The ultimate Marvin Gaye box set
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 09/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really hate to see this 4-CD box set languishing in such obscurity today; this was the first box set I ever bought (box sets were still relatively new back in 1990), and it remains the very best box set I own or have ever even heard of. At first glance, you might think the box held LPs because it is twelve inches by twelve inches, but inside are four incredible CDs and a wonderful booklet full of great pictures and tons of information on the life and career of the great Marvin Gaye. Of course, this is really all about the music, and you get 81 scintillating tracks organized into four specific categories. Sure, many of Marvin's biggest hits are included here, but this collection's subtitle is Rare, Live, and Unreleased, and The Marvin Gaye Collection truly lives up to its name.
Disc One, 20 Top 20s, contains all of Marvin's Top 20 hits (not including duets) in chronological order, from 1962's Stubborn Kind of Fellow to 1982's Sexual Healing. Disc Two, The Duets, contains classic as well as previously unreleased duets with four different singers. There are five 1964 recordings with Mary Wells, three of which were previously unreleased. These are followed by four previously unreleased duets with Oma Page. Page had basically replaced Mary Wells after Wells signed with another label, and songs such as Was It a Dream could really have been big hits. Kim Weston is featured alongside Marvin in five recordings from 1967, including the hit It Takes Two. Of course, when you think of Marvin duets, you think of the incomparable Tammi Terrell. All six of the Gaye-Terrell recordings you find here are immediately recognizable (and well worth listing individually here): Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Your Precious Love, If I Could Build My Whole World Around You, If This World Were Mine, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, and You're All I Need to Get By. Up next are four duets with Diana Ross from the early 1970s; although the two performers were far from close and actually recorded their parts separately, these are terrific songs. Three of these, including My Mistake (Was to Love You), made the charts, but the best of them all, the best version of You Are Everything I've ever heard, was never released as a single. The final recording on this CD is 1979's Pops, We Love You; this song, a tribute to Pops Gordon, Berry's father, features Marvin, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder.
Can this collection get any better? Oh, yeah. Disc Three features nineteen "Rare, Live and Unreleased" treasures, starting with Marvin's first single Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide and its B-side track Never Let You Go (Sha-Lu-Bop). Highlights from the mid-1960s include The Christmas Song (performed live at The Apollo in 1963), covers of My Girl, It's Not Unusual, Sunny, and Sweeter as the Days Go By. Four early-1970s previously unreleased masterpieces include the incredible I Love You Secretly (aka My Last Chance); I Want to Come Home For Christmas; 5, 10, 15, 20 Years of Love; and You're My Everything (aka I'd Give My Life For You). Then we come to a set of live tracks, starting with sterling performances of Come Get to This, Distant Lover, and Jan from a 1974 concert in Oakland. Last and certainly not least is Marvin's unforgettable performance of The Star-Spangled Banner from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. If you saw that performance on television at the time (and I did), I'm sure you remember it.
Marvin always loved to sing ballads, and Disc Four gives us the best of The Balladeer. The first ten tracks come from Marvin's early career, in which he shaped his sound around that of great balladeers such as Nat King Cole. Highlights include Straighten Up and Fly Right, Too Young, Mona Lisa, What Kind of Fool Am I, Mack the Knife, and Happy Days Are Here Again. The final seven tracks come from the late 1970s and Marvin's then-unreleased album Vulnerable, and they basically redefine the very concept of the ballad: Why Did I Choose You, She Needs Me, Funny, This Will Make You Laugh, The Shadow of Your Smile, I Wish I Didn't Love You So, and I Won't Cry Anymore.
There you have it: 81 unforgettable tracks (34 of them previously unreleased) canvassing pop, rock, blues, ballads, duets, funk, and other styles of music Marvin Gaye pursued and mastered. The fabulous 32-page booklet is just sweet, sweet icing on the cake, featuring a number of wonderful photographs, an overview of Marvin's career and tragic death, information on every song included in the collection, and a listing of all of Marvin's Motown albums, complete with track listings and cover photos. It has been 14 years since this box set came out (in 1990), but if there's a better box set out there, for any performer, I certainly haven't come across it."