02 April 2019 (released)
02 April 2019
Sandwiched between his global smashing socio-ecological plea for harmony and planetary peace ‘What’s Going On’ in 1971 and his equally successful smooth and seductive ‘Let’s get it On’ in 1973, Marvin Gaye recorded these ‘unburied’ tracks in 1972.
Not content to rest on his laurels and eager to capitalise on his creative streak the year also saw him record a duets album with Diana Ross and soundtrack the blaxploitation film ‘Trouble Man’.
Following the relative failure of single ‘You’re the man’ and a dispute with Motown head honcho Berry Gordy, the proposed album was ditched leaving these songs floating round in dribs and drabs, until now.
An anthem for any time, ‘You’re the man’ is a sarcastic assault on the perennial politico-shenanigans that propose much, delivering no such, the (s)elected racketeering representatives that clamour for war from the backseat of the car, fakes on the take with unfulfillable plans and promises. Two versions feature on the album, the first a funky wah-wah -what’s going on’ warning, the second a more soulful, melancholic rendition.
Changing climate concerns, immoral militaristic invasions and societal disparity inform most of the tracks: ‘The world is rated X’ with its’ ‘dirty water and dirty air’ and inner-city unrest with Gaye’s suggestion that these issues can be solved only through the power of LOVE and the bouncy ‘Where are we going?’ a proto-disco horn of plenty positing the rhetoric.
The other tracks articulate the vagaries of love. Love for another (‘You are the Special One’, ‘I’d give my life for you’) is there to be moulded, shaped and solidified in ‘Piece of clay’ (co-written by Gloria ‘Tainted Love’ Jones and Pamela ‘Love Child’ Sawyer), a piano-driven gospel number exhorting the eternal properties of the affective organ. Prince was certainly listening studiously.
Retro-soul merchant SaLaAM ReMi applies his modern-tech polish on new mixes of ‘My last chance’, ‘Symphony’ and ‘I’d give my life for you’
Also included are the rare, long LP version of Gaye’s cancelled 1972 Christmas single, ‘I want to come home for Christmas’ a less-than-festive number about an imprisoned soldier longing for home in Vietnam and it’s instrumental flipside ‘Christmas in the City’.
The fluctuating tones of the songs suggest Gaye was still ruminating on the fall-out of his success (‘when you get to the top, the only way is down’) and how the everyday things were depressingly just the same (internal and external wars on particular battlefronts in a ‘cruel world’). Aesthetically flitting between groovin', movin', smoovin' and the obligatory loovin'.
In what would have been Gaye’s 80th birthday (2nd April) this is more than a grave-robbing cash in, this excavated time-capsule is finally getting the justice it deserves.