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Marvin Gaye

That healthy glow? That's real cocaine!

Introduction
The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye
That Stubborn Kinda Fellow
On Stage Recorded Live
When I'm Alone I Cry
          Together
Hello Broadway
A Tribute to the Great Nat King Cole
How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You
Moods of Marvin Gaye
Take Two
Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston
United
In the Groove/I Heard It Through the Grapevine
You're All I Need
M.P.G.
Easy
That's the Way Love Is
What's Goin' On
Trouble Man
Diana and Marvin (with Diana Ross)
Let's Get It On
Live!
I Want You
Live at the London Palladium
Here, My Dear
In Our Lifetime
Midnight Love
Dream of a Lifetime
Romantically Yours

Long since crowned the King of Male Soul Vocalists, Marvin Gaye spent half his career trying to find his voice while cranking away in the grist mill of Motown Records, and the other half avoiding/living down his peak moment.  The man was just about a walking contradiction - a religious man capable of great vision and compassion and a lazy womanizer and lifelong cokehead who begged his girlfriends to cheat on him. He's definitely not the most artistically accomplished of the 60s R&B giants (that's Stevie Wonder), nor was he any sort of embodiment of soul as a sorft of force of nature (that's Otis), nor was he imminently original and super-productive (like James Brown), nor are his hits quite the bread-and-butter AM oldies radio spot-fillers as the Temptations or Supremes.  Hell, he wasn't even the makeout king of his genre (I'd say that's Al Green, or Otis Redding for those extra-sweaty romantics among us).  The man only made one unqualified classic record in his entire career, and then proceeded to fill up the rest with over a decade's worth of toss-offs, oddballs, soundtracks, and half-efforts.  He was, when not under the constant whip of the Motown hit-factory credo or being led by the hand (nose) by one collaborator or another, one lazy motherfucker - he didn't like touring, so after freeing himself from the notorious Motown bus package tours, he pretty much didn't do it unless he was desparately short on cash. He took years between new albums when most people thought 8 months was a long time. He recycled himself endlessly. So to paste Marvin Gaye with any label but 'he had a fine set of pipes and snorted enough coke to make Stevie Nicks look like a paragon of purity' feels awfully strange.  Marvin was just too screwed up and inconsistent to be thought of as the 'king' or anything, and I'll stand by that forever more, no matter that I have the second disc of his Anthology set (along with The Immortal Otis Redding) to thank for sweatily sparking off the now decade-long relationship I have with my wife. But as for 'great artists', Marvin's somewhat overrated. Still, everyone seems to talk about this guy like he was sent to earth to bless us with his quiet, cool-guy demeanor and tastefully hip stylistics, a skullcapped chocolate Messiah for tasteful, gentle soul music and making it safe for white girls to think a black man was handsome. 

The reason is, of course, What's Goin' On, maybe not the first overtly political album by a popular R&B artist (that's probably Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud by James Brown back in 1969, but could also fall to Yeah, I'm Black, What's It To Ya, Asshole? by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers in 1958), but damn near the most important.  Marvin stepped up, and in his inimitably all-smooth-all-the-time way he had, gently took stock of the ever-loving heap of shit society had turned itself into in the late 60's, and by doing so took one of the biggest career risks by an artist of his stature we've ever seen. Marvin sang most (if not all) of the multi-layered vocal parts himself, and put himself into the songwriting far more than he'd ever had in the Sixties, when he was content to lay back and let Ashford and Simpson or Holland-Dozier-Holland do all the heavy lifting.  Marvin cared about this record, and it showed. War, God, Drugs, Poverty, Pollution - it was a hipster Doctor's diagnosis of the World, 1971, and it sounded like a symphony, man. It's hard not to attribute Marvin with more than just the usual level of respect after hearing this album.  One wonders what he'd have been able to do if he'd applied himself like this more often. But, you know, that couch was awful comfy, and there were all those chicks and piles of snow around all the time...

 As I mentioned, the rest of Marvelous Marvin Haggler's album career was marred by the unstoppable machinery of the Motown Formula previous to What's Goin' On, and his advancing state of lethargic bumhood afterwards. Marvin ingratiated himself into the Motown lineup in 1960 as a session drummer and pianist, marrying founder Berry Gordy's sister Anna to, you know, get in good with the boss (she was far older than he, and, in my opinion, looked kind of like the grandmother on Family Matters). I get the impression that Gaye did little but sit around, play a session or two, and spend Gordy's money for a few years until finally gathering the sack to start his own career in 1962. The original concept Gaye had of himself early in his solo career was as a young Nat 'King' Cole - a race-neutral dinner-club crooner who could play the Catskills and have rich white bitches shake their pearls at him...sing 'Moonglow' and shit like that, y'understand.  The problem was, his crooner albums and singles all sank like Mongolian aircraft carriers and the R&B filler releases - the kind he did just to pay the bills - naggingly kept spinning off mid-level hits.  Marvin finally settled on a sort of mid-ground as the resident romantic voice of Motown, which quickly saw him paired up with a succession of female collaborators - Kim Weston, Mary Wells, and, probably most importantly of all, Tammi Terrell. With these duos, Marvin's success rose even further as his career entered a shockingly unfunny phase - from 1965-1968, he hit number one with alarming regularity.  Tammi fell victim to brain cancer during their recording career together, finally becoming so sick that Valerie Simpson's voice was used for hers on their last duet album Easy. Marvin, shaken, continued onward through the end of the Sixties, when his hit 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine' became the biggest-selling Motown hit thus far. He then took a few years off, seemingly uninterested in the state of his career (this would soon become a usual thing with Marvin), but reentered the game with What's Goin' On in late 1971.  Once again a hot property, Gaye then regained his humor value, scored a blaxploitation film (Trouble Man), recorded an other-side-of-the-looking-glass followup to What's Goin On called Let's Get It On, which was sort of like a real-life implementation of one of those jokes where you replace all the instances of 'girl' with 'God' and end up with Christian music, except in reverse. The mid-70's saw Marvin increasing his behavioral weirdness, cohabitating and fathering a child with a teenager (Janis, I believe, but in Marvin's reality she may as well be 'Orifice Nos. 3441, 3442, and 3443') while still married to Anna. Gordy cut him off in 1976, resulting in a bitter divorce that, after the dust and snot settled, required Marvin to give Anna all proceeds from his next album.  Gaye responded by raising childishness to a high art (well, mediocre-okay art) and releasing the double Here, My Dear, which was essentially Gaye backhanding Anna's reputation over a proto-disco beat for 60 minutes.  Dee-licious. The rest of the Seventies, and a few other years there were lost in a coked-out haze wherein Gaye found himself A) homeless and living on a beach in Hawaii, B) attempting to borrow money from Smokey Robinson and being hounded by the IRS until C) he moved to Belgium for awhile. Motown, sick of waiting for Gaye to get off his snowed-in butt and release another Let's Get It On (no doubt to be entitled No, Really, I Just Want To Fuck and Then Beg You To Cheat On Me Before I Threaten To Beat You Up. Is It That Hard to Understand?) released the unfinished (and profanated) In Our Lifetime in 1981. Gaye'd had enough with Motown's manipulations, so he joined Capital Records in 1982. He went on his first large-scale tour since God knows when, released a no-bullshit party album (Midnight Love), and even had, for all intents and purposes, another 'Let's Get It On' called 'Sexual Healing'. All were massive hits, and seemingly marked Marvin's return from the wilderness, except in reality Marvin was so fucked up he decided it was a good idea to go live with Mom and Pop again. Considering Marvin had picked up music to escape his bastard wife- and kid-beating, bible-thumping father in the first place, this was nothing short of a suicide attempt, one to go along with the small collection he was already amassing.  His wishes came true when his father finally shot him dead on April Fool's Day, 1984. Thus endeth the funny.

So, in short, Marvin's career can be split into three categories: Buy A Compilation, Buy What's Goin' On, and Watch Your Step. Most people would be happy with the fantabulous 2-CD Anthology, containing all the big Motown hits, most of What's Goin' On, plus a nice collection of juicy rarities. That is, if you can find it somewhere (it's out of print in lieu of a bloaty boxed set).  Otherwise, you're on your own. Or not. You got the Capn to hold yer hand through the landmines.  Walk softly.

Capn's Note: As this is the first Motown artist I've done, I must report that I am missing a good portion of this man's Sixties albums (the kind made from the three S's - singles, scraps, and shite) because I absolutely refuse to pay I-tunes $13 each for MP3 copies of them.  The ones I don't have are indicated by italics above. I won't be writing 'incomplete' reviews for these, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. I'll probably just never get them.


That Stubborn Kinda Fellow - Motown 1963

Now, when I made that crack above about the quality of Motown's album releases in the Sixties, I didn't mean that all of them were worthless. On the contrary, compare to the kind of diseased horse phlegm that gets passed off as R&B nowadays, these albums are golden - great musical backings from the top-tier Motown house band, smooth, powerful vocals that are untouched by the devilishly deceptive hands of ProTools, and songwriting by the same guys who brought you all those hits all the time.  So Motown is often synonymous with 'safe' - so what? Who, outside of a few obscure ducktailed wingnuts and chitlin-circuit hardcores wasn't safe in 1963? I could stand if they'd been a little less liberal filing all the rough (read: black) edges off their stars, but that's what Stax/Volt and Atlantic were for, I suppose. Motown, and when I say that I mean Marvin Gaye as well, were very much the best of the best for the time - you knew if you were buying a Motown single, you were going to get a quality product. 

