The time that has flown is Smokey's 50 years in the business, but it could just as well refer to the number of years since Robinson has released a smooth soul album: almost 20 full years! Smokey, of course, has stayed active during the interim, both on-stage and on record, but Time Flies When You're Having Fun marks a return to the coolly simmering quiet storm that was his stock in trade during the '70s and '80s. Apart from production techniques, not much has changed in Smokey's music during the time off, either: this is still smooth, unhurried soul that vacillates between elegance and supper-club classiness. Of course, since these are two sides of the same coin, they fit together seamlessly, with the only question being whether the immaculately polished music veers toward the corny, but whenever it does, Smokey's impeccably tailored vocals steer it back to toward the sweetly romantic. After all these years, Smokey still makes it all seem easy – so easy that it's puzzling why he hasn't made a record like this in so long, because as this comforting, velvety album proves, nobody does it better than he.
Mention Nashville and the first thing that enters most minds will be Country Music and the Grand Ole Opry. Then again, for true believers the city is also the nation’s centre for Bible publishing. Perhaps less well-known but in striking contrast to God and double-knit suits is that throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, Nashville was also the home of a thriving blues and R&B recording industry. Principal among the labels were Bullet, Republic, Tennessee, Nashboro and Excello, with a welter of smaller ones such as World, Mecca, J-B and Cheker.
The blues recording industry began in New York City and for most of the 1920s, musicians travelled from all parts of the country to make their mark in the recording studio. Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey were amongst the most popular female singers but they were soon rivaled by the likes of Lonnie Johnson, Robert ‘Barbecue Bob’ Hicks, Texas Alexander and Mississippi John Hurt. Kansas Joe McCoy cut ‘When The Levee Breaks’, justly famous in its Led Zeppelin incarnation, in the city.