21 May 2013

21st May - Marvin Gaye's What's Going On

Artist – Album: Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Released:  21st May 1971
Sounds Like: Think about it, think, think about it

“There's people on the street
Getting diseases from monkeys
Yeah, that's what I said
They're getting diseases from monkeys
Now, there's junkies with monkey disease
Who's touching these monkeys?
Please, leave these poor sick monkeys alone
They've got problems enough as it is”

When New Zealand comedic duo Flight of the Conchords parodied Marvin Gaye’s sound and sentiment circa What’s Going On, they were (honestly!) paying him the highest compliment. Along with David Bowie and the Pet Shop Boys, Gaye heads an exclusive list of artists to be bestowed with the honour of a fun poke.

Of course, the album has been acclaimed by more than just New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo. The collection is rightly considered one of the finest of all time, and a landmark record for Motown, soul and black music as a whole. The listing of professional ratings has more stars than Professor Brian Cox's bedroom ceiling. Its smooth, soulful funk leanings and deeply sensitive and righteous sermon painted Gaye as a patron saint of the soul genre. At times, it has to be said, it does go slightly overboard with the meandering jazz of ‘Wholy Holy’, and the won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children-ness of ‘Save the Children’ really did deserve lampooning.

However the highlights – the title track, ‘Flyin’ High’ ‘God Is Love’, ‘Mercy Mercy Me’ and ‘Inner City Blues’ – are simply extraordinary. Not only this, but the free-flowing, early example of a concept album means that the sum is even greater than the fantastic parts. I mean, I chose this ahead of Radiohead’s OK Computer, an incredible record in its own right. A ten out of ten album if ever there was one.

Albumaday... rating:  10/10

1.       What’s Going On – 3:53
2.       What’s Happening Brother – 2:43
3.       Flyin’ High (In the Friendly Sky) – 3:49
4.       Save the Children – 4:03
5.       God Is Love – 1:41
6.       Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) – 3:16
7.       Right On – 7:31
8.       Wholy Holy – 3:08
9.       Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) – 5:26

Listen to ‘God Is Love’:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYtEulKl3yE

Also released on the 21st May:
1997: Radiohead – OK Computer

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