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10 Sep 2016

Marvin Gaye "What's Going On" 1971







Marvin Gaye  "What's Going On" 1971 - 500 greatest albums  of  äll times by Rolling Stone magazine

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V42nmnNgaBE

Ambitious, personal albums may be a glut on the market elsewhere, but at Motown they're something new. These, from two of the Corporation's Finest, represent a subversive concept, allowed only to producers the overseerstars of Motown's corporate plantation as long as they didn't get too uppity. Both Gaye and Wonder have been relatively independent at Motown, their careers following their own fluctuations outside the mainstream studio trends, but these latest albums are departures even for them. 
Both are self-produced and largely self-composed (Wonder working with his wife Syreeta, Gaye with six others including his wife Anna) personal "statements." For the first time on the label, both albums contain printed lyrics. Another unexpected precedent: after all these years. Motown has begun to give credit to its studio musicians, listing 39 of them on Gaye's album and acknowledging for the first time that such people really exist. 
Unfortunately, awkwardness easily slipped over in the flow of a song is painfully evident when that song is reduced to printed lines. Although both albums suffer from this over-exposure of lyric stiffness, Gaye's work is much more supple and conversational ultimately smoothing itself out on what is a very fine record while Wonder's is too self-conscious and edges into pretentiousness ("Suffocate the new high Ride the thorny mule that cries 'Dig your grave and step right in'") the recently-developed Curtis Mayfield Syndrome becoming nearly incomprehensible when sung. 
This is not Stevie Wonder's first self-produced album he did his last, Signed. Sealed and Delivered. as tight and soul-satisfying as any to have come out of Motown but clearly Where I'm Coming From is an attempt to establish a more completely personal, idiosyncratic style and project it on his own terms. Already one of the most inventive, expressive singers performing today, Stevie apparently wanted an opportunity to loosen up outside the confines of the typical Motown single. But he blew it. Not only are the lyrics sadly undistinguished, but much of the production and arrangement is unusually self-indulgent and cluttered with effects that too often obscure the utter virtuosity of Wonder's singing. 
At its worst, in "Do Yourself A Favor" and "I Wanna Talk to You," both more than five minutes, Wonder gets so hung up on exploring this virtuosity that he runs it into the ground. Failing to realize that an extravagant vocal style draws a great deal of its strength from a contrasting, coolly-controlled arrangement which will set it off to greatest effect, Wonder tends to sink everything in thick studio veneer; the use of doubletracking for vocal self-accompaniment is especially overused. 
The most successful cuts, "Think of Me as Your Soldier" and "If You Really Love Me," are short, unassuming love songs, pleasant vehicles for the Wonder charm. Here his off-hand intensity, his intimate heavy breathing, his joyous yelps stand out clearly as exciting elements of a warm, sensuous style. In the end, though, even vibrant vocals fail to carry the album beyond its own excesses. Quite a disappointment. 
Marvin Gaye's What's Going On is an even more ambitious effort. Where Stevié was content to deliver his messages — however blurred — in three or four songs, Gaye has designed his album as one many-faceted statement on conditions in the world today, made nearly seamless by careful transitions between the cuts. A simple, subdued tone is held throughout, pillowed by a densely-textured instrumental and vocal backing. 
At first this sameness in sound persisting from one song to the next is boring, but gradually the concept of the album takes shape and its wholeness becomes very affecting. The style is set in the first cut, "What's Going On," with its sweet horn opening line; Gaye's soft, simmering voice reflecting in on itself beautifully from two or three tracks; the contrast of congas and strings; the breaks an exciting jumble of street-corner jive and scatting. As they are throughout, the lyrics here are hardly brilliant, but without overreaching they capture a certain aching dissatisfaction that is part of the album's mood. 
"What's Happening Brother" picks up from "What's Going On," strengthening its impact by making its situation more specific: a brother returning from Vietnam and trying to get his bearings on the block again, shifting between questions about old hang-outs and fears that there's no work anywhere: "Say man, I just don't understand/What's going on across this land." "Mercy, Mercy Me" is one of the most bearable ecology songs, a genre that doesn't seem to inspire especially subtle or intelligent lyrics; Gaye's are inoffensive and the song itself is lovely. Considerably changed from the version that had backed the 45 of "What's Going On," "God Is Love" still has a strange attraction. It begins, "Don't go and talk about my father/God is my friend," and kinda grows on you. 
"Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" ends the album and is one of its finest cuts. Again, an effective combination of latin drumming and strings with multitracked vocals make the most of direct lyrics: "Make me wanna holler/The way they do my life/This ain't livin', this ain't livin'/No, no baby, this ain'! livin'." Taking the album full circle, "Inner City Blues" blends back into "What's Going On," confirming itself nicely. 
One or two other cuts don't hold together quite as well ("Right On," the longest number, misses) but the album as a whole takes precedence, absorbing its own flaws. There are very few performers who could carry a project like this off. I've always admired Marvin Gaye, but I didn't expect that he would be one of them. Guess I seriously underestimated him. It won't happen again....by Rolling Stone....

