DAR Retro: Marvin Gaye's Run In The 1970's
So, we've spoke about MJ and Prince in the 80's and the 90's, but one artist we neglected to discuss in his greatest decade was Marvin Gaye. Sure, Marvin is a legend and quite possibly the greatest artist of all time, but his biggest rise to prominence came during the 1970's, when he grew from being an artist that made mostly covers to original music that told his story and brought his pain to life. The transition from Marvin in the 60's to Marvin in the 70's is absolutely amazing, and today, we wanted to document that as best we could with a look back at his work in that decade. We rank his albums in the 70's from the worst to the best, but the beauty of this is, his worst was still a great body of work, it just didn't match up to his best, which might be the greatest album of all time. So, with that said, how does Marvin's catalog in the 70's stack up? Let's take a look!
6. That's The Way Love Is (1970)
-This is probably the forgotten album of the decade for Marvin although it shouldn't be. Every project he released from 1968 until his untimely passing was excellent, and this was a great start to his decade despite the lack of attention and love this album gets. A big part of that might be due to the fact that the album was full of cover songs, but Marvin owns every cover on this project, especially his rendition of The Beatles' classic "Yesterday", which is the highlight of the album to me. He covers songs from The Isley Brothers, The Temptations, and more, and despite this project being a standard Marvin release, it just reminded you of why we wanted to see him showcase his original artistry.
5. Trouble Man (1972)
-One of the greatest soundtracks of all time deserves a mention for the work that Marvin put in as an artist and producer on this project. This was the first album to be done under his complete control and the result is an interesting journey musically that focuses more on the character than Marvin himself as an artist. He is sometimes not even featured vocally, opting to tell stories through the production and some small adlibs and background vocals to add a little more to it. Marvin would do both the soundtrack and the score to the film, and when he does vocally allow himself to help take over some of the tracks like on "Life Is A Gamble" and "Don't Mess With Mister T", he showcases why his artistry is comparable to none. Marvin shines in different ways on this soundtrack and you can tell he put a lot of time and effort into this project, which makes it one of his greatest works for sure. It was a great accomplishment for Marvin during the decade.
4. I Want You (1976)
-In some ways, this album is perhaps the most underrated of all his classics, but I personally think this project is on par with his other albums. Some people were on the fence about this album at the time of release, but now, like most albums from that time, it is remembered in an extremely positive manner. The truth is, how could not love this project? Marvin returns after a three year hiatus and brings his charisma and charm to every song, with a little change in musical direction, adding in some of the disco funk to go with his usual brand of soul. The highlights from that are plentiful, as the title track, "Feel All My Love Inside", "Come Live With Me Angel", "Since I Had You", and "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" are definite standouts. Marvin took his sound to a different level on this project, and although this album doesn't rank in his top 3 from the decade, it is still one of his best albums and a true classic, adding another notch to the belt of one of the all time greats.
3. Here My Dear (1978)
-I will be honest, I know a lot of people actually loved I Want You more than this album, but I could never rank it over the project that is known by many as the "divorce album". After his divorce and the fallout of it, Marvin would go in and create an album that wasn't intended to become a classic initially, but it would become an album that would take on a life of its own, as the public would grow to love this album more as it ages. Nowadays, people speak highly of this album although it wasn't received nearly as well when it dropped 40 years ago. With some funky production, new elements, and pain in his vocals, Marvin would craft gems such as "Anna's Song", "Sparrow", "Falling In Love Again", "Is That Enough", and "Anger", among others. Unlike his albums of the past, this project had a slightly more lengthy tracklist, but it works well because Marvin is an excellent storyteller in his songs that this album never gets boring or loses the listener. I debated putting this higher, but the truth is, Here, My Dear is at least a top 3 album in Marvin's catalog, and one of the best albums of the decade, only furthering Marvin's dominance during the 70's.
2. Let's Get It On (1973)
-This is my personal favorite Marvin album and for good reason. While it isn't as concise and cohesive as What's Going On, musically it is just all around better to me. In some ways, this album bares Marvin's soul more than any album in his catalog, with the exception of Here, My Dear. Let's Get It On is a lesson in how to craft anthems to not only get the bedroom ready, but also songs that truly hit the soul and inspire repeat listens. This was the first true attempt at making the sultry sounds that Marvin would become well known for in his career as time passed, and it is the greatest example of what quiet storm soul music should be. Marvin is in his element with the sexually charged themes of the album, with the title track serving as perhaps the greatest piece of that seductive journey that the album takes you on. Other songs that drive home the sensual nature of the album include "Distant Lover", "Come Get To This", "Keep Gettin' It On", and the often underrated "You Sure Love To Ball". However, there was a bit more to the album in terms of content when you look at the lyrics and style of tracks like "Just To Keep You Satisfied", "If I Should Die Tonight", and of course, "Please Stay (Don't Go Away)", which has seductive elements, but is more of a heart grabbing ballad than anything. Through the short 8 song tracklist, Marvin dazzles the listener and showcases why he is one of the best of all time. Let's Get It On could have very well taken the top spot on any Marvin list, and it is without a doubt a classic.
1. What's Going On (1971)
-For many, this is the greatest album of all time, and I honestly don't see a reason to argue against it. While this is not my personal favorite Marvin album, it is widely recognized as the best work from the smooth voiced singer and rightfully so. In so many ways, What's Going On is the essential soul masterpiece that embodies the climate of the 70's and all of the turmoil that surrounded it. Marvin was able to put a voice to it with this album, which would be his breakthrough project in terms of solo artistry. Never before had Marvin wrote and produced so many songs on an album, and we would soon learn that Marvin needed to be in control of his own musical destiny, because his mind was full of genius ideas and amazing musical concepts. The album plays like one long session, as the production is crisp and concise from one song to the next, and that was the intention. With classics like "Save The Children", "Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)", the title track, "Mercy Mercy Me", "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)", "What's Happening Brother", and more, Marvin delivers something rare: a flawless album. What's Going On is a timeless piece of art that stands as the best soul album of the 70's, so naturally it tops the list.