Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

Live!

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Live! (1969) is the second of three concert long-players that featured the Miracles during Smokey Robinson's tenure as lead vocalist. The cosy nature of the performance is undoubtedly a derivative of the familiar and intimate confines of the Roostertail Club in Motown's native Detroit, Michigan stomping grounds. Unlike Miracles on Stage (1963), the contents of this set are much more polished -- not to mention they run practically twice as long. By the late '60s Claudette Robinson (aka "Mrs. Smokey Robinson') departed to raise their children and work with the Miracles behind the scenes. Remaining was the familiar incarnation with Smokey supported by fellow Miracles Pete Moore, Bobby Rogers and Ronald White. Unfortunately there is no specific designation of the backing musicians. However, the trained ear should be able to discern the presence of Motown's session heavies, as few can replicate all the details buried deep within the grooves and indelibly stamped upon the consciousness of every soul music lover. Together they present a review worthy of Broadway. Their range of material spans from the stylish opening Great White Way medley "Once in a Lifetime"/"You and the Night and the Music" on to authoritative run-throughs of "I Second That Emotion," "Going to a Go Go," "Mickey's Monkey" and "Yester-Love." "Ooo, Baby Baby" deserves special mention, as the four-part harmonies prominently coalesce into a singular dynamic statement. Equally mesmerizing is their version of "Poinciana," with a blend that defies even the Four Freshmen's definitive reading. Concurrent pop songs such as "Up, Up and Away" and the somniferous interpretation of "Theme from 'The Valley of the Dolls'" are given that extra touch of Miracles' magic, rendering most others comparatively non-essential. In 2004, Live! was coupled with 1957-1972 (1969) on a limited-edition two-disc compilation, available exclusively from Hip-O Select's online shop.

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