Classic Compilation: Marvin Gaye – The Very Best of Marvin Gaye

Of course it’s been said far too many times over the years that Marvin Gaye was one of the definitive voices of Soul, but it’s true. His vocals can seduce even a relative ignoramus like myself. He is quite simply a giant of the genre.

It’s easy to just remember Marvin Gaye as the guy who wrote and performed the stunning What’s Going On, and the lustful “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing”, but this splendid double disc compilation reminds us that Marvin was a star throughout his career, from the trademark Motown sounds of his early singles, to duetting with the finest leading ladies on the Motown roster (his duets with Tammi Terrell are a particular highlight of disc 1), to his more individual singles of the late 60s which reached their apex with the ever- wonderful “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. As iconic as his work in the 60s was, it was the 70s that saw Gaye achieve his biggest artistic successes, with the groundbreaking What’s Going On being the high water mark of his whole career. Not that he rested on his laurels once releasing one of soul’s most iconic albums, as he continued an artistic evolution for the rest of his recording career, even managing to write an album as part of a divorce settlement and packing it with more bitterness and bile that the whole of the rest of his career combined. Okay, so an ill advised exploration into disco beats towards the end of the 70s wasn’t that great, but at least he managed to have one last hurrah with “Sexual Healing” before he had the fateful argument with his father.

While there were already too many Marvin Gaye compilations on the market when it hit the shelves, this double CD release is one of the best. While you might struggle to justify the two CD run time for many artists, in the case of Marvin Gaye it’s fully justified, simply because there is so much ground to cover, as it covers the whole of his career, from the early solo outings, the duets, the period as a serious album artist, and even his decline and the last hurrah. Though certainly not definitive and lacking some deep album cuts that would grab the interest of established Marvin Gaye fans, this two disc compilation is a decent primer for those that are only familiar with a couple of famous singles and What’s Going On. If you never buy another soul album, many would be satisfied that they have a decent representation of the career of one of the genre’s key figures and some of the most seductive songs ever written.

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