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Album Review | POP

Smokey Robinson, ‘Smokey & Friends’

Smokey Robinson remains one of the smoothest movers in music. The silky-voiced septuagenarian decided to round up some of his famous friends — from newcomers like Jessie J to old pals like Elton John — to help reimagine a clutch of the classic songs he either performed himself with the Miracles or penned for others in his Motown family. While the new versions have little chance of replacing the originals seared into our collective brains, both Smokey and his buddies certainly sound like they’re having a good time revisiting Hitsville. John gets the party started with a version of “Tracks of My Tears” lightly brushed with smoky organ and Southern accents. Steven Tyler and Nicole Scherzinger lean into the lite rock swagger of “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” A dreamy take on “My Girl” features a blend of different vocal textures as Miguel, Aloe Blacc, and JC Chasez of ’N Sync offer warm harmonies. John Legend comes closest to putting a truly personal stamp on the sultry ballad “Quiet Storm.” But it is Robinson’s ambling, bluesy romp through “Ain’t That Peculiar” with a game James Taylor that helps make the album swing. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Ain’t That Peculiar”

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