What's Going On is not only Marvin Gaye's masterpiece, it's the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music, delivered by one of its finest voices, a man finally free to speak his mind and so move from R&B sex symbol to true recording artist. With What's Going On, Gaye meditated on what had happened to the American dream of the past -- as it related to urban decay, environmental woes, military turbulence, police brutality, unemployment, and poverty. These feelings had been bubbling up between 1967 and 1970, during which he felt increasingly caged by Motown's behind-the-times hit machine and restrained from expressing himself seriously through his music. Finally, late in 1970, Gaye decided to record a song that the Four Tops' Obie Benson had brought him, "What's Going On." When Berry Gordy decided not to issue the single, deeming it uncommercial, Gaye refused to record any more material until he relented. Confirmed by its tremendous commercial success in January 1971, he recorded the rest of the album over ten days in March, and Motown released it in late May. Besides cementing Marvin Gaye as one of the most important artists in pop music, What's Going On was far and away the best full-length to issue from the singles-dominated Motown factory, and arguably the best soul album of all time. 
Conceived as a statement from the viewpoint of a Vietnam veteran (Gaye's brother Frankie had returned from a three-year hitch in 1967), What's Going On isn't just the question of a baffled soldier returning home to a strange place, but a promise that listeners would be informed by what they heard (that missing question mark in the title certainly wasn't a typo). Instead of releasing listeners from their troubles, as so many of his singles had in the past, Gaye used the album to reflect on the climate of the early '70s, rife with civil unrest, drug abuse, abandoned children, and the spectre of riots in the near past. Alternately depressed and hopeful, angry and jubilant, Gaye saved the most sublime, deeply inspired performances of his career for "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," and "Save the Children." The songs and performances, however, furnished only half of a revolution; little could've been accomplished with the Motown sound of previous Marvin Gaye hits like "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" and "Hitch Hike" or even "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." What's Going On, as he conceived and produced it, was like no other record heard before it: languid, dark, and jazzy, a series of relaxed grooves with a heavy bottom, filled by thick basslines along with bongos, conga, and other percussion. Fortunately, this aesthetic fit in perfectly with the style of longtime Motown session men like bassist James Jamerson and guitarist Joe Messina. When the Funk Brothers were, for once, allowed the opportunity to work in relaxed, open proceedings, they produced the best work of their careers (and indeed, they recognized its importance before any of the Motown executives). Bob Babbitt's playing on "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" functions as the low-end foundation but also its melodic hook, while an improvisatory jam by Eli Fountain on alto sax furnished the album's opening flourish. (Much credit goes to Gaye himself for seizing on these often tossed-off lines as precious; indeed, he spent more time down in the Snakepit than he did in the control room.) Just as he'd hoped it would be, What's Going On was Marvin Gaye's masterwork, the most perfect expression of an artist's hope, anger, and concern ever recorded....by allmusic.....

