Album of the Week: Marvin Gaye, 'You're the Man'

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Marvin Gaye, 'You're the Man'
Marvin Gaye, 'You're the Man' (Courtesy of Motown)
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Sean McPherson - Album of the Week: Marvin Gaye, 'You're the Man'
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The two greatest R&B singers of all time may very well be Marvin Gaye's tenor and Marvin Gaye's falsetto. And on Gaye's long lost 1972 album, You're the Man, both Marvins are in top form. But the duality of Marvin's work doesn't stop at his register. He's a complicated figure who explored the carnal elements of the human spirit with unparalleled honesty while resenting the expectation that he had to be sexual to be respected as an R&B singer. He also channeled a sacred purity and emotional optimism on his records that stood in stark contrast to the shocking details of Marvin's private life, with sordid details of abuse he endured and abuse he doled out making him an artist impossible to admire wholesale. You're The Man shows a complex artist stretching his voice to communicate a world view and lived experience broader than his previous album What's Going On.

In 1971, Gaye's masterpiece What's Going On had shown Motown that a full album of politically charged R&B could captivate the world and move units. Even if Gaye's Motown label owner, Berry Gordy, didn't like the political messages coming from star artists Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, he was certainly happy to take the money.

To set the scene: as 1972 starts Marvin Gaye is the highest paid R&B artist on the planet with carte blanche to collaborate with seasoned producers, writers and musicians. Marvin tapped the biggest names of the day including Larry Mizell, Willie Hutch and Smokey Robinson to make this highly anticipated follow-up. The studio sessions were prolific and the writers brought their A-game, turning in songs like "Where are We Going" (Mizell, Gordon) and We Can Make it Baby (Hutch).

So what does the greatest singer in the world sound like working with the greatest writers in the best studios of their time? Gaye's vocals soar over the funky tambourine heavy Stax-style groove on "Try It, You'll Like It", and he brings his masterful ethereal falsetto to "My Last Chance" which gets a hypnotic remix from the modern soul mastermind, Salaam Remi. It's absolutely incredible.

A lot of "lost" albums get shelved for good reasons, subpar session players, a shortage of material, a change in direction for the artist. But Gaye's You're The Man got shelved because the management at Motown feared alienating their audience with more political output, especially after a tepid response to the title track, the only song released at the time. It was Motown's loss, Marvin's loss, and our loss. The writing and the performances on this album represent a high watermark that Gaye didn't quite touch in his remaining decade of life. Listen all week for tracks from Marvin Gaye's You're The Man, your Album of the Week on the Current.

Resources


Marvin Gaye - Official Site


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