But really, these albums kinda suck regardless of their quality control standards.  Stubborn Fellow being the first R&B release from Marvin, (Soulful Moods being his 'champagne kisses and candlelight dreams' croon debut, which stiffed mightily) sure doesn't hold much for the soul fan outside of the opening trio of singles - the title track, 'Hitch Hike', and 'Pride and Joy' are all great Ray Charles-influenced secular gospel stuff - 'Stubborn' riding on the joyous noises of the background choir and a backbeat laid so far behind the best it almost feels backwards, 'Pride and Joy' a buoyant bit of marshmallow fluff upbeat sweet-nothing, and 'Hitch Hike' (as covered by the Rolling Stones) a sort of safe 'ramblin' man' stroll tune with Gaye using his charms to lead his call-and-response girls around like dogs on leashes.

Things go south from here into glop territory. The songs have beats, but they're not real soulful, if you can eradicate my Hutu, and I think you can - 'Get My Hands on Some Lovin' is an oddly confessional track about virginal desperation (the next line is 'before I'm too old') over a faintly Cubano backing track that lacks any funk whatsoever, as does the lame-ass 'Wherever I Lay My Hat', whose only redeeming feature is lending a line to the Temptation's 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone'. 'Soldier's Lament' is the sort of patriotic, 'Wait for me while I'm gone' song they just don't make anymore in these liberal, ironic times (*completely ignores that hideous 'While I'm Gone' vomitpuddle by Two Doors Down*).  'It Hurts Me Too' was later covered by Pigpen in the Grateful Dead, but this bongo-infested ballad bears no resemblance to that one. 'Taking My Time' is saved by Gaye's smoothness, and the fact that it's just about as thematically far away from 'Get My Hands On Some Love' as possible (this time he doesn't want any lovin' whatsoever - must have just bought stock in Kleenex or something). 'Hello There Angel' recalls Marvin's doo-wop roots, refreshingly lacking the overbearing female backing singers that have begun to grate by this point.  And, umm 'I'm Yours You're Mine' is someone's Monday morning songwriting effort, seemingly cobbled together out of every formula and clichĂ© the songwriter could scramble together to meet some deadline. Crap, in other words.

I'll get tired of saying this, I know already, but get a decent compilation with 'Hitch Hike', 'Pride and Joy', and the title track and let this one fade on away. Outside of just hearing more of Marvin's voice, none of the other material here is worthwhile.  No misplaced gems, no overlooked would-be hits. Just more fodder from the grist mill, that's all.

Capn's Final Word:  The kind of album that gave Motown it's shoddy reputation when it comes to LP's.

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Together (with Mary Wells) - Motown 1964

Okay, so I've skipped ahead over a year and two albums - a 'live' one (fifty bucks says half the mix is given over to girlie screaming) and another crooner album that most people agree sucks - I mean with a title like When I'm Alone, I Cry, how good can it be? You might as well name it Reclusive Co-dependent Sissy. (I guaran-damn-tee you Frank didn't ever record an album with a title as lousy as that one).  Together is Marvin's pairing with Mary Wells, at the time one of Motown's biggest stars, and best known for the lame hit 'My Guy'. Well, sorry excuses for hit singles aside, Wells has a very sexy, deep voice that sounds almost more masculine (and definitely more bluesy and convincing) than Marvin's.  Marvin's first attempt at a duet was short-lived but it worked. Marvin's continued failure to break through as the new Nat Cole encouraged Motown to provide him with tougher R&B backing, and Wells' energizing presence seems to light a fire under even the house bands' butts. These tracks are funkier, more rocking, than Stubborn Kinda Fellow ever hinted at, and each one hits a rolling groove that serves as a great platform for the vocalists to let honk. The songs here are good, but have a distinct lack of hits. The only one I recognized was 'What's The Matter With You Baby', one of those waltzy R&B songs that were so popular around this time (think 'It's In His Kiss'), and that's the worst song on the record, the one that seems to rely the most on contrived interaction between the singers. Listen, maybe daydreaming that the co-ed duet was secretly boning each other helped sell records to a repressed hornball crowd in 1964, but nowadays I need a bit more than that - I gotta have some musical heat to get excited about a guy and a girl singing together (which is exactly why that godawful Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow duet makes my stomach attempt a daring escape through my nostril).  Together's got it - they just chose the wrong damn song for a single, that's all. 'Squeeze Me' has enough genuine charisma and chemistry by itself, but then there's eight other winners on top of it. I don't even mind the schlockjockey material ('(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons' is pretty much all you need to know), because it's kept tastefully 'teenage', with lots of late-50's doo-wop background and slow-dance rhythm work. Lots of the songs are jazzy in that they swing hard, but they're kept suitably bluesy and never cross the line into the comatose. Plus, hell...I like the way these two kids sing together. If Mary Wells hadn't gotten the idea that Motown was shafting her on her wages (My stars! A 60's record company underpaying its talent! Who could even think such a thing? Well, smack my ass and call me Spiro Agnew!) and made some moves to leave the label, we might be giving this strong vocalist the same kind of respect we give Diana Ross. By as long as children go hungry, prayers go unanswered, and Al Davis still owns a professional sports team, it will remain an unjust world.

Hey! Find this album and enjoy it! And let it spark your interest in Ms. Mary Wells's underappreciated voice like it did me. This is the perfect sort of obscure Motown gem for the kind of record-junkie wacko that's actually reading this review to spend time and money tracking down. So get on it!

Capn's Final Word: It's hard to overshadow Marvin Gaye, but it happens. Maybe not A-level material, but everything else is plush.

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A Tribute to the Great Nat King Cole - Motown 1965

The only Marvin Liberace record I happen to own, and it's quite enough, thank you. (I've skipped the unpromising Hello Broadway, which I translate as See Ya Later, Ryan) By 1964, it was clear to everyone that Marvin was not going to cash his meal ticket on covering 'My Funny Valentine' and singing for fat white women in $1000 evening gowns, but that didn't stop him from indulging himself just one last time.  To be fair, Nat Cole was the man's main inspiration, Cole's not the worst of the crooner lot by a long shot, and it's not like Marvin was trying to swindle anyone by putting a title like Marvin Gaye Kicks All Sorts Of Rhythm and Blues Ass All Around This Motherfucker on this album - people knew what they were getting into when they bought it.  And shit, I like the chickenfried 'Ramblin' Rose' as much as the next hateful honky. 'Unforgettable', too, except it must be said that Marvin is not at his best when he's restricting the volume of his voice to fit underneath some union scale orchestra, like Cole may have been. Marvin needs to belt it out, and there's just not a lot of room for that on a song like 'Nature Boy' or 'Mona Lisa'.  The uptempo big-band material - 'Straighten Up and Fly Right', 'It's Only a Paper Moon', and 'Send For Me' - works pretty well.  I don't, though, have any excuse for 'Calypso Song', which is so completely embarrassing and racist (self-inflicted, that is) that it makes Al Jolson look like Malcolm X. Strangely enough, there was a whole faddish subgenre of this 'exotica' music around at the time which seemed to exist for the sole purpose of playing off of white people's 'taboo' desire for members of 'savage' races. The album covers all showed some busty white chick tied to a stake by a fire, surrounded by oiled-up, war-painted, threatening black men, or some other variation with a black woman. Of course, we've solved all our race issues now, so we don't have to think that way anymore, now do we? 'Calypso Moon' isn't quite as offensive as that exotica business, but it still makes me, a Southern white guy, twitch in racially-motivated empathy. God knows how Louis Farrakhan would feel about it.

Capn's Final Word: There's no point to write any more about this album.  If any of you gaggle of mouth-breather metal-head readers out there ever buys it, I'll eat my Air Jordans with teriyaki sauce.

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Moods of Marvin Gaye - Motown 1966

Take one, skip one. This time I've passed over How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, a solo Marvin record with the great piano-pounder 'Baby Don't You Do It' that I've been trying to hunt down for awhile now. Now, for Moods for Gayes: despite the title, this is luckily not another supper club ballad album, though I've had my tuxedo hanging around in the closet for three or four years now, and I thought the occasion of this review might present a perfect opportunity to break the fucker out.  So, I'm just gonna do this review naked. I hope my miscellaneous body hair doesn't get all stuck up in this paragraph like it does on the soap in my shower. That would be disgusting. I might have to shut myself down for that.

The R&B Marvin has now engulfed the Crooner Marvin, broken him down into his component compounds, and excreted the rest as little brown pieces of solid waste (one of which is Tribute to Nat King Cole) and returned with a sunny, happy little bop album that hides the fact that Marvin was a cheating, self-loathing, cokeheaded lazybones who didn't even put on pants most days unless Berry Gordy threatened to kick him off the label for the brazillionth time. He did, however, have access to some choice thoroughbreds in one of the best songwriting stables of all time, happily laying himself down in the hay to be studded by such stallions as Holland Dozier Holland (who write the most gospel- and swing-tinged stuff here, like 'Little Darlin' (I Need You)' and the shiver-inducing 'You've Been A Long Time Coming (Now It's My Turn, So Quit Sitting On My Face, Already)', cleverly subtitled by yours truly, and the entirely unfunny and slightly dorky 'Your Unchanging Love' ) and Smokey Robinson, who is actually quite a bit more 'safe' and stereotypically teenybopper. Sweet, irritatingly catchy, and like it rolled off a gleaming pre-Toyota 60's assembly line followed by twelve dozen nearly identical brothers and sisters.  See, when all else failed, you'd send in Smoke and were just about guaranteed to get something commercial down on tape...he was sort of like the Motown Picasso, sitting in a streetside Parisian cafĂ© somewhere, jotting down silly-ass little love songs on cocktail napkins and selling them off for three bucks and a bag of chicken wings.  Nothing on Moods, outside of the stomping 'Ain't That Peculiar', really feels like a timeless classic deserving the name, but there's a crapload of pretty great stuff that you're bound to get on the more interesting compilation albums.  And just to think, it all got cranked out in, like 15 minutes one week in late 1965 thanks to the razor-tipped cat-o-nine tails that Motown equipped its producers with earlier that fall to increase production and eliminate all this talk of 'artistic control'.  There's only one dude with artistic control 'round here, and his name is that of a yummy natural snack food usually crawling with little white words.

