Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
Things were looking a little bleak at the record store this week. I
was just about to saunter home empty-handed when I came across the album
listed above; lying amongst the stacks of miscellaneous non-alphabetized CD’s
and offered at an unconsciously low price. Not wanting to once again
shrewdly walk away from a heaven sent discovery, only to be heartbroken when
I returned to find it unavailable (The Great Elvis Presley Double-vinyl
Disaster of summer ‘97, the Unforgettable Al Green Gaffe of Spring ‘98), I
pressed the disc close to my heart and made a beeline for the employee in
charge of sales.
WHAT’S GOING ON begins in celebratory fashion with the title track.
Relaxing with an easy groove and calming with a soothing
voice, Mr. Gaye initially lets you put your feet up and lean back in the
couch. Within a minute, however, the patient urgency of the lyrics set off
an alarm which makes it difficult to breathe a total sigh of relief just yet.
While you’ll have no problem taking off your shoes and opening up the big
living room window, a slight paranoia insists that a prowler might just climb
right in and steal your good china. That feeling of something which is not
quite right standing out amongst a background of harmony persists throughout
the entire album, and may be the main reason for its long widespread appeal.
Tracks two through six of WHAT’S GOING ON are mixed into each other
so that two-thirds of the album plays with no intermission or interruption.
When one song gets your mind daydreaming, the continuous blend makes it very
easy to think right through an entire song without even knowing that it
began. Track 3, “Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)”, provides enough soul to
bring to life a dead animal, with Gaye’s voice pushing on and on and even
further still. The following song, “Save The Children”, defeats its
put-offish title and contains the majority of a fantastically flighty
sway-inducing string and percussion musical arrangement. Track 5, “God is
Love”, starts up a little of the groove again before leading into track 6’s
famous “Mercy Mercy Me”.
After the draining experience of the previous five song block, you
almost expect the album to be finished. However, by also combining tracks 7
and 8, Gaye keeps you locked into his spell. 7’s “Right On” has just about
the best part for a guiro ever made. The album’s last song comes with song
9’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”, which has an angrier feel than
the helpless frustration of its predecessors. The final minute of “Inner City
Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” suddenly shifts gears from its previous four
minutes so that Mr. Gaye can provide a suitable if not perfect ending to the
Unanimously one of the most appreciated works of all-time, WHAT’S
GOING ON isn’t the prototype album that I try to tell people about each week.
I do feel, however, that it is my duty as a citizen of the United States of
America to unobtrusively suggest that those who may of overlooked this gem in
the past add its listening to their list of future plans.
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