In case you were wondering, You’re the Man is a double album’s worth of prime period Marvin Gaye, one of the few Tamla Motown artists that could remotely hold a candle to his label mate Stevie Wonder over the course of an album in the early 70s. From crooner, to both solo star and duet specialist, to the mastermind behind the environmental and social commentary concept album What’s Going On (released despite his record label being convinced it would bomb), Marvin Gaye had already covered a hell of a lot of ground by the time he had started recording the material for You’re the Man. The huge success of What’s Going On had seen Gaye prove Tamla Motown boss (and, lest we forget, his brother in law) Berry Gordy wrong, so his confidence must have been at an all time high during the recording process, so the relatively tepid public reaction to lead single “You’re the Man” must have been a crushing blow to him. This chart miss evidently shook Gaye’s confidence, and he took the decision to shelve You’re the Man.
While it is true that the vast majority of the tracks on You’re the Man have already been resurrected in one form or another via a series of barrel-scraping releases, but to actually have You’re the Man finally released as intended is a reason to celebrate. Except You’re the Man is not entirely as Gaye was planning to release it, as it includes material that was intended for the album itself, as well as a whole bunch of material that was recorded around the same time, so inevitably there’s some offcuts from the Trouble Man Soundtrack as well.
It would have be nice to have some context as to whether it was Gaye’s intention for You’re the Man to have been a double album, and if not, what the intended track sequence would have been, if only so we could listen to the intended album and treat the rest of the material on this album as bonus tracks, but that information is sadly not available on the review copy. A trio of tracks “My Last Chance”, “Symphony”, and “I’d Give My Life For You” have been remixed by Salaam Remi, and there are alternative mixes for the brilliant “The World is Rated X” and “Where are We Going?”, as well as an alternative version of the title track. With all this chopping and changing about, you might expect this release of You’re the Man to be a disjointed mess, and surprisingly it isn’t. The material here is going to work particularly well spread over four sides of vinyl. This is partly down to Gaye being a great musician in the form of his life, and some judicious track sequencing when preparing this release.
Tonally You’re the Man is not dissimilar to What’s Going On, with a bit more focus on Gaye’s social and political commentary alongside the ballads and funk. If you’re a Marvin Gaye fan, then chances are you already have at least some of the material on You’re the Man, however that’s no reason to dismiss this release. While nothing here does anything better than Gaye’s magnum opus, it’s nice to have more of that material on one release, rather than scattered across a series of posthumous compilations, where their impact is watered down by rubbing shoulders with lesser material, and it also has the bonus of not being as familiar, so feels a bit more fresh too. For the newcomer to Marvin Gaye, then be assured that You’re the Man should be treat with as much importance as any of his 70s albums.
Something which didn’t strike me until maybe my fifth listen of You’re the Man is how it sounds oddly contemporary, with both its emotional and social concerns chiming close to a lot of what is happening in the world in 2019. While You’re the Man may be being released to mark what would have been Marvin Gaye’s 80th Birthday on 2 April, it also might be exactly the album that a lot of us need right now to make sense of a world that seems to be going to hell in a handcart.
You’re the Man is released on vinyl and digitally on 29 March, with the CD being released on 26 April 2019.