The problem with reviewing this kind of ultra-soft soul music isn’t simply that it’s functional; it’s not designed for solo listening. Either it’s music to play when you’re with the one you love, or it’s music to play when you’re thinking about being with them. If you’re concentrating on the music, in other words, you’re doing it wrong, and if it demands your attention, it’s doing it wrong. That fits a song presenting Smokey as someone so transported by love the rest of the world becomes a mildly annoying distraction. But it still leaves “Being With You” as one of the wispiest of hits, plenty of quiet but not enough storm.

It doesn’t have to be like that: done well, this kind of slow jam is genuinely evocative of love as mystery, a warming or taunting presence at the edge of your everyday consciousness. Smokey’s own superb “Cruisin'” ebbs and rises that way. But even if its murmuring chorus is memorable, and Smokey’s voice as creamy and philosophical as ever, “Being With You” doesn’t transmit its devotion well enough, and its undoubted loveliness winds up seeming inert.

Score: 5

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