The Miracles - Hi... We're the Miracles
Jun 24, 2020
The History of the Albums - n° 171

If I had to talk about one of the most important pages in history for R&B and more globally for popular music, what would you think? Personally I have in mind a label, one of the most emblematic and prolific: Motown. Although Motown has really lasted for several decades, Motown had its best years in the 60's and 70's, because it was the reference for soul music. It is one of the music labels that left an impressive cultural legacy. Not only musically, but also politically and humanely. As Motown represented a label containing mainly Afro-American artists, it was often a strong supporter in the struggles against discrimities and right-wingers mainly in the 1960s. The label's history began in the late 50's, when a certain Berry Gordy Jr. who worked in a record store in Detroit became passionate about selling and producing music. Long before launching the label, Berry Gordy Jr. began producing and supporting artists performing in clubs and bars in his city. In fact, he noticed a very young doo-wop singer, a guy named Smoke Robinson, for whom he saw enormous potential. He was right. Berry Gordy Jr. and Smoke Robinson would work together for the first time in 1957, but it would be two years later before their collaboration took on a more significant scale. In the meantime Berry Gordy Jr. created Tamla Records (which later became Motown) in 1959.

As with all successful labels, the record companies all had a star/group that helped propel them to the top. Tamla (Motown) started their young existence with artists such as Marv Johnson or Eddie Holland, but in the end the band that set them on fire remains unsurprisingly The Miracles. Formed in 1955 also in Detroit, The Miracles of 6 members: Claudette Robinson, Ronald Ronnie White, Robert Bobby Rogers, Marv Tarplin, Warrend Pete Moore and of course its leader Smokey Robinson. In addition to representing Motown's image to perfection, The Miracles is one of the most influential bands of the time, as their mix of soul and rock n roll, very pop oriented, had a considerable impact on the artists/groups of the 60/70's, from the Beach Boys to Stevie Wonder. Although the band is less known today and much less streamed, they still have an influence, directly or indirectly. This band stood out for their numerous commercial successes and their very sentimental doo-wop/soul sound, which has become a reference to this day. This is the band that has notably democratized Pop-soul and Smooth-soul.

Before the band was called the Miracles, some members of the group sang and knew each other since their childhood. The band started out slowly, while they were still teenagers. In 1958, The Miracles became the official name and it was in this year that their career really began, recording their first singles for the END label via Berry Gordy Jr. The following year, the band signed to Tamla, freshly formed, and released Bad Girl, their first hit, reaching the Billboard R&B top 100. The 2 leaders of the band Smokey and Claudette get married at the end of the year. In spite of this first small success, the group struggles to be heard, whether popularly or during their first tour, hourement in 1960, they will chain the successful singles, including Shop Around which not only will surpass their ambition, but also this single will go down in music history as an important R&B/POP standard. This song represents the sound proposed by Motown and The Miracles. They are not the pioneers of Soul, but they knew how to make it unique to them and make it evolve. It's also their first Billboard R&B number 1 and a second place overall!

Building on their success, The Miracles went back into the studio to record the final songs of their debut album Hi! We're The Miracles. Even before the June 1961 release of their album, The Miracles had already had several singles that put them in the spotlight, released at the end of 1960. Backed by the classic Shop Around, the rest of the album is not to be ashamed of. Obviously this song surpasses the rest without hesitation, but the album is terribly solid. It drips with catchy melodies and instrumentations, which stay in your head, without ever coming out of it. This famous Motown Pop-Soul sound that they knew how to establish, is distinguished by their slow and warm playing combined with the devastating vocals and harmony of Smokey, Ronnie and Claudette. That's not all, The Miracles finally anticipate the types/structures of formations that we will find later on in some bands of the 60s. They also understood and demonstrated through their writing and their intelligence, because the songs are their own, that they all had a range of possibilities that opened up a world, especially for love songs. If you take for example Shop Around or the magnificent outroduction Dont Leave me, there are almost all the ingredients you can find in R&B or Pop Rock from 1960 to 1965. Although Hi! We're The Miracles can't be recognized as a classic or even as one of the best albums of all time, it remains an important and influential reference. Finally, 1961 was a rather disruptive year for the band. Both their success was impressive, but the vast majority of the members experienced difficulties. However, one often remembers what remains palpable, like the fact that The Miracles released 2 albums that same year. We can clearly see a blow less well on their second album Cookin' With The Miracles, which can be explained by the difficulties they went through. Fortunately, they were able to overcome them, to improve their notoriety and become a legend, like a musical monument
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