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Thursday, 25 February 2021

"Gold" by MARVIN GAYE – Tracks from 1962 on Tamla and Motown through to 1982 on Columbia Records Including Two Previously Unreleased Tracks from 1968 and 1972 – Guests Include The Vandellas, Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell and songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland with Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong (September 2005 UK Universal/Motown 2CD Anthology of Kevin Reeves Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Come Get To This..."

When it comes to huge artists across many different genres and you just want a 'Best Of' or 'Anthology' that delivers but won't cost you a second mortgage - where do you look? I’d advise that right here is a truly fab place to start. 

The 2CD "Gold" sets from Universal is one of those boring generic series of reissues where they 'make it easy for the public to understand'– a catchall type compilation for the supermarket shelf or Megastore (if there any of those even left). I think Universal have as many as 40 maybe even 50 different artists given the twofer "Gold" treatment (see my reviews for Steppenwolf, The Crusaders, Traffic and The Commodores/Lionel Richie). 

But here's the rub (and the distant lover); despite the rather naff artwork and a title that shows all the creative imagination of a concrete brick - I've found without exception that the "Gold" series does the absolute business on the audio front. You get great remastering names like ERICK LABSON (huge swathes of Chess), ELLEN FITTON (all 14 of the award-winning Motown Singles Book Sets), SETH FOSTER (James Brown) and SUHA GUR (Allman Brothers, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello, Kansas, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart and more). 

In the case of our Soul hero Marvin Gaye, Motown tapped a name used by many Audiophile companies and an Audio Engineer who has handled literally hundreds of CD Reissues and Remasters to mucho praise - KEVIN REEVES. This 2CD set sounds glorious. And it’s cheaper than a party political promise come election time. In fact if you look in the right places, you can probably nab this sexy little double digital Anthology for under a fiver. 

"...Mercy Me" is right. So, if you'll forgive the obvious pun, let's get it on and do the details...

UK released 5 September 2005 - "Gold" by MARVIN GAYE on Universal/Motown 0602498632253 (Barcode 602498632253) is a 34-Track 2CD Definitive Collection of Remasters covering 1962 to 1982 that plays out as follows:

CD1 (54:05 minutes):
1. Stubborn Kind Of Fellow [The Vandellas on Backing Vocals]
2. Hitch Hike [The Vandellas on Backing Vocals]
3. Pride And Joy 
4. Can I Get A Witness 
5. You're A Wonderful One 
6. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) 
7. I'll Be Doggone 
8. Ain't That Peculiar 
9. It Takes Two [with KIM WESTON]
10. Ain't No Mountain High Enough [with TAMMI TERRELL]
11. Your Precious Love [with TAMMI TERRELL]
12. If I Could Build My Whole World Around You [with TAMMI TERRELL]
13. Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing [with TAMMI TERRELL]
14. You're All I Need To Get By [with TAMMI TERRELL]
15. You 
16. I Heard It Through The Grapevine 
17. Too Busy Thinking About My Baby 
18. That's The Way Love Is 
19. His Eye Is On The Sparrow [PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED 1968 Stereo Mix]

CD2 (76:09 minutes):
1. What's Going On 
2. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
3. Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler) 
4. You're The Man - Pts. I & II (5:45 minutes)
5. Where Are We Going? [PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED 1972 recording]
6. Trouble Man 
7. Let's Get It On
8. Come Get To This 
9. Distant Lover (Live) 
10. I Want You 
11. Got To Give It Up (Live, 11:48 minutes)
12. Anger 
13. Ego Tripping Out 
14. Praise 
15. Sexual Healing 

The 16-page booklet features liner notes from Marvin's official biographer DAVID RITZ who gives a potted history of his recording career and well-publicised mental and financial troubles towards to end - right up to he triumphant "Sexual Healing" return in 1982 that put him right back up on top everywhere in the world. There are cool colour photos and the track-by-track annotation offers the LP title, writer credits and US R&B and Pop chart positions if applicable. They use the same smiling photo of MG on the rear inlay beneath the see-through tray. KEVIN REEVES handles the MONO and STEREO Remasters and they are fabulous. 