Excellent ballads here, too, better than the sorta saccharine sameiness of the R&B numbers. Hey now! Willie Nelson! 'Night Life'!! Marvin covers 'Night Life!!" Fucking great, man, all bluesy torch piano with imaginary cigarette smoke dribbling around it imaginarily thanks to the silk-ay smooth tones of Mr. Gay. Stevie Wonder's 'You're The One For Me' is rudimentary but sexy as a pair of Mark Prindle's metaphors, but the two big band numbers at the end are missing the busty wiggling of the topless dancer they're so clearly bomp-a-domp-domping for.

I'm drinking whiskey at work because I have nothing to do. The question is, and I'm serious now...should I give up all pretense and actually just leave and go home, and end up drinking less than if I were to stay, or stay here and dull my boredom with more airline-sized shot bottles of Maker's Mark in my lukewarm Diet Coke? Only you, dear reader, can help me in my predicament. And once someone actually reads this page, in, like 2013, you can track me down and tell me what you think. I'll be busily scrubbing toilets in some third-tier horse track in a thinly populated Western state.

Capn's Final Word: One solid solo Gaye album from a time when they were becoming overshadowed by the duet stuff.  Lots of just-south-of-greatness.

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Take Two (with Kim Weston)- Motown 1966

The second and, for my $3.75, the least interesting of the Marvin duet pairings, here we get the fairly un-titillating Kim Weston, who had sort of a 'fourth Supreme' voice, as if she were understudying Florence Ballard or something.  Too silky, too school-trained, too mid-Sixties virginal, at least for my perverted sex bomb baby tastes.  The notable hit here was the similarly tepid title track, sort of a Public Service Announcement advertising the fact that spending time with a mate of the opposite sex was far better than staying home in your dirty socks, squeezing tubes of raw chocolate sugar cookie dough down your throat and jerking off to reruns of Felicity. This song relies completely on the fact that Marvin and Kim's voices would sound great trading off from one another, but it just doesn't seem like Weston is trying very hard on her end. The harmonized slow-dance sly-feel-cop ballad 'I Love You, Yes I Do' is the better chart hit, but still pretty lame to my ears. Marvin's voice has yet to lose a thing off of what it ever did - as a vehicle, it can still take a song anywhere the writer wants it to go (he's still not writing much, if at all, at this point), but when saddled to the background-singer-made-good flatness of Ms. Weston, it loses color simply by politely trying not to blow his partner out of the water. The contrast to his collaboration with Mary Wells is obvious - on that album, they were like two spasmodic kittens, forever driving one another a bit further up the back of the armchair of soul, while on Take Two, Marvin's constantly dragging this corpselike, meek little being along behind him.  The songwriting doesn't help one bit - recycling 'Baby I Need Your Loving' is cheap but predictable Motown lameness, but ripping down Curtis Mayfield's 'A Change Is Gonna Come' for 'It's Got to Be A Miracle' is just a dark, bitter quaff of pure evil. Okay, maybe not evil (I've been listening to and reviewing too much Judas Priest lately, apparently) but certainly darn stinky nogoodnikism, dig? Weston pulls out a decent performance for the bluesy 'What Good Am I Without You?' (which begs for a Rod Stewart cover, not that I'd care to hear it, but, you know...there's at least 6 or 7 harelipped pederasts out there who might dig it).

The second half flunks out mightily, though. There's more croony glop on 'Til There Was You' (which flatters neither voice - Weston sounds like a high school beauty queen talent competition contestant), and a bunch of crap that sounds like it's made one or two too many trips to the recycle bin.  This Bullard/Moy/Stevenson material is awful, all of it. Besides repeating itself like a stammering Born Again retard, attempting to friendly up with God so maybe He can fucking cure this humiliating stut-stut-stuttering before the person dies ugly, virginal, and alone - every bit of it is symphonized, sexless, over-wholesome glop. Can we possibly get through a song without making it sound like you'd rather drop to your knees in thanksgiving rather than good ol' fashioned sweaty love pumpin'? No matter what your local chapter of the Sexless Witch Burner Conservatives of America might lead you to believe, 95% of the women out there prefer a good hard paddling to good hard praying, but this song wants to turn you into Ned Flanders without the homo moustache. This album contains some of the worst attempts I've yet witnessed from Motown to castrate its lithe, sexy stars for prudish public consumption.  Worst of all, though, is the feeling that many of these tracks are rewrites of material that wasn't all that wonderful to begin with. You can't reuse toilet paper, no matter how carefully you handle it.

Capn's Final Word: Ugh.  The Barbie and Ken doll of Motown, with identically lumpless genitalia.

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United (with Tammi Terrell) - Motown 1967

Thankfully, Motown must've gotten over its temporary descent into blue-ball 'decency' that sank Take Two like a steel chastity belt.  No, Marvin and his new cuddle partner Tammi Terrell don't start singing odes to cocoa ass loving or anything like that, but they've at least got a few horny backbeats to bump and grind-o off of, and Terrell has enough personality in her voice to play as tough as Marvin wants her to. The production is far closer to Stax-Volt's shady backbeat than Marvin's last two outings. Oh, it's got it's share of offensive ridiculousity so awful it makes me make up idiotic new words like a 3 year old ('Somethin' Stupid', which you may know as 'and then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like 'I love you' while pissing in the green bean casserole, kicking your mom's tits, and voting Republican').  In general, however, the songs have a decent beat, I can dance to 'em, and I don't feel like my sick imagination is being tied to the quiet-room bed of mid-Sixties prudism while I'm doing it. If you need more discussion about how the faintly bluesy duets here differ from anything else Motown pout out from 1964-1969, then I suggest you go buy out the entire Soul section of your local used LP store, or go slam your fingers in a car door. Either one of those should get your mind off of this subject rather quickly.

But since by 1967, Motown was beginning to write songs like it was early 1965 instead of late 1964, there's some very slight motions toward psychedelia (the twiddly Farfisa organ on ''Hold Me Oh My Darling') and backwater funk ('Little Ol' Girl'), which make this album more interesting than if it were just more of that self-repressive hornball puppy love stuff. Terrell's passionate voice and that gloriously incessant backbeat indicate that, maybe, just maybe it might be about something more than holding hands at the Saturday matinee show.  Code, y'know...something that would keep Mamam Motown safe under the racist radar of 1967.  You know how dangerous it could be if people thought the blacks might be getting uppity and, you know, enjoying each other. The clues are there...hell, there's even a harpsichord on the last track! What is this, a Love In? Call in the National Guard, people! There's Negroes getting drugged up and freely sexual out on the streets of Detroit! Gol' durn...whar's the Birmingham PD when you need it?

Capn's Final Word: Getting back in touch with the sweaty, wet-spotted realities of love and lust with someone, in Tammi, who can carry the message.

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I Heard It Through the Grapevine - Motown 1968

The puppy love lyrics are beginning to grate on my patience a bit by this point, but this is still one of Marvin's more entertaining, if not original, 60's albums (I should qualify that: from what I've heard. The dulcet tones of Hello Broadway might be just enough to provide me with a raging four-hour erection. It's possible.) The double barrel album title slashism up there is due to the fact that the album, originally released as In the Groove, was re-released later the same year after the 'Grapevine' single sold better than anything in the history of Motown, including but not limited to Brenda Holloway's daring 1966 LP The Mind...The Body...The Human Beatbox.  Not to let an opportunity to make an extra buck pass him by, Gordy reissued the LP as I Heard It Through the Grapevine and put a photo with Marvin in an even more embarrassingly unfunky pose than normal on the cover. The album, outside its humongousest hit, is pretty much Motown Standard 1968, meaning ever-so-slightly funk-influenced electric guitar and tambourine added to the usual spare piano and groove-groove-groovin' James Jamerson bass lines.  There's more tradeoff and interaction between the parts of the backing band, making for more intricate and compelling backing parts than a few years prior, but the tunes themselves seem just as recycled as ever. Notice how the intro to 'Tear It On Down' recalls 'I Built My Whole World Around You' or 'Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever' quotes 'Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing'.  So, you know...outside 'Grapevine' and the pleading 'You' (featuring bongo percussion that Marvin would later decide must be on every song he lent his voice to), and the go-go/gospel hybrid 'At Last (I Found A Love)', pretty much all of these songs are variations on the same stuff you've heard now three or four times, with marginally more complicated backing parts.  Not that that's awful - in terms of a sound, the mature Motown is almost impossible to beat for organic pop kicks.  For three or four minutes, it's probably one of the more pleasurable things I can do to my brain outside of a few lines of China White. This album is 32 minutes long, and 'Some Kind of Wonderful' has nothing to do with either the glorious coda to 'Too Busy Thinking Bout My Baby' or the knockoff Grand Funk Railroad song of the same name - it's a sappy mid-tempo 1963 throwback with backing vocals that sound like they're singing 'Soldier Boy' on the intro.

What isn't disappointing, however, is Whitfield/Strong's 'Heard it Through the Grapevine', probably one of the best singles of the 1960's, in my opinion. The paranoia and distrust inherent in the lyrics ('people say believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear' is a chilling line) lends more than a bit of slice to the usual tale of heartbreak. This isn't as simple 'you broke my heart, you evil bitch' kind of thing - the singer has already given up hope, and he doesn't even know for sure that anything has happened yet.  The throbbing bassline (you know the one) and razor-sharp string hits are strokes of arrangement genius - they're his heartbeat and the pain shooting through his center at the thought of being cheated on. Add to it Marvin's delivery - stinking of wounded hatred, a man lodged halfway between wanting to die, and to kill someone else. There are certain songs out there that hint at a scene much larger than what is read on the lyric sheet, and this is definitely one of them.

