Artist: Smokey Robinson
Title: “A Quiet Storm”
For Valentine’s Day, a classic R&B record felt like an apropos choice.
At a time when disco was escalating in popularity, Smokey Robinson made a decisive move in the opposite direction.
The end result is a short record in “A Quiet Storm,” but Robinson makes it count. Spreading seven songs across 36 minutes, it stands with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” and Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” as one of the essential R&B albums of the ’70s. It spawned a genre of “quiet storm” sessions on AM radio stations.
Robinson’s silky smooth voice guides the listener throughout, the centerpiece of a set that relies on seductive, slow-burning soul.
“Baby That’s Backatcha” was a hit, a definite blast of ’70s R&B funk, including a flute solo in the bridge. Robinson tackles “Happy,” the theme from “Lady Sings the Blues,” which he loaned to a teenage Michael Jackson, in a soothing upper register that coasts on horns in the back half.
Considering what else was going on in dance and R&B in the era, “Quiet Storm” lives up to its name and feels bold upon reflection.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.