MARVIN GAYE: ‘Here, My Dear’ EXPANDED EDITION (Label: Hip-O Select)

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Out of the ugliness of Marvin Gaye’s acrimonious divorce from Anna Gordy in 1977 something beautiful emerged: ‘Here, My Dear,’ a warts ‘n’ all autobiographical album that graphically chronicled his failed marriage to Berry Gordy’s sister, a woman 17 years his senior. Given that Gaye wasn’t going to profit financially from the album – he had agreed with the authorities to hand over the proceeds to his ex-wife to settle spiralling divorce costs – he surprisingly poured his heart and soul into the project to create an inspired, frank, confessional that grew into a sprawling, epic, double album. Ironically, Marvin’s musical efforts largely fell on deaf ears and the album, despite being attired in an eye-catching cover designed by Michael Bryan, sold poorly in comparison with the singer’s previous long players (it didn’t even spawn a hit single). Its ignominious commercial failure aside, over the years this over-looked and under-appreciated suite of songs has grown in stature with fans and critics alike and is now regarded as one of the keystones in the Marvin Gaye canon. This expanded 2-CD edition features a remastered version of the original LP on the first disc and a clutch of new mixes on the second one. Now sounding fresher than ever, it’s easy to see – and hear – why ‘Here, My Dear’ continues to captivate soul fans. Marvin’s multi-layered vocal performances are among his best ever and both the songs and arrangements are top drawer. The key track is the plaintive ‘When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You,’ which is heard in three different incarnations during the course of the album, each appearance denoting a new significance as Marvin’s disintegrating relationship with his spouse unravels. ‘Here, My Dear’ for all its thematic negativity isn’t wholly dominated by romantic angst. There are dark moments, certainly – like ‘Anger,’ wrapped in a spiky, insidious, funked-up groove; ‘Is That Enough,’ a mesmeric track brimming with irony and cynicism; and the brutal, businesslike, sexual politics that infuse ‘You Can Leave But It’s Going To Cost You.’ But thankfully, the darkness is leavened with light – there are refulgent shafts of sunshine that punctuate the dark clouds of divorce, exemplified by ‘I Met A Little Girl,’ which is a sweet, doo-wop-infused ballad reflecting Gaye’s early infatuation with Anna Gordy. And who can forget ‘A Funky Space Reincarnation,’ the dirtiest, slice of low down sex-funk that Gaye ever recorded? Then there’s the euphoric penultimate track, ‘Falling In Love Again,’ where the promise of a new love affair (with teenager Janis Hunter) gives Gaye a sense of optimism and acts as a balm to heal old wounds. The new mixes on disc two might seem redundant to some, but in actual fact they shine a light on Gaye’s creative processes, bringing into the foreground musical elements that were buried in the original mixes or even left out altogether (to his credit, reissue producer, Harry Weinger, didn’t allow the remixers to resort to overdubs, samples and contemporary studio trickery). Those allowed to tweak the multi-track tapes in a decidedly old-school fashion include Bootsy Collins, Leon Ware, Marcus Miller, Prince Paul, DJ Smash, Salaam Remi and James Poyser, and the results are largely fascinating. Thirty years ago, ‘Here My Dear’ was met with critical and commercial indifference – today, though, the album is heralded by some commentators (including liner note writer, David Ritz) as a masterpiece. Rightly so, to my mind – and if this album, by any chance, has passed you by, there’s no better time to get acquainted with it.
(CW) 5/5