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'Smokey & Friends' review: Good-natured collaboration

"Smokey & Friends," by Smokey Robinson. Credit: AP / Verve

The biggest problem with Smokey Robinson's "Smokey & Friends" (Verve) is also its biggest strength: No one sings these classics better than Smokey did. So, do we really need to hear what he sounds like with Elton John on "Tracks of My Tears" or with Jessie J on "Cruisin' "? No offense to Elton, but no.

What keeps "Smokey & Friends" on track, though, is the good-natured spirit of collaboration that rolls through some of these songs, especially the wild ending of "You Really Got a Hold on Me" with Steven Tyler, and the laid-back, bluesy reworking of "Ain't That Peculiar" with James Taylor.

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"Smokey & Friends," by Smokey Robinson

GRADE B+

BOTTOM LINE Smokey has some pretty great friends, but they're no match for him.

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