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HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 January 2015
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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on 14 September 2015
An absolute lesson in modulation/key-change. Take That and pop artists take note, you don't just change the key and insult people's ears, you change key whilst adding or removing percussive elements and changing tempo. For Marvin Gaye to produce this under the time constraints and the intolerance of Motown to publish this type of socially conscious music is nothing short of a period of true genius. The Beatles did something similar for Please Please Me, but I think this is more of a feat and is completely original material. It is a true album-work and is almost impossible to appreciate in the same way when cut up into tracks. It is seamless and never boring, with the feel of a live studio recording (which indeed it pretty much was, with the exception of a few overdubs). Modern artists are trying to plagiarise Marvin through lack of artistic vision and ability (notably Mr Pharrell Williams who has been sued for ripping off one of Marvin Gaye's songs in particular). People would like to have great engineers build their cars and design sound structural housing, so why do people enable such talentless tripe through encouraging shows like X Factor and listening to modern hip-hop, R & B and dance music, which can't produce a song without sampling music from Marvin's era (notably Nina Simone has been ripped off more than any other - with her music in about half-a-dozen car adverts, a David Guetta song and many others. As well as Whitney who has been ripped recently for her song Dance with Somebody). When this happens and is not credited upon every play, despite what may be said in contracts, it is nothing short of wrong and is in it's own way stealing. This album is the first and last of it's time, it taps into the social conscience and consciousness of America and is musically engaging at every moment. A work of complete genius, a word that is thrown about too much in this, the most arrogant era of human existence. Every generation has had to fight for freedom, rights, liberties, etc, but this Bieber generation just cannot see through their Facebook bedazzled eyes how clear the path has been left for them to be successful and make money, so it is no wonder in nearly every artistic or sporting field, people describe themselves and each other as 'genius' and 'the best ever'. Rubbish, you cannot compare this generation with preceding ones. It is factually wrong and disrespectful of preceding generations as well as a complete failure in noticing context and conditions and how they shape everything humans produce. There. Breath.
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on 24 September 2016
Unquestionably the greatest soul album ever made,in my opinion.If the themes have dated a little(and some are still relevant today),the voice,the music,make that totally unimportant,it is an absorbing record.This has so much more,and although not all is essential,it's good to have what is,for now at least,the most complte document of the recording.
Always good,Marvin Gaye is here at the very peak of his career,and what a peak it is.Other reviews give far greater detail,so no point rehashing them,it really is just an album of the finest,almost mythically most perfect,quality.I don't listen to that much popular music anymore,but this never fails to grip me,a true masterpiece .
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on 23 July 2014
I am a 70's rock child and only recently stumbled across this - and boy, was I missing out all those years. I actually bought it for the conga patterns, which are exquisite throughout this album and are a fine example of how to add texture and extra groove to music.

However the whole album is peppered with musical brilliance. There are numerous great riffs and grooves, some reflective lyrics sung from the heart about war, religion and the decline of society, and great musicianship from the Motown factory. A few of the songs have a slightly Motown feel to the arrangements but mostly this is Gaye cutting his own style. There are the great pop songs of "What's Going on" and "Mercy, Mercy Me" (with lyrics alot more introspective and controversial than your average song of that time) and there are some simply groove-tastic epics such as "Right On" or "Inner City Blues" (both over 5 mins) where Gaye grinds out a soulful bluesy, gospel feel.

To my mind, a few songs are a little self-indulgent and possbly too drug-induced (like "Flying High"), but the lyrics are heart felt and the band is tight so these aren't too bad.

Bonus tracks on the current release ar enot really worth mentioning. In fact, the original fades out after track 9 and, given his tragic and untimely passing, it's almost as if Martin's Soul is leaving us and going off to heaven. Very poignant.

As stated - I am a rock guy, but I recognise quality when I hear it. This guys creativity stood out and he is sadly missed.

Every credible music collection will be enhanced by this album.
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VINE VOICEon 24 April 2012
I'm a rock fan in the main, but some albums transcend genres and this is one of them. I had to get it purely because of its reputation, which is sometimes a mistake, ('Astral Weeks'? Yeugh!) but not in this case. Actually, these days you'd probably get panned for coming out with some of the lyrics on this album: 'war is not the answer', 'love will conquer all', 'I see trouble', 'save the children' and other vague, obvious platitudes. As others have said, however, they remain relevant and were not so cliched back then.

What clinches it is Gaye's execution. Not only does he convince you that he means it, the arrangements and production give you the tingles. Somehow, what is recognisably a soul record has been imbued with a kind of ghostliness. Highlights? The whole thing, which seems to fly by in half the time it actually takes. Rolling Stone magazine's all-time top 500 has this at number five. Voted for largely by recording artists, it says something about the album's influence.
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on 27 December 2013
I've loved this album for years, and a recent interest in the Vietnam War... oh sorry... make that the "War in Vietnam" - the US never declared war on Vietnam - yeh, I know :-/ 560,000 servicemen were allocated to the region at the peak of the conflict! But no declaration? Saying that they never declared war on Iran or Afghanistan either - they are, one and all, in the words of the Executive: "Police Actions"... for the good of humanity. ANYHOOOO, my recent interest in the Vietnam War, both its domestic and international repercussions, has added yet another layer of contextualisation to this HEARTFELT & SOULFUL CRY for a better way of living with one another. I love albums that keep on giving as your own perceptions develop. And this is one of the best.
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on 2 October 2016
Marvin Gaye had to battle Berry Gordy and Motown and its distributors hard to get this released. But he persuaded them and released an album that tackled very important issues such as racism and the environment but did this with some of the greatest songs you will ever hear. Marvin's velvet voice adds an authority and a vulnerability that makes these messages even more powerful.
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on 14 June 2014
I think this is one of the best albums ever, easily. I love you Marvin. Hopefully a copy will survive somewhere for Charlton Heston or someone to dig up in the future past/past future, and with the segues in proper order. No one will ever ever ever reach such musical heights as were achieved in the late 1960s/early 1970s. The 80s had the odd one or two but culturally the world is now dead. It's all just gadgets. Never before has the bomb seemed so necessary.
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on 18 November 2011
Firstly i'd like to admit that i already own both the 2001 deluxe edition and the 2002 remastered version as well of "What's Goin' On". So, the question is why should i buy one more repackaged anniversary edition of that album? Because , we are talking about THE ALBUM, the one that set the standard for the sophisticated sound and attituted of soul music from the 70's and later on. That specific version adds 12 more unreleased tracks from that era and gives us for the first time on vinyl the "Detroit Mix" version of the album that someone could find in the deluxe edition.
There is also an LP sized booklet with essays & many rare photos from that period.
For the casual listener i would propably suggest the deluxe edition, in which you can find both of the album versions plus unreleased tracks plus a whole live gig from 1972. But, for the real soul music lover, that would be the ideal representative album from Marvin Gaye that he/she should own. Something that you could "show" in your friends or kids to learn about the truest meaning of soul music. The ideal album for your music library.
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on 28 June 2017
A classic album that immerses you in times gone by. So much talent and such a waste of a caring life. The album epitomises the early 70s when so much was going on, some very meaningful lyrics from a spiritual man
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