Marvin Gaye You’re The Man Out Friday
Next week it will be 35 years since perhaps the strangest of all pop’s sudden departures. On April 1, 1984, Marvin Gaye, a session drummer who had grown into a great soul singer, was shot dead by his father after intervening in a fight between his parents.
Gaye’s music has never gone away. With What’s Going On, Let’s Get It On and Got To Give It Up, he turned monosyllables into magic. Those songs have taken their place in the canon, and the Gaye sound – Motown at its most liquid, with every musician pressed into the rhythm section – is still inspiring younger musicians, sometimes too much.
Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke borrowed from Got To Give It Up, a US court decided, when they were making Thicke’s worldwide hit Blurred Lines in 2012.
Almost 35 years after his death and on what would have been his 80th birthday, a new album arrives from the great soul legend Marvin Gaye
The estate of one of Gaye’s co-writers, Ed Townsend, alleges that another smash, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud (2014), is derivative of Let’s Get It On. Sheeran has faced similar lawsuits over two other songs, settling out of court each time.
Now, on what would have been his 80th birthday, we have a lost album from Gaye himself. You’re The Man was made in 1972 as the follow-up to What’s Going On, but Gaye seems to have withdrawn it because the first single flopped. If that yardstick were in use today, pop’s elder statesmen might never release another album.
The date is significant: Richard Nixon was heading for a landslide victory and Gaye was seething. ‘I believe,’ he sings on the title track, ‘that America’s at stake.’ When he mutters about ‘Politics and hypocrites/Turning us all into lunatics’, the decades dissolve.
You’re The Man was made in 1972 as the follow-up to What’s Going On and today’s musicians will find plenty here to inspire them. There may even be lawsuits
His social conscience can be a mixed blessing. One moment you’re in awe of his ability to stand up for humanity while keeping the music musical and the tone conversational.
The next you’re wondering if his undoubted passion is matched by his powers of analysis. ‘The nation’s taxation,’ he argues, ‘is causing all this, all this inflation,’ which might surprise a few economists.
But there’s much more to this album than politics. After two tracks, Gaye changes gear with Piece Of Clay, a beautiful gospel ballad that begins with a poignant plea: ‘Father, stop criticising your son.’
Further in, there are songs called You Are That Special One and I’d Give My Life For You, as Gaye reminds us that when it came to romance, Barry White had nothing on him.
By the hour mark, he is dishing up funky instrumentals and cheery Christmas songs, and getting political only in passing. At one point he observes that ‘Maybe what this country needs/ Is a lady president’. One day, his country will agree with him.
Throughout, Gaye does what he did best: singing like a damaged angel over deliquescent grooves, expertly executed by Hamilton Bohannon.
Today’s musicians will find plenty here to inspire them. There may even be lawsuits.
GIG OF THE WEEK
Shakin’ Stevens Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Live, Shakin’ Stevens’ new songs are rock-solid and the oldies gently irresistible
Shakin’ Stevens’s latest album is called Echoes Of Our Times, a subject he knows all about. He started out in the Seventies, celebrating the Fifties and Sixties, by playing Elvis on the West End stage.
He became a superstar in the Eighties with a family-friendly version of the sound of the Fifties. And now he’s made a modest comeback with stories of his Victorian and Edwardian forebears and turning them into a chugging blues-rock that smacks of the late Sixties.
Before playing in Manchester, Shaky does the time-warp again, telling an interviewer his audience is ‘25 to 50’, when a more accurate guess might be 25 to 80. The colour of his hair suggests a man who is a little sensitive about his age, but at 71 he’s still slim, spry and, once his voice has warmed up, mellifluous.
He brings a sparkling band, nine-strong and superbly drilled. The new songs are rock-solid, the oldies gently irresistible.
As Oh Julie, Green Door and This Ole House bring the fans to their feet, you wonder why Shaky’s not a fixture on the festival circuit.
THIS WEEK’S CD RELEASES
By Adam Woods
Underworld Drift Episode 2 Out now
The legendary electronic duo’s latest wheeze is to abandon albums for an open-ended series of experimental digital EPs. The second ups the ante, clocking in at six tracks and 85 minutes of teeming ideas, ranging from sleek, jazzy epics to boinging techno to wordless, Beach Boys-style symphonic pop. More than you get from most old ravers
Edwyn Collins Badbea Out Friday
After two almost-fatal strokes in 2005, Collins has released four albums, none of them requiring the slightest special pleading, and Badbea (pronounced bad-bay, the name of an abandoned Highlands village) is vintage Collins, dabbling restlessly in A Girl Like You-style northern soul, psychedelic rockers and throwback Orange Juice indie-funk
Lucy Rose No Words Left Out now
Rose’s fourth album indicates that she’s been at the hard stuff: various periods of Joni Mitchell, The Carpenters, the moody, orchestral folk of Nick Drake. There’s even a touch of the cosmic angst of Dark Side Of The Moon. It adds up to a stately, sorrowful record that finds Rose well ahead of most of the troubadouring competition