I have to say that, so far, outside of a few moments, Marvin's voice has been used with much professionalism and precision, but with little real emotional heat.  His best moments have come while striking up against the rough surfaces of Mary Wells, or blending masterfully with Tammi Terrell.  On his own, he's good but uncompelling - there's a distinct lack of personality on the material he doesn't feel the need to throw himself at, which is as rare as a Sandra Bullock movie that doesn't end with me staining my pants with vomit. I attribute this to the fact that Marvin was served his material on a silver platter - no fuss, no muss, no questions, please.  I mean, how many times can you sing about the 'one true love' and all that Hallmark Harlequin old-lady nonsense without feeling like sometime you want to rip off one about moist vaginas and tearing up parking tickets? Well, by this time, the answer was 'not too frigging much longer' - a few more Motown specials, then Marvin went into his cocaine cocoon and didn't come out until he was Funky.

Also, my copy has a ragingly funny picture of Marvin singing in front of a totally white audience that looks, for whatever reason, to be dressed like cowboys and Indians. I swear, if anyone needed a beating with the Reality Stick worse than 60's white people, I don't know who that might be. Except for the hottie little squaw standing seductively in her satin top front row center - I got another kind of stick to hit her with.

My RHYTHM STICK! ooh! Pow! Ungh! Ungh! Ian Dury rules!

Capn's Final Word: Standard issue Motown, meaning there's a killer single ('Grapevine'), a bunch of songs written over a lunch hour, way too much recycling, and...it sounds pretty darn good.

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What's Going On - Motown 1971

The first thing you should notice about this album is the songwriting credits. Notice something a little bit out-of-the-ordinary there? Something that might pique the interest of anyone who's been paying attention for this long? A titillating detail to shine your nipplage and tweak your tender bits? That's right - you see 'Gaye' (with his various collaborators) next to every song. Though I may be discrediting the input of his partners somewhat, I'm regardless going to hold up this album, wave it around, and tell everyone this is what everyone ought to know about Marvin Gaye.  This is what the man was finally able to produce after busting through a monumental personal and institutional logjam.  Hell, I think this is a triumph for black people in the music business in general. After nearly 10 years as a pinup product delivery machine for the Motown Conglomerate, during which, it's safe to say, his creativity was...erm...not encouraged to its fullest extent, Marvin'd had enough. He saw a rather gaping gulf between the love 'n' harpiness of the Motown product line and the disturbing images in the world around him, and saw himself on the wrong side of the divide.  He was a black singer in America, but he sang in a tuxedo for predominately white audiences, Uncle Tom-ing to their requirements for clean, uncontroversial, castrated, de-politicized...safe Negroes.

For his part, Berry Gordy, who had his mind on the dollar far more than he did on political issues, did everything he could to discourage deviation from his formula for success.  For a black man to build one of the most successful and high-profile black-owned and black-run businesses in the country, he sure was afraid of offending the susceptible sensibilities of his cash-rich white customers.  To this end, he maintained a Gestapo-like regimentation of his business. Singers, after completing their requisite whitification classes, were for singing and dancing (i.e., public relations), writers were exclusively for songwriting, the band was ridden like minimum-wage laborers and never credited for their musical contributions (what would 'Grapevine' have been without James Jamerson's bassline?), and everybody was expected to stay in line or they'd get Mary Wells-ized. In comparison, James Brown had grown artistically self-aware as early as 1964, and had politicized by 1967, as had Curtis Mayfield. Other voices were making similar moves - Otis had expanded his palate in 1967, Aretha was exploring her Gospel roots. Hell, Sly and the Family Stone had integrated, and were so far ahead of the game they were releasing a song called 'Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey' in 1970.

In comparison, Motown 1970 looked like a total anachronism - they'd co-opted some of funk and psychedelia's trappings (flashier color outfits, fuzz guitar, big hair) but still operated under the music industry's Blue Laws.  The label had dipped its big toe into the waters of controversy with songs like the Supreme's 'Love Child' and the Temptations' 'Psychedelic Shack', but remained primarily a love 'n' cuddles label. Surprisingly, it took Marvin Gaye, otherwise one of Motown's lazier and more laid-back stars, to turn this around.  After the loss of Tammi Terrell to cancer, and hearing of his brother's experiences in Vietnam, Gaye went into near-seclusion during 1970 and most of 1971 (he even tried out for the Detroit Lions during that time, which you can chalk up as your pretty fucking weird factoid of the day) before beginning work on what would become What's Going On.  Motown must've been happy that he'd decided to do anything, but threw up the brick wall of denial when he handed them the album for release. It took a showdown before Gordy relented.  The album went onto significant success, sealing the end of Motown's creative hegemony over its stars.  Of course, no Motown artist outside of Stevie Wonder ever seriously followed in Gaye's trail, but the groundbreaking nature of this album cannot be denied.

What's Going On is a concept album of a pretty clear-cut stripe, nine songs that run together with close fades, all connected by their reliance on very complex layers of vocal overdubs and a sparse, jazzy backing featuring lots of auxiliary percussion (bongos, tablas, stuff that goes *buh-wongggk!*) and very lightly mixed 'sneaky' sounding orchestras.  It's also funky as all get out, in a stoned-out, gentle sort of way (as opposed to There's A Riot Goin On's anaethsitized Satanic mutter), making it easy for people (like my wife) to initially think he's just singing good ol' sexy love songs about boinging moist body parts hither and non again. Musically, this is a clear-cut A+...I really don't know of another album that sounds quite like this one - silky and inviting, but deadly serious. As a lyrical one, What's Going On, for some, is a religious epiphany.  The problem with religious experiences is that for every person who sees the glory of the light and feels a little explosion in the pit of their stomach, there's someone else who hears the choir, sees the altar, and goes 'is that it?'.  This album demands much more than a small suspension of cynicism. If, instead of feeling a twinge down our spine at hearing Gaye plead 'Save the babies!' over and over again, you see a mental representation of the old 'truck full of dead babies' joke, maybe you can just appreciate the musicality of it all and keep your sick fantasies to yourself.

(What's the difference between a truck full of dead babies and a truck full of marbles? You can't empty a truck full of marbles with a pitchfork.)

Unfortunately, I'm not one of those who can buy this thing lyrically.  I'm just too much of a contemptuous sonofabitch, I guess. It's not that I dislike the way Marvin says the things he does, or doubt his sincerity, it's just that, well, goddamn it...he's as hippie as they come. As usual with these kinds of albums, there's too much preaching and finger-pointing for my tastes (though, to his credit, Marvin does point the finger at himself on 'Flying High In the Friendly Sky'), and when he tries to provide solutions, they're only as enlightened as 'love each other' (which, if you ask me, might just be one of the reasons there's so many goddamn poor people in that ghetto...ever think of that?).  Oh, that and trusting in the power of God. Several thousand years of religion later, and we're still waiting on that particular jug of snake oil to start curing our warts. Don't let me rain on your arade or anything, but while What's Going On is an affecting piece of work, and obviously was intended in the utmost sincerity and goodwill towards men, a large part of me wishes Marvin would just shut the hell up sometimes and just moan and coo in that inimitable way of his.

 'What's Going On' is a perfect introduction to the album as a whole...'talk to me, I'll tell you what's going on' (something tells me you're going to do it anyway, Socrates). The album then launches into what sounds like a laundry list of complaints about the world and what we hairy mouthbreathers have done to fuck it over.  Marvin points his coke-encrusted pinkie finger at some pretty obvious targets - we're too violent, we're racist, we've fucked the ecology, we laugh at jokes about dead babies...blah blah blah.  Okay, fine, but we've been on the moon! I mean, that's pretty freaking cool, isn't it? The moon, man! Jumping around and playing golf and shit! I saw it on Walter Cronkite!

'"Rocket's, moon-shots - spend it on the have-nots."

Aw, come on Marv, don't be such a damned spoil-sport. What are we supposed to do, then? Just vote with your wallet, I guess. Don't like how the government spends your money? Don't give 'em any! Oh, yeah...you didn't for decades, did you! You say on 'Inner City Blues' that 'I can't pay my taxes', but that's just a smokescreen...it was all just nonviolent civil disobedience, right? Right...considering 10 years later you'd still be on the run from the IRS for an ass-load of money. At least you're honest about what you did spend it on - you contributed tens of thousands of dollars to private agriculture in Central and South American! In other words, coke growers! You say so right there on 'Flying High', ('I go crazy when I can't find it') which is my favorite song on here...finally a moment of clarity!

No, really, I don't usually get out my sharp sticks when it comes to lyrics on other albums (I mean, how can you stand by the 45 millionth song about fucking a girl and then hitting the pavement the next day, anyway?), and I appreciate the fact that Marvin's given it a shot.  I enjoy 'Mercy Mercy Me' for its sincere, wizened tone, and it's hard not to feel proud for him when, as a Motown artist, he finally writes a (somewhat indirectly) racially-charged song with 'Inner City Blues'. Oddly enough, my favorite political Marvin Gaye songs aren't even on this record - the raging political corruption shakedown 'You're the Man' (a failed single, I think...or maybe a b-side) and the pro-sex, anti-violence 'Rated X' (from the unreleased followup album to What's Going On, which no doubt was frigging aces). Both of these songs are available on the 2-CD Anthology set, which you should probably just own anyway. My copy is scratched (thank my kids), so while you're at it, pick me up one too.

Still, outside its undeniably awesome trio of singles and 'Flying High', it feels like this album is made up of too many incidental tossoffs and repetitions to really be that impressive. 'What's Happenin' Brother' is essentially the dance remix second side of 'What's Going On' (same percussion and guitar figure, with Marvin essentially rapping over the top).  You'd think a song called 'Save the Children' might be a little bit corny, but would you believe it begins with a spoke word  poem? Like some Graeme Edge bladdityy-blah on In Search of the Lost Credibility? Yaii! 'Right On' is a pleasantly grooving bit of meaningless, soundtracky filler with an overlong, five-minute instrumental run-out (War would turn this kind of tune into a career, by the way), and 'Wholly Holy' just repeats the same old 'get together!' 'love each other!' pleas from 'God Is Love' in a nearly inaudible soup of string-enmeshed etherialism. Pretty, but hardly the kind of tune you'd call 'classic'.  You have to be able to remember how it went five minutes after it finished first.

