Marvin Gaye – Whats Goin On [1971]
July 25, 2011


Its 40 years ago this week that “Whats Goin On” was released and as many will attest, the message contained within it is as relevant today as it was upon its release. One of my all time favourite albums, despite the message, reminding me of childhood and hanging out with my father. Take a moment this week to give it a listen, you’ll be so glad you did.

What’s Going On
What’s Happening Brother
Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)
Save The Children
God Is Love
Mercy Mercy (The Ecology)

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

From Wikipedia
What’s Going On is the eleventh studio album by soul musician Marvin Gaye, released May 21, 1971, on the Motown-subsidiary label Tamla Records. Recording sessions for the album took place in June 1970 and March–May 1971 at Hitsville U.S.A., Golden World and United Sound Studios in Detroit, Michigan and at The Sound Factory in West Hollywood, California.

The first Marvin Gaye album credited as produced solely by the artist himself, What’s Going On is a unified concept album consisting of nine songs, most of which lead into the next. It has also been categorized as a song cycle, since the album ends on a reprise to the album’s opening theme. The album is told from the point of view of a Vietnam War veteran returning to the country he had been fighting for, and seeing nothing but injustice, suffering and hatred.

What’s Going On was the first album on which Motown Records’ main studio band, the group of session musicians known as the Funk Brothers, received an official credit. Featuring introspective lyrics about drug abuse, poverty and the Vietnam War, the album was also the first to reflect the beginning of a new socially conscious trend in soul music. What’s Going On was both an immediate commercial and critical success and has endured as a classic of early-1970s soul. A deluxe edition set of the album was released on February 27, 2001, and featured a rare live concert shot at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center where the singer was given the key to the city.

In worldwide critics’, artists’ and public surveys, it has been voted one of the landmark recordings in pop music history and is considered to be one of the greatest albums ever made. In 2003, the album was ranked number 6 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Stevie Wonder – Living for the City [1973]
May 20, 2011

Another cracker from Stevie, without a doubt my second favourite track on Innervisions after Higher Ground. Double the amount of synth, double the amount of awesome, I still find it hard to believe that Wonder basically played every instrument AND did the vocals on all of Innervisions. Insanity!

Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground [1973]
May 20, 2011

Another stormer from Stevie Wonder, this time taken from the seminal 1973 release, Innervisions. The album is absolutely groundbreaking and was universally recognised at the time as Wonders finest work to date. Higher Ground is nestled right in the middle of the tracklist, a crime in my opinion as it far outshines “Too High”, it should have been the opener !!

From WikipediaIn 2003, the album was ranked number 23 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[15] The magazine wrote in that occasion:

… Stevie Wonder may be blind, but he reads the national landscape, particularly regarding black America, with penetrating insight on Innervisions, the peak of his 1972-73 run of albums–including Music of My Mind and Talking Book. Fusing social realism with spiritual idealism, Wonder brings expressive color and irresistible funk to his synth-based keyboards on “Too High” (a cautionary anti-drug song) and “Higher Ground” (which echoes Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of transcendence). The album’s centerpiece is “Living for the City,” a cinematic depiction of exploitation and injustice. Just three days after Innervisions was released, Wonder suffered serious head injuries and lay in a four-day coma when the car he was traveling in collided with a logging truck.
—Rolling Stone

Stevie Wonder – Uptight [1965]
January 24, 2011

What an absolute legend Wonder is, absolutely massive for almost 50 years and still his tracks are regularly featured on everything from commercials to radio. Its no great surprise either, when this was his third single, all the way back in 1965 – when your starting out like this, it sets a hell of a precedent. But Stevie was never going to be a one hit wonder (arf), instead he has one of the greatest soul back catalogues of all time, possibly ever. A track that will stick a big ass smile on your face every time you hear it. Total classic.

From Wikipedia
Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” is a 1966 hit single recorded by Stevie Wonder for the Tamla (Motown) label. One of his most popular early singles, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” was the first Stevie Wonder single to be co-written by the artist.

The single was a watershed in Wonder’s career for several reasons. Aside from the number-one hit “Fingertips”, only two of Wonder’s singles had reached the Top 40 of Billboard’s Pop Singles chart, (“Workout, Stevie Workout” reached # 33 in late 1963 and “Hey Harmonica Man” reached # 29 Pop in the Summer of 1964) and the fifteen-year-old artist was in danger of being let go. In addition, Wonder’s voice had begun to change, and Motown CEO Berry Gordy was worried that he would no longer be a commercially viable artist. As it turned out, however, producer Clarence Paul found it easier to work with Wonder’s now-mature tenor voice, Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby set about writing a new song for the artist, based upon an instrumental riff Wonder had devised.[2] On the day of the recording, Moy had the lyrics, but didn’t have them in braille for Wonder to read, and so sang the song to him as he was recording it. She sang a line ahead of him and he simply repeated the lines as he heard them. In 2008, Moy commented that “he never missed a beat” during the recording.[3]

The resulting song, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, features lyrics which depict a poor young man’s appreciation for a rich girl’s seeing beyond his poverty to his true worth. A notable success, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” peaked at number-three on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in early 1966, at the same time reaching the top of the Billboard R&B Singles chart for five weeks.[4]. An accompanying album, Up-Tight, was rushed into production to capitalize on the single’s success.

Marvin Gaye – Whats Goin’ On (Whats Happening Brother) [1971]
December 24, 2010

Simply incredible. One of the greatest double tracks of all time, live, from one of the best vocalists ever. Stick it on, close your eyes and purge, real soul music here.

Merry Christmas!

From Discogs
This is such a beautiful album with a worthwile message for humankind. Marvin’s voice is just so heavinly, and along with Stevie Wonder, one of the few voices out there in the world of music, that makes the ears go all spritual in harmony. The message is still relevent today, as it was and before the album came out. The concept of Peace, Unity and Hapiness is expressed here through the lyrics, and also the musicianship of the Funk Brothers.

THE FIRST great political and socially conscious album that really threw down the gauntlet. Never before had an album tackled issues of poverty, race, war, inner city deprivation and hatred in one unifying and incredibly moving statement. ‘What’s Going On’ took Soul music to new unparalleled heights which future artists tried to aspire to. Stevie Wonder has always cited ‘What’s Going On’ as his favourite album of all time and the one in which has inspired him the most. And to think that Motown at the time viewed the album as an abject failure and a huge let down!!!

This is without a doubt the greatest Soul and R&B album in music history, a must-have masterpiece that should be in every record collection. Yes “Sgt. Pepper” was influential, but “What’s Going On” was a different kind of influence. Not to open your mind to drugs, and new experiences, but to open your mind to love and peace. Sly & The Family Stone might have psychedelicized soul music, but Marvin Gaye personalized it, and he literally poured out every emotion onto this record.

Although the powers-that-were Motown didn’t even want to release the record, the unexpected success of What’s Going On, issued in 1971, inspired Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, and just about every other black artist on the planet to take greater responsibility for their music and its meaning. Gaye co-wrote the songs and produced the album, flavoring it with layer upon layer of his own multi-tracked vocals, oceans of hand percussion, strings, flutes, and jazzy horn solos. Spacey and loose as a spliff-fueled Sunday afternoon jam in the park, the nine songs all played like a hit single. There are no pauses between the track, the rhythm section just keeps going & flowing and the whole record pushes forward as a real soultrain, weaving songs seamlessy each into another.