Smokey Robinson – Timeless Love
(New Door Records – 2006)
by Tammy La Gorce
Add Smokey Robinson to the list of sophisticated crooners sidestepping the race to rack up songwriter credits in favor of revisiting standards. Don’t add him to the list of well-loved pop statesmen willing to let a team of backing musicians do the heavy lifting, though. With Timeless Love, Smokey situates himself in a candle-lit lounge of the mind: these may be other artists’ songs, but he sketches in the details with the very stuff of his soul. Which, as anybody who’s ever sung along to “The Tracks of My Tears” knows, is leagues more potent than most. Heart-stabbingly so. In Frank Sinatra’s quite capable hands, for example, “Fly Me to the Moon” is a bawdy, puff-chested romp; in Smokey’s it’s a tender celebration of blinding love (ditto for “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”).
Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” meanwhile, becomes less brooding and more pleading as he ups the romantic balladeer quotient–there’s something in the twists and turns of that gorgeous, trembling tenor. While Smokey, at 67, is still able to run vocal circles around many of the artists more closely associated with these numbers, it’s with his own song, “I Love Your Face,” that he threatens to do the most damage to the already weak-kneed. Couples in black tie might have been swirling around him as he recorded this disc: dim the lights and sway accordingly.