Okay, so I can see the torches being lit and the scythes sharpened, and since I don't see any dead babies around here, I surmise you're coming after me for my less than worshipful review of this album. It's just that, for something that supposedly hit like Moses coming down the mountain on a rocket-powered snowboard, What's Going On sure has a lot of holes and poorly thought-out themes on it. I'm just the kind of perverted freak who would enjoy this album more if it were wordless, or, at least, much more restricted in its literalism (I almost get my wish with Trouble Man), because the way Marvin sings all those thousand layers of harmonies means a hell of a lot more to me than what he thinks about 'picket lines and picket signs'. Still, credit should be given for his attempt...it wasn't often that a man of Marvin's stature and color could stand up and lay down the kind of bombshell this album created in 1971.

Capn's Final Word: An album of beauty marred slightly by its mushiness and laziness. I can imagine the look on Berry Gordy's face.

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Trouble Man - Motown 1972

A year after releasing one of the most groundbreaking and courageous records ever put to wax by a black man, and what do you follow it up with? A soundtrack to a blaxploitation flick about a ho-hustlin' jive-talkin' pimp daddy that probably helped to set blacks in film back 50 years.  As a record album, it sure is soundtracky (there's no vocals for at least the first nine minutes of the thing), but for a soundtrack, it's creamy, jazzy love...something Miles Davis and Gil Evans could be proud of.  Musically, I won't even call it 'jazzy' - this is out-and-out jazz music, but not the kind of improv-heavy jambastard sort of swing that most people associate with jazz music. Trouble Man is probably guaranteed to bore most non-jazz appreciators three feet into the ground, but I hear a nice melodic theme in almost each of these tunes (all by Marvin, ostensibly, though he thanks his 'orchestrators and arrangers', thus destroying my notion that he was sitting there at the table attentively scribbling down charts for the third-chair oboe player like a chocolate Schubert), and one excellent lead single in the killer title track. 'Trouble Man', to my mind, is even greater a black film soundtrack single than either the overrated groove song 'Shaft' OR 'Superfly' - neither Isaac nor Curtis could sing it like this, man. Plus, and this is one mighty big bonus, it's better than a $10 case of Andre spumanti and a bathtub full of Heinz pork 'n' beans when it comes to having relations with my wife. Good-ness.

Still, good fucking aside, I can't give this one and A, though...my conscious can't abide me awarding an unqualified recommendation to an album that does nothing more than present decent jazzy vignettes in an inoffensive way.  Plus, the fact that it's a Marvin-written and Marvin-produced record (plus, I think he plays a bunch of the piano parts) doesn't excuse the fact that Marvin doesn't sing nearly enough. See, this really isn't a Marvin Gaye record, dig?

Capn's Final Word: A breezy, jazzy soundtrack of impressive melodic content and scanty Marvin vocal content.

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Let's Get It On - Motown 1973

Answers the question What's Going On? with a simple response: hard, sweaty fucking.  Imagining how many children were conceived to this ode to the carnal arts boggles the mind, especially when one remembers that this was the highest-selling album in the Motown catalogue up to that point. And, maaaannn....this one is sex-ay. So far, the only album that comes close to the satiny sexuality of this record is Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, and maybe Hawkwind's THC-Powered Hyperspace Drive. Heh. Just fuh-fuh-foolin', doncha know.  Surprisingly few really good albums are devoted to the subject of making the sign of the two-pronged wildebeest, but this has got to be the granddaddy of 'em all.  Because it's yet another concept album from Mr. Gaye's Wad, people can't help but compare it one-to-one against What's Going On, which to me is kind of like comparing Meet the Press with Cinemax Presents Hardcore Ass Porn With All The Good Stuff Removed So Jerry Falwell Won't Sic His Crusaders On Us .  They're completely different, other than the fact that Marvin is singing, the scmoooooth musical backgrounds include more than a few jazz elements, and it's, you know...pretty great and all that.  Except while What's Going On had three undeniable classics, this only has one, and I think that you all know what I'm talking about: it's been used to sell cars, sell perfume, and sell Jack Black's unfunny spazz ass, but it's really that great.  Put the album on, put the needle down, and you'll forget the crass, disrespectful commercialism that's tainted so much Motown through the years and just get into one of the easiest-rolling sex songs ever.  Quit messing around, let's fuck. The message is blunter than Tony Danza's vocabulary, but it's damned effective.  This is one tune for which the term 'effortless' was coined -  it packs in infinite layers of string sections, honking R&B horns, a soprano sax lead line, and funk-popping rhythm section, and about 6 tracks of Marvin overdubs, but not once does it ever feel weighted down with itself. In fact, when the 'I feel sanctified' part at the end snaps in, and we head to the Church of The Moist Vagina for the last few bars, my head is right lifted off my spinal column. Painlessly. Easily. Bay-beee....

As I said though, that's the end of the classics, but as Otis showed us, an album doesn't need classic tunes to be perfectly great in and of itself, so we just sit back and let the warm enveloping folds of the creamy rhythm section hold us over as song after song waltzes on by.  It's a sex album, fellas -  it's not for headphones, dig? It's not even really for blasting round the house while you wash dishes and dust the woman-hairs off the bathroom floor.  The album is diminished in its effect if approached in such a crass, unsensual manner. It requires a certain hormonal concoction, or it's all just Marvin cooing over assorted slickity-slimy backgrounds.  Sure, his voice is better to listen to for long periods than, say, Isaac Hayes or that Sultan of Stanky Swang, Mr. Barry White, and his backgrounds aren't as sickeningly sappy as either of those schlocksters, but it's all part of the same vintage, dig?  And only as a fuck soundtrack would the song 'Keep Gettin' It On' sound like timely encouragement to impose further wet spots on the linens rather than a cheap rip-off rewrite of the title track, just three tracks removed from its superior brother. 'Come Get To This' is brilliantly 1964, though, a riper, more explicit (Marvin circa the Johnson Administration never said 'I wanna do-uhh...somethin' freaky to you!', you can bet your pedal pushers on that) version of all those rolling-soul piano-driven love songs from albums like In the Groove or whatever.  And he sure as shit never dreamed of putting down lyrics like on the somewhat crude 'You Sure Love To Ball', much less being a sort of groundbreaker on the 'orgasmic female soundbite' front, also on this track. Except by 26 minutes through a (somewhat cheap) 30 minute sex album, most people aren't too concerned with pleasantries anymore. Sixteen minutes of grunting and jungle drumming are good enough at that point for most people (Marvin would later agree, apparently, which is why I Want You is a marginal sex album instead of an exceptional one like Let's Get It On).  The oddly bittersweet (and, quite possibly, autobiographical) 'Just To Keep You Satisfied' is a bit of a misfit as the 'afterglow' closer, but what the hell...most people's hot lovin' sessions come with a little regret, you know? Especially when you wake up in the mornin' next to a hobbit like Anna Gordy. I mean...eeew!

By no means the greatest of albums for all people, or even as a pure soul record, you have to apply Let's Get It On to its intended use, or it sounds repetitive and more than a bit shallow. But so is sex, and we all love that, don't we? Just a biological function, beautifully and effectively designed, that produces the glue that keeps us all ticking along down the mortal coil. You just can't fuck all the damn day every day, that's all.

Capn's Final Word: A super-selling album quite a bit like its subject matter -  sweaty, effective, sensual, but over a bit too fast and not necessarily always good for you.

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Jack     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Bravo Capn. I agree wholeheartedly with what you've said here. This album is great, but it's also deeply flawed and it's far from the best in socially conscious R&B. Sometimes I think this album is the Pet Sounds of R&B. Sure it has a great, rich sound, but like Pet Sounds, it's also monotonous and draggy and while it may have helped people like Stevie reach greater heights (the way Pet Sounds supposedly pushed the Beatles into making Sgt. Peppoer), Stevie, Sly and Curtis all equalled or bettered this more than a few times (and in the case of Sly and Curtis they did so BEFORE this album came out). However, the transcendent strength of this album's three best songs means that it deserves no less than an A.
 


Diana and Marvin - Motown 1973

Predictably, this focus group-approved duet album between the twin Titans of the Motown Machine, circa 1973, doesn't hold much interest for either Diana Ross or Marvin Gaye, since they were both doing quite well without anyone else's help, thank you very much, and therefore translates into a dreadful affair for us listeners.  Meaning to send our minds back to the halcyon days of Marvin and Tammi, before Gaye became black and grew threatening reproductive organs, this album looks and feels very much like a favor done to Berry Gordy either out of gratitude (by Diana for letting her steal all the Supremes' spotlight as booster fuel for her solo career) or out of debt (by Marvin for Berry putting up with all of his crap through the years), not as a piece of art made from enthusiasm and emotion.  Of course, most of Marvin's 60's albums had little or nothing to do with enthusiasm or emotion, either, but this is different - after becoming such a huge star on his own terms, seeing Marvin debase himself with such a dreadfully calculated commercial move as Diana and Marvin is kinda stomach churning. Oh, maybe not that bad...production-wise, it's fine, and it's not like this album runs high on anyone's radar gun - it never sold all that well in the first place and is now so long out of print you have to resort to expensive or illegal means to secure a copy (guess which one I chose. I'll give you a hint: I still had plenty of money for lunch today.) Therefore, who gives a crap? If you ask me whether it's worth tracking down a copy just for the nipple-twisting thrill of it, I say you've probably already answered your own question.  Listen, for the most part, out-of-print albums by major artists are NEVER worth the time or bread to track them down legally.  If they were, do you think they'd be out of print? Hells, no, home slice...people'd demand to buy the damned things in a convenient and stress-free way. Like Tic Tacs or Yemeni scat porn.

