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Monday, January 22, 2018

Marvin Gaye: When I'm Alone I Cry


1) You've Changed; 2) I Was Telling Her About You; 3) I Wonder; 4) I'll Be Around; 5) Because Of You; 6) I Don't Know Why; 7) I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face; 8) When Your Lover Has Gone; 9) When I'm Alone I Cry; 10) If My Heart Could Sing.

General verdict: Marvin Gaye + show tunes = John Lennon + Yoko Ono. Happy together, but why should WE suffer?

«...and when the boss is not looking, I keep trying to push another oldies album under his nose.» It is odd just how many tries it took to convince Marvin to stop doing this, but yes, this is another in a series of thoroughly useless records. This time, he was allegedly inspired by Billie Holiday's Lady In Satin and the luxurious orchestration by Ray Ellis, so you will see two songs from that album covered here, and, of course, strings, strings, strings a-plenty — the record is best enjoyed with tuxedos, champagne, and an upper class prom date.

No irony is enough to conceal the smooth beauty of Marvin Gaye's voice, of course, but this odd idea of «I want to be Billie Holiday for a while» does it a great disservice: Billie was a one-of-a-kind singer who could imbue classy, mesmerizing melancholy and subtle tragedy into even the sappiest material, turning it upside down and completely usurping the original message of the songs. Marvin, as good as he is, is a sentimental sweetheart, and all of this time he is simply dripping large globs all over the place. I mean, if Professor Higgins ever sang ʽI've Grown Ac­customed To Her Faceʼ like that... well, he'd probably be better off marrying Eliza Doolittle right on the spot and forfeiting all his bets for eternity.

Perhaps if he at least thought about interspersing balladry with a few more up-tempo numbers, the final result would have been less dreary — as it is, it is even slower and more relaxed than Soulful Moods. Strangest of all is the inclusion of two new numbers, specially written by Motown residents (Mickey Stevenson and Morris Broadnax) — the title track and ʽIf My Heart Could Singʼ — explicitly in the same style of old musicals; such must have been their love and adoration for Marvin that they did not use this chance to pack him with at least a couple last minute save-face R&B numbers, but instead adapted their writing to pre-war aesthetics and came out with even more quickly forgettable garbage.

My stance on old popular songs is short and simple — it always takes a uniquely powerful or gifted vocalist to bring them to life, and Marvin Gaye, with all due respect, was never a uniquely powerful or gifted vocalist. Consequently, this album was doomed to suck, and guess what? It sucks. Incidentally, that same year, Ella Fitzgerald recorded her last «songbook» album (Sings The Johnny Mercer Songbook), and this is what you should be listening to, rather than Marvin Gaye auditioning for My Fair Lady.

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