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4.7 out of 5 stars162
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2000
For me this is one of the great albums of the twentieth century. A million miles from the luurrveman shmooze of his later albums and the brash pop of his earlier stuff, this is all about pain, sorrow and optimism.
Now while this sounds drippy (and Marvin does holler, in all seriousness, 'Save the babies!'), the combination of killer melodies, featherlight string arrangements and Marvin's voice, free of the constraint of his earlier Motown meatgrinder material, make for an album straight from the gods. And it'll have your booty shaking like nobody's business.
How it isn't unbearably cheesy I'll never know, but somehow you get the feeling that our Marvin really meant what he sang and you can't help but get swept along. Wonderful stuff.
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on 3 January 2008
Sadly, when this album was released, Motown was "uncool", and I was listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra and Chick Corea's Return to Forever. Both good bands, but don't get played too often these days. However, since eventually buying it, it's never failed to get the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. The title track is as relevant today as it was when it was written (Vietnam and Iraq), and is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It's just very sad that Marvin is no longer around to sing it.
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on 8 May 2002
This is one of the first albums I bought when 'going CD', after falling in love with my mother's vinyl copy. 'What's Going On' is a stunning album ,and though 30 years old, as contemporary as if it were recorded yesterday. This is undoubtedly the high point of Gaye's career, between the Motown mush foisted on him (such a waste of his angelic voice) and the rising of his personal problems. I cannot recommend this album highly enough, even to those unacquainted with Marvin or not connoisseurs of this type of music. Beautifully orchestrated songs on themes ranging from peace, religion, ecology and the plight of black americans, all delivered in that peerless voice, make the album is a fantastic listen. From the laidback lament of the title track through to the ominously plaintive 'Inner City Blues' (the segue between 'God Is Love' and 'Mercy Mercy Me' still makes me shiver even after a thousand listens), Marvin holds forth on those things dearest to him, underlining how pointless and vacuous some of today's efforts are by comparison. Every collection should have this album, which stands alongside 'Innervisions' as one of the first occasions a black artist verbally confronted some of the ills that ailed black America. And given what happened some 13 years later, it is almost painful to hear him sing lines like 'love your father' and father father, we don't need to escalate.' Great album, great loss.
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on 26 January 2001
This is the soul album that conquers all due to the fantastic combinations of highly orchestrated and almost otherworldly beauty of the instrumentation and melodies, the relevance of its subjects and the marvel that is Marvin Gaye's vocal stylings and impeccable range. The title track is the obvious highlight, but close competition for best track comes from "Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)" and "Wholy Holy" although the whole album is a lush, sedated and simply groundbreaking achievement for a black artist, who helped create more independence for the artists at Motown, paving the way for Stevie Wonder's fabulous 70s work and his own erotic masterpieces. Marvin Gaye's masterpiece should be listened to eternally
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on 12 May 2007
Brilliant album, of its time but as valid now as the same problems exist or have got worse today. I read a review stating Marvin's high regard is through his untimely death - well I think I fell for this album before I knew he was dead! He produced a lot of good work before and after 'What's Going On' but for me this is the pinnacle, a mature album that is strong throughout and it's a real feet up on the balcony, chilling out with a large glass of your favourite spirit type album. Buy it, sit back, relax, then start trying to change the world for the better.
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on 20 February 2007
I am 21, and have only discovered Marvin Gaye in the last few years. Admittedly, I originally delved into his catalogue due to feeling that I should (from what everyone else said). Since then, my love for his music has only grown, and this album is the pinnacle.

Each track is beautiful. It's kicked off by the title track, which deserve every bit of its reputation, and then the first half of the album slowly progresses, with each track moulding perfectly into the other. There is honestly no weak track on this album. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) and Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) are the two other best known tracks on this album, along with God Is Love being my personal favourite.

This is a true masterpiece of an album, and is how every release should be. If you have a love for Soul, of just beautiful music, please buy this.
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VINE VOICEon 16 October 2007
Marvin had been on the Motown production line for nearly a decade. Now I have nothing against the traditional Motown sound, on the contrary, I live breathe and sleep it, but Marvin was ready to trust his own creativity, and try something new, of his own.

Some have described the album as a 'black American' album. Listen again, you will not hear the word 'black' once! The album speaks to all of humanity, like great art should. The concept is timeless. With the current growing concerns about pollution and global warming, 'Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)' could have been written tomorrow.

There is a lot of jazz in the music. The chords and changes are very pleasing, and thoughtfully complex if you listen closely.

This is Marvin's best album in my opinion. At the time of writing it is so cheap, and repackaged with a bonus track. It should be irrestibible to anybody. I believe it belongs in every serious collection.
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on 16 November 2009
Another masterpiece from MOFI.
Luxury mini album replica (paper sleeve) of a classic Marvin Gaye album.
The SACD high resolution (only in stereo) is a DSD great remaster, probably better than the SACD version released by Universal Music (but available in SACD multi-channel).
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on 17 February 2004
This is Marvin's finest Hour, no question about it. With it he transformed his image from pop star to serious musical visionary in the space of less than an hour of glorious music. He was the first mainstream soul artist to record a concept album, as opposed to a collection of singles and "fillers" as had been the case up to this point. Marvin's vocals are straight from the church (his background) and the musicians on this are as tight a bunch as you'd find anywhere, yes even as good as anything Stax/Volt could produce. What it lacks in rawness, it makes up for in beauty and richness.
Particular stand out tracks for me would be "Whats Going on", "Whats Happening Brother" and "Inner City Blues (Make me wanna Holler)", a song that every jazz artist has taken a shot at!
But dont just take my word for it, buy it and see for yourself. You wont be disappointed!
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Infused with a legend that only grows deeper as the decades pass - Marvin Gaye's 1971 album "What's Going On" is surely the cornerstone of every Soul lover's collection - a vinyl LP so engrained in our hearts that its probably impossible to review it with any real distance. And why the Hell would you want to. Some things are just beautiful - plain and simple. And this fabulous 2CD Deluxe Edition celebration of that Tamla Motown crown jewel only hammers that legend home with presentational and sonic knobs on. What an album and what an artist. Here's What's Happening Brother...