Easily one of the greatest albums of all time, What’s Going On is nothing short of a masterpiece. Like Bob Marley’s Exodus, it mixes gritty social commentary and anguished dissatisfaction with expressions of religious devotion; indeed, the singer once stated that the album had been written by God, with Gaye merely the vehicle selected to deliver its messages. And like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, its non-standard musical arrangements, which heralded a new sound at the time, gives it a chilling edge that ultimately underscores its gravity, with subtle orchestral enhancements offset by percolating congas, expertly layered above James Jamerson’s bubbling bass. For a singer that had built his career on pop records written by others, What’s Going On was a very bold departure, and considering that Motown boss Berry Gordy was flatly against issuing it, Gaye’s determination in seeing the project to fruition is certainly something to be celebrated. 
Ten years ago, for the 30th anniversary reissue, Universal unearthed the album’s alternate early mix, done in Detroit, shortly before Marvin and Motown shifted camp to Los Angeles; this less-cluttered mix is highly instructive, allowing listeners to hear the disc from a new vantage point. The 30th set also had a live bonus set, taken from a 1972 performance; but this time around, the collected bonus tracks include original mono mixes of the album’s 45 RPM single releases, plus some unreleased outtakes from the LP, as well as an entire second CD of funk jams Marvin cut with Hamilton Bohannon’s band. Much of this material has never been released before. This time around, the Detroit mix of the album has been relegated to vinyl only (good news for those who prefer that format to compact disc), while the accompanying LP-sized booklet has brief essays by biographers David Ritz and Ben Edmonds, giving a bit of context to the proceedings. 
In any form, What’s Going On is an album that everyone should have in their collection; no matter how many times you play it, there is always something else to discover, from the post-Vietnam psychosis of What’s Happening Brother to the pusher’s ode of Flyin’ High; from the terror of Mercy Mercy Me to the hopefulness of Right On and the righteous indignation of Inner City Blues. If you’ve already got both mixes of What’s Going On, the funk jams make this release a welcome package; if you haven’t heard the album for a while, or never got your hands on the Detroit mix, this 40th anniversary edition is a must-have...BBC review.....

When something is completely original, breakthrough, and/or innovative it grabs our attention. Classic Rock Review’s mission is to spotlight what are, in our opinion, the most essential albums in the history of rock n roll. And classic rock n roll is our focal point, so we don’t normally drift too far from the mainstream center of that particular genre. But we do reserve the right to occasionally travel to the fringes when we spot something there that is extraordinary and cannot be ignored. 

What’s Going on is, in no way, a rock n roll album. But it did evolve from a common ancestor and would become an incredibly influential album that would effect the direction of rock n roll (as well as many other genres) as the subsequent decades unfolded. 

It was written in the wake of a great tragedy in Gaye’s live after the death of his longtime singing partner Tammi Terrell, who died of a brain tumor at age 24 in March, 1970. Gaye went into a deep depression and temporarily retired from music order to try out (unsuccessfully) for the the Detroit Lions football team. Then he was contacted by Al Cleveland and Renaldo Benson, who asked Gaye to produce a politically conscious song that they were working on.
The song was titled “What’s Going On” and it was slated to be performed by the Motown R&B group The Originals, but soon Cleveland and Benson was able to convince Gaye to come out of his brief retirement and perform it himself. The song contains a cool groove highlighted by the animated bass of James Jamerson and Marvin’s emotional and soaring vocals, with deep, introspective lyrics that fluctuate the title from a statement to a question and then back again. It would set the pace for the eventual album of the same name, although none of the other songs on the album would quite reach the excellence of this title song.

However, when the song was complete, it initially faced resistance from Motown founder and CEO Berry Gordy, Jr, who felt it deviated from the “Motown sound” and consequently, would not sell to the target audience. Gordy eventually gave in and was proven wrong to the highest degree as “What’s Going On” became the fastest selling song in Motown’s history upon it’s release in early 1971. Encouraged by this success, Gaye set out to record a full album in the same basic theme, this time with the full support of Gordy and the label, who let Marvin take the reigns and produce it as he saw fit.