The only track off this sludge heap that is still remembered by anyone is the sappy 'My Mistake', which happened onto the Marvin Anthology for no clear discernable reason.  Otherwise, we're in deep trouble with old Motown bad habits. Marvin recycles his WGO-era classic side 'Rated X' by retooling it as a odoriffic proto-disco tune called 'Don't Knock My Love' and throws out raggedly cornball lyrical novelty tracks like 'Love Twins' and detatched, formulaic nonsense ballads ('You're A Special Part Of Me'.  The songs are written by latter-day Motown hack nobodies (Marilyn McCleod and Mel Bolton, Thom Bell and Linda Creed), with one bomb by Ashford and Simpson, whose best days had obviously passed some half-decade before. Even worse is the sparkles interaction between Diana and Marvin themselves, who despite both sounding decent, sound as if they were recording in different studios at different times.

Which they were! Apparently Miss Ross couldn't handle ol' Marvin's nonstop smoking of the ganja sticks (said it affected her voice or smthn, as if having oral sex with Gene Simmons wouldn't), so they never set foot in the studio together! Howsah! So much for chemistry, eh? Not like there's any chance for any of that to develop with material as dated and backward as this, but I guess I'll give Marvin the credit for putting professionalism first by not making his performances a joke. I mean, if I were Marvin, and they handed me a puddle of dogsnot like 'Stop Look Listen (To Your Heart)' to sing, I'd SCREAAAAMMMM OUT 'I WROTE 'LET'S GET IT ON', MOTHERFUCKERS!! Better quit sending me this HORSESHIT or I'm Goin' to Atlantic Where I'll Get to Duet with ARETHA!! ARETHA, YOU GET ME?!!' the minute the tapes started rolling, and then spend the next three or four verses listing the names and symptoms of all the venereal diseases I'd had since 1969, right there into the microphone. But, you know...Marvin Gaye had class. Unlike, um...me.

Capn's Final Word: Making albums the Motown way once again: badly. Marvin must've lost a bet.

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Marvin Gaye Live - Motown 1974


Despite whatever the public might perceive, Marvin Gaye was not known as a great live performer.  He mugged for the crowd, substituted moans and 'ow!'s for actual lyrics, and, on his final tours, spent a good portion of the concert stripped sweatily down to his britches, no matter how much Las Vegas paunch was hanging over his belt. Moreover, he just didn't perform very much. I think this 1974 show had been his first since, I dunno, 1969 or something, and he'd perform only sporadically until his 1982 tour.  It's easy to understand how Marvin might've had some cash flow issues around this time without the easy money available through the tour circuit.  News flash: artists, especially Motown ones, never made hardly anything on their record sales (Marvin only made much at all on on his last three albums, since those were the only ones for which he collected songwriting royalties). Motown artist + resistant to touring + coke habit + long recording sessions = one broke black superstar.

Anyway, Marvin Live was put out to capitalize on the rare event that was a Gaye live performance. Luckily, with this one, they got a great one. Once Marvin gets in his groove (Song 3: a chilling version of 'Flying High In the Friendly Sky'), he's about unstoppable.  Except a Marvin Gaye performance is a helluva lot closer to a dimly lit bedsheet Tony Bennett concert (a great thing, if you haven't seen one, and I'm being damned serious here) than the rocking blast of Otis or James. Marvin doesn't much 'rock', rather flit from one pillowy soft ballad to another.  Yup, with the exception of the mashed potatoes funk version of 'Inner City Blues' (only slightly marred by mic feedback problems), this is yet another sex-session from the 'Trouble Man' through to a surprisingly thrust-filled 'Let's Get It On' -  a good 26 minute opportunity to swap bodily fluids with the partner of your choice.  I don't feel the needs to mention how excellent this stretch really is -  he really is like James or Otis in his ability to sustain a powerful groove over a surprisingly lengthy period of time, he's just on a completely different planet from either of those masters. Just let me re-emphasize...Marvin didn't do this kind of performance very often. This is about as good as the man ever got, so soak up the swing and let the groove go down on ya...mmmmm.

Unfortunately the same can't be said of the way Marvin combines 'I'll Be Doggone', 'Try It Baby', 'Can I Get A Witness', 'You're A Wonderful One', 'Stubborn Kind of Fellow', and 'How Sweet It Is' into an 11-minute Vegas-schlock style 'Fossil Medley'.  Now, I'll admit that I have a sort of psychic block to medleys in the first place...songs just simply aren't meant to be chopped up and their most 'attractive' parts flung back out in an entirely random manner just to keep the show running time under an hour to keep from paying the union backing musicians for overtime. If you just go through the motions before hitting the chorus once, that's NOT just as good as having the full effect of a groove being established and a buildup orchestrated to its fullest effect.  Plus, medleys lend themselves to flippant treatment of the material - 'Can I Get A Witness' was not designed to be a sort of chorus line pyrotechnic shit-blown-up vamp tune, dig? If this is the way Marvin feels he can treat the first 70% of his history, maybe he's better not having to bother getting up on stage in the first place.

To be honest, the vibe is lost for good when the 'sex sequence' on Side A runs into its out-groove.  'Let's Get It On' lacks the tight, funky focus of its studio counterpart, becoming not much more than some other poorly organized soul song screaming out for its multi-tracked overdubs, and Marvin sounds tired once 'What's Going On' finally dribbles by.  The fact that the first side of this album remains such a masterful performance, and the second half seems to show Marvin with one eye cocked on the backstage door ain't much of a mystery, though. You know how it is: most guys want to get a little shuteye after they fuck, and I guess Marvin is no exception to the rule.  It's just that most guys don't need three years of bed rest before they get back in the saddle again.

Capn's Final Word: A true picture of the man's onstage persona - it shows both his legendary talent and his legendary laziness.

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I Want You - Motown 1975

Jokingly referred to as Let's Get it On Some More, it's a shame it's not a bit more artful or you could call it. Let's Get What's Going On On...except on second thought maybe Let's Get It On With The Trouble Man may be the best title of all for this slick-butt soundtracky makeout album that represented Marvin's only new music of any note released between the years 1974 and 1978. At the time, this one was a major disappointment considering Marvin's still considerable reputation built up from the On duo. The fact that, after an interminable wait of three years, the album he finally put out was relatively personality-free light bedroom disco dedicated to a teenage girl he wanted to screw rather than a new chapter in the Great Book Of Soul Conscience really pissed some people off. After this, Gaye's reputation returned to Earth where the rest of the aging Motown stable was waiting to greet him.  Outside of the massive disco hit 'Got To Give It Up' in 1977, here was where he'd stay, at least until The Big Chill and 'Sexual Healing' made it okay for all the white people to like him again.

Of course, times change and 70's rock critics become humorless old farts championing latter-day Randy Newman albums, so during the Year of Our Lard 2005, almost thirty years since I Want You stumbled out of the gates, this album is like rarified air - purely an artless tossoff, but made with such a sweaty, uninhibited way it's like watching contemporary home videos from the balcony at Studio 54. Nowadays, in the times of I Want to Get In On...In My Lifetime, hearing such an unabashed ode to this sort of dirty-ass sexuality seems like someone describing a legal Acid Test or the days when you used to be able to get morphine cough syrup by asking your pharmacist reaaaal nice. I mean, no fewer than two songs on here have fake girl orgasm sounds in the background!! You realize how quick you'd have Senator Bill Frist calling for your immediate crucifixion, to be broadcast live and in color on Fox News, if you were to put out something this explicitly dirty and unapologetic today? Forget the crude bluntness of rap lyrics or the unsexy plasticine-prepared MTV 'honeys' that populate the 'explicit' musical landscape these days...all that stuff is about as legitimately arousing as a stale bologna sandwich. This stuff was made by a married guy, most likely higher than Spacelab on Columbia's finest, who really wanted to have sex with some underage slut, and sung lines like 'you're my sake' (sounds like 'suckee'). The Seventies were a long time ago, friends, and what we (or, in most cases, our parents) did in those loose times have built up one mother of an assload of bad karma to pay back. But you too can relive 1976 with Marvin Gaye's I Want You album, a bottle of Riunite on ice, a best of Chevy Chase on SNL DVD, and a girlfriend who hasn't trimmed her cootchie hair in 6 months.

No, I Want You really isn't good, not in the usual sort of melody-lyrics-music way (any album with three versions of the hit song can't be considered to be good), and in fact much of it sounds like it was written by a machine, even as early as 1976 (most disco didn't sound this mechanical for another two years, when the Yurrupians got 'hold of it). Marvin sounds like he's phoning in his lyrics from the Planet Cocaleaf, all buried in a faceless mid-range underneath all manner of disco attrapments - harps, ubiquitous trumpets, and nameless background singers. Only the title track seems to have much of a melody at all, and that one goes 'Duh..duh...duhh...dum-da-duh-duh duh-duh-duh-duhhhh!' 'After the Dance' is essentially the same damn song, just in ballad form (no surprise that Gaye got writing credit for 'Dance' and not 'I Want You', huh?), and the rest...well, hell...there's only so many damn ways you can ask a girl you fuck you over a marginal latin-disco beat, isn't there? But, you know what? I don't doubt that it captures Marvin Gaye's state of mind perfectly for the time. Just like George Clinton said - he was fucked up, horny, and strung-out. Of course, so was Sly Stone circa 1973, except Sly channeled James Brown and Jimi Hendrix while Gaye channels Nat Cole and porno music, dig?

Capn's Note: There's also a lengthy 'Extended' version of this album with a bunch of single edits and whatnot, but God only know what kind of pervert would want to buy it.

Capn's Final Word: You can decry the tastelessness, shallowness, and lack of effort, but you can't deny the fact that for a lot of people, this album was how 1976 felt.

