This is a puzzling album. One could ask “How Far Will They Go?” in blending genres. Smokey can create pretty funky beats – like on I’ll Always Love You – on which a very versatile singer, John “Smokey” Condon, expresses himself. He can sound like Iggy Pop on one track (DTNA, which stands for Dance the Night Away), then like a crooner from the 70s on the next, then like Michael Hutchence on another!

The singer, which hails from Baltimore and is somehow a gay rock icon of the seventies, uses a looped pattern on drums and bass which sometimes barely changes during the song (Strong Love). Singer Condon and producer EJ Emmons, who were also a couple at that time, just seem to jam on it. That could go endlessly. Maybe it did, live.

 

This is where the danger lies for that type of song construction. To repeat a few notes on a 7 minute song is quite a gamble. Either people dance all the way through and just can’t get enough, or they get annoyed by the third minute, which is probably how long a pop song should last to keep listeners on the edge of their seat.

Smokey took that gamble on each of the 16 songs of this new release, bringing back to life these musicians. Condon has long ago left the music business. On some songs, it works pretty cool, but on as soon as the singing or jamming is a bit weaker (like on the sleepy 6-minute-long song How Far Will You Go?), the temptation to skip skip skip is like a flashing red light calling for my index, in the hope to find an exciting moment on the next track. Which happens!

So, here we are. In front of an album that contains some pretty cool stuff and some that aren’t that fun after 3 minutes.

SMOKEY
How Far Will You Go? The S&M Recordings, 1973-81
(Chapter Music, reissue 2015)

-Genre: funk pop
Listen to videos on the label’s YouTube channel

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier
Fondateur et rédacteur en chef
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Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 4 500 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Nicolas a publié "Les perles rares et les grands crus de la musique" en janvier 2013, un ouvrage de 1250 pages en deux tomes.