The result is what many consider to be Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece, although some of the accolades bestowed upon this work have been ludicrously fawning through the years, especially by those critics looking for deep political or spiritual meaning. Although, it has much of both, the music is not done justice by inflating this meta data beyond the thin shell of its environmental context.

The music, however, is deep. Influenced by a wide array of contemporaries, ranging from Miles Davis (“Flyin’ High In the Friendly Sky”) to War (“Right On”). But, most importantly, there is a spark of originality here that make it distinct from anything else during Marvin Gaye’s career or, perhaps even, Motown’s. It is richly produced with many background singers and vocalists, an array of percussionists, and an orchestra conducted by David Van De Pitte. Further, the songs fuse together, unfolding like an audio movie much like a rock opera, except (as we noted earlier) this is not rock n roll.

What’s Going On started as a happy accident, where a down-in-the-dumps singer comes across a work that gives him principal and purpose and, utilizing deep talents not before discovered, he produces an extraordinary work of art, well ahead of its time....by Classic Rock....

Marvelous Marvin Gaye is the smoothest, and his "What's Going On" smash slipped Gaye back into hit stream, bound to overflow with that persuasive Gaye groove. His latest LP -- he produced it and had a hand in all the songs -- is a cross between Curtis Mayfield and that old Motown spell, and outdoes anything Gaye's ever done on "Inner City Blues," "Right On" and "Flyin' High." Marvin's on top again.

- Billboard, 1971.

This may be a groundbreaking personal statement, but like any Berry Gordy quickie it's baited skimpily: only three great tunes. "What's Going On," "Inner City Blues," and "Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)" are so original they reveal ordinary Motown-political as the benign market manipulation it is. And Gaye keeps getting more subtle vocally and rhythmically. But the rest is pretty murky even when the lyrical ideas are good -- I like the words on "What's Happenin' Brother" and "Flyin' High (in the Friendly Sky)" quite a bit -- and the religious songs that bear Gaye's real message are suitably shapeless. Worst of all, because they're used a lot, are David Van De Pitte's strings, the lowest kind of movie-background dreck. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

"It's tragic that Gaye should only have been re-assessed because of his death. In this time of social and political concern by musicians this stands as one of the greatest social comments -- and collection of songs -- of all time."

Robin Denselow strikes the nail on the head. Since he was killed by his father, Marvin Gaye has been appreciated far more fully than he was even in his extraordinary career. This album marks a major re-evaluation by the critical establishment.

"Gaye's vision of spiritual hope, despair, joy, melancholia, sexual consolation and the redemptive power of love covers every emotion one asks of music," Mick Brown enthuses. Adam White is also deeply appreciative: "Marvin's Motown-bred style of supreme "cool" melds with social awareness to produce a milestone more meaningful -- and less self-conscious -- than most comparable rock albums. More mature, too, than similar efforts by stable-mate Stevie Wonder." Andy Peebles notes What's Going On as the first major Black concept album, a direct inspiration for many that soon followed.

Marvin had gone into a two-year period of semi-seclusion shortly after his historic hit "I Heart It Through The Grapevine." He hated touring, having a terrible fear of live performance, but he wa also horribly upset by the death of his recent partner on love duets, Tammi Terrell. Gaye also claimed to be annoyed by Motown's insistence that he work with othe writers and producers, and took charge of the Originals' "Baby I'm For Real" in 1969 to show that he could supervise a million-seller himself. His intense reading of "Abraham, Martin and John," a British top ten hit in 1970, was the only pointer to the kind of job he could do with material like What's Going On.


It had been widely reported that Motown detested the album upon delivery and refused to release it. Gaye swore that in that case he would never make another LP for them. Motown then planned a limited release, but immediate, feverish fan response to the project caused them to dramatically switch gears and offer all-out support.
"What's Going On," "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" were all million-selling singles in the U.S. "Save the Children" was a chart single in the U.K.

"What's Going On' was originally sketched by Obie Benson of the Four Tops and Al Cleveland, who famously co-wrote "I Second That Emotion" with Smokey Robinson. Feeling it perfect for Marvin, they offered it to him and finished it with him. The people partying at the beginning of the track are members of the Detroit Lions that Gaye invited to the recording session.