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Live at the London Palladium - Motown 1977

For a guy who detested performing live as much as Marvin did, two live double albums in three years sure seems like a perverse way of creating your legacy.  Except this time, it's worse - Marvin Gaye Live is to London Palladium as Let's Get It On is to I Want You - similar on paper, but containing a a precipitous drop in quality and good taste earmarked by a distinct lack of engagement by the man whose name is emblazoned on the cover. Marvin Gaye never sounded truly bad, mind you, it's just that a lot of the time he sounds like he's whispering instead of singing out to the rafters, and that does not make for extra-hot sauce excitement, friends and fellows. His voice is still distinctive and always in perfect tune, but its lost its guts for sure...they've been eaten away by 15 years of coke abuse, lost to bloody Kleenex along with his nasal septum and his marriage. It also doesn't help that Marvin starts out with two melodyless album tracks from deep in the gooey, deadened heart of I Want You ('All the Way Round' and 'Since I Had You', in case you're writing a term paper or something) before finally warming up to a (truncated) performance peak of 'Come Get To This', 'Let's Get It On', and a rousing 'Trouble Man'. Remember that half of Marvin Live was great versions of his recent favorites murshed into a sort of Heavenly Mix Tape...here we get three good songs before all hell breaks loose and rampaging demons begin giving us swirlies and pissing on our foyer rugs.

Hence come the medleys. You might remember from my Marvin Live review that I view these musical Cliff's Notes as lying somewhere between the rape of Nanking and the Atari 2600 E.T. video game in terms of unconscionable crimes against humanity and goodness, and this album is no exception. In fact, it's far worse, because instead of just one 'Fossil Medley', he's got three - one of 60's solo hits, one of What's Going On tunes (!), and one performing a bunch of his duet hits with someone named Florence Lyles (!!). Medley I, as it's unceremoniously dubbed, is the least offensive of the bunch, but it's bad enough - he treats his old hits with even less care than he did last time, barely even gathering the energy to lift his tongue off the carpeted floor of his mouth to properly pronounce 'Pride and Joy' and perverting 'Grapevine' to fit into the same laid-back Godless vamp into which he shoehorns 'Little Darling' and 'Hitch Hike'.  Hell, I couldn't even tell 'Wonderful One' or 'You' had even been mentioned until I checked my track listing...Ugh.

He at least spends a few more than 10 seconds each on the What's Going On material (not that much more, though), but he sings it in almost the same mechanical, detached manner as his bubblegum hits or his sugar-walls horn songs - he's an equal opportunity mumbler.  You've not heard disrespect for one's back catalogue until you've heard Marvin scat his way through the end of 'What's Goin' On'. All you need is a video showing some animated fish carcasses dancing a little two-step next to Marvin while he does this. Oddly, he does a pretty fair job puton 'Save the Children', which doesn't excuse his flippant treatment of the other three tracks, but...you know how it goes...

Marvin makes the big mistake of mentioning all the great duet partners he's had through the years (Mary, Kim, Tammi, Diana) before introducing an obviously outmatched Florence Lyles on 'Medley III'. She's a nice girl, I'm sure, but there's no way she should be mentioned after such talents as Tammi Terrell. No goddamn way. At best, her edgeless coo is good enough for third chair backup singer.  For lead work, her Teflon voice is about as well-matched as Bigfoot tires on a Fisher Price mobile. Marvin proceeds to grind her into dust, then, apparently realizing what he's doing, back off until he's nearly not singing at all on 'Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing'. The duet limps along until Florence finally puts a bullet into the back of its head with her nauseatingly poor vocal on a discofied 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough'. I can only hope these songs were never sung like this more than once.

There's a superfluous 'Distant Lover' to finish off the live portion, but the main reason why Live at the London Palladium is useful for collectors is the full, 11-minute version of Marvin's #3 disco hit 'Got To Give It Up', a falsetto ode to fear of dancing in public that ranks as his best work since 'Let's Get It On', and probably the best song he did in the last ten years of his life. It's disco, sure, but it's disco played by a legitimate funk band with legitimate funk bass and infectious 'pop pop pop music' background chants (not really the actual lyrics, but you'll know what I'm talking about when you identify my reference). It's also funny - anyone who's ever seen Marvin's lead-booted attempts at dancing during his performances can be damned sure the unfunky wallflower he's talking about is himself. I mean, he makes Bono look like MC Hammer, dig? 11 minutes is far too long for any dance song not by James Brown for people not rubbing various parts of their bodies against the undulating bodies of strange women on dancefloors, but what the fuck...everybody else had their own extended mix disco hit, from Rod Stewart to Rick Dees, at least Marvin's is honestly good. So it's got a sax solo, a part where Marvin half-assedly raps, and enough 2/4 snare drum hits to permanently scar Truman Capote's tonsils...a little boogity woogity never hurt nobody. Not like 'Medley III' did, anyway. They're still finding evidence of mass suicides attributable to that horror.

Capn's Final Word: Smooth and soft works in the bedroom, but not in a live concert. Neither does Florence Lyles or treating your back catalogue with the respect usually given to dreaded ex-girlfriends and Nazi war criminals.

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Here My Dear - Motown 1978

The endless horny come-ons to his Junior Varsity mistress on I Want You representing a last straw, apparently, Anna Gordy finally divorced Marvin Gaye in 1976, and as part of the settlement was set to receive all income from Marvin's next Motown album.  In turn, Marvin gave her this (drolly titled Here, My Dear, which I guess was an improvement over the proposed Here Devil Satan Whore Bitch Succubus)..a 73-minute double LP filled with nasty invective, highly personal attacks and allegations, and enough denial to put Hilary Clinton into convulsions, a sort of Grand High-Glorious Fuck Off Statement to end all Fuck Off Statements, relationship closure by means of scorched earth.  He wanted Anna to hurt when she heard this, give her something to remember him by along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would end up earning her. Wouldn't ya know that an album made in desperation and exhaustion by a crystallized former soul angel would run together chaotically into a pulsating flesh soup of Nerf disco ballads and gentle sci-fi grooves? To me that's definitely part of this bastard's charms. It's more an hour-plus stream-of-consciousness rant than an actual album of songs, and I again don't doubt Marvin's uncanny ability to articulate the fog in his head without filters or censors, just like on I Want You - this is how he felt, truth be damned.  And if you call it unfocused, well, goddam it all to heck, he was one unfocused motherfucker! You can't fault Bono for dancing like a drunken Irishman, fault Stevie Wonder for his penmanship, and you can't fault Marvin Gaye for coming across like a scatterbrain.  If musical inspiration is like a water fountain, Marvin's would have chewing gum stuck down in it.

Describing this damn album is like juggling Jello cubes, messy, unsatisfying, and bound to end in someone falling and cracking their head on the floor...I've yet to read an adequate description of the album as a whole (or, for that matter, in parts), because each and everyone who attempts to do it gets lost in Marvin's jungleland of half-finished grooves underlying non-melodies, inevitably petering out long before the song actually finishes or otherwise segues into the next groove. I, for one, always get completely lost in the scenery after the righteous Curtis Mayfield-isms of 'Anger', at least until 'A Funky Space Reincarnation' comes around. Before this, only 'When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You' constitutes what sounds like a full-fledged song, and it's the most bile-packed track of them all, a real harrowing listen as Gaye slams Anna for 'lying to God'. Otherwise, it's about as coherent as a glue-head delivering the Gettysburg Address, so if you can't handle the fact that every song sounds like minutes 6 to 11 of a side-long extended remix disco single, perhaps you ought to buy a Minutemen album. Try one anyway, come to think of it.

Lack of hooks or hit singles or structure or melodies aside, the album is a fascinating place to find yourself lost, and a whole afternoon can be spent listening to this thing on an endlessly repeating loop of Funk Lite.  If feels as if you're sitting back on a porch somewhere, getting further and further stoned with Marvin over the course of the day, and your companion keeps muttering about his old woman jetting out the door.  Luckily, he's getting less and less audible and less and less coherent as the hours and the joints pass, until it begins to turn into a flat-out jive rap like on 'Sparrow', more notable for its cadence and insistency than its actual meaning.  Chorus, verse, bridge, vamp, groove....what-the-fuck-ever, just keep jiving on, Reggae Man, and keep them fires burning. The musical backing is just as loose and unfocused as Marvin, and fits like a glove to the proceedings. It's up to you whether you think it's worthy or not - Marvin vocalizing his pain in an inherently selfish and dishonest manner is simply not for everyone. My, but does Marvin's voice sound fine when he's doing it...this is his best vocal work since Let's Get It On, for sure, and locks out some of those premature rumblings of cord ossification I made when reviewing London Palladium.

Capn's Final Word: So I didn't really write a review of this album, but that's okay because Marvin didn't really write an album. He just spent two records slinging mud, but doing it with bedroom eyes the whole time.

