Smokey Robinson leans on romance with new album ‘Gasms’

The album has a bit of old and new, with songs like “I Keep Calling You” and “Roll Around” written years ago melded with newer tunes.

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Smokey Robinson attends the screening for “The Apollo” during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, 2019, in New York. Robinson’s latest album is “Gasms.”

Smokey Robinson attends the screening for “The Apollo” during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 24, 2019, in New York. Robinson’s latest album is “Gasms.”

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

NEW YORK — When Smokey Robinson started dating his-now wife more than 20 years ago, she didn’t want people to know about it.

Robinson and Frances Glandney, who married in 2002, were part of a group of longtime pals and she knew they’d start gossipping about her and the legendary singer-songwriter.

“When we first started started seeing each other, she wanted to keep it on the down-low. She didn’t want anybody to know because we were friends. And then all our friends were going to be talking about us,” Robinson said.

Naturally, that became fodder for a song — “I Keep Calling.” Robinson has been holding onto it for years — complete with the lyrics “Simple things like touching in public/Private touches goin’ unseen” — until this month when it appears on his “Gasms” album, his first collection in almost a decade.

“Gasms” finds the 83-year-old in a frisky mood, with the Motown icon (who performs Friday night at Hard Rock Casino in Gary, Ind.) writing a collection for the bedroom, with yearning across its nine tracks. Just a few titles alone hint at that: “Beside You,” “I Wanna Know Your Body” and “How You Make Me Feel.”

“My thoughts on it is that you can put it on and be with the person that you want to be with and just kick back and enjoy each other,” he says. “It’s more of the idea of love.”

The album has a bit of old and new, with songs like “I Keep Calling You” and “Roll Around” written years ago melded with newer tunes. “They were all songs that fit that particular mood that I wanted to set,” he says.

He admits it’s his most blatantly sexy collection, and that jumps out with the title track, in which he tells his lover “You give me gasms” — eyegasms and eargasm. Another song, “I Fit in There,” has the lyrics, “If you’ve got an inner vacancy/Baby then make it a place for me.”

“I consider all the songs to be food for thought. You can take them wherever you want to take them,” he says. “Whatever your thought pattern is for any of those titles that’s really what I want them to be. I want them to be food for thought.”

Producer, engineer and mixer J.J. Blair, who has worked with June Carter Cash, Rod Stewart and P. Diddy, mixed half of Robinson’s new album and says a perfectionist streak came through.

“I’d make a mix for him and he’d drive around listening to it for two weeks, and he’d call me up and want to come to change two words,” says Blair. “It’s just so encouraging to see somebody of that stature and in that pantheon of greats really care still.”

Blair says the new material isn’t that far from what Robinson is known for, maybe just a little more R-rated. “I think we’re just not used to octogenarians throwing that at us, but Nicki Minaj can come out and say whatever she’s going to say — we don’t think twice about it? I don’t know.”

Robinson, whose catalogue of hits includes “My Girl,” “The Tracks of My Tears” and “I Second That Emotion,” says he doesn’t write hoping for chart success.

“There’s no formula. There’s no process, man. It’s just you write what you feel. You have given it your best,” he says. “You do it until you feel as though you’ve given it your best shot.”

The former vice president of Motown Records released his last collaborative album nine years ago, “Smokey & Friends,” which featured musicians like Elton John, John Legend, Steven Tyler and Mary J. Blige.

Robinson is seemingly always writing. He has a bunch of song fragments waiting to record and laughs that he might be the only person in the world who keeps a cassette recorder by his bed in case he dreams a song lyric or melody.

“If I’m out and about and an idea comes to me, a melody or some words or something, I call my voicemail. That’s a good idea,” he says. “Call your voicemail. Put them down. You don’t want to lose them.”

Smokey Robinson performs at 8 p.m. April 28 at Hard Rock Casino (5400 W. 29th, Gary, Ind.). Tickets: $79.50+. Visit ticketmaster.com.

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