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Monday, March 19, 2018

Marvin Gaye (w. Tammi Terrell): You're All I Need

MARVIN GAYE: YOU'RE ALL I NEED (1968) (w. Tammi Terrell)

1) Ain't Nothing But The Real Thing; 2) Keep On Lovin' Me Honey; 3) You're All I Need To Get By; 4) Baby Don't Cha Worry; 5) You Ain't Livin' Till You're Lovin'; 6) Give In, You Just Can't Win; 7) When Love Comes Knocking At My Heart; 8) Come On And See Me; 9) I Can't Help But Love You; 10) That's How It Is (Since You've Been Gone); 11) I'll Never Stop Loving You; 12) Memory Chest.

General verdict: A bit stale around the edges, but Marvin and Tammi together are always enjoyable... simply by way of being together.

Second time around, the formula has been refined and strengthened and perpetuated, which makes for fewer surprises, but the Marvin / Tammi chemistry remains strong, and the fun quo­tient remains consistent. With the success of ʽAin't No Mountain High Enoughʼ, Ashford and Simpson turned into Motown regulars, and this time, they are credited already for a whoppin' four songs out of 12, including all three singles; meanwhile, the production team of Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol contribute most of the rest — with Marvin himself again co-credited for only one song (ʽI Can't Help But Love Youʼ).

The title track was clearly written by the team as a gospel number — with the exception of an occasional darling, all the lyrics are easily re-addressable to the Lord — but, apparently, double-entendre anthems like that were all the rage on the R&B market, turning the song into the duo's second biggest hit. I am not the biggest fan here: ʽAin't No Mountainʼ was far more inventive both lyrically and in terms of tension build-up — ʽYou're All I Need To Get Byʼ feels more ordinary, the kind of a song you might hear on any number of long-forgotten gospel records. But there is no denying the sweeping energy of the duo — that energy, I guess, is all that we need to  get by, and thankfully, it is very evenly spread through the album.

The other big single was ʽAin't Nothing But The Real Thingʼ, which, too, does not strike me nearly as hard as ʽMountainʼ — technically, though, Tammi does a great job singing the verses (the last syllables of the line "I pretend I'm not in reality" always get to me), and at least the song has a more pronounced sad / melancholic edge to it (also, I think I began to appreciate what they are doing with their voices a bit more here after watching the comparatively lifeless Beyoncé duet with Justin Timberlake — what is it with modern divas so pathologically incapable of breathing life into old classics?).

Actually, I think that the non-single material on this LP might even be stronger: the hits try too hard to exploit the «orgasmic» potential of Marvin and Tammi. I like ʽBaby Don't Cha Worryʼ, a sly little pop tune originally built upon the ʽStand By Meʼ / ʽUnder The Boardwalkʼ groove, but then throwing in a completely different, Latin-styled brass riff. I like ʽGive In, You Just Can't Winʼ, a fun little musical soap opera that shows the darker side of those rose-colored pledges of eternal fidelity, with all its stop-and-starts and a pretty twisted bass groove. I am not necessarily thrilled that some of the songs again sound just like The Supremes (ʽYou Ain't Livin' Till You're Lovin'ʼ) and others just like The Four Tops (ʽI'll Never Stop Loving You Babyʼ), but a factory is a factory, and at least the Marvin / Tammi duo always puts their own spin on the feels.

All of the songs here were recorded before Tammi's illness (the LP itself only came out in August 1968, but the sessions date back to 1966–67), and it is useless to speculate whether the duo would continue to evolve as a recurrent partnership had she not succumbed to cancer — all we know is that in that year and a half during which they were musical partners and in perfect health the formula never budged. But altogether, the 24 musical moments captured on those two LPs are a cute little encyclopaedia of boy-girl relationships, presented from both perspectives at once: there's happiness, there's loneliness, there's mutual admiration, there's jealousy, there's spiritual and physical unity, there's an attempt to stand one's own ground... ultimately, it might be more fun to try and find the perfect sequencing for these songs rather than simply enjoy the albums the way they are. The entire experience is definitely bigger than the sum of its parts here.

1 comment:

  1. "You Ain't Livin' Until You're Lovin'" was on a Supremes album - Love Child - though I'm not sure which version came first.