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In Our Lifetime - Motown 1981

Never actually intended for release by Marvin (who pretty much had to look down the barrel of a shotgun before deeming anything finished), In Our Lifetime represented the very last straw with Motown Records.  (Of course, you might've thought that would've come when Marvin verbally ass-raped his boss's sister for 73 minutes on Here, My Dear, but you'd be wrong.  If nothing else, Berry Gordy sure is willing to try to squeeze one more egg out of his mangy, rabid golden goose.) As for the record itself, this one is usually pointed at as a shining example of the clanking doldrums Marvin had descended to in the late 70's and early 80's....he was unfocused, unloved, and wouldn't listen to anyone's good advice that what everyone really wanted was another Off the Wall and why didn't he try a Jheri Curl like those fine Commodores boys? I don't see it. In Our Lifetime is Marvin's most focused work at least since Let's Get It On, and though it lacks any really classic songs, it doesn't meander like Fidel Castro on E with an inner-ear infection or get drowned in a furry dark well of its own horn like the last two records did.  Lifetime is reasonably upbeat and well-arranged in that sort of easy, slick funk that was the stomping ground of Kool and the Gang and said Commodores during the R&B recession years between disco and Thriller. Yeah, there's a horn chart in the distractingly bubbly 'Praise' that reminds me of that Herb Alpert song that always plays during the Parade of Homes show on TV, but there's also that sneaky, grindy little freak of a minimalist groove that drives the piercing (and self-mocking) 'Ego Tripping Out', so you get a little light with the dark, a little Chulula with your honey, a little Bobby McSorley with your Wayne Gretzsky, and that's where Gaye strikes gold.  One viewpoint is that all of Marvin's recent albums (except Diana and Marvin, of course) have been concept albums The Problems of Society, Hardons, Hardons, Part II, and You Dirty Cunt. But Lifetime is different, because it actually adjusts the music to the song. His concept here, see, is the duality of man between good and evil, greed and giving, love and hate -  and the music actually reflects that. This is his most successful concept album (concept-wise, anyway), because it sticks with the concept. This is, you know, 'bout life and stuff, but it doesn't preach...now yer talking my jive, Marvin.

So, though you can have a great time dissecting Marvin's own duality of nature while listening to this album, I enjoy the singing and the fact that the crystal-clear light thump music was made by real-life people.

Of course, a world of clashes and heavy casualties on the sides of good and evil leaves a vacuum open for the stupid and vapid, and unfortunately this album leaves space open for the brainless disco party album leftovers 'Love Party' (which, incidentally, must belong to the 'good' camp, because he's really talking 'bout partying with God, who I hear has a monster weed stash), which is really the only bad song here. 'Love Me Now or Love Me Later' is a sort of Reader's Digest version of Genesis (the chapter and verse, not the pointy-headed prog band) According to Marvin, with a strong emphasis on the whole 'free will thing' is a bit rambling, but the weird intertwined Funkadelic guitar overdubs give you something to focus on while Marvin tries to figure out through stream-of-conscious babble what the hell he is trying to say (I'm not sure he ever does).

Favorite track? The truly telling 'Far Cry', heavily indebted to 'Shaft' in sound by featuring Marvin sounding so exhausted and jaded he almost doesn't hold it together, but through a trick of minimalism and instinct, he ends up creating a sort of near-worldless mouth jazz that sounds beamed in from the planet Sly. Then it becomes a reprise of Trouble Man at the snap of a finger...fucking cool.

In Our Lifetime is not going to impress any non-Gaye fans out there. It's far more dated to a musical style that people aren't quite ready to forgive yet, and doesn't include any songs that people will recognize.  Still, after a long while during which Marvin sounded too drugged-out to enunciate his grand vision and too lazy to focus his tunes, In Our Lifetime shows a lot of life in the ol' boy yet.

Capn's Final Word: Strange pop, and a far cry from past glories. Makes my muscles twitch in an odd, not altogether pleasant way.

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Midnight Love - Columbia 1983

The story goes that Marvin got pissed at Motown, needed money to pay off the IRS, and convinced Columbia to give him a contract with the promise that he'd quit all this musical fiddly-widdly and put out a saleable product for once. He'd been promising to deliver a party album since probably 1977 (if not 1967), something people could put on and forget about without being confronted with nuclear holocaust or custody battles or creepy pedophilia or whatever. Well, in his genuine gratitude towards Columbia in picking him off the scrap heap, Marvin decided to give them what they wanted the most -  an actual charting hit.  He even concocted a scheme to guarantee this occurred, a sort of Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of Marvin Gaye's image.  He started by coming back from Hawaii (or Belgium, or God knows where he'd been hiding out) and mounting a major concert tour in 1982, his first since God knows when.  The concerts were lighthearted, nostalgia-n-beefcake affairs heavy on the 'big hits' and 'contrived stripteases'and Cocaine and light on such unsexy ephemera as 'message' and 'integrity'. They worked like a charm, solidifying his middle-aged black woman fanbase into a frothing frenzy.  Next, with the help of Hollywood, Marvin rode the early 80's Motown nostalgia fad to the hilt -  'I Heard It Through the Grapevine' re-charted after being used in the boomer wank-a-thon Big Chill, and it seemed like everyone was rediscovering Marvin's old hits at the same time. Finally, he delivered the knockout blow, Midnight Love, a well-crafted, easy-to-drink and low carb dance album fuelled by the massive hit 'Sexual Healing', Marvin's biggest seller since 'Got to Give It Up' six years before. In his own way, Marvin prefigured Michael Jackson's breakthrough later the same year -  he put a black face on MTV back when such a thing was rarer than a real blonde with real boobs at Hooters, helped to readjust white people's ears to R&B music, and helped convince record companies that black music was a saleable commodity again.

What he didn't make was a great album. Midnight Love is more of a return to the cheap parlor tricks of I Want You than a further progression from the solid In Our Lifetime.  Marvin's vocals seem faker than Hilary Clinton's smile, like they've been broadcast in, pasted together from old background tapes rather than recorded from an engaged, rejuvenated artist.  Now, I'm not gonna argue that 'Sexual Healing' (aka 'Sek'syl Hillin') is a great vocal performance, but it's the only time Marvin actually takes control of a song, gives it a personality beyond a vapid, blank 'party party party party' gibberish mantra. I'll say it again -  the man's voice never did deteriorate to the point where he lost his effortless silk (his most reliable and enjoyable attribute), but he did lose his vocal grit somewhere about 1975.  And when he puts together a record as thematically featherweight as this one, well, let's just say the total effect is a mighty thin.  Listen to the half-assed way he hacks his way through the first verses of 'Rockin' After Midnight', or how he shamelessly rewrites 'Sexual Healing' into 'My Love Is Waiting'...you think he cares about this material beyond what money it might have gotten him? Yeah, and Naiomi Watts and Charlize Theron might play Slap-a-titty on my back porch on Super Bown Sunday. What Marvin didn't realize was how much it actually cost him.

Marvin Gaye never put out a disco album, not really, and though you could make the case that I Want You was every bit as insipid and repetitive as the average disco album, it was still about something (fucking pubescent girls). Midnight Love's point of existence seems to be only to present Marvin the Singer only. Too much of it brings up strong connections to his previous work, or presents him as a hammy dance-leader MC one step removed from Billy Ocean. Outside of the awful synthtones, 'Til Tomorrow' is a nice ballad, but doesn't it sound just like 'Distant Lover'? Am I getting oversaturated with Marvin, or am I right? (I have been reviewing the guy for, like, 7 weeks or something, so be kind to me). And what is 'Sexual Healing' except for a watered-down 'Let's Get It On'? For the best songs on the record, along with the oddly Phil Collins-y 'Third World Girl', these don't acquit themselves too well as quality material. Listenable, sure...the grooves are every bit as good as anything any black artist was putting out in 1982, probably because it is identical to what every black artist was putting out in 1982 (drum machines abound, doncha know).

The rest of it is worth even less mention, except to say that if Marvin had released albums like this more often (like he was always being told to do), he'd have had no outlet for his true artistic self, the one that still glimmered dimly on Lifetime. As long as he was standing on his own two feet artistically, he may have been righteously fucked up as a human being, but he always had his ability to express. Midnight Love expresses nothing. The whole point is that Marvin wasn't about party albums, and I for one don't find it too surprising that this was the last album he made before finally descending into suicidal depression and inevitable death. Midnight Love got him paid, but it also sold him out, and I'm not sure he was able to live with that.

Capn's Final Word: Marvin had to take a lot of himself to give the people what they thought they wanted. It wasn't worth it.

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Dream of a Lifetime - Motown 1984

Who knew it was a wet dream? This set of disturbing Columbia-era outtakes shows Marvin the Dirty Old Fuck, attempting clumsily to reassert his Let's Get It On-era mastery of the explicit sex song by out-nastying Prince, which to me is sort of like Eric Clapton learning to double-hand tap so he can play like Eddie Van Halen.  You don't want it, you don't need it, and the whole idea that it's out there is enough to keep you in uneasy sweats all night long. Believe me, it's even worse than you think.  Marvin always had a thing about getting a good girl to get nasty, but the contrast between 'Sanctified Lady' (where he expresses his desire for a church-going woman) and 'Savage in the Sack' and 'Masochistic Lady' is enough to shatter my eardrums with the temperature change.  Now, over the years we've had plenty of horny Marvin on record to desensitize ourselves to how disturbing it all is, but his stoned-out Bootsy lecher-yelping on 'Savage' and vomitessent British accented obscenities on 'Masochistic' are too much for a stomach to bear.  'While you're on your knees, raise your dress' 'Is it wet?' Are you kidding? How 'bout a trip to the Red Lobster and a nice Meg Ryan flick before you 'spank my booty', whaddya say Marv? It makes me blush when Prince sings lyrics like this, but Prince is like that weird kid with the waterbed and the waist-high stack of porno mags when he was 13...hearing this blunt, unsexy blather from Marvin Gaye is like receiving a dirty phone call from your church pastor. Musically, it's all the same old Midnight Love electro-funk, which by this album's release in 1985 was extremely old hat except for certain low-budget hip hop acts, and no one wants to hear Marvin debase himself after receiving three in the chest from Daddy. That didn't prevent Columbia from trying once again to force Marvin the Corpse into honoring his recording contract with Romantically Yours, which I feel like reviewing about as much as I feel like scraping out my saliva glands with wire pipe cleaners.

Capn's Final Word:  It just goes to show that resting in peace is a relative term when record companies are involved...

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Romantically Yours - Motown 1985
 
Incomplete

Whatever kind of assshakings that didn't make it on Dream of a Lifetime. God only knows if I'll ever get the wild hair to review this album. I have it on vinyl, which means it's offensive, embarrassing, and snap, crackles, and pops like Joe Namath's knees on a cold morning.

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