Anthology will not find enough extras here to merit investment. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1999 | Motown

As part of Motown's Lost and Found series, this brings together 20 previously unreleased tracks and rarities of prime Smokey and the Miracles from various early time frames in the Motown catalog. Some of the earliest, like "My Mama Told Me," echo Motor City role models Nolan Strong and the Diablos right down to the guitar riffs behind Smokey's uncharacteristically bluesy vocals, while others, like "Please Say You Love Me," splendidly wear their doo-wop roots on their sleeves. Here we find the group taking on Broadway show tunes in modern jazz harmonies and nailing it on "If I Were a Bell" and "Easy Street." The title track is one of Smokey's patented slow burners. In the rarities department, there's the lost Ron and Bill B-side, "Don't Say Bye Bye," only outdone by "Mr. Misery," a rare lead vocal by Claudette Robinson in the grand girl group style, and a live version of "Shop Around" that's as raw as anything Smokey ever committed to wax. In the final analysis, however, most of the tracks here just make you wonder how material this great could have languished in unreleased forms for so long. Smokey's worst session is still better than most superstars' best work; here's a whole CD that makes even his leftovers a tantalizing prospect. © Cub Koda /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2008 | Motown

Released by Motown/Universal in 2008, The Definitive Collection is an update of 1998's The Ultimate Collection, albeit one with seven fewer cuts and less information in the liner notes (release dates, chart placements, musician credits). There is no indication that the mastering of the material between the two releases is any different. For the casual Smokey Robinson & the Miracles fan, the truncated tracklisting is not a big deal. The songs not on this disc that were included on The Ultimate Collection were not major; in fact, not one of them cracked the Top 30 of the Black Singles chart. All the basic essentials are here, from 1962's "I'll Try Something New" through 1970's "The Tears of a Clown." © Andy Kellman /TiVo