I am a sucker for these kinds of duets albums, but I don’t think that’s difficult in this case with Smokey Robinson and his music as the core and guests like James Taylor especially, but also Sheryl Crow, John Legend, Jessie J who I do like occasionally as on her track with Smokey Cruisin’, Steve Tyler whose otherwise out-there-ness can grate but has an interesting place on You Really Got a Hold on Me, but this is countered by a bloated accompaniment from Elton John, and an accompaniment from Gary Barlow I refuse to listen to as he has become such a dick – well, that may not be recent.
|Smokey with Steve Tyler, sharing teeth|
I might as well also admit that I rather enjoyed Engelbert Calling by [who else:] Englebert Humperdinck which does have the same mix of good/bad quests [depending on your proclivities], so obviously Elton John is there again, and Olivia Newton John and Cliff Richard, but also Shelby Lynne, Willie Nelson [and he seems to being doing a duet with someone daily, though these are always pretty damn fine] and Ron Sexsmith, amongst many others.
|Smokey performing with Jessie J|
Smokey & Friends is also one of those albums recorded across continents so the artists were never actually together and that demeans the process a little. That said, production is excellent and sympathetic to the artists who accompany Smokey, so there are more ‘modern’ arrangements for most, though frankly it is the original music that shines. Smokey and James sing together on Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t That Peculiar and that’s probably my favourite, but I’ll end by simply stating it is simply entertaining: an increasingly familiar format/idea, but very well done here, mostly.