Marvin Gaye - What's Going On (Vinyl)

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What's Going On is the eleventh studio album by American soul singer, songwriter, and producer Marvin Gaye. It was released on May 21, 1971, by the Motown Records-subsidiary label Tamla.

Gaye recorded the album between 1970 and 1971 in sessions at Hitsville U.S.A., Golden World, and United Sound Studios in Detroit, and at The Sound Factory in West Hollywood, California. It was his first album to credit him as a producer and to credit Motown's in-house studio band, the session musicians known as the Funk Brothers.

What's Going On is a concept album with most of its songs segueing into the next and has been categorized as a song cycle; the album ends with a reprise of the album's opening theme. The narrative established by the songs is told from the point of view of a Vietnam veteran returning to his home country to witness hatred, suffering, and injustice. Gaye's introspective lyrics explore themes of drug abuse, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He has also been credited with promoting awareness of ecological issues before the public outcry over them had become prominent.

The album was an immediate commercial and critical success, eventually being regarded as a classic of 1970s soul. In 2001, a deluxe edition of the album was released, featuring a recording of Gaye's May 1972 concert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Broad-ranging surveys of critics, musicians, and the general public have shown that What's Going On is regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and a landmark recording in popular music.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Marvin Gaye discussed what had shaped his view on more socially conscious themes in music and the conception of his eleventh studio album:

"In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say ... I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world".


This album has me practically lost for words, but I'll do my best to review it.

I first heard this album a few years ago. I heard it because I wanted to expand my musical horizons away from hip hop. My first step in branching out was listening to Bob Marley. After that was very successful, I decided to move on to the genre of soul, figuring I would like it. Marvin Gaye was my artist of choice because I had heard him referenced in multiple hip hop songs and he's often claimed to be one of the best in the genre. This album was the first album that I heard from him. Right off the bat, I loved it. I thought that it was beautiful, incredible music and I couldn't believe how narrow minded I had been before I listened to it. It inspired me to discover new music, not only in soul, but in many other genres as well. I had been looking at music so close mindedly, but this album single-handedly opened my mind to a whole new world of music. This album will always hold a special place in my heart for that reason.

It will also always hold a special place in my heart for being among the very best music I've ever heard in my entire life. To start, this is most likely the most beautiful album I've ever heard, period. The last time I listened to it, I almost cried at a few points throughout it. On a personal note, I practically never cry. Ever since my sister died, I've had some emotionally stunted instinct to NEVER cry in front of anyone and rarely cry behind closed doors. When I heard this album last, I was not behind closed doors. I was sitting in study hall in a room full of my peers. Even my instincts could barely stop me. It should also be noted that I ONLY cry when I'm sad. This album, however, almost managed to make me cry out of sheer beauty. This is literally the only instance that I can think of in which beauty almost made my cry. In order to dissect why this album had such an emotional impact on me, I have to ask the question, "why is this album considered to be soul?" To answer that question, it's because you can FEEL it in your SOUL. I would say that "I" can feel it in my soul, but I say "you" because I find it impossible for anyone who has a soul to not feel this album. Between Marvin Gaye's amazing voice (probably my favorite voice ever), the indescribably beautiful music that he is singing over, and the amazing, emotional lyrics, this album hits me in the soul like no other album...ever.

To get away from the soul impact, I'll talk about how this this album is musically perfect. Now, I'm no authority on music, by any means, but I can't find a single flaw with this album. All of the instruments are played amazingly and with un-teachable amounts of emotion, Marvin Gaye has the most perfect voice ever, the composition is flawless, the way that the songs flow into each other is perfect, it's one of the most consistent albums of all time, and the overall vibe of the album is impeccable. I mean, seriously, is there a single flaw with this album? To put it into perspective, "Right On" is my least favorite song on the album, but...oh, would you look at that...I STILL rated it 5 stars. In order for an album to have a flaw, the worst song cannot be rated at 5 stars. Just like I honestly believe that this album is perfect, I honestly believe that every song deserves 5 stars. The reason for that is that I view every song to be vital to this album. There isn't a single second of this album that I would change in a million years. Everything is exactly the way that I want it to be. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other album that I can say that about, except for maybe Illmatic. To summarize, on an emotional level and a technical level, this album is absolutely flawless.

To say that putting this album into words has been overwhelming would be an understatement. Finishing this review would be an even more overwhelming task, which is why I'll finish it with a quote from Marvin himself. He once said, "I mumble things into the microphone. I don't even know what I'm saying, and I don't even try to figure it out. If I try, it doesn't work. If I relax, those mumbles will finally turn into words. It's a slow, evolving process, something like the way a flower grows." Mumble on in heaven, Marvin. Mumble on.

By: hiphophead5

A1 What's Going On
A2 What's Happening Brother
A3 Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky)
A4 Save The Children
A5 God Is Love
A6 Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)

B1 Right On
B2 Wholy Holy
B3 Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

Phonographic Copyright (p) – Motown Records
Copyright (c) – Motown Records
Published By – Jobete Music Co., Inc.
Made By – GZ Media – 139600E
Record Company – UMG Recordings, Inc.
Art Direction – Curtis McNair
Conductor [Orchestra Conducted By], Arranged By [Orchestra Arranged By] – David Van DePitte
Liner Notes – Marvin Gaye
Photography By [Front & Rear Cover Photography] – Hendin*
Producer – Marvin Gaye