While the early stuff like "Hitch Hike" and "Pride And Joy" is very much for aficionados of early 60ts Soul – tunes like "Can I Get A Witness" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" carry with them a joy that made Motown so huge (Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting contributing). Can we even count the number of movies that have used Marvin and Tammi tearing it up on "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and you have forgotten how touching and life-affirming they were on the upbeat "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You". There was also something so expressive in his voice when he hit those "I" high notes in "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" – Smokey Robinson commenting in the liner notes that he could up any song you threw at him into something better. 

And what can we say about "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" – a Number 1 R&B hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips a whole year earlier in 1968. It was thrown onto the "In The Groove" LP in August 1968 as filler on Side 1, and in fact if you look at the cover art for original issues of Tamla TS 285 in Stereo, you will see that the song isn’t even mentioned in the highlights track list on the front cover. Clearly not much was expected of it. But a Chicago DJ spotted "...Grapevine" and it's rhythmic brilliance and after saturation play and huge reaction from his listening public, Berry Gordy was forced to rush release the single in November 1968 Stateside. And wham – a US R&B No.1 and Pop too. In fact when it was belatedly issued February 1969 in the UK on Tamla Motown – the 45-single did the same – up to No.1 – only Motown’s second number 1 in the UK for the whole of that decade. In the USA they re-named the "In The Groove" LP after the tune now forever associated with our hero. Even now "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" sends chills down my spine. A masterpiece...

I half suspected that the Traditional Gospel tune "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" which had been an American-only Mono single in September 1968 would be a bit of a barnstormer in STEREO – and it is. He goes at the Jesus watches over me epic with gusto even if the brass and backing singers threaten to drown the song with too much reverence. But it’s a find and a clever set up to the God-love that opens CD2.

Everything is everything – gotta find a way to bring some love here today. It is impossible for me not to hear "What’s Going On" and not go to tearful mush. This stunning album has been in my life 50 years and never diminishes. So CD2 hammers you with a trio of Gaye gorgeousness that just can’t be beat – "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” following the title track. Cool too to hear "Ego Tripping out" and "Praise" from those last albums he did for Motown. The 2CD Deluxe Edition of "Let's Get It On" featured an Alternate Mix of the unreleased "Where Are We Going" (a 1972 outtake) – the song being a sort of almost-Pop version of "What's Going On" meets "Let's Get In On". It’s beautifully recorded and genuinely feels like a discovery. And on it goes to the 'good for me' comeback song "Sexual Healing" - a suitable end to this Anthology.   

Disappointments and exclusions: looking at that 54:05 minute playing time for CD1 and it's clear that at least seven or even eight more songs could have been fitting onto the '60s' disc. Gems like the stand-alone "Baby Don't You Do It" single from September 1964 - a huge kick-ass R&B fave of The Who, Small Faces, The Band and so many other Rock acts. It would have elevated proceedings hugely. Or even more of the sublime Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duets like "Two Can Have A Party". 

True MG fans kind of lose it for his brilliant and largely instrumental "Trouble Man" soundtrack album too, so the sexy-funky "'T' Plays It Cool" would have added another bow to CD2, displaying his real talent and diversity. And do I want nearly 12-minutes of the live "Got To Give It Up" when I could have had "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You" from the underrated divorce-present double-album "Here, My Dear"? But besides these wee niggles; what you do get is wall-to-wall excellence (and in Stereo) rounded off with two unreleased and a booklet presentation that doesn't disgrace itself.

In an ideal world, I’d revamp CD1 and push the page number up in the booklet. But as it stands "Gold" is a very satisfying listen with that great Remastering and a solid block reminder of a talent so huge that we miss him still – nearly thirty-seven years since his passing. Hot like an oven...

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