Timeless Love

There's been a Sinatra-esque sea of pre-rock song lately, from Rod Stewart's dynasty of releases, to the scuffed explorations of Jamie Cullum and Sondre Lerche, to offerings from Barry Manilow, Alison Moyet, Cyndi Lauper, Carly Simon and still others. None can match the creative soul of this thirteen-song set by Smokey Robinson, however. Although only one song, a subtly funky version of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin," emphasizes contemporary rhythms, and although the Los Angeles Strings judiciously appear throughout, the overwhelming aura of the album is neither modern nor vintage. Instead, the music is about the high miracle of Robinson's voice, blazing here with steady flow, detail and invention. It inhabits different arrangement moods that the singer, who produced the sessions, mates to classics he cherishes. On the climactic "Tea for Two," the vibe is sex; on "You Go to My Head," it's a Sixties St. Tropez trip; on the Gershwins' "Love Is Here to Stay," it's a kind of rich counterintuitive sadness. Old? On this lovely collection, that only means something new.