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Review: Seven-LP vinyl box set Marvin Gaye Volume One 1961-1965

Since his untimely death in 1984, famously at the hands of his father, Marvin Gaye’s musical legacy has continued to enchant and delight new generations of fans.

Though best known for classic hits such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “What’s Going On,” “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing,” there was so much more to this complex vocalist, as this beautifully-packaged compilation proves.

The seven albums are: The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye (1961), That Stubborn Kinda Fellow (1962), When I’m Alone I Cry (1964), Together (with Mary Wells), Hello Broadway (1964), How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You (1965) and A Tribute to the Great Nat King Cole (1965) and it is enjoyable to see how the troubled star slowly matured, year by year, into one of the greatest soul singers the world has ever seen.

The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye, a collection of jazz and pop standards, is by no means the star’s best effort, but it is an interesting snapshot of a particular moment in time, a moment that saw the Prince of Soul take his first tentative steps along the road to artistic immortality. Highlights include “(I’m Afraid) the Masquerade Is Over,” “Easy Living,” “Always” and “Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop).”

That Stubborn Kinda Fellow gets off to a brilliant start with the title track that sounds much more like the velvet-voiced sex machine we know and love, as does track two, “Pride and Joy.” My other favourites on this wonderful record are “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home),” “Taking My Time” and “I’m Yours, You’re Mine.”

When I’m Alone I Cry sounds more like the jazz stylings of his debut than the stirring anthems heard on album number two. Though probably the least impressive of all the albums showcased here, it’s not without its charm, however, as I think it’s fairly safe to say that this man never made a truly bad record…

Much better is Together, a duets album with fellow-Motown legend Mary Wells. “Once Upon a Time,” “Deed I Do,” “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” and “After the Lights Go Down Low” are my picks this time around.

It’s jazz again on Hello Broadway and although it’s not bad, again I would have to say that I prefer the stirring, soulful standards – “How Sweet It Is (To be Loved by You),” “Try It Baby,” “Now That You’ve Won Me,” etc. – on 1965’s How Sweet It Is to be Loved by You.

Last up is Gaye’s heartfelt tribute to one of his musical heroes, Nat King Cole, also from 1965 (the year of Cole’s death) and, as before, it is more jazz than soul, which of course is to be expected in this case. Unsurprisingly, Marvin more than does justice to these 12 tracks.

AIl in all, I found plenty to enjoy on here, but as most of the artist’s best and most celebrated work came later on in his remarkable career, I have to say I am far more excited by the prospect of Marvin Gaye Volume Two 1966 – 1970.

Marvin Gaye Volume One 1961-1965 is out now and can be purchased here.

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