In 1987, What's Going On was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #4 rock album of all time.

- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.

What's Going On, a singularly influential Motown recording, represents Gaye's autonomous recording ideas, executed with some distance from the hit factory. It went a long way toward making black pop music meaningful to both its black and white audiences (but primarily the former). It helped bring a social consciousness to Motown, although the tenor of the times was also moving that way, and it delivers three great songs, "What's Going On," "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)," and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." In August, 1987, Rolling Stone ranked What's Going On tenth in its compilation of the "100 Best Albums of the Last 20 years," saying of it: "Throw in hints of jazz...a pronounced gospel feeling, and you a singular, exquisitely spiritual album." The sound on the recording is much brighter, cleaner, and more dynamic than on the LP. It sounds better, if a bit compressed and occasionally overbright. A+

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

All the contradictions of forward-thinking African-American pop in the early seventies assert themselves on What's Going On and its 1973 successor, Let's Get It On.

Gaye had already traveled a long way when he arrived at the triumph of What's Going On, one of the early-seventies LPs that expanded the vernacular of Motown pop. After his tutalage under Harvey Fuqua in the late permutation of the Moonglows, he moved to Motown and the tutelage of Berry Gordy, married the boss's sister, and worked as a session drummer and percussionist until he got his chance to shine in the spotlight. His first pair of singles, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" and "Hitch Hike," weren't smashes, but they did set the pattern for the major hits to follow: his willful yet smooth voice atop a tale of generalized spiritual/romantic yearning. By the end of the sixties, he had transcended Motown form, recording the tumultuous "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (a record whose ramifications deserve their own book) and several dozen duets with Tammi Terrell that remain the liveliest, most hopeful series of tales celebrating romantic fidelity ever.

But Gaye wanted more. What's Going On towered over most soul albums, even the better ones, in that it was a conceptual work with musical and lyrical themes throughout; as far as concept went, it owed far more to Tommy than any record released by Motown. Gaye's tone on the record was anguished but searching, through songs about war, pollution, God, and, most of all, himself. The seven-minutes-and-thirty-one-seconds "Right On" broke rules about what could happen on a soul record and not just becuase it sported a flute solo; throughout What's Going On, Gaye was experimenting, trying to discover new ways to sing, emote, project. A case can be made that "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" revealed nothing so much as Gaye's distance from the subject, but since the whole record is about wanting to connect, it's likely that Gaye had some sense of his predicament.

- Jimmy Guterman, The Best Rock 'n' Roll Records of All Time, 1992.

Shortly after Marvin Gaye turned 30, he became the first Motown artist with a measure of creative control. What's Going On was the result, surely Marvin's finest moment and, along with a number of Stevie Wonder's early-'70s releases, one of a handful of great Motown albums. A concept album, What's Going On chronicled a multitude of societal ills. Ironically, Motown owner Berry Gordy did not want to release it. He was convinced it held no commercial potential. Gordy couldn't have been more wrong: What's Going On catapulted Marvin Gaye into superstardom. Three #1 singles were pulled from the album: the title song, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)." This was the first album where Marvin overdubbed his voice multiple times, creating a one-man vocal group. The result was a level of timbral integration in the harmonies that became a Gaye trademark. * * * * *

- Rob Bowman, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

What's Going On is not just a great Gaye album but is one of the great pop albums of all time. (Splurge and get the deluxe edition.) * * * * *

- Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Marvin Gaye co-wrote and produced this entire, seminal album in a matter of weeks, revellling in the artistic freedom that hits like "I Heart It Through The Grapevine" had won him. Although happy to finally be in control, Gaye was still mourning the death of his singing partner, Tammi Terrel, which made What's Going On curiously ambivalent. it wasn't an international hit but its growing stature has crossed over cultural, racial and musical barriers. The title track's party atmosphere quickly turns introspective -- mirroring an America still mired in the Vietnam war. There were new environmental worries then too, concerns which Gaye echoed on the nifty "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," with its minimal hook. "What's Happening Brother" epitomized nostalgia for for happier, simpler times and "Save The Children" showcased Gaye at his most vulnerable. It was the penultimate "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" that caused the most excitement at the time, though, with its wordless chorus and dramatic bassline. On the cover of "What's Going On" Gaye's rainy tears gave a hint -- like the background's discarded toys -- of the paternal wounds that were later to kill him and imprison his father, but the soulful disc within continues to inspire.

- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.

Social statement and pure soul peacefully co-exist on a gorgeous yet gritty concept album, a visionary apogee that provides a snapshot of a different time and culture in our country, with landmark cuts that are poignant in message, yet smooth in sound. Motown almost rejected it for not being outwardly commercial, but in the end, it changed the face of popular music, with spacey grooves driving stream of consciousness delivered by the voice of an angel. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

What's Going On remains, undeniably, one of the most moving and masterful suites of music ever conceived. The LP possesses a graceful artistry, an unanswering sense of purpuse, and a deep-seated spirituality that seized the zeitgeist of its time, but will never go out of style. Three generations later, it still retains the same incredible power that made it so widely loved and praised at the time of its original release. It is a truly overwhelming and transcendent album, never failing to astonish those seeking hope, insight, solace, or simply some of the most soulful soul there ever was.

What's Going On was voted the 4th greatest album of all time in a VH1 poll of over 700 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, radio programmers, and critics in 2003.

- Nevin Martell, VH1's 100 Greatest Albums, 2003.

"In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say," Gaye once said about the creation of What's Going On. "I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world."

The last thing Motown wanted its fans to think about, however, was "what was happening in the world." So with Gaye determined to shatter the label's hugely successful pop formula and address issues such as the Vietnam War, civil rights and the environment, Motown founder Berry Gordy was not pleased, to say the least. He claimed that "What's Going On" was the worst song he had ever heard. As for "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)," Gordy asserted that he didn't even know what the world ecology meant. For his part, Gaye said he would never record for Motown again unless "What's Going On" was put out as a single. After initially being rejected by Motown's quality-control committee, it was; when it became a Top Five hit, the album -- and a burst of socially conscious music from Motown -- followed soon after.

Producing the album amid a haze of marijuana smoke, Gaye made one intuitively brilliant decision after another -- from letting the tapes roll as his friends mingled and chatted to recording the rehearsal exercises of saxophonist Eli Fountain. When Fountain complained that he had just been goofing around, Gaye replied, "Well, you goof exquisitely. Thank you." And that's how the plaintive saxophone line that announces What's Going On came to be.

What's Going On was chosen as the 6th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03. 

In the two years before he began work on this, his magnum opus, Marvin Gaye struggled with writer's block, depression, and addiction -- while still recording at a relentless pace. So when, in 1970, he announced to executives at Motown Records that he'd be producing his next album himself, he faced a degree of skepticism. No artist, not least an infirm one, rejected Hitsville's famed assembly line. 

Gaye eventually prevailed, and the rest is history -- What's Going On is a radical miracle of pop music, an alignment of talent and message unlike anything before or since. Using his formidable powers of seduction. Gaye spoke about the Vietnam war, conditions in the inner cities, and the environment in a way that gently led listeners to greater awareness. "Something happened with me during that period," Gaye said later. "I felt the strong urge to write music and to write lyrics that would touch the souls of men." 

He did that first with the title song, which rises from the sounds of a party in progress -- an emotional homecoming for a Vietnam veteran. The song acquired its distinctive sound, with several layers of Gaye's lead vocals, through a happy studio accident: As an engineer played back a practice track he'd recorded earlier, Gaye, sitting at the piano in in the famous Motown studio nicknamed "Snakepit," began singing along, echoing and embellishing the existing vocal. His overlapping voices, locked in an urgent, internal conversation, surprised everyone in the room -- and from that moment became a distinguishing feature of What's Going On. 

