In 1972, following the remarkable success of his masterpiece What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye was the king of soul; a Motown hitmaker turned world-weary conscious revolutionary.
But when Motown head Berry Gordy – still sour with Gaye after his much publicized struggle with the label’s overbearing control of its artists – heard the “You’re The Man”, a cynical commentary on the 1972 presidential campaign, he used his power to curb the song’s success and cancel the forthcoming (and unfinished) album altogether.
Billed as a “lost album,” but in truth a remixed collection of unreleased singles and outtakes, You’re The Man is a revealing new look at a critical and uncertain point in Marvin Gaye’s evolution.
Tracks like the title cut, “The World is Rated X” and “Piece of Clay” suggest Gaye was working toward a hard-hitting sequel to You’re The Man. Other songs, like “We Can Make It Baby” and “You Are That Special One,” find Gaye regressing to the clean and joyous Motown sound of his early career, and one has to wonder how much influence the label applied in making these happen.
Several tracks lusciously remixed by producer Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Fugees, Nas) give a wonderful modern punch to Gaye’s immortal voice. The holiday song, “I Want To Come Home For Christmas,” meanwhile, has to be the biggest sore thumb.
Taken as a studio album, which it really shouldn’t be, You’re The Man would be a beautiful but disjointed statement from an artist who was anything but sure of his direction. What it is a treasure trove of recordings from a genius at work under uncertain conditions.
Ryan is a writer, editor and vinyl collector currently based in Los Angeles. He started Mini Music Critic in 2017.