Top positive review
9 people found this helpful
"...Where Love Is King..." - What's Going On by MARVIN GAYE (2001/2011 DELUXE EDITION 2CD Remasters)
on 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
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...