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Monday, February 5, 2018

Marvin Gaye: Hello Broadway


1) Hello Broadway; 2) People; 3) The Party's Over; 4) On The Street Where You Live; 5) What Kind Of Fool Am I; 6) My Kind Of Town; 7) The Days Of Wine And Roses; 8) This Is The Life; 9) My Way; 10) Hello Dolly!; 11) Walk On The Wild Side.

General verdict: Another record that even our grandmothers have no good reason to listen to.

This is a Marvin Gaye album, and it is titled Hello Broadway — if you have read thus far about my take on Marvin's Natkingcolisms, what else is there to say, really?.. The only difference from Soulful Moods and When I'm Alone I Cry is that this time around, most of the material is taken from recent / contemporary musicals, the oldest compositions going back to the mid-Fifties — covering the general range from My Fair Lady to Hello, Dolly! and their environments.

Once again, I can only express a mixed feeling of admiration and bewilderment at the fact that Motown agreed to honor the singer's wishes a third time — what with all our ideas of Motown as a ruthless, merciless factory aiming at 100% efficiency and all. Perhaps his decision (agreement) to mostly cover «modern standards» was a factor, so that Berry Gordy could entertain at least a vague hope of the record succeeding where its predecessors failed — the freshness of the hits might have stimulated people to buy alternate versions. But no dice: the album flopped just as badly as the previous ones. And not simply because this was not the kind of material people were expecting from Motown — unfortunately, also because Marvin still had not figured out how to approach the material in any remotely interesting kind of way.

With completely generic, failsafe orchestrations, and the same kind of happy croon, unburdened with oddities or subtleties, Hello Broadway does not have a single thing going for it to merit active recommendation (as opposed to «passive» recommendation, which means that if you like Broadway standards and sweet voices, you will probably enjoy this set in just the same way as you'd enjoy hundreds and hundreds of others just like it). But the tenaciousness with which Marvin kept clinging to this stuff really makes you wonder — did he, like, actually hate the «teen crap» of the ʽStubborn Kind Of Fellowʼ variety that made him popular at the time? Did he feel remorse at gaining fame and fortune by singing adolescent-oriented lightweight stuff, and did he seriously think that ʽOn The Street Where You Liveʼ and ʽThe Days Of Wine And Rosesʼ were deep-and-serious compositions, to be treasured for eternity, as opposed to the fickle and transient nature of the teen market?..

This is actually an interesting topic to think about (unlike the discussion of the actual songs on Hello Broadway), because we know that, in the end, Marvin grew up to be one of the most serious-minded artists and innovators on the Motown scene, and, paradoxically, these endless stabs at the Adult Songbook — something that few, if any, other Motown stars tried out on such a regular basis — might be regarded as his first, still quite blind-groping and inane, attempt to break out of the mold and make a bigger, more lasting mark. What he himself — along with many other people — probably did not realize at the time was that the «teen market» of the early 1960s would, in fact, in the long run turn out to be a far more serious, exciting, challenging, and long-lasting cultural development than any other musical market of the same period; that it was ʽStubborn Kind Of Fellowʼ where it was at, and not the stale Broadway formula. But then in 1964 many people still believed that The Beatles, too, were just a passing fad, and that within a year or two things would get back to «normal».

1 comment:

  1. It gets better! Much, much better! WGO, LGiO and Here My Dear, amen!