Sunday, 30 November 2014

Marvin Gaye "Whats Going On" (1971)

"Marvin Gaye, used to sing to me, he had me feeling like black was the thing to be, and suddenly the ghetto didn't seem so tough, and though we had it rough, we always had enough"..... I should have taken note at an earlier age, and how it took me so long to find Marvin is beyond me, his sweet soulful voice is medicine for blues. I find myself a little anxious and hesitant to write about this piece of music so powerful and beautiful I could never do it justice, but then again my words will never justify the experience of "listening", feeling the music, and this is music you will feel deep in your soul, but first lets talk a little about Marvin. Born in April of 39, Marvin was a singer / songwriter who rose to prominence through Motown Records in the 60s. Dealing with inner struggles, romantic endeavors and cocaine addiction, Marvin was a troubled soul with a beautiful talent and a captivating, soothing voice that touched the souls of many. His addictions and troubles would get the better of him through his career that came to a sudden and tragic end in 84 when he was shot by his father in circumstances that suggest he was aware of the fatal consequences fighting with his father would bring onto him.

Marvin's music was often inspired internally, but this conceptual album was inspired by life in the ghettos and the war in Vietnam, where he found himself asking, "Whats Going On?". Initially hesitant to support Marvin in his social conscious direction, this would turn out to be a huge hit and go on to become Motown's best selling album. The themes expressed are from the viewpoint of a Vietnam war vet returning home to America to find the struggles at home are worsening. Asking questions about the hardships of life and human behavior, Marvin finds a stunning balance between the negative and positive, offering uplifting melodies and messages alongside questioning the dark nature of war and poverty. Marvin's voice and the music work together in stunning harmony as infections soulful singing compliments moody, grooving instrumentals that are gently dramatic, harmonious and layered with instruments and percussion that give it a depth the keen ear can hear the genius subtleties in the quieter instruments. Theres fantastic variety from the large instrument pallet, many elements come in and out of focus in an organic and effortless manor, creating rich, colorful instrumentals that drive deep into the heart. The presence of the bass guitar is a consistent element through out that provides a solid emotional backbone for this record, offering up grooves and exploration playing that is constantly dancing on the fretboard. The inclusion of bongo drums in the percussive department is another fantastic element adding to the instrumental variety.

The record as a whole is a stunning musical experience, the songs move from one to the next in a continuous fashion that has some pretty obvious, rigid transitions in tempo and key that somehow sound great despite their obvious nature. The recording is heavenly, not even considering the era this album sounds cultured, colorful and bright. Their is a cluster of instruments detailing these tracks that are mixed and balanced sublimely, nothing is overpowering and everything is audible, capturing the character of all the instruments. Over it all Marvin's voice is glorious, mixed with many backing tracks, double takes and subtle choirs that breath so much energy and soul into the listener as Marvin's infectious vocal leads overlap, chime and dance with one another. Its a deep, powerful and beautiful listening experience, both for its glorious sound and socially conscious message that can make you feel good when tackling the harder subjects of our collective existence. Marvin shows the beauty in pain and gives strength to those who ask the questions.

Favorite Song: Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Rating: 10/10


  1. Hey, xisuma. Have you heard any music from Shirk? He tries to incorporate emotions into each song, and his music quality is excellent, even though he is not well known. I love "The end of it all", and he is by far my favorite electronic music artist. :)

    1. Cool stuff! Thanks for sharing :-)

    2. thank YOU for constantly making entertaining content on YouTube. I enjoy your videos. :)