Lost but not least! Smokey Robinson – Theme From Big Time (Motown)
Comin’ up with a review is always a challenge on its own. As there are so many things (paremeters) you’ve got to think of. Beginning with its relevance and, in the meantime, its potential.
‘Give The People What They Want’, used to sing The O’Jays back in 1975. And how not to follow these reputedly wise words as a matter of fact? Although everything will depend on your interpretation of them. With two solutions offering themselves to you at the end.
The first one would be to come up with something you, the people, love. In other words, a famous track. Like say ‘Just To See Her’ which we featured in our 10 essential Quiet Storm gems for instance. But what if what you want is to be surprised? What if what you want is to eventually discover things??? This being exactly where this ‘Theme From Big Time’ is to be found…
Many factors explain as to why the ‘Theme From Big Time’ didn’t reach the recognition. Beginning with its concept, quite away from Robinson‘s Doo-Wop-influenced repertoire. The latter comin’ up in an infectious Psychedelic Soul/Funk vein, ironically reminding of the late Norman Whitfield‘s productions. With arrangements courtesy of Ronnie McNeir and Sonny Burke, and a guitar part courtesy of Melvin ‘Wah Wah’ Watson.
Last but not least, and as its title suggests it, the ‘Theme From Big Time’ served as the main theme to the 1977 Andrew Georgias directed film of the likes. A film featuring Christopher Joy and Jayne Kennedy which added itself to the long list of of what gave shape to the Blaxploitation at the time. This pretty much adding to its blatant lack of notoriety.
Smokey Robinson‘s contribution to the maturation of Soul Music is just priceless. From his early days as the front man of The Miracles. To his songwriting work (‘Ooo Baby Baby’, ‘Going To A Go-Go’, ‘My Guy’, among many others). Not to mention his career both as a producer and a solo artist. This in addition to his upbringing to legendary label Motown Records as its Vice President…
A Detroit, Mi native, Robinson wrote hist first song – ‘Uncle Reamus’ for a school play by the age of 6. He then came to form a Doo-Wop group by the likes of The Five Chimes during his His Schooldays. This along with childhood friend Ronald White and classmate Pete Moore. Two years later (in 1957), they turned themselves into The Matadors with the addition of Bobby Rogers. Then soon after they became The Miracles with tha arrivals of Claudette Rogers and Marv Tarplin.
The Miracles released their very first single – ‘Got A Job’ – back in 1958 on End Records. Then a follow-up – ‘Money’ – before delivering a one off by the likes of ‘Bad Girl’ on Chess Records. In the meantime, they’d met Berry Gordy after a failed audition for Brunswick Records. With the latter signing them on Tamla Records. This marking the start of an impressive collaboration. With the band releasing 27 albums for the label between 1961 and 1989. This resulting 26 Top 40 Pop hits. With 16 of which reachin’ the Billboard Top 20, 7 top 10 singles, and a #1 single (‘The Tears Of A Clown’).
Band leader Smokey Robinson established himself as one of the most prolific songwriters/producers at the time. Eventually working with The Temptations (‘The Way You Do Things You Do’, ‘Get Ready’). But also Mary Wells (‘My Guy’) and Marvin Gaye (‘Ain’t That Peculiar’).
Strangely enough, his career as a solo artist didn’t reach a status comparable to the one of label mates such as Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder. Most likely due to the fact he’d been granted as the Vice President of Motown in the meantime.
Robinson delivered his debut-album – ‘Smokey’ – back in 1973 out of which ‘Just My Soul Responded’ became a U.K. Top 40 hit. But quite strangely and despite his regular efforts from a year to another, his own music remained overlooked to a few exceptions. Therefore, no wonder why the ‘Theme From Big Time’ from his 1977 album of the likes didn’t get the attention it deserved.
He would hopefully be more lucky 2 years before with ‘A Quiet Storm’. An album which featured hits such as ‘Baby That’s Backatcha’ and ‘The Agony & The Ecstasy’. This in addition to ‘Quiet Storm’ which gave birth to the style of the likes. A concept speakin’ of which you may find likes a listener’s digest in our 10 essential gems in the category. And he would have to wait a 6 years period to get back to the charts with ‘Being With You’. Theh teamin’ up with label mate Rick James on the memorable ‘Ebony Eyes’ in 1983.
Among his most famous songs, ‘Just To See Her’, from his 1987 ‘One Heartbeat’ album, got him to receive his first Grammy Award. Alas, the Motown’s absorption by MCA back in 1988 didn’t manage to be of any help for him. Leavin’ the label for SBK Records then eventually returnin’ without scoring significant results at the end.
His last effort to date, apart from a Christmas Album that saw the light in 2017, is ‘Smokey & Friends’. An album of duets which saw him teamin’ up with luminaries such as Mary J Blige and John Legend. But also Elton John, James Taylor and Sheryl Crow back in 2014.