Time Flies When You're Having Fun
Robso Records, 2009
REVIEW BY: Mark Millan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/28/2010
When Smokey Robinson was just sixteen years old, he and his band auditioned for Motown, which was owned and run by Berry Gordy. Gordy was present at the time, and while he was impressed with the young singer, he was shocked to learn that Smokey had performed five of his very own songs. As history now tells us, an enduring friendship and highly successful partnership ensued right up to this very day. Robinson penned some of Motown’s biggest hits as well as fronted The Miracles and chalked up numerous hit records of his own.
He now enjoys a legendary status among music fans and his peers that only few ever really experience. He still performs and records when he feels the inspiration to do so, and last year he did just that with a beautiful collection of funk/soul gems and a few dreamy love songs. Time Flies When You’re Having Fun just reminds us why Smokey has been so revered for fifty-plus years now. His unique voice, which occasionally can almost sound effeminate, has rarely sounded better, and although these songs are delicately handled by Robinson (he produced this record), they still carry a certain vibrancy that comes alive whenever he sings from the heart.
This is most evident on tracks like “One Time” and “Girlfriend” when the tempo is upped and Smokey has a little more room to explore his range. To counter this, there’s the dreamlike reading of “Don’t Know Why” that casts Robinson as a crooner of sorts, which is now my favorite version of this iconic song. The title track and “Satisfy You” however suffer a bit from being a little too preciously crafted by Robinson, and although they are sweet tunes, it just makes the record sound a tad mushy when it shouldn’t.
There’s no saving “You’re Just My Life” from the mush-pit because with that title, there was really only one way to go on this one – and boy, did he go there. Maybe the idea to record a duet of the song with India.Arie was not the best one Smokey ever had, but he did hit pay dirt with a couple more collaborations. “You’re The One For Me” is a sizzling duet with Joss Stone, who more than holds her own trading sweet-nothings with Smokey.
“Please Don’t Take Your Love” is the album’s funkiest moment courtesy of a fat bassline and some awesome guitar work by Carlos Santana, all of which is topped off by a great Spanish/English lyric. More of this would’ve been too good; these guys should really get together again and just let it happen. “Love Bath” is a slick Sade-esque song in way of both sound and lyrical content; it’s so good it doesn’t even seem slightly odd that a seventy year old man is putting it out there like this: “I wanna see if you can take all of me / Let’s take a love bath, baby.”
“That Place” again suffers from an almost boring arrangement that just finds Smokey going through the motions and offering nothing memorable. He does, however, go out on a high with a hidden bonus track, a great slow-burning, funked-up version of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” that he makes his own with unnerving ease.
So although this album is a bit hit-or-miss, it’s in no way a bad or even dull release – just a little too “soft” in places, and the strong tracks make up for those moments easily. Smokey is one of my very favorite singers, and Time Flies When You’re Having Fun is worthy addition to his vast catalogue (although this one probably works best in the bedroom, if ya know what I mean).