Smokey Robinson – 1974 – A Quiet Storm
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Intro by Graig Lytle Review by Abid
Rip, posting and adittional info’s by Nikos
The genius of William “Smokey” Robinson is immeasurable. As many of his prior songs had shaped R&B and pop music, this album would have a similar effect. The title track became the namesake for a music format. The album itself had three singles hit the charts. Arranged in an intermittent rhythm, “Baby That’s Backatcha” ran up the Billboard R&B charts to number one inside 16 weeks. It was Robinson’s first number one single since leaving the Miracles. The lyric of the ballad “The Agony and the Ecstasy” hit the Top Ten at number seven, and it was followed by the masterpiece “A Quiet Storm“.
Although it only managed to seal the Top 25, it has since made a greater impact on the music charts and music industry. Briefly, radio mogul Cathy Hughes, owner of Radio One, was the general manager at Howard University radio WHUR during the early ’70s when she created the format “the quiet storm.” She used Smokey Robinson’s composition as the theme song. Before long, it caught on around the country and evolved into a new market. This album also features the “Wedding Song” which was written for Hazel and Jermaine Jackson’s wedding and the “Happy” theme from the movie Lady Sings the Blues.
A1 Quiet Storm 7:47
A2 The Agony And The Ecstasy 4:43
A3 Baby That’s Backatcha 3:36
A4 Wedding Song 3:20
B1 Happy (Love Theme From “Lady Sings The Blues”)7:05
B2 Love Letters 4:04
B3 Coincidentally 4:22
The year was 1975, soul music had ventured into the collective social consciousness of America with Motown legends Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder among those at the forefront. The crossover success of making music that was heavily content driven while also being technically sensational caused a paradigm shift. All this had spawned some questions about the direction of a veteran who was just trying to further himself from his old pack The Miracles. Was he going to sing about love again? The answer was a resounding yes; Smokey Robinson would do what he does best. He would revert so far into the extreme that he created a little mini-genre in R&B music and all of this came from “A Quiet Storm”.
I’m not sure how many times I have played the title track since I first heard it, the number may be embarrassingly high. It is a masterful ballad that incorporates many subtle and explicit sounds. If ever there was a song that could make you imagine a nice warm place when you close your eyes it would be this. Everything between the backup choir, the soothing whistle in the background, the flute interlude, the groovy bassline, and Smokey’s lead vocals are just perfect. I always joke that if Cupid could sing, he would sound like Smokey Robinson. That rang true whether he was crooning with The Miracles or on any solo endeavor. “Love Letters” is a high point in terms of tempo, and it displays how masterful Smokey is in leading an uptempo track. He never misses a beat, and his cadence is virtually unmatched when in form. The case is the same in “Baby That’s Backatcha”, which is actually a dive into Disco that some artists were forced to do in the mid to late 70’s because of the Disco movement. But this is far from forced, the song is very controlled and easily pulled off.
“A Quiet Storm” could be a metaphor for musical style, or it could be a metaphor for the elusive thing that is love. Soul had managed to engulf Funk into its scope, and as these two styles collided evidently a mini-revolution occurred in the early 70’s. Smokey offered a soft alternative to that; it had all those new fusion elements, but it was also fuelled by that classic Soul music of the early 60’s. The music isn’t the antithesis to the high-octane rhythms being produced then, but rather a compliment to them. As he sings in “The Agony And The Ecstasy”; “our two worlds intertwine”. It was a match made in musical heaven. That particular song also highlights the love metaphor very clearly. Trying to find a balance between two worlds, both of which are essential. “We got to have the agony, before we have the ecstasy”. Both are excessive, but somehow blend seamlessly.