Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

Special Occasion

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Another strong LP from Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' late-'60s renaissance, Special Occasion was driven by an opening trio of Top 40 hits ("If You Can Want," "Yester Love," the title song), the first of which was not only the biggest hit from the album, but one that illustrated the Miracles could do funky material as well as they did pop. Another gritty composition, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," was released between the hit versions by Gladys Knight & the Pips and Marvin Gaye and has the quick tempo of Knight's original but more of an uptown feel -- a perfect fit for Robinson's falsetto and the group's backing vocals. Robinson's production of the Beatles' "Yesterday" is a stirring cover, stretching out the song to allow for a set of unusually dark harmonies from the Miracles. A few of the album additions are below the quality of most Miracles' songs (Norman Whitfield's throwaway love lyric on "Everybody Needs Love" is particularly embarrassing), but the group made the most of even mediocre songs like Robinson's "Your Mother's Only Daughter" and "You Only Build Me up to Tear Me Down."

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