You’re The Man
A Collection of Lost Gems Create an Absolute Diamond of an Album.
Yikes! Who knew there was a ‘Great Lost’ Marvin Gaye album?
Well, many of the songs here have actually turned up on those horrible re-hashed budget records that litter the Sale bins, but never in a fully formed format like this, as YOU’RE THE MAN is an accumulation of everything the Great Man recorded in the year following the original release of WHAT’S GOING ON, but was shelved by Tamla as the lead single and first track here; You’re The Man stalled in the charts at #50, which they thought wasn’t good enough.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard this song before; and listening today this ‘sarcastic riff on political non-action’ may not be as hard hitting as anything on What’s Going On; but that funky Sly Stone guitar and bass coupled to some biting lyrics is as relevant today as it was nearly half a century ago.
I always worry when I hear tracks that have remained ‘in the can’ as I always reckon they weren’t released for a good reason…… they weren’t good enough.
Unlike the Tamla Motown Executives I’m not going to compare and contrast this album with What’s Going On, which was groundbreaking and rightly argued about as one of the greatest albums of all time; I’m just taking it sing by song and putting them where they belong in 2019.
The only thing I will say on that point is, I find it really sad that so many songs here really are still relevant today as I type; starting with The World is Rated X, originally written about Gaye’s brothers experiences in Vietnam; but could have been written last week about our soldiers still patrolling the streets in the Middle East in the 21st Century. A superb song on a sad, sad subject.
One of the key ‘selling points’ about this remarkable album will be the three remixes by SaLaAM ReMi; My Last Chance, Symphony and I’d Give My Life For You; all of which slide easily into any retrospective of Marvin’s finest work, especially the beautiful ballad My Last Chance, which finds the troubled genius at his crooning best, in my humble opinion.
Obviously there are surprises around every corner; and good ones at that, with the smoother alternate take on You’re The Man having a super-cool back-beat, which is guaranteed to get yer Soul Shoes shuffling; as will Checking Out (Double Clutch) which surely influenced at least a dozen hit Soul-Pop songs in the intervening decades.
I understand why they’ve been included as they come from the same sessions; but there’s always something really odd about listening to Christmas songs in March! I Want to Come Home For Christmas is a super song that will touch many hearts; but when you peel away the wrapping and realise it’s actually about a captured soldier (in Vietnam) singing to his sweetheart your heart will surely burst. I don’t normally associate Marvin Gaye with instrumentals so the rare b-side Christmas in the City; although ‘of its time’ is well worth the entry fee alone, as he sounds a very troubled man indeed.
Selecting a Favourite Song here hasn’t been easy, as I’ve been swept up in the history of everything here more than once; but I’m going to throw two at you, the modern mambo beat of Woman of the World must have been groundbreaking in 1972; but leap forward to 2019 and Marvin’s prophetic words could easily be an anthem for Women all over the world.
The other is actually a song I already knew; but tucked away here the heart-aching ballad Piece of Clay is heady stuff indeed and has stood the test of time as well as anything else Marvin has possibly ever recorded; and deserves to be a huge hit for our dear departed Marvin.
Now I’ve played this album 4 times; I just think Marvin simply recorded them at the wrong time; if this album had been released before What’s Going On it would surely have been a hit and a natural lead in to what was coming; but I guess the ‘decision makers’ subsequently wanted Marvin to record a copy-cat follow up; and not this fascinating, mature and often very intelligent bunch of songs.
God Bless Marvin for having the courage to initially record them; and the nice people at UMC/Island who have lovingly put everything together to celebrate what would have been Marvin Gaye’s 80th birthday in a package that I’m sure the singer would have been proud of.
Released 2LP Gatefold Vinyl and Digital 29th March 2019
Released CD April 2nd 2019.