Release Date: 2nd April 2019
Having the opportunity to review genuinely new material from the legend that is Marvin Gaye is something I didn’t think I’d ever achieve without first going through some form of time travel or regeneration process – both of which were unlikely as I’m not particularly sciencey. However, in celebration of what would have been the great man’s 80th birthday, UMC/Island are releasing Gaye’s previously unissued Tamla/Motown album and it is, of course, called ‘You’re The Man’ – what else would it have been called.
The album opens up with the title track and we’re straight down to business with that trademark vocal riding smoothly atop the scratchy, funk guitars and subtle organs on ‘You’re The Man’ before moving straight on to ‘The World is Rated X’ which has a real soundtrack vibe and takes you right back to the early 70s when this was originally recorded. On ‘Piece of Clay’, the vibe gets slowed down with some Hendrix-esque guitars and gospel organ that leads on to Gaye performing in full ballad mode, “Father please stop criticising your son”…”can’t you see that’s what’s wrong with the world today, everybody wants somebody to be their own piece of clay”. Way, way, way ahead of his time and as soulful as they come. The last track of the first side of two twelve inches that make up this double LP is ‘Where Are We Going?’ which finds Marvin in chilled and reflective mood, telling stories of the world around him.
‘I’m Gonna Give You Respect’ leads on the horn section before settling in to a classic Motown soul groove before ‘Try It, You’ll Like It’ gets the party in to full swing with swinging guitars and a bassline that just won’t quit. Life affirming joy is delivered via ‘You Are That Special One’ with classic Motown vibes and Gaye in playful mood as he sings “There’s something about the way you walk and there’s something about the way you talk, when I saw you sitting there on that shelf I knew I had to have you for myself”. The first LP closes out with ‘We Can Make It Baby’ full of Jackson 5 harmonies and some seriously dance inducing percussion rippling and punching through the funky guitars.
The effortlessness with which Marvin Gaye produces music that both makes you want to move your feet and at the same time think about the world around you is truly something special and makes this ‘new’ collection such an amazing find. The second LP gets underway with ‘My Last Chance’, a mellow and soulful number that finds Gaye in meandering, Jazz inspired form on vocal duties. ‘Symphony’ is the shortest track on the album coming in at under three minutes but it still packs plenty of punch with a nod towards reggae in amongst the sweeping strings and hints at some of the beats that Trip Hop would later go on to use. The strings continue on ‘I’d Give My Life For You’ where you cant help but turn the lights down low and pull your lover close in for a slow dance while ‘Woman of the World’ plays on a sumptuous organ riff to get a Stevie Wonder vibe going on.
Now, I wasn’t going to mention this next track as I wanted to keep it all to myself but I couldn’t do that to you, dear reader. ‘Christmas in the City’ is a dirty, sexy little instrumental slow dance at the end of the office Christmas party with festive cheer running through your veins and mistletoe everywhere you look. The last side of this four-sided vinyl beast opens with a second version of ‘You’re the Man’ before ‘I Want to Come Home for Christmas’ pours out the eggnog and sits down next to your Christmas tree in a turtle neck sweater for some serious crooning. In the final straight, ‘I’m Going Home (Move)’ pulls on that Sly & the Family Stone thread with a funk motif and the kind of rhythm section most bands could only dream off. The album (that word seems inadequate somehow) with ‘Checking Out (Double Clutch)’ which is a spoken word blues-funk stroll down the street with your hands in your pockets and a glint in your eye. This collection is imperious and it baffles me as to how or why it has been kept from public consumption for so long but we should be grateful that it’s out in the world now and we can revel in this gloriousness like the best time capsule that there ever was.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/MarvinGaye/