Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On – Super Deluxe Edition

January 01, 1970



Groundbreaking. Brilliant. Classic. Take any superlative you
want and it applies to Marvin Gaye’s What’s
Going On
. By now, its backstory is well known. Motown head Berry Gordy
refused to release the title track due to its political content, fearing it
would ruin Gaye’s career as a pop star. The label only relented when Gaye essentially
went on strike, refusing to record anything else until the song saw the light
of day. Its instant success proved Gaye right and led to an album that forever
shifted Motown’s balance of power to the artist and paved the way for contemporaries
like Stevie Wonder to tackle some of these same issues in their own way.


But the backstory is just that: background. Everything you
need to know about What’s Going On is
in the grooves, with its laid back, jazzy feel and smooth, soulful vocals
providing counterpoint to a simmering rage about the state of America that is just as applicable
in 2011 as it was in 1971.


The Super Deluxe reissue does a great job telling the story
of the album and placing it in the context of Gaye’s career. You not only get
the original album with improved sound quality, but also a look at what the
album could have been and how Gaye’s post What’s
Going On
career might have been different.


The set contains several demos showing Gaye perfecting his
vision, including the original mix of the title track that Gordy rejected.  It also includes 14 mostly unreleased funky
instrumentals from the sessions in which Gaye tried to follow up his
masterpiece.  Like most demos and studio
jams, they’re not something you’ll play every day, but they’re hardly
throwaways and they offer fans a ton of insight into Gaye’s creative process
and where his head was at the time.


Lastly, the package comes with a vinyl copy of the “Detroit version” of What’s
Going On
, a grittier mix without the final overdubs Gaye added in L.A. just before the
album’s release. (A digital copy would have been nice too, despite the fact
that a CD was included in the 30th anniversary edition ten years


Yes, this release is for hardcore fans only. But where a lot
of reissues make fans feel they’re been conned into buying a favorite album for
the fourth or fifth time, there’s enough new stuff here to make them feel good
about their purchase.


whole original album, “You’re The Man Parts 1 and 2,” “Symphony (demo version),”
“What’s Going On (unreleased original single mix)” HAL BIENSTOCK


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