When Motown executives heard the track, they flatly refused to release it -- saying it was too political, not hit material. A standoff ensued: Gaye vowed he wouldn't do anything else for the label until "What's Going On" came out, and in January 1971, six months after it was recorded, the song was issued. It became an immediate hit, reaching the top of Billboard's soul chart and the number two position on the pop charts. Motown wanted an album to follow immediately, and during a feverish ten-day marathon, Gaye and a crew of writer/producers knocked it out, with the house rhythm section, the Funk Brothers, establishing the basic accompaniment and members of the Detroit Symphony providing the sweet, questioning strings. The album reached stores in May, and its album tracks and subsequent singles -- "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" -- coalesced into one riveting whole, a commentary somehow greater than the sum of its (stellar) parts. Through these persuasive songs, Gaye took the frustrations of a heated wartime moment and made them eternal: What's Going On resonates where there is conflict and misunderstanding, touching the souls of men by calling to the highest within them. 

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

What's Going On is both time-stamped and timeless: a picture of Vietnam-era turmoil that will blow minds as long as there are ears. This 40th-anniversary version lives up to its bombastic billing: two CDs and a vinyl LP, plus demos, B sides and the "What's Going On" that Motown refused to release. But it's the original LP (heard here in remastered form) that transfixes: Listen to Gaye's unearthly multitraced voice over the spacey gospel of "God Is Love." Greatest protest album ever made? Most stirring soul-music symphony? Yes and yes. And then some. * * * * * 

- Jody Rosen, Rolling Stone, 6/23/2011. 

Perhaps the truest melding of social commentary and swooning musicality ever achieved -- a triumph of substance and soul. 

What's Going On was chosen as the 13th greatest album of all time by the editors of Entertainment Weekly in July 2013. 

- Entertainment Weekly, 7/5/13.

In the two years before he began work on this, his magnum opus, Marvin Gaye struggled with writer's block, depression, and addiction -- while still recording at a relentless pace. So when, in 1970, he announced to executives at Motown Records that he'd be producing his next album himself, he faced a degree of skepticism. No artist, not least an infirm one, rejected Hitsville's famed assembly line. 

Gaye eventually prevailed, and the rest is history -- What's Going On is a radical miracle of pop music, an alignment of talent and message unlike anything before or since. Using his formidable powers of seduction. Gaye spoke about the Vietnam war, conditions in the inner cities, and the environment in a way that gently led listeners to greater awareness. "Something happened with me during that period," Gaye said later. "I felt the strong urge to write music and to write lyrics that would touch the souls of men." 

He did that first with the title song, which rises from the sounds of a party in progress -- an emotional homecoming for a Vietnam veteran. The song acquired its distinctive sound, with several layers of Gaye's lead vocals, through a happy studio accident: As an engineer played back a practice track he'd recorded earlier, Gaye, sitting at the piano in in the famous Motown studio nicknamed "Snakepit," began singing along, echoing and embellishing the existing vocal. His overlapping voices, locked in an urgent, internal conversation, surprised everyone in the room -- and from that moment became a distinguishing feature of What's Going On. 

When Motown executives heard the track, they flatly refused to release it -- saying it was too political, not hit material. A standoff ensued: Gaye vowed he wouldn't do anything else for the label until "What's Going On" came out, and in January 1971, six months after it was recorded, the song was issued. It became an immediate hit, reaching the top of Billboard's soul chart and the number two position on the pop charts. Motown wanted an album to follow immediately, and during a feverish ten-day marathon, Gaye and a crew of writer/producers knocked it out, with the house rhythm section, the Funk Brothers, establishing the basic accompaniment and members of the Detroit Symphony providing the sweet, questioning strings. The album reached stores in May, and its album tracks and subsequent singles -- "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" -- coalesced into one riveting whole, a commentary somehow greater than the sum of its (stellar) parts. Through these persuasive songs, Gaye took the frustrations of a heated wartime moment and made them eternal: What's Going On resonates where there is conflict and misunderstanding, touching the souls of men by calling to the highest within them. 

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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Analogue

Analogue

Cassette Deck

Cassette Deck

vinyl

vinyl