The 2CD set "What's Going On DELUXE EDITION" was originally UK released March 2001 (February 2001 in the USA) on Motown 013 404-2 (Barcode 044001340420). It's been subsequently reissued January 2011 on Universal/Motown 0600753279557 (Barcode 600753279557) and both DE versions break down as follows:

Disc 1 (75:37 minutes):
ORIGINAL LP RELEASE (21 May 1971)
1. What's Going On
2. What's Happening Brother
3. Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)
4. Save The Children
5. God Is Love
6. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
7. Right On [Side 2]
8. Wholy Holy
9. Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)
Tracks 1 to 9 is the original album "What's Going On - released May 1971 in the USA on Tamla TS 301 and October 1971 in the UK on Tamla Motown STML 11190

ALTERNATE DETROIT MIX (5 April 1971) - Previously Unreleased
10. What's Going On
11. What's Happening Brother
12. Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)
13. Save The Children
14. God Is Love
15. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
16. Right On
17. Wholy Holy
18. Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)

THE FOUNDATION - Previously Unreleased
19. What's Going On (Rhythm & Strings Mix)

Disc 2 (77:28 minutes):
LIVE AT THE KENNEDY CENTER, WASHINGTON DC (Recorded 1 May 1972):
1. Sixties Medley: That's The Way Love is/You/I Heard It Through The Grapevine/Little Darling (I Need You)/You're All I Need To Get By/Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing/Your Precious Love/Pride And Joy/Stubborn Kind Of Love
2. Right On
3. Wholy Holy
4. Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)
5. What's Going On
6. What's Happening Brother
7. Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)
8. Save The Children
9. God Is Love
10. Stage Dialogue
Reprise:
11. Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)
12. What's Going On
Tracks 1 to 12 are Previously Unreleased Live Versions

ORIGINAL SINGLE VERSIONS:
13. What's Going On
14. God Is Love
15. Sad Tomorrows

IN THE MEANTIME...
16. "Head Title" (aka Distant Lover) - Previously Unreleased

The 2011 reissue comes in a 2CD jewel case when the original 2001 issue was one of those chunky Deluxe Edition Card Digipaks in a plastic titled outer slipcase. The 32-page booklet reproduces the 'Family Photo Album' insert that came with original copies of the LP, there an intro from Smokey Robinson, an essay on the album called "A Revolution In Sound & Spirit: The Making Of What's Going On" by BEN EDMONDS of the Mojo Magazine, lyrics, notes on the Detroit Mix, Single Versions and after by HARRY WEINGER and comprehensive reissue credits. In between the text are outtake photos of Marvin playing football and training in the snow, taking a phone call and even getting a haircut (it's comprehensive!).

KEVIN REEVES (Disc 1) and SUHA GUR (Disc 2) - both long-time Universal Engineers - carried out the 24-bit remasters from originals tapes - and the sound is gorgeous - as warm and as lovely as you would have hoped for. The album broke the production line process at Motown and is heavily layered, deeply religious and spiritual in its feel and message - that all surfaces as the instruments, strings and voices surface in your speakers. The live set is not a great recording by any means but it is full of atmosphere and Marvin's band digging the new material. It feels like you're eavesdropping on musical history...

Chills race up my arms every time I hear the song "What's Going On" - possibly the most sublime opening tune on any album anywhere. It morphs into the double-whammy of "What's Happening Brother" and "Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)" - linked by rhythm and social messages. Marvin goes into full on preacher mode with "Save The Children" and ends Side 1 with another own-two sucker punch - the beautifully uplifting "God Is Love" and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (those strings and that sax solo). But the best is yet to come - Side 2. Marvin's worries for America and the World and his positive solutions for the same are name-checked in the sublime groove of "Right On" - a seven and half minute slice of magic that never fails to move me - forty-three years after the event.

The extras are a mixed bag as always. The liner notes explain that some oxidization on the tapes have produced drop outs and heavy amounts of hiss on the "Detroit Mix" of the album and indeed it's particularly evident on Side 2 - "Right On", "Wholy Holy" and "Inner City Blues..." But if I'm honest I can see why Marvin discarded this mix - there's just something missing. It could be that I'm so used to hearing the original that it makes an alternate hard to swallow. There's interesting vocal passages in "Inner City Blues" and a more prevalent rhythm section - but again it feels about as subtle as mallet.

Far more exciting is the live set. Recorded a year after the album's release - even his opening 13-minute "Sixties Medley" is done in a languid "What's Going On" groove - slow and mournful - with the band playing a blinder while he gets seriously Soulful on the piano (impressive playing). There then follows the whole of Side 2 - that finally sees the gig lift off into Donny Hathaway territory - the vibe and the crowd behind him and the funky groove. He even starts "Inner City Blues..." over again much to the crowd's clapping delight. Disc 2 ends with four winners - three single mixes and a Demo taste of the future. The B-side "Sad Tomorrows" is a version of "Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)" while I've always loved the Single Mix of "God Is Love".

So there you have it - a masterpiece given a worthy reissue. Even the front cover photo gives me the wobblies - what an album.

"Some of us feel the icy wind of poverty blowing in the air...heed the people's cries..." Marvin sang on "Right On". Our Soul Hero may be gone but the truth soldiers on...
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