Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Season for Miracles - Smokey Robinson and The Miracles

The Season for Miracles
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Motown 5253ML

This is a reissue of the second Christmas album released by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles which was originally issued on Tamla as TS307.  I put it on to trim the tree this year and found it very pleasing.  It features an engaging mix of original songs and traditional carols.  The traditional carols are given Motown style arrangements with strong rhythm sections over which the Miracles deliver typically dynamic vocal arrangements with stimulating harmonies.  I particularly like the driving performance of "Go Tell It On The Mountain."  They also offer up lovely performances of combined melodies of "Deck the Halls" with "Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella" and "Away in a Manger" with "Coventry Carol."  "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is given a jazzy arrangement by Wade Marcus that features terrific ensemble singing by the group.  It is one of my favorite tracks.  In contrast the sappy arrangement of Mel Torme and Robert Wells' classic "The Christmas Song" leaves me indifferent despite the gorgeous vocals.  "Jingle Bells" is basically indestructible and easily survives its Motownization.  Among the original songs the most striking one is "A Child is Waiting" by Joe Hinton and Patti Jerome.  It is not a Christmas song, but rather a song endorsing adoption, but with its generosity of spirit and heart-warming message it fits in well with the rest of the album and gives the record an uplifting finish.  The originals also include two songs by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright.  "I Can Tell When Christmas is Near" is the better of the two.  It is driven by a catchy piano riff and features a lively performance by the group.  "It's Christmas Time" is also piano driven but is more sedate emphasizing Robinson's sensitive vocal.  It recounts the events around the birth of Jesus.  Robinson wrote "I Believe in Christmas Eve" which is also a religious song but has enough of a pop flavor that I still find it very appealing.  Ron and Deborah Miller's "The Day That Love Began" previously appeared on Stevie Wonder's 1967 Christmas album.  I find the song corny and don't really care for either version but I give the edge to Wonder for a more convincing vocal.  "Peace on Earth (Goodwill Toward Men)" by Jimmy and Ann Roach is the most undistinguished of the original songs but it is still pleasant to listen to.  The absence of any real standout songs keeps this album from being an essential Christmas record and I would prefer more secular Christmas songs, but this is still a very worthwhile record that should appeal to most fans of the group.  Recommended to religious Motown buffs.

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